Putting a Creative Roof Over Your Head

Putting a Creative Roof Over Your Head

Let me begin by asking this simple question – Is creativity the main criteria you should consider when hiring a graphic designer?

If you answered that question, no, then hooray for you. I agree! I ran across a design web site just today, and the pitch was, The only reason to hire me is because Im creative. Ill bring that quality to everything I do. To me, thats sort of like saying, Im a roofer and you should hire me because Ill always bring shingles and the proper roofing tools. So, let me get this straight, if you install my roof, it will actually involve shingles and roofing tools? Well THATS a relief. Im still amazed by how many young designers believe creativity and the demonstration of it alone will magically bring success.

Designers are in a creative business just as roofers are in the business of installing shingles. Most designers quickly discover that their competition is pretty darn creative too. Oops! So now what? It means competing on a different level. Now, I know, there are designers reading this thinking, not all creatives are created equal. My special brand of  creativity makes me unique and more desirable. Maybe. I understand differences in style and creative ability, its important. I get it, but what many business savvy designers have learned is that something even more valuable and rare is needed – a firm grasp and focus on the customer and their business-driven goals. You heard me right. That focus is rare. After years in this business, Ive realized that this focus is even rarer than hi-octane creative talent. Without such focus, creativity is practically useless to a business. Graphic design is about filling a need and creating a solid tool that performs a function and solves specific problems for the client (not necessarily for the designers portfolio), and as such a certain type of directed, creativity is needed, but its not all thats needed.

Lets stretch that roofing analogy a little further shall we. What would you want if you were hiring someone to install a roof on your house? Look at the list and see if you dont think this should apply to hiring designers as well:

    Putting a Creative Roof Over Your Head
  1. A consummate, experienced professional, one that knows the business and can expertly perform all the work needed rather than train on your dime.
  2. A service and customer-focused approach, someone who listens, responds to your requests, isnt dedicated to pressing their own preferences over yours and communicates their working process clearly.
  3. A timely performer, one who can identify any urgency factor you have and do their best to accommodate it, or at the very least be clear about the schedule needed to perform the work.
  4. A business professional offering a realistic, competitive pricing structure, gives value for your dollar, and is clear about fee structure and payment expectations.
  5. A quality provider, someone who not only does the job, but wants to see the final production done right and according to accepted industry standards.

I could go on and on but you get the idea. Sadly, Ive known several designers with enviable creative skills and gorgeous portfolios, who failed miserably as a freelancer because creativity was more important to them than their customer. Creativity became the CEO that ran them right out of business. But, hey, their creative integrity was still intact right?

When I decided to freelance, a former boss and marketing executive I respected greatly told me, Steve, just remember that what you are doing is more business than art. His words have been proven to me ten times over.

So, when its time to get that creative roof put over your head, make sure the designer can bring a little more to the job than just shingles and roofing tools.


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