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5 tips for working with creatives

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As a small business owner or someone in a position like marketing director, your chances of working with a creative at some point are very high. Whether you need a new logo, a business card, a website, or even headshots for your employees, there's hundreds of reasons you may need to hire a professional. But finding the right person to help can be a daunting task! Here's my best advice to find a trustworthy creative and get the best results for your project!

1. Do your research

Word-of-mouth is a big deal in the creative industry, and it's how I connect with most of my clients. However, not everyone's "cousin who knows how to use photoshop" is going to be a good fit for your project. Being able to find a creative who fits your project's style, timeframe, and budget can feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack, so here's my top places to look for creatives and some signs to know if they're a good fit.

One of the best places to find designers from all over the world is www.dribbble.com. Only the best designers are on this platform since they need to be invited by their peers. It's very easy to search for designers by their skillset and see their relevant work.

Social media platforms like Instagram are another great place to find great creatives. Creatives love to share their work and use their profiles like portfolios.

Pro tip: Use hashtags and geotags to narrow in your search. Also, finding accounts who post great work by various creatives is a great way to see multiple creatives' work rather than searching profile by profile.

Another platform similar to dribbble is www.behance.net . There's tons of great creatives, and all the work is laid out in beautiful case study format.

Once you've found a few creatives who you think match your style, it's important to find out if their process fits. Most creatives are more than happy to set up an initial call to talk about your project, find out your timeline, and discuss the cost for the project. Here's a few things to look for in your initial conversation that will let you know if they're a good fit:

Are they asking the right questions?

At the root of every design or media project should be problem solving. An example might be that you need to rebrand your company because you need to speak to a different demographic. If the creative immediately jumps to questions like what color does it need to be? and do you want the mark to be a bird?  you're probably working with someone who is just going to give you what you want rather than what you need. 

Look for a creative who asks good questions to understand the problem and the solution like what markets are you trying to reach?, why do you think your current logo is failing?, and if this logo is everything you hope it can be, what results will you see?

Do they have a clear process in place?

Find out if the creative has a clear process they move through. This means that everyone is on the same page, and has the same expectations. I have a clear process where I move from strategy and discovery, to production, to implementation. I won't move from one to the next until the prior is finished and agreed on. This means I'm on the same page with my clients, and it keeps us both accountable.

Beware: Creatives who aren't clear about process. This can lead to long projects and unsatisfying results for both the creative and (especially) the client.

 

2. Give your project some thought

The more thought you can give your project before you speak to a creative, the better. Now, it's definitely the job of the creative to pull out more of the why, and understand the scope and purpose of your project. But the more you can think about things like why do I need this project done?, what goals does this project need to accomplish?, and how much value do I place on this project?, the more confident you'll be in working with a creative and defining expectations. When projects are approached this way, you will see much more value and be more confident in your investment.

 

3. Make sure you're committed to the process

The reason why you're hiring a creative should be because you want a trusted professional, or you know you don't have a ton of time to be working on the project (after all, you're running a company - YOUR TIME IS VALUABLE!). However, any time you work with a creative, it should be a collaborative process. This means you will have to commit yourself to the process and be ready to do your part. This means answering questions in the strategy phase, gathering any resources the creative may need, or putting the right person in place to do all these things if you don't have any time to commit.

 

4. Read the contract and ask questions

One thing that can really drive a wedge between creatives and their clients is scope creep. This is when a client asks for more than what's outlined in the agreed upon contract/proposal at no additional cost. This can be hard for clients when they first work with creatives because they don't speak the "lingo". This is why it's very important to ask questions (no question is a bad or silly question). Like I said, it's always important to make sure everyone is on the same page and has the same expectations.

Pro Tip: Be sure to read through each step of the process and take account for each deliverable. Take the time to ask any questions you may have about "lingo" like concept vs. revision or what exactly is included in the brand asset kit?

5. Give direct feedback and be open to input

Once you've picked the right designer and the process is underway, this should be the fun part! Remember to think of this process as collaborative. The creative isn't an employee, but a teammate who has your best interest at heart. The best thing you can do in this process is give direct feedback that the creative can use to move the project forward. Feedback like It's just not quite right, or It's not what I had in mind doesn't help the creative at all. Remember to give feedback like I wanted something more contemporary, or Can we make the colors brighter?. This gives the creative a clear direction and will help you get the finished product you are looking for.

Feedback goes both ways in this process though. Remember to trust the creative as a professional. Be open to any feedback they may give you. Sometimes as business owners we can be so invested in our businesses, we begin to input our own opinion rather than what our customers will respond to. Your creative can act as a great balance for this and give valuable, unbiased feedback.

 

Working with creatives can be overwhelming, especially if it's something you've never done before, but in reality most creatives started their businesses to help other people with their goals. Don't miss a great opportunity to work with people who want to see your business or brand be better. Overall, as long as you do your research, communicate clearly, and set expectations you'll have a great, rewarding creative experience!

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