The creative type and the business type can be a bad combination. The creative may feel that their individual process cannot be tampered with, and as a business leader, they have to have something to show their clients or customers. So it will always be a hard balance to get right. When it comes to managing creative people, whether it is writers, artists, or even actors, it can be more stressful than working with children and animals combined! But it is something that can be achieved by taking a few processes into account and making a few concessions along the way.
Make The Environment Inspirational
A stagnant workspace does absolutely nothing for the development of ideas. If you need your staff to be creative on a regular basis, you have to be constantly inspiring, and if you cannot do that, then you need to make every corner a nugget of inspiration. Robin Williams, the man who seemed to have a million jokes a second, said that whenever he felt dry or lacking in inspiration, he read a book, went to a museum, or watched a movie, anything that got him started up again. For creatives, a line from a play, a quote, a small image could be a springboard into a whole new idea. So make sure there is plenty for their minds to absorb. Maybe have a small library in the breakout room, or have art books lying around, DVDs, arrange a trip to the museum, anything to get the engines revving. Creatives can have many dry periods where they don’t think they are doing their best or coming up with any good ideas. Inspiration comes in many forms, so provide a wealth of information broad enough in the place of work.
Doubt is a common theme running through the creative mind. Feelings of being dry and uninspired are a regular thing, and you need to be able to manage these periods with finesse. You have a difficult thing to do when you’re faced with deadlines of your own, and the notion of a deadline for many creative types will hamper their ability to make good art. While you cannot give someone a deadline far into the future, you need to make sure that the whip is being cracked and that ideas are being generated at a decent pace to make the people above you pleased with the progress but also that you can be sure that everything will be completed on time. Riding out the dry periods is something that may seem stressful, but once you understand how your team works, you can spot when they need a break, or reinforce the support you are putting behind them. A period of doubt is just as bad as pressure, so make sure you are encouraging them in the way they like to be encouraged. This may not mean moral support; this could be taking their mind off the task, or just sending them home for some R & R.
A strict set of rules works for one person but not the next. Learning how to manage time properly is a skill you need as a manager, but learning to herd cats is another essential skill! For example, you may notice that your designer does their best work at 3 in the morning, so why would you make them stick to a 9 to 5 schedule? Learn when they work best and develop schedules around that, and while it may mean a Skype chat to them at 11 at night if it means that the project will be of excellent quality, it’s a small price to pay. Even in standard workplaces, flexible working hours is a demand many people benefit from, mainly due to things like childcare. But if your copywriter’s project requires as much attention as a baby, then it is in your best interest to make their lives as conducive to creativity as possible.
Invest In Their Efforts
The one thing that a creative industry has over the standard 9 to 5 permanent is uncertainty. Lots and lots of uncertainty! And with the increase of outsourcing for small companies and people going down the self-employed route, the creative industry has never been in ruder health, but the life of a creative is hardly the secure one. If you employ a writer or a designer on a full-time basis, showing you care by nurturing their talent by sending them to seminars or on courses will show your interest in their abilities, and it will help them to work harder for you, it’s win-win! Your creative worker may need additional software that will help bring their work a new edge. Whether it is music software like Sibelius to make sounds that are aurally appealing, audio editing software like Audacity for your business podcasts, or design software like Adobe Spark to give a sleeker, more professional appeal to your local magazine, they are all financial investments that instill confidence in them. Personal investment is one thing, but if your creative core can see that you are putting a price on their talent, they will feel a lot more supported and may not think that you will let them go as soon as this project is done.
It is always a balancing act, whatever group of people you manage. But if you are managing a team of people that are fresh out of art college, or film school, they may not be used to the rigors of a standard 9 to 5 job. You need to work out a way to make the balance fit for the business and for their temperament. It can take some time to get right, but once you have established good boundaries, you need to stick to them because this is a business after all! The debate of whether the arts is a business is one that rages on for many creative types, but I bet those creative types work by themselves and don’t earn a decent living. The creatives that work under a business realize there have to be some sacrifices but don’t have to hamper the creative process.