How To Prevent Problems In Creative Projects

This is process week here at Simplifilm, and yesterday we talked about client communications.

Today we’re talking about preventing problems.

Be Impeccable

Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean.

-Don Miguel Ruiz

First, in order for your project to work, you have to be impeccable in your actions. If you say something will happen on Tuesday, it’ll happen on Tuesday by 1pm, client-standard-time.

Why? Because the client is expecting it, she’s aware of it, and if it happens later than you told them they will say that they are fine with it, “no worries,” but they spent the day expecting it and having it come late in the day is a bummer.

These little cracks and kinks are things that a client will forgive you for. They’ll tell you “no big deal.” But the client will lose confidence in you. A little at a time.

The way to fix this? Keep your word.

Plan Everything

“In preparing for battles I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable”

-Dwight D. Eisenhower

The first thing you have to do is have a robust plan for each element of your process. Some type of project management software – like Basecamp or Asana is useful for sharing a plan.

The plan should cover every element of what it takes to ensure that your project is successful. Assume nothing.

Does your video need to go live on Youtube? Put that up as a checklist item. Make sure someone is accountable for it. Do you need something from the client? Same deal, put it up.

Do you need to select a color palette? Include a tagline? Put some notes together and make it happen.

Our tools for this are the creative brief.

Pad All Deadlines

“It wasn’t that things were harder than you thought they were going to be, it was that they were hard in ways that you didn’t expect.”

-Lev Grossman

The most important thing you can do is add two layers of padding in every deadline you have.

Internal Padding You take the time that it should take to begin a project, and you add at least 50% to it. Stuff goes wrong. You have to expect it, and internally know what something’s going to take.

Promise Padding The next thing you do is add another 50% plus 1/2 business day to when you promise it to your client or stakeholders. This way you don’t miss a deadline.

Preview & Proof Everything Before Doing It

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

-Albert Einstein (commonly attributed)

The worst thing that can happen is wasting work. Many hours and a lot of thought go into a project and it’s…wrong. It misses the brief, it doesn’t work, it has choices that we know aren’t happening.

This is exactly why we use references.  (Similar work that will evoke similar emotions with a similar style).

This way, we don’t risk wasting time on a path that won’t work (and risk having to bill a client for an error). We take small risks and “bake them in,” getting consent a step at a time.

When we combine these tools:

  • Be impeccable
  • Plan everything
  • Pad deadlines (to support being impeccable)
  • Preview and Proof

It all starts to come together.

Wait For Assets Before You Start

The last thing that we have to do is to wait for assets before you start a project. A lot of times you’ll see clients jumping the gun; “Yes, we’ll send the logo tomorrow, but we need something from you first.” This isn’t the way that great projects are built. You wait for the client to come through – for their benefit – because if you get to the middle and are chasing assets, you risk having to bill them for wasted work.

Conclusion: You Can’t Prevent All Issues

Now, you can’t predict and prevent all issues that come up. But you can eliminate 80% of them with an exceptional process.