How To Put a Stop To Rework In Your Creative Business

As a creative entrepreneur, “rework” can be one of the most demoralizing pain points in your business. 

You know… that sinking feeling you get when you accidentally lose a file you spent hours on. Or when you pour your heart and soul into a project, only to find that it’s not quite hitting the mark with your clients or audience.

Rework comes in many shapes and sizes and can feel like a constant uphill battle, stalling your progress and draining your creative energy. Sometimes it looks like going through yet another round of client revisions and other times you may just realize that you misunderstood the assignment and need to start from scratch to realign with the original project goal.

No matter the reason, this never-ending cycle of iterations isn’t just a time and energy killer. It’s also draining your resources, tainting your client relationships, fueling your self-doubt, and making any semblance of a work-life balance laughable!

Not to mention, it’s so darn frustrating!

Instead of creating space for new ideas, creativity, and opportunities, rework is directly hurting your business. 

In this week’s blog, I’ll break down my best strategies as an outsourced Chief Operations Officer for doing away with rework for good so you can overdeliver on client projects, maintain your sanity, get a handle on things, and feel confident about the creative work you love!

Let’s get your creative business humming along like a well-oiled machine!

Get It Right The First Time

Getting it right the first time can save you a load of trouble. But, often it’s easier said than done.

Luckily, as an artist and designer myself,  I’ve had a ton of experience figuring out where to focus your attention as a creative to cut back on extra work, optimize your time, and improve the quality of your services or products!

When you nail it on your first go, you can actually cut down or even wave goodbye to all that pesky rework!

Put in some extra effort upfront and you’ll be able totally blow expectations out of the water on every single project. 

Better yet? 

Dodge the whole messy business of fixing and firefighting down the road.

Over the past 15+ years in my creative business and during my time as a business coach and outsourced COO for creatives,  I’ve learned the two-fold secret to kicking rework to the curb in your creative business once and for all: 

Put your focus on how things run behind the scenes and how you connect with and serve your clients.

A Strong Foundation: Internal Solutions

To steer clear of rework in your creative business, your internal systems need to become your allies instead of foes. 

Imagine if your studio was always messy, and every time you wanted to create or do something, you had to clean up first. 

It would be tiring, right? 

Well, the same goes for the backend systems and ops in your creative business. If things are all over the place and you start each project from scratch, it’s not just a lot of upfront work—it also means you’re more likely to make errors and might have to do things over and over again!

So, here’s a better way: spend some time making a clear plan for how you’ll keep your digital stuff (like software systems and files) organized and how you’ll do your projects.

When you have a plan, you won’t waste time and energy, and you’ll be able to do your creative work without always redoing things.

Get Organized

Staying organized is a crucial aspect of managing your projects effectively and avoiding unnecessary rework. Knowing where your digital assets are can save you valuable time and frustration. 

I recommend you create an intuitive, reproducible system that will take the guesswork out of your organization process so you can focus your attention where it really counts.

Here are some essential tips to help you maintain a well-organized creative process:

  1. File Management: Create a logical folder structure for your digital files. If you can’t find the work you did, you may have to do it again! Don’t let your creativity get lost in the Google Drive abyss because you don’t know how to locate it!

  2. Backup, Backup, Backup: Protect your creative work by implementing a multi-level backup system. There’s nothing worse than doing the work but losing it because your primary backup fails! Consider using cloud storage solutions like Dropbox, Google Drive, or a dedicated external hard drive to back up your work regularly. This way, even if your primary device fails, you can quickly restore your files and avoid the devastation of losing valuable creative work.

  3. Version Control: if you offer several rounds of revisions, this is for you! Don’t accidentally save over work you may need later! Instead, implement a version control system for your creative projects to track changes. This process involves creating iterations or “versions” of your work as you progress from the first draft through the final draft. Use filenames that indicate the version number (e.g., “ProjectName_v1,” “ProjectName_v2”) to track changes effectively. This way, you won’t accidentally lose crucial elements and you can easily go back to a previous version if needed.

By implementing these organizational strategies, you can minimize the chances of rework due to lost or misplaced work. Instead of just thinking of organization as a “nice to have,”, reframe it as an investment in your creative business (and your sanity)!

