Little Red Flags: Projects That Are Much Too Fast.

By: Tricia Christiansen

The perils of moving too quickly are a real concern for creatives and should be considered seriously before attempting that next rush project. I say that but in truth, we do hot design projects all the time. The difference is we streamline projects for existing clients that trust we understand their needs. After spending a good amount of time with clients and putting several projects under our belts, we share a common language or vision that can expedite our process for our internal team. And probably the most important component is that we understand the client’s unwritten rules, the ones you don’t find in a brand guide.

 But in those instances when I’ve been tempted by a new client flying in with a fantastic budget IF we can deliver by an incredibly stunted timeline, I tabled the time and trust factors. Like a fool. One quick meeting is never enough to launch us into branding, marketing materials, anything that the client is going to feel connected to or care about. Never. Not if the client is invested in their brand, which they typically are – just maybe not enough to start the process earlier. There needs to be dialogue so both sides can share ideas and hear what the other has to say. Hot projects tend to be one-sided attempts that end in frustration and much more.

So, what are the pitfalls? Here’s what could happen when you try to rush creative:

1.     Your internal team loses out. Rushing the team means less time for research, dialogue and exploration — both internally and with the client. They create based on their individually interpretations with limited input and the result isn’t nearly as solid as it could have been.

2.     You can potentially lose money. By engaging partners earlier in the process like writers, illustrators, photographers in order to meet a deadline you invest. But without the normal milestones and check-ins to make sure everyone is on the same page, you gamble with the outcome. This industry is subjective, and you’ll have to decide if it’s worth fighting an unhappy client to pay for something they don’t like or just pay your partners and walk away with lessons learned.

3.     You potentially damage your reputation. Rushing something through in a few weeks that you did for another group in a few months just isn’t fair to your team or the client. The vision in client’s head needs to align with yours at some point and it takes time to sync that up. And when it doesn’t, your client now believes you aren’t a good communicator, you don’t listen, or you’re just not a strong designer – yikes!

4.     You can burn a bridge. Your client expected something different, but you pushed your team to the limit to make things happen, juggling other projects and shortening their timelines as well. You’re stressed and not in a good mindset. The client is unhappy and instead of looking for a solution you’re wondering where is the appreciation for all of the effort? Things can get tense and downright rude.

But instead of getting irritated with the client, this is on you – because you should know better. I should’ve known better, and I do now years later. After a few choice experiences where we didn’t have the client’s trust or the time we needed, I’ve learned to hold these two things as essential. With new clients, it takes time to understand who they are, their vision and voice, as well as create that ever important trust. Most of our clients come through as referrals and know our work, so an element of trust is already planted. That’s a situation when we can sometimes streamline our process when we don’t have as much time as we’d like.

Fortunately, some of our more personal examples in the past have had positive outcomes. A debrief allowed us to be honest about the process and we were able to try again at a later date on a new project completely. Every situation, good and bad, is an opportunity to build a relationship. If you run into trouble and try to address it head on, you can come out of it with a much stronger connection. But if in the end you took on the flaming hot work, but the payment received is less than was invoiced with notes about how you failed – that’s a client you’re never going to win over.

 So, creatives be cautious. I’m not saying to always shoot down working on a rush project, just step back and look at the entire situation. If you can handle the outcomes, whatever they may be, then buckle up and let the ride begin.