How to save money when commissioning creative work

You’ve decided you need a professional to create something for you and you appreciate that their skill, expertise and style deserve commensurate compensation. You’re investing in work that will benefit you – whether to increase awareness of your product or service, to grow sales, to better serve your customers and so on. The creative is valuable in achieving your goals and thus, you are happy to pay for their input. However, you do have a budget you need to stick to, without incurring additional costs.

The following are some tips on how to do this, based on my 10+ years of experience, as a creative working with clients:

Pick the right creative (for you)

Creatives will have portfolios, reels, writing samples etc. That is, a showcase of their work that gives you an idea of their skill and their style. It’s crucial to select somebody to work with, whose style is in line with what you envision for your project. Earlier in my career, I observed that some clients were choosing to work with me just because I was a graphic designer. They had either not looked at my previous work or, had not realised that my portfolio was an indication of what they could expect from our work together. So, despite the fact that a hand-drawn aesthetic is a big part of what I’m about, it turned out they were expecting something very formal and corporate. The time- and money-draining challenge of this was, it took a few rounds of design to figure this out.

When it comes to graphic design, here are a few tips on how to find the right creative for your project. A lot of the principles also apply for other creative disciplines.

Be clear about what you need

Take time at the beginning of the project, or ideally, even before entering into a contract with a creative, to really think through what you need. This will save you a lot of time, headache and money down the line. For example, deciding you need to add a new section to your website, once it has already been built, will likely have implications on what’s already been created (developing the information architecture, specifying the functionality, designing the user interface etc.). It’s likely then that all this work will have to be reviewed and possibly adjusted. Extra work = extra time = extra money.

Be open to questions

Be open to having your requirements and ideas interrogated. Good creatives will work with you to define what YOU really need. Not what you want because somebody else has it, or because it’s all the rage but, what is necessary for your particular situation, to get you to where you want to go. If you have customers or clients, it may mean putting their needs before your desires (for example, your website needs to address what they will be looking for rather than highlight something your proud of that is of no benefit or value to them).

Being open-minded to questioning and recommendations will help to clarify or confirm what you need. It may even bring to light that more groundwork, research, thinking, planning or resources are needed, in order to be successful in achieving your goals. It is better to know this early on rather than realising the finished product isn’t going to be effective and having to commission new work.

Trust the creativity of the professional

You have a clear picture of what you want: a brochure with a feminine, handmade feel and a glassy, hi-tech looking Twitter icon in the top right hand corner of the 4th page.

The creative will often consider how to express femininity and the handmade feel and develop a concept around that. The specifics regarding how content will be treated to fit that concept will emerge organically. Spending time trying to make your specified icon style and placement work, limits the creative from concentrating on how to make everything sing harmoniously.

While it is important to be clear about what you need, it’s counterproductive to be dictatorial about details that are not important when it comes to the bigger picture. You risk leaving the picture behind altogether. Besides, you hired a professional because you can’t do it yourself. Why waste your money trying to be something you’re not?

Get involved

Once the brief is given, don’t disappear. You’ve hired the creative professional because they are experts at what they do but, you are the expert on your product, service and organisation. Your unique insight and experience is invaluable in informing the creative work.

The project is not a test. Given that you have chosen this creative over several others, hopefully you are confident in their abilities and happy for them to go and do what they do best. At the same time however, it makes little sense to hand over full responsibility of something that will ultimately reflect your product, service or organisation.

To get to the desired result in a time- and cost-efficient way, you need to get involved and contribute to the process. Otherwise, you risk the situation where there are rounds and rounds of changes and adjustments, that still don’t help in getting closer to a solution that works.

The most enjoyable projects and the best outcomes are often a result of an active, collaborative creative-client relationship.

In summary

Be clear about what you need but, be open to constructive interrogation
Trust the creativity of the professional but, get involved.
Like with many things in life, it kind of all boils down to making time in order to save time and saving time thus saving money.

This post could have also been titled “How to work well with creatives”. It’s true that a good working relationship is one where both parties are getting great value, and that’s speaking beyond just monetary terms.

What else have you done in order to get the most value out of your creative collaborations?

Need help getting clear about your branding?

The Soulful Branding online course will prepare you to effectively and efficiently commission creative work for your business, including your brand design, copywriting and more. Find out more here.

I look forward to supporting you to create branding that makes your heart sing!

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