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The Importance of a Production Process

Q Why does AskMorris spend so much time creating a process when working with clients?

The article below article from "Clients From Hell" explains really well the reason we spend so much time creating a process when working with clients. "Clients From Hell" is also a fun web site where you can find a variety of stories about the interaction between clients and vendors.
Honed Humility: The Importance of a Production Process

Every artist has a process. As detrimental as a blueprint may seem to creativity, it's often the cornerstone of every professional artist's work ethic. This process is usually based on a set of tried-and-true methods that are supported by good habits.

The importance of a process cannot be overstated. By regulating aspects of projects and your practice, habits are built, standards are met, and most importantly, a consistent work ethic comes through.

Almost every process includes the same things. As Ernest Hemingway is often (incorrectly) credited with saying, "write drunk, edit sober." It's not the ideal standard (don't drink on the job, kids), but it does concisely illustrate how simple a professional's process can be. It involves:

  • ✓ Doing the job: In this instance, the statement "write drunk" is not meant to be taken literally. Rather, it encourages writers to write regardless of perceived quality. You need to build something before you do -
  • ✓ Quality control: The statement "edit sober" means applying standards and making an unbiased (as possible) judgment on the quality and worth of the eventual finished product.

These two simple things are featured in every professional's process.

A process tells a client what they're paying you for. Freelancers are often hired because they can do something the client cannot. By explaining your process and showing the client how it works, the quality of what they're paying for becomes apparent. It also makes it clear that you do not just press a button in Photoshop to get work done.

Note: This is another reason "drunk" should not be a regular part of your process.

A process is developed over time. If there is a problem with having a process, it's that sticking too close to one can limit your growth. There are crafts wherein my process hasn't changed in years (writing) and there are crafts where my process is constantly being tinkered with (photography). Developing a process comes with developing the craft. Finding something that works for you is great, and it helps build expertise, but don't be afraid to try something new. It may not work, but you'll likely learn something as a result.

Each process looks different. However, here's a process most Client From Hell readers will benefit from. Below is a suggested ten-step process for client projects:

  1. Query
  2. Clarification and brain-storming (via questions to the client, research on my part, etc.)
  3. Creative brief (which often includes the remaining steps of my process as "milestones" for my client and after approval and a signed contract -
  4. Gather resources (e.g. research, scout locations, book equipment, etc.)
  5. Write / Shoot / Design (i.e. do it)
  6. Complete a rough version (e.g. untouched photos, unformatted writing, wireframes, etc.)
  7. Gather additional feedback (i.e. ensure both my client and I agree on where this is heading) 
    a) Incorporate revisions and feedback
  8. Complete a good copy
    a) If further feedback is necessary, send this to the client
  9. Quality control (via editing, peer-review, or testing)
  10. Send to client
    a)  Ensure the check clears
    b)  Reflect on the project and the process

Developing your own process is easy. Start taking notes as you work. Discern specific steps, and then expand on those steps. Then, if necessary, explain or justify those steps. You might find you're doing too much or too little, but regardless, you'll be much more capable of explaining what, exactly, you do for a living.

A process has other uses. Processes aren't just how you import photos or how you develop websites. They can be used as a roadmap for projects (making a great accompaniment to briefs), they can be used to attract clients (see the point about teaching clients), and they can even be used in non-creative endeavours, such as your monthly finances or tracking multiple ongoing queries.