Managing creatives in the digital industry can be tough. Being managed as a creative can be even tougher. Creatives are sometimes labelled as difficult and charged with holding up projects with continuous editing and tweaking. Even just a subtle shift in management and communication style can improve flow and get creative projects off the ground faster. Here’s how to enable creatives to do what they do best (be creative) during high-powered and results-driven projects.
1. Explain Deadlines in Detail & Define Project Outcomes
Deadlines can be destructive if they aren’t clearly outlined.
Not explaining a deadline properly is a recipe for disaster- it leads to over-delivery and duplication of work. A short turnaround time can make people feel stressed and personally targeted. Here are some good deadline practices:
- Don’t just give people a date- give them a goal. Explain when work will be shown to the client and whether a second project phase is anticipated. If known, make sure different project phases are clearly mapped-out at the briefing stage.
- Always give a concise deadline- be clear on the time of day, preferred method of submission and any post-submission feedback procedures.
- Build in flexible deadlines so there’s time for feedback on drafts and work in progress. A hard deadline with no feedback is not a great way to manage a creative project.
- Don’t try to fluff or lie about a deadline- be honest during the brief.
- Stick to deadlines- thank creatives who submit on time, and don’t always brush over late submissions- this undermines the value of the deadline in the first place.
2. Let Creatives Manage Their Own Workflow
In some organisations production-side creatives are largely sheltered from project management and delivery. Though this may work in a largescale organisation, in smaller organisation it’s important to give creatives the full picture. Knowing the nature of a project helps to facilitate the creative workflow, project planning and research:
- Don’t try to drip-feed a creative brief- get the entire brief out at once and let the creative team map it out.
- Creative research is time-consuming and it’s frustrating when work is duplicated. If there is a crossover project in the pipeline- make the creatives aware of it so they can factor that in.
- Get in junior researchers and writers to take the pressure off more senior writers.
- Ask for regular updates on work and participate in creative meetings.
3. Get Real About Finances
Make people aware of the financial realities of what they are creating.
Creatives love to get involved with the nitty-gritty financials too. Knowing the monetary value of a creative project helps people scale their work and understand how the project fits in the larger organisational goals:
- Don’t just say no- explain why a certain project isn’t feasible.
- Encourage people to use tight budgets as opportunities for innovation.
- You may need to pass unforeseen creative costs to the client, but don’t greenlight anything until the extra budget has been approved.
4. Allow for Flexibility
People produce better work if you allow them a little flexibility in their work environment. Especially when it comes to creative work, corporate boundaries and a stuffy company culture will not do your project any favors. Don’t be afraid to loosen up a little:
- Switching from projects is beneficial as it keeps levels of creativity high- you can’t force people to work on a creative brief 24/7 with no breaks.
- A positive work environment encourages creativity and gives people the flexibility to take breaks.
- Give creative teams time to play. Sometimes play and discussions help the creative process.
5. Spend Time on Feedback
A busy digital environment means that sometimes a project is practically pulled from people’s arms so that it can be presented to clients or published online. No matter how busy everyone is- spend time on creative feedback:
- Feedback helps people develop and is a central part of the creative process.
- Creative teams thrive off feedback.
This video perfectly illustrates the creative’s frustration when there is minimal or no feedback:
6. Support Client-Creative Relationships
Interactions with clients can be a big source of a creative’s happiness:
- Often account managers get all the client glory for a successful campaign, but it’s very important to include creatives in the positive feedback loop too! After all the hours that they put in, let them see the results of their hard work. Allow people to use the finished product as part of their creative portfolio- portfolios are a massive deal for creative professional development.
There it is. Six management tips to improve creative projects. There is one more thing, do you love managing creatives? If so, please share your tips on managing creative projects below!