COO Tip: These tips translate to physical files as well! A lot of the world has moved away from physical files, but it’s still very much a thing for visual artists, illustrators, makers, and designers. Whether it’s flat files to store artwork or a shelving system to store and manage products, stock, and prototypes, they all need to be organized and have a system!

Standardize Your Process 

Once your file and asset management systems are in place, it’s time to nail down your project workflows. 

I know your work is far from standard, but that doesn’t mean you need to start from scratch every time you begin a new creative project. If you do a task in your business more than once, it should be systematized and standardized to ensure efficiency and consistency from project to project. 

You can do this by creating and implementing SOPs. SOP stands for Standard Operating Procedures. It may sound like a fancy term, but essentially an SOP tells us exactly how, when, and where something should be done (and if you have a team, who is responsible).

For example, if you are a graphic designer your SOP for designing a logo might look like this:

  1. Understand The Client: Gather business information and preferences from the client via a questionnaire and 60-minute Kickoff Call to form a project brief.

  2. Find Inspiration: Research industry trends and create mood boards for design direction. Route to client for approval.

  3. Generate Concepts: Brainstorm and sketch logo concepts aligned with client goals and approved client mood board.

  4. Present Concepts: Digitally render concepts in Adobe and explain design choices to the client via a Zoom or in-person meeting. 

  5. Refine Design: Incorporate client feedback and make necessary revisions in 2 rounds.

  6. Finalize Logo: Polish chosen concept for versatility and scalability.

  7. Client Approval: Share the final design via CRM (i.e. Dubsado) for client’s sign-off.

  8. Deliver Files: Prepare logo files and a style guide.

  9. Close Project: Get final client approval, deliver assets, and archive project files in Google Drive.

These copy, paste guidelines, and repeatable systems ensure you’re never flying by the seat of your pants! Plus, you can hone and refine your SOPs over time so they can grow, expand, and evolve with you!

COO Tip: Product-based businesses can use SOPs too! This is a great way to standardize the creation process. If you create handmade pottery, for example, your SOPs can outline the process including clay preparation, shaping, drying, firing, glazing, and final quality checks. This will help you emphasize safety measures and thorough documentation to ensure consistent quality and safe, efficient production.

Supercharge Your SOPs with Templates

I am also a big fan of harnessing the power of templates! You can easily weave these into your SOPs to make them even more actionable, clear, and specific!

Create them once, and use them over and over again!

You can use standard templates for… 

  • client or project contracts,
  • scope documents, 
  • project request forms, 
  • creative briefs, 
  • kick-off item requests, 
  • client info forms, 
  • welcome packets, 
  • etc. 

Templates streamline your operations, saving you precious time and energy while making sure you have all the essential information you need in one easy-to-access location. 

This kind of one-stop solution helps you avoid piecemealing scattered information together haphazardly from multiple emails, messages, and notes!

Not only do these templates make your life a heck of a lot easier than constantly needing to email, call, or Slack someone asking for this, that, or the other thing, but they can also help you look super professional and put together in the eyes of your client.

COO Tip: Templates can also give you insight into when and if things are going off the rails (as soon as they do!). They help you stay on the pulse of how your project is moving along so you can nip issues in the bud before or as soon as they arise. This is a great way to avoid rework or reduce the amount of rework that needs to be done before things spiral out of control!

Client Facing Solutions

Now that you’ve got the internal gears running smoothly, let’s zoom in on the client piece of the puzzle!

This is where the magic of client experience comes into play.

A well-crafted client experience does more than eliminate surprises (except the occasional good AND intentional ones) – it builds trust, ensuring your client feels valued and acknowledged. Trust paves the way for comfort and confidence in your work.

So how can you improve the client experience while reducing rework in one fell swoop?

Simple: It’s all in the way you communicate, the checkpoints you set, and the positive attitude you embody!

Communicate Effectively

It may seem obvious that communication is important. 

But so much time is wasted each and every day as a result of poor communication. And when information gets muddled because of these communication breakdowns, the likelihood of needing to tackle rework skyrockets.

