Why is “creative freedom” a myth?

If you have worked as a freelancer, then you have come across this phenomenon. When discussing a project, the client seems open and relaxed. “We trust you, you have complete freedom of action,” he says.

You dive into the project with enthusiasm. Finally, you have been given complete creative freedom. You use this opportunity and work with confidence, following your own chosen course.

Then you show the result to the client and they are terrified.

What happened?

Have you chosen the wrong direction?

Has the client changed his mind?

You are mistaken?

While you may have encountered the above issues, the real cause is most likely something else.

“Creative work needs limitations. Nothing will work without them. “

There is no complete creative freedom

If you haven’t clearly defined what needs to be done or what the client wants, you will work at random and hope to hit the mark. Most likely you will be wrong, because the client will not have criteria to evaluate, other than his current mood and subjective taste.

Always start a project with research and briefing. And, if possible, write your own briefs – even if the client provided theirs. This will allow you to define the terms in your own words and ensure that your understanding of the project matches that of your client. It is also an opportunity to set the tone and inspire the client by showing that they were right in choosing you.

The client may say that in this project you have complete freedom of action, but this is not so. Most likely, he simply does not yet know what the restrictions are. That way, you can help identify them, and don’t do it for free. Include this step in your project budget so you get paid for it.

Only after you clearly define the criteria for success can you find creative freedom in them. In addition, you will have something to refer to when you present the result to the customer. Because you’ve set goals and limits ahead of time, you can better justify your decisions. The client may disagree with your decision, but he cannot disagree with the terms that were previously agreed.

Constraints are essential for creative work. Without them, nothing will work. Our mind rotates in dozens of directions, and eventually we fall into despair. Complete “creative freedom” is not possible unless you are involved in a personal art project – and even then, restrictions are helpful.

Ask questions as early and often as possible

If something is unclear to you, even if it seems like a trifle, ask. Don’t soften the question with phrases like “just in case,” “I wonder if you could clarify,” or “just to be sure.” Don’t worry about sounding like a cheerleader. Just ask questions.

When you ask simple questions straight away, you get clear and helpful answers. Each question asked reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings in the future.

“Never assume that you and your client are on the same wavelength.”

Break up the process

If you feel that there may be a misunderstanding between you and the client, or this has happened in the past, you may need to interrupt the process. Don’t disappear for two weeks while going into design mode. Add more milestones to your workflow to keep the client informed and on track.

Conduct an initial workshop. Add more levels of review and approval of decisions made. Schedule a weekly 20 minute call. These are tools to help bridge the gap between you and the client. You won’t always need them, but if you think you need them, then you should use them.

Communicate at every stage

Never assume that you and your client are on the same page. Take notes, send emails and repeat key points at the end of the phone call. This is not to get a legal argument (although if your relationship with a client is like that, read this article). This is necessary in order for you to be on the same page and agree on the final results.

Every time you share the current state of the project and the direction of its development, your client will feel more involved and interested in the end result. The more involved your client, the more he will feel like he has done his part and the more he will like the end result. Make him feel like your work belongs to him and you will have a better chance of success.

Keep your communication clear and concise. Nobody wants to receive a long letter with a verbatim retelling of the past meeting. If you inundate your client with “tell me what you think” emails, you probably won’t get a response. Most people will ignore these emails and end up losing their patience when you pester them or freeze the project while waiting for a response.

Ask questions briefly and make it easier for the client to answer. Let him choose one of two options, or shape them so that you can answer simply “yes” or “no.” If you have multiple questions, do not submit them all at once. If you must submit more than one question or action at a time, number the list so the client can respond in an orderly manner.

Designers should be project managers even if they are already on your team, especially if you work alone. If the client says “no limits,” your job is to add limits. It might sound attractive at first, but a vague, poorly formulated project won’t do you any good. To feel free within a design project, you need boundaries.

Author: Clark Douglas

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