Project Management has a surprisingly bad name in the creative world. This doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. The world of images and concepts, of inspiration and ideas, some say, simply doesn’t suit a streamlined approach to getting the work done. Consequently, small creative agencies often focus their energy on creative quality alone and struggle with managing the business process that goes into creating a product.
Without any doubt, your creative work has to be satisfying, original, and thoroughly skilled in order to win over your clients. But it’s not enough to have the potential to produce incredible websites or beautiful design when inspiration strikes. To run a profitable and viable business, you need to be able to deliver these products to the client – on time.
When you and your team lack the project management skills needed to lead a new project from its early beginning as nothing but an idea to the end as a finished product delivered to a content client, it’s easy to lose track on the way. When you immerse yourself in the creative process, often, you find it difficult to keep perspective on what needs to get done, how much money you can afford to spend, how much time you have to accomplish single tasks, and how your team can best work together.
This doesn’t only lead to stress, frustration, and conflict within your team. It also leads to unhappy clients who feel their needs are neglected; after all, no one enjoys creative chaos when it doesn’t lead to results. But a lack of project management also jeopardizes your relationship with your clients. Imagine, for example, postponing a deadline twice because of a misunderstanding between two designers in your team. Your client certainly won’t like it – yes, they might be paying for your creativity, but first and foremost, they are paying for the finished creative product, and they count on having it on time. When you fail to deliver a product or are forced to deliver a product that doesn’t match your client’s expectations, these unhappy customers won’t pay for your services again. The word of bad service spreads like a wildfire, and if you keep disappointing rather than exceeding expectations, low profits will follow.
To avoid angry clients and a struggling creative business, it’s time for every creative agency to embrace project management, whether you are building websites or designing print products. Once you have successfully launched your product, you should inevitably focus your energy on managing projects successfully and efficiently. This can sound boring – admittedly, it involves lots of scheduling, sticking to a budget and planning for your team’s availability. But there are plenty of upsides to a lack of creative chaos in favour of a productive project management system.
Project management solutions are crucial in order to turn a project into actionable steps for your team to tackle. Project management divides responsibilities; it helps you keep track of time and ensure you won’t overspend. A good project management solution frees up time for creatives to focus on what they do best – deliver original and innovative results. By planning out the details, everyone knows what needs to get done, when it needs to get done, and by whom. This also allows you to keep your client updated every step of the way – they’re included in the process, because you no longer have to worry about appearing unorganized when you tell them which stage you are currently at. This also means that you can manage expectations ahead of time if you realise that you are lagging a little behind rather than disappointing your client just as the deadline approaches. You will always know exactly whether a project is going according to schedule or not.
Essentially, project management leads to more relaxed designers and developers who know exactly what the next task on their to-do list has to be, and happy clients who are pleased with both the product and the process, which relies on feedback and communication along the way.
So how do you get there?
Of course, bigger creative agencies tend to simply hire a project manager to get the work done – or line up an entire team of project managers to make sure the business aspect of their work can at least keep up with its creative potential, if not be one step ahead at all times.
But if you’re part of a small creative agency that might just be starting out, you will know that hiring an extra person is often simply not on the cards. Luckily, you don’t have to struggle with post-it notes, endless to-do lists, and time-consuming meetings anymore. There are plenty of tools that will not only help with the project management process but even do most of the work for you. They can enable you to focus your energy on what you do best – creating new products and stunning designs.
Trello, for example, is a team web-based project management app that aims to make project management as simple and straightforward as possible. Every project is represented by a board; these boards contain lists for the different steps, which will contain more specific tasks. These tasks can move from one list to the other to take the project from idea to finished product.
Meanwhile, WorkflowMax is built specifically for small to medium sized businesses and used by creative agencies around the world. It includes features such as integrated project management software, time tracking, invoicing, a client portal, staff scheduling, and job costing – an all-in-one solution for all your project management needs. One of the big draw cards for WorkflowMax is its seemless integration with Xero, the wildly popular online accounting solution…manage clients and projects in WorkflowMax and automatically have all billings sent out via Xero…keeping your account and customers super happy.
InVision is a prototyping and collaboration solution, designed specifically for visual creatives to meet the workflow demands of a design agency. InVision allows you to quickly create interactive prototypes of your designs, discuss them with your team inside the app using a comment system or collaborate in real time, sharing a screen. It also allows you to present your designs to clients in a professional and simple way which encourages feedback and communication between all parties involved.
Of course, these are only a few of many web-based solutions that will help you reap the benefits of adopting a business-oriented product management mindset. As a creative, keeping on top of the business side of things isn’t always the easiest task in the world. But sticking with a project management system to keep track of expenses, time, and tasks will lead to happy clients whose work gets delivered on time and on budget. This will consequently lead to bigger and better projects for your team.
If you’re a designer or web developer who likes to emerge themselves into the world of concepts and creative ideas, this might not sound intuitive to you at first. But despite common misconceptions, efficient project management will lead to more opportunities to work creatively, not fewer – and it will bring in the profit you need to grow as a creative agency. The most important aspect is to find a solution that works for you and your team. After all, it’s only when project management becomes a natural, flexible, and helpful component of every creative project that you can truly take your business forward.