5 Tips for Building a Timeline for Every Creative Project

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “go slow to go fast,” then you’re probably not a fan of it like most people. No one wants to take things slow in any circumstance, especially creative projects. But the truth is that the more careful you are in planning anything, the better the outcome. This specifically applies to the necessary pieces needed to start any project, including a clear strategy, plan, goal, and target market. These certainly take time to draft and put together, but the benefits of a clearly defined timeline will prove themselves to be worth it in the long run.

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Imagine traveling to an unknown destination without a GPS. The same applies to facing a new project, big or small. Setting end-to-end strategies can lay a stable foundation for any project, all while acting as a navigator. So if you’re in search of a way to ensure your projects get completed as you intend them to, then a timeline is your answer. Things like a brief, deadlines, defined responsibilities, and deliverables are all necessary.

By taking the time to craft a quality timeline, you supplement answers to the who, what, where, when, how, and why questions of your project. Here are some simple tips you can take to make sure you don’t waste any time or money you don’t have to.

1. Prepare a Brief & Gather Your Resources

At the brief stage of a project, it’s important to evaluate your resources—both ones you have and ones you don’t have. Resources include assets like visuals or written pieces, but also include any working hand like your team members. When defining what assets you already have, don’t forget to define what you’re missing. Clearly defining the materials and tools that are needed to start a project and keep it going once it’s started is key to going off on the right start.

The worst thing you can do is get into a project and realize halfway through it that you don’t have all the materials you need. This won’t only leave you scrambling to cover your bases, but it can delay its completion. This especially applies to outsourcing projects, when you have to provide external creative resources to get started. For example, if you were to work on a brochure project, providing your company’s website as your only reference isn’t enough. The creatives executing the brochure wouldn’t know which copy is to be used. For this reason, laying all of your resources out ahead of time can help fill everyone in on the details of your project. This is especially helpful if your project is complex and requires multiple creatives, so be sure to not skip this step under any circumstance.

2. Set & Stick to Realistic Deadlines

Deadlines are just another one of those things no one enjoys. Who wants to be told when to do something anyway? No matter how pressuring due dates have a rep for, every good timeline needs deadlines to define its roadmap. Not to mention, in the creative industry, it’s not uncommon to hear that a deadline was yesterday. After all, creative projects are exciting, naturally pushing the need to have everything done right here, right now. But no matter how quick you’re trying to accomplish something or how exciting the end result is imagined to be, it’s important to stick to the deadline you set initially. This is where the “go slow to go fast” phrase is applicable.

Although you can set deadlines, making sure they’re realistic and compatible with the scope of work is important. Setting a deadline that’s too soon is almost like not setting one at all. Setting realistic deadlines means being realistic about how long it’ll take to complete something and being aware of the process to get there. After all, it’s better to be early than to miss a due date, so give yourself the time you need. Greatness isn’t rushed and neither are great projects. Remember that a late deadline is better than a bad outcome.

3. Follow Through with the Process

Building a timeline is just one part to ensure your project runs smoothly and results in a successful outcome. The other part is following it. The biggest mistake people make is investing so much time in a timeline they don’t end up following. We all know time is money and money is time, so take advantage of the resource you’ve already put time into. That’s why understanding the timeline and process it’ll take to reach the desired outcome is essential to getting there. So assuming your timeline was accurately created, trust the process to take you to where you need and want to be. This will make you and the rest of your team happy and (less) stressed.

4. Identify Specialties & Responsibilities

There’s nothing worse than not knowing what role you play or worse, having to multitask and play the roles of two or more individuals. Defining what everyone’s responsibilities are will ensure everyone is focused, that they have their own tasks, and that all bases are taken care of. It not only is useful in avoiding conflict but also aids in seamless team collaboration. Everyone specializes in something, so it’s important to identify strengths so that every team member can use that to the project’s advantage.

Setting roles and responsibilities reduces the complexity of tasks and leaves fewer unanswered questions. The more that’s defined upfront, the better everything will be. We can’t expect any graphic designer to lead a custom illustration project when that might not be their specialty. This is where there’s a fine line between collaboration and multitasking. Everyone should collaborate as a team, but stay in their lane when doing so.

5. Define All the Deliverables

Deliverables are a broad term, but in this case include everything that can be delivered, including drafts, revisions, and final pieces. This part in timeline creation is often skipped and underestimated, prompting people to make their final project the only deliverable. This is a huge mistake; no project should only include one deliverable throughout its duration. A great outcome requires drafts and revisions, so plan those too. Defining elements like word counts, file formats (PNG, JPEG, etc.) can also help further specify what’s needed at every checkpoint. Identifying the entire scope of the project to the littlest details ensures fewer revisions and time spent on changes. You can’t write a recipe without defining the measurements of each ingredient, so the same applies to creative projects. Define what can be defined.

Every creative department or team has felt the uncertainty of an incomplete project. That’s why our model exists—to transparently provide a roadmap to successful projects. With just one monthly fee, there’s never a need to wonder about things like:

  1. What can be done in a day, week, or month with my plan?
  2. What is the process involved and the required steps?
  3. Who’s responsible for what and what are the deliverables?

That’s where a timeline comes into play, the #1 power tool here at Designity. Every project is carefully planned and prepared to not only meet clients’ goals and objectives, but surpass them.

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