An Honest Guide to Managing Creatives

Tips & Insights onLeadership


Founder | Head of Web and Digital

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With over 12 years of experience collaborating with creatives and corporate entities, and being a creative myself, I believe enhancing mutual understanding could greatly improve relationships and productivity. Here are my insights on effectively managing creatives.

The creative mind and process

Creative individuals exhibit a profound passion and excitement, often coupled with a proclivity for argumentativeness and hypersensitivity. An accomplished creative not only values feedback in all its forms but also seeks ownership of their creative endeavours. To understand why they are like this we need to understand that they bear the weight of accountability for both their successes and failures. The act of putting their work out there, open to scrutiny, underscores the essence of ownership – a responsibility that defines a mature creative. 

The passion and excitement that fuels their outstanding work also renders them susceptible to criticism for not being calm and aloof like traditional corporate types.

Their task is to introduce change, which is needed, but this can seem chaotic and cause friction in an orderly organisation. It is important to know that this friction, which may seem uncomfortable at the time, creates the sparks of progress and without that organisations become stale and fade away.

It’s crucial to recognise that creatives, despite seeming thick-skinned and giving the impression of turning everything into gold, fearlessly put things out there in the world, they also contend with their insecurities, they are already their own biggest critics. Creatives are doers and it is apparent – those who propel actual progress are the doers, not the ones merely adept at talking a good game. I do believe that some humility is required from people who haven’t experienced the rollercoaster of emotions that surface when your work is judged very publicly and doing so will foster better relationships, work environments, and results.

Managing for optimal results

 Thrash at the beginning

When starting this creative journey be sure that all the stakeholders in the organisations get all their inputs in on a project at the beginning. Once a creative project has people pulling in different directions will create problems. For example with video it could be an inconsistent style and tone or with websites it could create technical problems and bugs. These will delay projects and dramatically affect the quality of the execution.

Tips to deliver feedback

Encouraging creatives to produce their best work involves more than just dissecting their efforts without thoughtful consideration or relevant field experience. Instead of dictating changes, a more constructive approach involves posing questions like,

“Why did you choose this approach?” 

In my experience, the initial feedback and changes requested often align with the creator’s initial thoughts but they gain a new perspective when considering insights from users or daily managers. This way everyone grows, everyone learns, and if there is a problem with this open approach the processes of talking openly about it will allow the creative to correct or improve what has been done.

Don’t be so sure of your great idea that you wouldn’t accept a better one

Rigidity in plans is discouraged among creatives. Instead, the emphasis is on the adaptability to overcome challenges when fresh knowledge or insights emerge signifies maturity in creatives and shows a working environment that will maximise results. 

Have patience

Avoiding unnecessary pressure and constraints proves pivotal in creative processes. It is much more difficult to make things simple and clarity of thinking is what drives great marketing. Unwarranted pressure tends to yield suboptimal results, and recognising that progress may appear slow is crucial, as the creative is meticulously planning every step to the project’s completion.

Getting the most for your money

In the freelance landscape, adopting a reciprocal approach with creatives is a winning strategy. Businesses that avoid scope creep and pay on time often yield better work and more reliable collaborations. A creative person remembers every experience and when the time comes when there is something urgent (which always happens) they will help you out. Recognising the value of compensating creatives for their contributions, as opposed to relying on exposure, further solidifies these relationships. 

When it comes to money it’s important to get a good price but understand what you are paying them for. A graphic, a website, or a video is just the medium, really you are paying them for results and a fantastic return on your investment, to the creative you are paying them for experience, courage, creativity, and accountability to deliver these results. Failure to recognise this in your negotiations will not end well.

Ensure continued success through accountability 

Also, excessive and generic flattery poses a red flag for experienced creatives. They prefer honest, specific feedback and enjoy sharing their insights and experiences with individuals genuinely curious about the creative process. Anything else will create a feeling of unease.

A healthy dose of narcissism is required for marketing and creative endeavours. It can be a powerful force for good which gives people the confidence to create and imagine grandiose projects, stick up for themselves, want recognition for good acts and work, have their opinions heard and be seen publicly for PR. However, the same traits that allow us to do so much good can also be our downfall when egos exceed reality. Unchecked narcissism in the workplace can be detrimental and costs companies millions by: 

  1. Avoiding reality and criticism to save face
  2. Ignoring problems to evade accountability
  3. Taking credit for or devaluing others work (driving away the best talent)
  4. Toxic environments can create legal and mental health problems


Finding this balance will be essential to your success in managing creatives. Imaging all the great things that could be done is wonderful but it is your job to manage the realities of time and resources.

“Keep your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground.”

The best organisations create transparent systems of accountability and reward and have leaders who have fantastic self-awareness. 

Accountability is not a tool to beat people in a slump. We are human and we all have mistakes and failures. Messi hasn’t scored every shot, it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t want him on your team. This should be seen as an opportunity to reach out with compassion. An acknowledgement of a problem is simply the first step in helping find a resolution. 

In conclusion, we are a paradoxical anomaly of being a thick-skinned, sensitive, passionate, creative, hyper-logical, hard-working, and procrastinating bunch that can be difficult for some to work with at times but with a little understanding, we can have a lot of fun and make great things happen. And if you don’t like it, just try to succeed without us! 

I hope this helps. Let me know if you relate and if you have any feedback I would love to hear it.


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