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Why creative directors shouldn't take themselves seriously

Creative Directors Should Find Joy In Projects | Freelance Creative Director
Kat Shepherd
Kat Shepherd
February 28, 2022
Reading time
6
minutes

As creatives climb the career ladder to director level, their experience and professionalism can overshadow the fun, and sometimes, the more creative aspects of a project. Having spent over 8 years in-house as a creative professional, Britney Beeby decided to take the plunge into freelance in 2019 using YunoJuno for her first brief.

Since then, Britney has successfully worked through a global pandemic - a time where creativity and productivity were difficult to harness. We spoke to Britney about what it means to her to take the creative lead on projects, how she handles vague briefs and what her best advice would be to someone looking to expand their own creative career into a creative director position.

It's not open-heart surgery. Don't take the work or yourself too seriously. Our creative work should be rooted in joy, but ultimately it's our perspective and headspace that defines whether it is or isn't.

Working as one half of a creative duo, we asked Britney to share some of the key features that she feels work really well when working on creative projects for clients;

Asking for a one-page, written brief upfront. If it's not clear enough, ask questions and push back until you're given what you need. Asking for written feedback to be sent over after a debrief session. Creatives shouldn't have to take notes and listen and answer questions during meetings. And clarifying the overtime policy upfront. It's not great to wait until the moment when you need to work overtime, only to discover the agency doesn't pay it/you can't bill for 1.5x your rate. Always double-check this upfront. Try to have a personal overtime policy that you stick to, and be firm on it.

These key points have become the framework for how both Britney and her creative partner work with their clients to ensure a smooth project from the beginning as they’ve learned to handle the challenges that come with the role of creative director;

These are definitely things that we've become more stringent about the longer my creative partner and I have worked in the industry. We were flexible on them in the past, but time and again we'd run into problems if we weren't clear about them. We explain them to the teams we work with upfront so that they can understand how to get the best out of us and we can have our needs met to ultimately do the best work we can for them.

Whilst working at a director level is often a very experienced- and serious- role, Britney and her partner are quick to remind their clients- “it’s not open-heart surgery!” Creative work takes time, focus and dedication but Britney is keen to remind both clients and aspiring freelance creatives;

In reality, whether you meet the deadline or not, come up with the best ideas or not, make the client happy or not, there's no life on the line and the sun will most certainly shine tomorrow. So don't take the work or yourself too seriously. Creative work should be rooted in joy, but ultimately it's our perspective and headspace that defines whether it is or isn't.
Britney and Harriet's Podcast - discussing the how to's, the in's and out's, the highs and lows of creative freelance life in London.

Whilst not taking herself too seriously is an important aspect of being a creative director, having to think outside the box during a time when we were confined to our homes was another. We spoke to Britney about the impact the pandemic has had on her role as a creative freelancer;

It hasn't been easy! I love going to industry events and creative meet-ups and even though they've mostly all moved online it's just not quite the same. The people you meet while you're pouring a drink, or chatting afterwards are always so inspiring, everyone's got interesting projects they're working on or a cool new brief they're figuring out, and I really missed hearing about all of them.

And her tips for getting through those particularly tricky times when those creative ideas were harder to spark?

I just kept looking at work and portfolios to see what everyone's making, going for walks to get fresh air and hopefully stumble upon some inspiration, and keeping my pen and paper (or iPad) handy to draw ideas up, or just doodle.

A lot of great creative work comes from solid, well-structured briefs- as Britney says;

A good brief is like a navigational tool – it should make your route to the final output clearer.

But often, the reality of briefs is far from ideal. Britney has just one simple tip for handling vague briefs from clients

Make a list of questions that you find come up again and again on briefs, a checklist if you will, and tick off things that you know you'll need so that it's easier to see the gaps, and then ask the questions to fill them.

As well as water-tight briefs, a great creative project needs to have boundaries and set expectations from both freelance and client-side. Handling expectations is just another part of a creative directors role, as Britney shares;

I think expectations can be answered by a good brief, and if not then by asking questions so that you're clear on the expectations from the get-go. What are the key objectives? What is being communicated? What's the desired outcome? What are the interim deadlines and final deadlines? And if you feel like it's not clear enough, politely push back and be clear about what will help.

If some of the challenges creative directors face from clients starts with the brief, what can clients do to help on the next project?

Ultimately, I think the most important thing that clients never seem to understand is that great creative work takes time to craft. We need enough time away from the screen in order to gain perspective of what we've come up with, so we can decisively trim off the fluff which makes for a better outcome. But you can't do it without perspective, which only happens when you step away from the screen - that's why it never helps to work relentlessly, day and night, on a project, rushing to meet a deadline. I do believe that it's important for agencies and freelancers to begin to teach this to clients - we've set unrealistic expectations in the past and it's time to put an end to the constant grind to make for a healthier life/work balance for all of us.

So whilst the title of ‘creative director’ might sound super serious, Britney’s biggest take-out;

if you choose to work as a freelance creative, is to have fun, ask questions- and not take yourself seriously!

If you want to work with Britney and her creative partner, Harri, check out her profile here.

A dynamic creative duo with an insatiable passion for brilliant creative, hawk eyes for craft and a way with words that may or may not have gotten us in trouble. We'd love to chat and tell you about our podcast, passion for typography and how we met (it involves a colour wheel and crying) but more than anything we love solving problems creatively.
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