Why Creative Professionals Will Always Have Work – Tips for Managing an Ever-Growing List of Projects

July 21, 2015

This article is mainly for department heads and business owners who employ full time creative professionals. Although, it should be noted that much of this information will be helpful for employers dealing with freelance professionals and even spouses of creative professionals.


There are many different types of creative people, some are constantly bouncing ideas off of you and others finish a project and never bother to tell you. Some creative need direction every day while others can keep themselves busy for years.


Although creatives are as varied as the art they create, there are also common threads that weave these individuals into the same cloth. However, knowing is only half the battle, as managers we must learn how to best lead these unique professionals in a powerful and healthy way that is mutually beneficial to all.


Never out of Work


Maybe you are wondering if you, or someone who works with you, is a creative professional. A creative professional could be a writer, a musician, a graphic artist, an animator, a marketing guru, or even a web programmer. How can an accountant be creative you ask? The answer is surprisingly simple.


Creative people create. In other words they generate their own work. This doesn’t mean they have to be self-employed. I’ve worked for a company full time and as a freelancer. What I mean is they will never have less work than they have right now.


Generating Ideas


For every project they complete, they think of four more ideas to start on next. Even if you hire more creative people to help with the work load, you will find that the work just keeps stacking up. In fact, it will stack up even faster because more people are thinking of new ideas, angles, and strategies based off the idea they are currently working on.


Let’s say you are a manager looking to hire a Graphic Artist  to add to your team. You have currently been using freelance artists, but you feel having an artist in-house would really streamline the process, speed things up, and improve communication to your growing list of projects.


However, you’re worried that you won’t have enough work to keep a Graphic Artist busy full time. Let me assure you that this shouldn’t be a concern. Within six months you will find that your list of projects has gone from half a sheet of paper to four sheets of paper and it keeps growing!


Now you find yourself looking to hire a second Graphic Artist just to keep up with the enormous workload. Beware, hiring more creative professionals will not decrease your workload. Yes, more work will be produced and completed, but more work will also be generated. More creatives will result in more work not less. So what do you do?


Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.


You have a list of great ideas and having to prioritize that list can feel like an impossible task. Cutting a project before it even gets started can feel like cutting off a limb, but it has to be done. You can’t possibly complete every item on your list- especially if the list keeps growing. If for every project you complete, four more are added, how can you every get through your list?


Ever-Growing ListYou are going to have to pick only the very best and most manageable ideas to complete. You need to roll up your sleeves and start trimming off the fat from your list. Focus on a few things and make those a priority. Your team will thank you for it, because another thing about creative people is that they are often overwhelmed by large lists.


You may even need to get an outside pair of eyes on your list to help you remove some of the items on your list. This is especially true if you are a creative person yourself. If the thought of throwing your creative ideas in the trash is too emotional for you, get a colleague to help you weed through it. Trust me, you’ll fell better when it’s all over.


I find it’s easier to do this in stages. I will often mark deleted items in red first and move them to the bottom of the list. Once I have a manageable list of projects, I will delete the items in red or even move them to a separate list. That way at least the ideas are saved in case I want to revisit them at a future a date. Which, by the way, rarely happens but it helps me to prioritize the list that I need to focus on.


So, how do you prioritize your list?


Prioritize by Finances


It sounds pretty obvious, but if you don’t have the money to complete a project, you probably shouldn’t make it a priority. This is especially true if you are going to have to outsource the bulk of the work to another company. The best ideas in the world won’t do you any good if you can’t afford them. Focus on the projects that you can afford right now.


Prioritize by Resources


If you have the finances in place for your projects, then it’s time to consider the other resources you have available. Do you have the right people and skills to pull off this project? What about time? Is the deadline going to be too tight? Is it going to cause another project to be delayed because you are taking people off of one project to work on another? If so you might want to put that project on the back burner for awhile. Consider all of the resources you have along with all of the projects you have and sort your list accordingly.


Prioritize by Passion


Passion is a tricky but important factor to consider. Passion can make a project seem more or less important than it really is. The trill of a new idea can generate a lot of momentum for a project, but if that project starts dragging on it can suck the life out of your team. Keep new and passionate projects in perspective.


Passion can also be an indicator that an item should be moved up the list. If a project keeps rising up the list time and time again, it might be time to go for it. Passion isn’t a bad thing. It is just something you’ll need to keep in check because you’re running a business not a hobby.


Keep these things in mind and your every growing list of projects should become more manageable.

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