Instead, when you communicate efficiently, your work becomes better, faster, and more impactful in the long run. You save yourself from the stress of working on the wrong things or moving in the wrong direction.

From resolving issues with clients to successfully tackling major projects with your team, the impact of effective communication is profound!‌

My 3 best communication tips are…

  1. Stay Ahead with Early and Frequent Communication: Being proactive and persistent in your communication sets you up for success. Keep the dialogue flowing from the get-go early and often!

  2. Embrace the Rule of 7: Remember, it takes hearing a message about seven times for it to really stick. Repetition is key for ensuring your message hits home.

  3. One Message, One Goal: An email should serve ONE primary objective, just like a meeting or a phone call, or virtually any other form of communication. When you attempt to include too much within a single interaction, it leads to confusion, information being lost, and things frequently ending up forgotten.

By ensuring that everyone is on the same page through clear, timely, and proactive communication, you eliminate unnecessary distractions that can derail your progress as you’re getting things done while reducing the amount of rework you need to manage in your business.

Establish Checkpoints

Want to keep your projects on track and slash rework? 

Here’s a game-changer: set up checkpoints at critical milestones in your projects: beginning, middle, and end.

  1. Before the project begins, kick off your work together with a meeting or call. During this meeting, you and your client can lay out crystal-clear goals and define what success looks like for the project. When project goals are front and center, they serve as your North Star keeping you on track throughout the process. Once you know what success looks and feels like, you can decide how you’ll measure success and use KPIs and metrics to ensure objectivity. Jot down any must-know details or constraints right from the start so that expectations are clear from the get-go!

  2. Then, schedule regular check-ins at pivotal points like halfway marks and project wrap-ups. These proactive checkpoints act as guideposts, making sure you don’t veer off course. During these meetings, you can lean on the metrics you chose to use to measure success and redirect your efforts as needed.

These moves will keep you laser-focused on your goals, and ultimately save you a ton of time, headaches, and energy.

Embrace Feedback

Last but not least, you need to consider what you do if your client ends up sharing some not-so-ideal feedback OR you make a mistake (you’re human after all, give yourself some grace),

Sometimes, rework is inevitable. 

If you’ve put in all your effort to organize, communicate, and strategize, but still receive negative feedback, there’s one thing left to do: 

Embrace it!

Sure, it stings to hear that your creative work didn’t match your client’s expectations. But remember, creativity is subjective, and you can’t please everyone all the time.

Instead of seeing rework as a setback, view it as an opportunity! 

With an open mind and a balance of your vision and expertise, rework can actually be a positive thing.

Shift your mindset, and everything can change! Feedback is a chance to learn, grow, and improve. While you’d prefer to get it “right” the first time, the truth is, there’s always room to enhance your art, client experience, and process. Welcome the opportunity to make your work and your business even better!

COO Tip: I know failure doesn’t feel good, but it is a necessary part of growth! I’m all about failing, but failing fast and forward. You can learn more here

Strike a Balance

To overcome unnecessary rework, the key is to strike a balance between your behind-the-scenes and client-facing processes.

Internally, staying organized to avoid misplacing or losing digital and/or physical assets and standardizing your repeatable processes as much as possible can help you save time and proactively prevent errors.

Open communication with clients from the outset, setting clear project objectives and milestones, and ensuring a thorough understanding of your client’s needs can help reduce the need for extensive rework

Additionally, embracing feedback as an opportunity for growth and improvement can turn the frustration of rework into a valuable learning experience

Remember, even the most successful creatives have faced setbacks and rework throughout their careers – it’s all part of the journey!

Need Support?

My 90-Minute Clarity Calls are the perfect way to get you out of the overwhelm and into aligned action. 

We can work on:

  • Optimizing the backend of your creative business. I’ll help you create a step-by-step plan so you can standardize your processes and build out the right-for-you templates your business needs. 

  • Leveling up your client experience. Let’s map out what those key milestones look like and what kind of information you need to collect from your clients to support the creative projects you work on. 

Sound good?

Then click here to get the ball rolling and I’ll be in touch!


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