Creativity as a Business Part 1

Part One: Evaluating Projects

Estelle and I have been working as an independent company for over 2 years now; developing branded work for corporations around the world and for non-profits in the Cincinnati area. I get asked a lot about what it takes to start a creative business and how to bring projects into your office. Cultivating a list of clients is a tricky, time-consuming and exhausting process. You will get rejected a lot based on a variety of reasons; check your ego aside.

You will also very likely use up your reserve of cash while you develop a reputation in order to GET the work and to start getting paid for your services. Before you quit your job to start your own studio, get your bills up to date and lay off the credit cards; you’ll need them later!

After time, part of the process of getting work becomes the need to evaluate the kind of projects you want to do vs. just taking what’s just there or what is being offered to you. When it comes to vetting projects; I use these 3 evaluation criteria:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

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Is This Project Good For The Money?

Is This Project Good For The Business?

Is This Project Good For Me?

This list is not in order of priority, nor does one area necessarily contradict another. Often times a given project will be a combination them. A good ratio of all three makes a fantastic project and likely a great client relationship.

A Project That’s Good For The Money is fairly obvious. This is a type of project you are most likely to work on early in your company’s history. They are often less-than-ideal projects or for less-than-ideal clients. They are the “take it or leave it” kind of assignment that you would not likely seek out for any other reason than it pays you. Hopefully it will pay well, often that’s not the case either. As you acquire a reputation for your services, you should find yourself able to take fewer projects just for the money. After a while, these projects sap your creative passion.

A Project That’s Good For The Business is a bit harder to define. In short; it’s a project that might not be ideal or a money-maker but will help you strengthen and refine your relationships with potential clients, the community as a whole or to help you broadcast your skill set in a more public profile. Many non-profit projects are like this. For example, you can offer a lower cost in exchange for a “sponsorship” credit. Vet these projects very carefully; it’s easy to misjudge what makes this type of project worth the effort. Especially after you’ve worked many hours and the raise in profile isn’t enough to keep your interest or sustain the discount you’ve given.

A Project That’s Good For Me is what you’d consider an “ideal” project. If all things were equal, you’d work on this project irrespective of the other two criteria. You’d do this thing for free, and likely will do so as time allows. These are the kind of projects you MUST find time for as a creative, even if there’s no apparent monetary or profile gain to it. These are, without a doubt, “passion projects”. They are far more important in the long run than a project that is just good for the business or good for the money.

Creative people must find a source of passion to make great work. Creative work is only as potent as the passion it took to create it. What fuels your creative passion is a desire to work on ideal projects. It takes supreme effort to make these passion projects real and it’s easy to doubt the effort it takes to do it, especially when no real source of income to pay for it is apparent. Work your way through that doubt. You will bring more passion to your “business” projects in the short run after diving into the deep end of the creative pool on your passion project. It’s also easier to know what is ideal and how you can better find “profitable” projects based on this experience. Furthermore, once you have something you can show as an ideal project, it’s easier for a potential client to see this ideal in action and call you to create something like it.

We’d all love to work on a project that will score high in all 3 areas, however this is rarely the case. Creative people also have to resolve the ratio of how much of each criterion applies to a given project. Often my work is comprised of projects that score high in all three. However at the end of the day, a client is paying you to create for their needs. Hopefully your passion will align with the project and make it a great experience. How much passion you bring to your projects is really up to you. The three evaluation areas makes it easier to gauge your intentions before you get started.

Moving on to 2014, we are lucky that our clients reach out to us for work that they KNOW we’ll knock out of the park. We are privileged to be in our position and are excited to show you what we’ve been up to as we progress.

Merry 2014!

More to come;

David & Estelle