Buying Creative Services #1

I bought a bicycle this week. Pretty, isn’t it? I’ve already dubbed it my creamcycle. It has been years since I’ve ridden so I asked my friend Steve to help me out because he knows a lot about bicycles. He asked me a bunch of questions, determined what I needed, and made valuable recommendations.

Common enough, right? We research before we drop cash on things we know nothing about. By the time I was ready to buy my creamcycle, I felt pretty good.

You should have as good an experience buying creative media services. Most food start ups have never ventured into this realm and often work with seriously restricted budgets. So how do you get the best website, logo, etc. you can afford? For this series, I’ll take off my writing hat and be your Steve to take you through the maze that is creative media.

Who are they?

The Creative Team

  • branding expert (marketer)
  • writer
  • graphic designer
  • photographer
  • illustrator
  • web designer
  • social media editorial

You may not need all these people for your project. You may also feel you don’t need any of them because your daughter’s boyfriend’s sister is going to do your website or business card or whatever. See how that goes for you, but think about what Red Adair said: “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.”

Where are they?

Some of us work in agencies with swanky Euro-style boardrooms and drink coffee from tiny cups. Many of us work at home so we come to you (our messy desks are not inspiring). Some of us have studios. Where and how we work has little bearing on our talent and getting your business right. I have seen boardrooms produce crap and the little guy design his heart out. More of this in Part 2.

How to choose one

You’ll find us through business associates, friends, the Internet. When you do, drill us like we’re your new babysitter or the nurse looking after your dad. Ask about our previous experience, rates, deliverables, process, but also that other stuff – how we work, how we put a team together, why them, what we know about you. Especially what we know about you.

As your company is about food, ask if we have ever worked with a food company because you want someone who knows the regulations and the passion. You have no idea how much money and grief you’ll save.

A note about web designers – sometimes they’re also graphic designers, or marketers, or tech people. I prefer the graphic designer because they bring those skills (which you need) along with them. Whoever is doing the work, make sure they have up-to-date web design skills.

Then what?

Once you make your choice it’s our turn to ask a million questions. This is often called The Discovery. How else are we to know if you want to be elegant or cartoony or fushia or blue? Branding experts (not the kind for cows) gather the most information because they’re usually helping you determine your company’s personality. Someone designing a smaller project, like a brochure, is going to do a mini version of the discovery process so that you get a brochure you love. You need this blueprint. Without it, the default is badgering. Badgering is annoying and costly.

Follow your instincts. Shop around. I didn’t go with the sales guy who snorted when I told him about my last bike. Superior smells bad. Choose someone you like and who genuinely cares about you and your story. Because you’ll be spending some time together.

Next up:

Part 2  How to find talent

Part 3  What creatives want from you

If all this sounds like more than you want, you can hire me to be your creative contractor. Like getting your kitchen redone, you hire a contractor. I look after the whole lot and you.