Creative Agency Workflow Process Simply Explained In 10 Steps
Follow these steps to achieve an effective workflow process that actually yields results
While creativity needs its space and freedom to thrive, not controlling the process could be chaotic and eventually fatal for any organization. Just like in any business, there are expected measurable results and deadlines even for creative processes. Today, we will talk about what a creative agency workflow process is, and how to organize, manage and optimize it in order to yield results that satisfy your client’s requirements, and your team’s, too.
What is a creative agency workflow process?
Generally speaking, every creative agency goes through steps like researching, creating, and delivering results. However, a well-structured and organized working process where all steps are consciously taken and supervised helps an agency analyze its mistakes and optimize its operation for future projects, as well. In the long term, this would raise satisfaction within your team and your clients. Even more, it will help you build a reputation as a reliable and trustworthy creative company. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
A workflow process usually includes steps and elements like gathering information about the project, analyzing the competitive market, creating a brief and a plan on how the process goes, brainstorming, developing the actual product while holding meetings and revisions on a regular basis, and of course – evaluating the process in the end.
How to achieve an effective creative workflow process in 10 steps?
- 1. Listen to the client.
- 2. Write a creative brief.
- 3. Assign team roles and clarify responsibilities.
- 4. Define project milestones, KPIs, and revision phases.
- 5. Research and analyze the competitive market of your client’s business niche.
- 6. Brainstorm ideas.
- 7. Develop the product and adapt to changes.
- 8. Establish feedback and revision cycles.
- 9. Launch the product.
- 10. Evaluate the process and improve.
1. Listen to the client.
The idea is to gather as much information as possible. Things that concern you the most are the company’s brand identity, overall tone, and voice, as well as certain details about the project: scope, content, desired results, and budget.
Very often, a client isn’t quite sure what will work best for them. This is why they hire a specialized agency, right? Defining the company’s brand identity will help you understand what type of design or other creative work will resemble them the best.
In terms of project details, every detail is essential for the effectiveness and successful completion of the task assigned, within the desired timeframe. The more you listen, the fewer revisions and changes you will probably receive later on. In addition, clarifying the exact needs of the client will help you get your team on the same page quite faster and work in symbiosis towards the same goal.
2. Write a creative brief.
Once you have gathered all the necessary information about the pending project, you should document it. This document is called a creative brief and it officially settles the project’s summary, scope, objectives, deadlines, budget, expected deliverables, and conditions that need to be met. In addition, the creative brief addresses the team members that will be occupied with executing the project.
A well-documented creative brief not only keeps everyone on your team on the same page but it provides clarity and transparency for your client, too.
3. Assign team roles and clarify responsibilities.
Prepare your team for what’s about to happen. Not only in terms of what each of them needs to produce but how and when. The success of each creative process depends on how much everyone understands their roles and responsibilities from the very beginning.
Even when your team members may know their role by default (you probably have managers, graphic designers, copywriters, marketers, SEO specialists, etc.), it’s still essential to outline everyone’s level of involvement and specific tasks within the frames of this current project. This will put your team on the right track and will help you manage the whole creative process more efficiently further on.
Make sure every individual task is assigned to a specific person and that person understands their role. This will leave no room for wondering who is responsible for what and when. Ensuring this will help your team avoid confusion, eliminate the risk of repetition or missing of tasks, and ultimately, optimize time and money. Everyone will know what is expected from each at any point in the project’s progress.
4. Define project milestones, KPIs, and revision phases.
Defining the project milestones refers to expected measurable results at a specifically established time. And while this is creative work, it is still vital to establish and apply measurable metrics about the progress at each point. This could be the creation of a specific number of design versions, prototypes, amount of content, or something else that is relevant.
Besides measuring the process’s progress, it’s even more important to establish KPIs for the creative work itself. Common key performance indicators are considered to be planned value, actual cost, earned value, cost variance, and of course – ROI. Such indicators have to be included in your creative agency pitch deck, as well.
While the actual reviews and approvals happen at later stages, it’s important to align your team and your client on how often you will be sending off work for reviews, feedback, and approval, as well. Would it be at each milestone or even more often? This is another factor to ensure that everyone knows what is expected from them, when, and to whom they are accountable for showing their progress for feedback. It could be the manager or the end client themselves.
Each change should be documented, as well, in case you have to refer later on and determine who’s responsible for what. In this train of thought, the wiser thing to do is opt for frequent reviews, so you have adequate time for timely reactions and readjustments while still working on this particular step.
5. Research and analyze the competitive market of your client’s business niche.
Before heading off to brainstorm and develop fundamental ideas, take aside enough time to research the competition of your client’s product or services. This will help you understand how your solution will stand out from what other people in the business are doing. Involve your team members in the process, too. Let each one research the task from their perspective and come up with a plan of how to create a working and effective solution that will put your client’s brand in the best possible light.
