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How to Work with a Creative Person

24 12 2011

Photo by Johnny Magnusson

After years of working freelance and producing content for a wide range of clients, witnessing a barrage of content that is excruciatingly below par both on a micro and macro level and the recent headlines regarding such decisions as CNN firing photojournalists in favor of iReport, I have decided to create a handy guide on how to work with creative people to elicit the best end user products.  I think a lot of left brainers have a hard time working with creative people, and, in turn, the same can be said vice versa.  I’m not trying to put you down or declare the left brain way wrong, I’m just trying to help you all get good quality of work from the money you spend on us to produce the said work.   So, without further adieu, here are things to keep in mind when working with a “creative type”:

1. Let us do our job

This is probably the biggest problem in the creative industry.  As a videographer, editor, graphic designer, musician or visual artist, you hire us because you want a certain calibre of quality brought to the project you are trying to produce.  Henceforth, you feel that our skill level, resume and portfolio speaks for itself to a degree that we can make sound judgements producing content of such a form as you desire.  The worst thing you can do is hire us and then try to take over all the creative decisions.  We want to make your ideas come to life and we want them to be the best they can possibly be!  After all, we take as much pride in our work as I’m sure you do in yours.  Here’s an analogy: if you went to the doctor for an illness, you would be paying for his expertise in the problem that was ailing you.  If he recommended you do x, y and z, wouldn’t you heed his instructions?  You wouldn’t second guess his work, education or treatment plan; a plan he has no doubt likely given to many other patients with similar symptoms.  We are the same way, though on a much less life or death scale.  This is what we do day in and day out and we have encountered scenarios similar to yours hundreds of times.  We know what works and what doesn’t, so if you hire us to do a project, please accept our professional opinions.  We know what we are doing and we promise it will help your business if you can trust in our advice and let us implement the look and feel of the design.  After all, what else are you paying us for?  We are technicians to a degree, but the skill is only part of the package – the vision is the rest.

2. Our dressing the part is different from yours

I understand how important a professional attire is in any professional situation.  However, each job has specifics for suitable dress depending on various circumstances.  For instance, it would be a bit off putting if I hired a carpenter to build a house, and he showed up in a three piece suit to complete the job.  For certain creative professionals whose work is primarily computer driven, the concern about wearing slacks and collared shirts is not too big a deal.  However, for videographers that are out in the field with two to three tons of gear in the middle of the summer in the desert, or musicians that are on stage under bright lights with 20 lbs. of instrument strapped around their necks, the requirement for “formal dress code” is a bit unreasonable.  It isn’t that we are all just a bunch of hippies who can’t stand cutting our hair and wearing a tie (though to be fair, there are some of us out there that fit this bill), it’s that to do our job at times, we need to have the option of wearing a tee shirt and jeans to maneuver properly and be somewhat comfortable.

3. We have bills too

Believe it or not, most of us actually have the same bills you do every month.  We have to keep a roof over our heads, pay for our car when it breaks down, put food in our mouths, enjoy having pets, etc.  So, when I see ads for freelance opportunities asking for creative services that offer little to no money, I am very disheartened.  Most of the creative professionals I know have put years and years of blood, sweat, tears, trial and tribulation into their craft to become good enough at it to call themselves professionals and try to make a living doing said work.  Not everyone can design a Web site, play an instrument, light a set, write a script or take a well composed photograph; the ability to do so takes years of practice.  Picasso said it best to a woman who had asked him to draw a sketch on a napkin at a restaurant during his later years: he drew the sketch and then told her the cost of the drawing would be $10,000.  Exasperated, the woman replied, “But that only took you five minutes to draw!”  To which, Picasso responded, “No madam, it took me a lifetime.”

4. We are not magicians

Though we take our jobs very seriously and work diligently to be the best we can be, there is a point where the boundaries of physics, software, hardware, human will or a mixture of all come to an end.  We are always happy to try our best to make you happy, but there are some things that simply cannot be done.  One time, the team I was working on was asked to “photoshop in” people into a moving dolly shot; things like this simply cannot be done, unless quality is willing to be sacrificed to the point of being laughable.  That’s why it is important when working with a creative person to plan extensively for what you want as an end product.  There are too many facets of our work that cannot simply be undone or redone; we would much rather spend extra time working with you to understand a full idea of your vision, than have to practically redo the entire project after its essentially completed.  In similar regards, please, please don’t ever totally change your vision once 90% of a project is complete.  There is nothing more frustrating than spending a lot of time, effort and energy to accomplish your vision, just to find that you had an epiphany the night of the final deadline and said vision has completely changed.

5. You are still the boss

So, the first 4 steps are generally guides on what is tough for us, but we all understand that you are still the boss.  If we are lagging behind or taking an absorbent amount of time to create something or finish it, it is still your place to push us along.  Also, some creative types have a problem getting so creative they forget what the budget is on a particularly project; this is another great place for you to intervene.  We are not unreasonable people and we want to understand your side as much as we want you to understand ours.  I hope this has been helpful and I love working for you guys, I really do!  It’s hard taking the left brain and right brain and meeting in the middle, and if this has presented any further light on the situation to you guys, then I’m very happy about that.  If you think I’m just a snobby little day-dreaming right brainer who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I can accept that too.  We all have our opinions and thanks for reading!

 

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