- Give yourself plenty of time … you’ll probably need it.
- Accept that this project is very different from a client’s commission.
- Acknowledge that it’s hard for you to judge your own creative output.
- Involve trusted fellow professionals, clients and friends, and value their thoughts and judgements.
- Accept that you will never be completely happy. You will always catch yourself saying, “I wonder – if we change this…”
We are creative people and we work in the creative industries. Why then is it so hard for us to produce our own creative content? When we recently embarked on a revamp of our website, we thought it would be a fairly straightforward exercise. As a leading copywriting agency we stand or fall by our ability to be creative. We’re good at generating ideas and we know how to craft and hone them so that they have impact with clients, customers and stakeholders. We’re not technical people but we are pretty familiar with the digital scene and we have the contacts to get the right technical support, photography and design. Yet to say it’s been a challenging project would be an understatement. Risky confession It’s been the hardest assignment we’ve ever taken on. Of course, making this confession is risky. Clients admire creatives as much for their confidence and bravery as for their great ideas. Acknowledging that we too have the occasional crisis of confidence could be unwise. But perhaps we should own up to the fact that trying to be your own creative is a very different , very personal experience, and it’s not at all the same thing as offering a professional service to your clients. As the old saying goes, it’s the cobbler’s children who have no shoes. Doing what you do day in and day out with ease for your customers suddenly becomes tough when you have to do it for yourself. As we worked on our own website, we became a bit like some of our clients: sometimes committing to wonderfully creative and bold ideas and at other times becoming very fearful and nervous about doing anything new or imaginative. We acted like – I suspect – many commercial organisations. We studied the ‘offers’ of our competition in detail. We came to the conclusion that many of their websites had the same look and feel, and even similar content. Play it safe or stand out from the crowd? What should we do? Play it safe and go with the flow because, after all, some of these organisations were very successful – they must be doing something right? Or should we deliberately do something different, stand out from the crowd, and then find out too late that we had completely misjudged the market. Uncertainty leads to paralysis, and making firm decisions on the direction of our own website became quite difficult. Everything stuttered and stumbled as we procrastinated. Of course, as copywriters, we did have the particularly tricky challenge of how to visually project and promote good writing. Everyone knows that good websites need to give users a great visual and sensory experience. Yet copywriting is all about words. So getting the balance between written content, visual experience and good navigation around the site was always going to be difficult. And, of course, real work from paying customers always had to take priority, so it was no great surprise that the project took a lot longer than we’d originally planned. What did surprise us was how we dithered over it from start to finish. Advice to other creatives So here’s some advice for other creatives planning to revisit their own creative materials, drawn from our hard-won experience.