The researching phase is the time to identify and evaluate possible risks and obstacles that may occur in the upcoming creative process. Make sure to come up with a plan of how to solve and overcome such eventual problems.
6. Brainstorm ideas.
After knowing what exactly is required for each member, you can start brainstorming ideas as a team. This is where the actual creative process starts. Think about what sparks your team member’s inspiration and immerse in a brainstorming process that will produce ideas worthy of realizing later on.
It’s a good tactic to get everyone involved in creating a mood board. Collect all kinds of assets – images, illustrations, diagrams, slogans, and others that reflect the look and feel of what the end product should convey.
You can take inspiration from similar products on the market launched by your client’s competitors, too. Sometimes, seeing just a single element can help you come up with a brilliant idea. Just make sure your inspiration takes on the direction of creating something different and better rather than copying the same thing. It’s also vital that the ideas you generate still respond to the project’s objective and meet your client’s needs and requirements as established.
7. Develop the product and adapt to changes.
It’s natural that after brainstorming, the actual development of the product happens. At this point, you would have ideas that your team will work on.
While it’s important to keep your clients involved and updated during the process, it is also important not to overwhelm them with too many versions and prototypes of the final product. Clients tend to get confused if presented with more than three concepts to choose from.
A good practice while developing the design or other creative projects is to track the time that tasks take to be completed. Analyzing the time spent in relation to budget and workload will help you come up with tactics to improve your creative workflow as a whole.
8. Establish feedback and revision cycles.
Once the winning concept is established, make sure to send the design for regular revision and approval from the client. This will save you from redoing big loads of work and ultimately, save you time in the long term.
A good practice is to manage a clear and easy-to-understand naming system for your creative files, as well as for each cycle of revisions. This will help you and your team to discover fast any previous versions that were made. When you keep everything documented, you can easily determine who approved what, who did what, and who is accountable for changes that were made.
An important note here. While developing the product, make sure to maintain effective communication with your team, too. This will help you adjust the working process seasonably if things go off-track. Make a schedule of when you will be holding regular meetings with your team. Make sure to get timely feedback from each person in order to resolve problems or bottlenecks as soon as they appear.
In order to establish effective and timely communication with your client and your team, you can use a project management tool that keeps everything documented and makes sure everyone involved stays updated. You can download such an effective project management tool from Kitchen.co. This is the tool we use here at htmlBurger and we can’t even highlight enough how handy it is for managing projects and keeping everyone in the know. You can add team members and clients that are involved, easily keep track of files and communication, and unlock final design and source files for downloading only after payment is completed.
9. Launch the product.
For sure, launching the product may be a process that is different for different niches. For some, this would be a website going live, for others it could be getting ads up and running, and yet others may have to depend on third-party services like printing.
It’s wise to submit the final product sometime before its original deadline date hits. Often, the final product will have additional tweaks or changes that the client will demand at the last moment. As a creative, we know what is perfect in your eyes could be a little bit different from a client’s perspective. Therefore, it makes sense to submit a not-so-perfect design but one that corresponds to the client’s needs. Plus, submitting a not-perfect final design a few days before its due date will give you enough time to make changes and readjust without having to work overtime.
Once the client is happy with the final design, you can sort out things like payments and conditions for ongoing support. As a reputable company, your client will rely on you for responding in case they need help in the future, no matter if you have already closed the project as completed. This will surely help you build strong and long-lasting relationships that will be beneficial for your agency.
10. Evaluate the process and improve.
This step here is one that many creative agencies miss but successful ones always undertake. After you are finished with the creative job, take the time to analyze and evaluate how everything has gone. Were there any problems that occurred in the process? What can you do to handle them better the next time? Is there anything you can do to predict and avoid them? What can you do to optimize time in case something in the process has lagged?
Don’t be afraid to involve your team members in the process. You can get really valuable insight from other points of view. Since your team are the people that actually get the process moving forward, they must be comfortable with it. What worked for them and what didn’t? What difficulties did they meet? How did they manage to handle the situation? How long did it take?
This opportunity to review your working process is a time investment that will lead to better operation and higher satisfaction in your clients and your team in the long term. So, it’s wise to make this step an integral part of every project you are hired to do. The analysis will help you restructure your creative processes in a way that they become more effective and result-yielding in the future.
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To wrap it up,
The creative process should follow an established structure that keeps everyone informed about what awaits next. As each project is different, be ready to be flexible and open to changes.
The creative agency workflow process should be dynamic and prone to adaptations, but organized and manageable at the same time. Even though creativity is quite a subjective matter, without a proper systematical process, you will hardly channel it and amplify it into producing the best results possible.
We hope this piece of insight was useful to you and managed to give you directions on how to improve your own creative processes. Remember that establishing an effective workflow process is not a single-time effort. It is an ongoing process of analyzing and adapting to dynamic circumstances, environments, and people involved.
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