Five Tips for Smooth Creative Projects

(Click here to expand)

Being a great project manager for a creative agency requires a keen attention to detail, a deep understanding of the project’s flow and the client’s direction, as well as the ability to clearly communicate to both internal and external audiences. These skills help you achieve a completed project that’s on time, on budget, and meets the client’s strategic goals established at the outset of the engagement. The following are five key tips to keep in mind when managing a creative project to get the best out of your team and deliver the best for your client:

Kickoff Keys

At the start of your creative initiative, successful and efficient projects will benefit from a group meeting for alignment. Here are a few keys to remember to set up your agency team to deliver high quality work for your clients consistently:

  • Ensure you have a completed creative brief that has already been approved by the client. This document will guide the work the team will be doing from a messaging, format, and timeline perspective, while also confirming that both the client and agency are aligned with the deliverables.
  • Include the right people – at a minimum, your writer and designer, as well as any digital team members depending on the scope of the project. The right people asking questions at the beginning of the project will ensure that all the right steps are taken throughout the execution minimizing re-work when key team members must adjust copy or design later because they missed earlier inputs or client-provided preferences and direction. This is especially important for digital projects that can quickly rack up additional time spent on programming if, directionally, the teams are not aligned.
  • Establish a timeline that all parties are comfortable with and share that back with your client so that everyone’s on the same page and knows what’s coming and when. Transparency with clients on milestones, reviews, and completion date target help them to provide line of site to their stakeholders and trust the agency is executing at a pace that aligns with their corporate goals and other marketing initiatives.

Distilling Information

While it’s critical to give your creative team thorough background materials and relevant inputs, avoid the temptation to throw everything at them. As a project manager, you should review client-provided materials ahead of time to pull out the elements that are specifically relevant to efficiently and effectively execute their portion of the project. Occasionally, an internal presentation or research study can help explain a complex offering or lend detail or substance – but these materials should not be filled with contradictory or unnecessary information. Providing only the relevant materials for the execution not only saves time, it will help the creative team hone in on the most important messages to bring the client’s vision to life. Here are the top items the creative team will need:

  • Specs
  • Type of creative they’re building
  • Where it lives within the client’s overall marketing program
  • Templates to leverage
  • Other supportive marketing materials the client is executing in their plan
  • The ultimate destination – whether that’s a landing page, contact form or other mechanism


Establishing and sticking to milestones throughout the project to check in and review any works-in-progress before the client sees them helps to evaluate and make sure they’re strategically aligned, on brand, and meeting the expectations that you’ve come to understand as the day-to-day contact. When reviewing, keep these things in mind:

  • Mark up the piece of creative directly and provide concrete feedback so your team knows what you’re looking for and can finalize the piece with your input included.
  • Check to see how your project is progressing against the budget and to check the deliverable for adherence to the client-approved scope of work.
  • Before the client sees their deliverable, no matter where you are in the process, it should always be proofed to maintain the highest quality when delivering the assets.
  • As the project is progressing, be proactive and advocate on behalf of your client – if there is a deadline approaching, check in and ensure your team is on track. If they are not, you’ve given yourself the chance to address any questions directly, communicate with your client for clarification, or to provide a heads up that there is a delay before the date it’s due. This builds trust with your internal and external contacts that you are prioritizing their project and wanting to be a great partner to your client to deliver great work.

Presenting the work with context

Presenting your deliverables directly to your clients either on a call or in-person is the most effective way to ensure the team’s work, rationale, and perspective come through, while also allowing your team to hear on-the-spot feedback from the client and answer any questions they may have. Why is this important?

  • When clients can gather talking points from your conversation, it will help them socialize and build support for the work internally, which is especially important when it’s a high-profile, high-impact, complex, or otherwise important deliverable where email will not be the most effective way to communicate the creative team’s POV.
  • Provides the opportunity to employ active listening for your client’s feedback to be able to confirm direction, identify any additional support that might be suggested to make their program even more successful, and to build the relationship between the client and their dedicated creative team.
  • Always recap it back via email to ensure you’ve heard all the inputs accurately and what you’re going to do, by when as next steps.

If the creative is sent over via email, be sure to provide any relevant context – why your team chose certain imagery, the copy direction your team recommends, any impacts and connections with other work in progress or already completed, and any other details that will help your client provide you with the right feedback to finalize.


Some projects may not have a hard deadline to meet such as a tradeshow, meeting, or media launch, but that doesn’t mean you should de-prioritize them in the agency workflow in favor of other more timely projects. They should still be slated into the team’s schedule to move forward without delays to ensure your client’s priorities are being met and they receive their requests in a timely manner. When they do have a hard deadline, consider these suggestions:

  • Build out your project workflow with all required dates to hit at the start of the project, and communicate them to your client.
  • When you send over assets, call out when feedback is requested to keep the timeline intact.
  • Provide feedback that is comprehensive so that all inputs from stakeholders are included in a single document for efficiency in completing the next round and sticking to the timeline your client expects.

Remember, most of us do our best work when we’re not pressed for time, so we want to make sure we’re respecting both our clients’ and our internal creative teams’ time to turn around a deliverable the client is thrilled to receive.

With these tips in mind, your creative project can flow through your agency smoothly and delight your clients consistently.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *