Do you have a creative process you follow? Are you taking the same steps every time? Are you showing your client? Are you letting them truly be a collaborative part of the process? Are you actually sticking to your method when you’re all alone trying to figure out this design or deliverable or recommendation… “for reals?” Or are your steps just empty bullets on your website? Are these questions making you squirm just a little?
We aren’t trying to process-shame you! We just get really passionate about this.
Creating a process for ourselves—our Braid Method, in fact—is how we were able to go from designers/writers for hire, to branding experts in lightening fast speed. Our first three months of business was taking on any client who would pay the bills, for any project we could write, design or brand. By the end of our first nine months of business, we were only working with dream clients (creative entrepreneurs working for themselves) who hired us for our specific branding process, not the whole kitchen sink or other one-off projects that we don’t specialize in.
Now four years later we look back and ask: how would we ever have developed our ecourse, or shared our ebooks or email series, or continued to get hired by so many creatives from around the country and world (we’re from the midwest you guys) if we didn’t actually use the creative tools and steps we had already taken ten, then twenty, then fifty, and now hundred times and counting for our own clients?
Even if you don’t want to go quite as far as defining this all-encompassing creative process, wouldn’t it just be nice to feel more in control of your client projects? Wouldn’t it be a relief to be able to walk someone through your steps and what they get at the end with confidence, so you didn’t have to sell so hard? But most of all, wouldn’t it be so cool if instead of wondering where the next creative idea was coming from as you sit in front of that blank page on the computer or at your drafting table, you would know that your process would not fail you and the answer would emerge?
If a process feels empty or clinical to you, it may be because that’s how you’re thinking of it. It’s not an assembly line. But if you aren’t following any sort of framework at all, then we’re going to ask you “why, oh why, are you recreating the wheel every time, for every client?”
Your reasons for not following set creative steps might be:
“Every client is unique!”
“Each challenge requires a custom solution!”
“Because that’s what creatives DO, we create something new and fresh!”
All these answers are true. And no, you don’t need a clinical or assembly-line style process. But you do need an approach, and a framework you always follow:
“Yes, the client is unique, but you are that gentle but firm guide, who has been here before.”
“Every new challenge should not feel like starting over from scratch. You are a specialist.”
“New and fresh, is not created from nothing. You have a process. Even if you don’t know it.”
Being a working creative doesn’t mean that you should be winging it every time on pure creative gusto alone (because underneath that gusto is every creative’s fear the client won’t like the finished product—or worse—you won’t like it either, that you’re all out of creative juice, and you might as well just close up shop). It also doesn’t mean you should be creating at the whim of the client, which is a slippery slope to having lots of little bosses instead of feeling like an intuitive, listening, and collaborative creative guide who is leading your client down a path together (sure, with some course correction along the way) – but a path you know will create the best, most authentic, most loved outcome for you and your client.
A creative process is like a path that you created over time, starting when it wasn’t a path at all, but just the wildness of all the uncertain directions you could take, and you were sweating and scared and getting lost and looping back on yourself. You got there, it was exciting, but it was hard. Now the path is still wild and mysterious, and winding, but there it is, those worn steps that you’ve taken that you know will get you to the swimming hole, the waterfall, the mysterious cave, the good stuff at the end.