8 Tips for Working with “Creatives”

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There really is no better word to describe people who work with clients (usually) to either write, design, photograph, code for them—really any position where you make something out of nothing. And that something is for someone else.

I consider myself one of these people. Not necessarily in my job as a magazine editor. I don’t really work with clients for that. It’s an editorial product through and through. We (myself and my coworkers) use editorial judgment to make decisions. We aren’t writing to necessarily make others happy.

My other position, “Lead Content Editor,” aka the native/sponsored/advertorial content department, is exactly the opposite. Sure, I still practice editorial judgment, but ultimately decisions are made by the clients. It’s their money, so it’s their product.

I’ve been lucky that most of my clients understand I come from a position of experience—already being a magazine editor in the company helps. When a client wants to make, let’s say, questionable decisions with his or her content, usually I can direct them to a better option that ultimately gives them better results.

However, not all clients follow this pattern. I’m sure most people in any related position can give you horror stories. But for those of you who have to work with creatives, or want to work with us (we can be a fun group, I swear), here are some handy tips for getting on our good side—and staying there.

1. Deadlines:

Me, every production week.

We all have them. Deadlines are the cut-off, the beginning and the end, sometimes the beginning of the end. But no matter when the deadline is, if we give you one, assume it can’t be moved. Sure, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Some people may have more wiggle room for that. But don’t get mad if you’re told “no.” In most cases, these deadlines aren’t just for us. They’re for production, the online team, the printer, etc. If we move a deadline, a chain reaction of despair and angry coworkers ensues. We don’t like having to work with angry coworkers.

2. You are not our only client:

I want to like all of you, I swear.

Just this week I had 18 clients. For my second title in the company. Last week I had another four. As much as it may seem like you’re our only client, and we wish we only had one client at a time, that just simply isn’t the case. If we tell you to send us one photo for your mock-up, don’t send us 10 and ask us to lay them all out so you can choose. And then take four days to tell us you didn’t like any and want to mock up 10 more. Just don’t.

3. If you want our opinion, just ask:

The process…it works.

Us creative people tend to have these jobs because we’re good at them. Or maybe we’re just too cocky to do anything else (I haven’t decided yet). Generally if you ask for our opinion, we’ll give it to you and we’ll be honest. This is not our first rodeo—we have a solid understanding of current standards and what works best. Like I mentioned above, don’t ask us to mock up a dozen options. Feel free to send us a ton, ask us for our favorite 2 or 3, and we’ll gladly send those your way. This should be a collaborative process. Trust the process.

4. Never say, “Just be creative.”:

This is such a weak statement and actually tells us nothing. I guarantee you that none of my clients would want me to write them content like I do on my blog. Creatives are around to create what you paid for and what you want. Sure, we’ll offer suggestions but we have to have something to go off of. If you use this line, don’t be surprised if you get something that is nowhere near what you actually wanted. Be as specific as possible. It will save everyone time and frustration.

5. Don’t blame us for something a sales rep promised you (or anyone else other than us):

I swear it’s not my fault.

This one may be a bit magazine specific, but if you were promised something by anyone but me, and I’m never told of such promise, don’t expect me to follow through on it. Reps can certainly ask for whatever they want when trying to secure clients. I actually tell my reps to ask me questions before they close the sale to avoid such situations. If I’m at the finish line in terms of getting your product done, and you drop some bombshell that the rep said we could do just for you, this will not go well. We will forward what you say to the rep, because honestly anything that happens before your work was assigned to us has nothing to do with us.

6. To people who assign us things—don’t promise something we can’t deliver:


Do you realize how difficult it is to tell a client that we can’t do something, after they’ve been told we can do it and they shelled out money for it? It isn’t fun. And we generally get the backlash for this. I don’t expect everyone to know all the ins and outs of what we can and can’t do with software, but if we say we can’t do it, we can’t do it. We’re not just saying we can’t because we don’t want to—if we genuinely see it as a bad idea, we’ll find another way to say so. Don’t sign us up for something that we can’t do. Remember, you may get commission from these people, but we have to work with them, too. It’s much easier if they don’t think we’re trying to screw them out of money.

7. Respect and trust go a long way:

Let us help you.

Like I’ve mentioned before, we don’t tell people “no” out of spite. We really do want what’s best for the client. After all, these pieces go in our portfolio, too. When we move on to other positions, we have to defend our work. Inherently we want to always produce the highest quality work possible, and still get results. That’s just what we do. So when we offer an opinion, know that it’s from a good place. Trust our judgment—we have a lot riding on your campaign, too.

8. Ask questions:

All of the questions. Ask them.

If you don’t understand something, please just ask. It’s better than getting to the end of a project and realizing that it isn’t what the client wanted at all. Then everyone’s time was wasted. Creatives are communicators; we can take questions and we’ll try our best to answer them until you understand perfectly. We don’t judge you for asking questions. We’d rather you get them out of the way first, then the rest is smooth sailing.

I actually really enjoy working with clients. When they’re happy with what we’re able to produce, that gratitude is second to none. When the analytics come back and show a success, that’s instant gratification. Not everyone can write the way they wish they could, and I’m happy to do that for them. Let’s just say there are a few bad apples we have to deal with every now and then.


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