It’s all in the details: why your creativity isn’t all that matters

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They say the devil is in the details. And “they” are right.

If you want a creative business that stands out from the rest — one for which clients constantly sing your praises and consistently send you referrals — then you have to concern yourself with more than just creativity.

You have to concern yourself with delivering quality — that reveals itself within the most minute details. Attention to details will set you a part from other creatives, and in a hurry.

Avoiding attention to details

Having more than 30 of years in this industry, I’ve seen it time and time again: resistance — whether that be conscious or not — to examining one’s work closely for errors.

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Maybe we creatives are afraid to find fault within our work. Maybe we are too concerned with the overall look and “big picture” of our creative work to concentrate on details. Maybe we think we shouldn’t be sweating the small stuff.

But here’s the thing: Your clients are sweating the small stuff. They care. They are looking for — at the very least — their own ideal of what quality is, and they want that from you. If you’ve convinced them that you are the artist for the job, they have, as a result, expectations.

And, no doubt, those expectations are high — as they should be. These clients are paying hundreds and even thousands of dollars for your work. No one turns over that sort of money to another person and expects crap in return.

Being insanely talented isnt enough

Keep in mind: I’m not talking about the creativity of your designs or your writing here. Let’s assume you are uber-creative, and your pieces are amazing.

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Well, I’ve got heart-breaking news for you: It doesnt matter.

There are a lot of creative people out there. You’ve got competition, and then some. Maybe your clients can’t do what you do — but they can easily find someone who does.

In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and claim that a lot of mediocre artists — lacking the best of creative skills and without the most novel of ideas — rise above those who have much more talent, simply because they are impeccable when it comes to details.

Clients don’t always recognize talent. But they do recognize quality.

No, as I’ve already pointed out, it’s the details that will set you apart from the rest. A project well-executed, turned over as free of errors and omissions as humanly possible, that delivers exactly what the artist promised and gives the client precisely what he or she requested — THIS is what your clients desire.

A few questions to ask yourself

So in light of that, answer these questions:

  • Does your work reflect well on you and your creative business?
  • Are you viewed as precise and meticulous?
  • Do your clients perceive you to have high standards?
  • Do you provide the best possible service with the highest quality deliverables, time and time again?
  • Can your clients be confident that, when they send you a job, it will be done right — the first time?

We all want to be the artist that can answer all these questions with a resounding YES! But it take mores than just desire to get to that level.

Rather, it takes work, commitment, and discipline in one very specific area — quality control.

Quality control “dos and don’ts”

What controls have you put into place to ensure that your work is consistently the best it can be for your clients?

If you’ve done little to nothing to make sure that your work is the best it can be before you hand it off to your clients, here are some simple “dos and don’ts” to help you implement a system of quality control into your creative business.

DO check your own work

I can think of a several reasons why creatives don’t check their own work before handing it off to a client: You’re tired. You’re burnt out. You really don’t want to look at this project anymore. You just want to let it go.

All true.

But the consequences for handing over low-quality work are too high and the risk is too great to not check the work you did. You know what you were supposed to do, and you need to confirm that you’ve done it — and done it well — before your client sees it.

DO have someone else check your work

We all have a tendency, especially as time goes on, to become “too close” to a project. After we’ve been staring at the same project for a long time, it does become difficult to pick up on our own errors.

Invest in a fresh pair of eyes. Have someone else check your work — particularly someone who is detail-oriented and skilled in proofing. Communicate to the person what to watch out for, or have him or her check against a previous version, to make sure that all requested revisions have been made correctly. And, encourage the person proofing your work to highlight anything else that might be incorrect or could be improved.

This way, if you missed something during your own check, you’ve got yet another opportunity to catch any errors and make your work better, before you hand it off to a client.

DO check your subcontractors’ work

Nothing against the subcontractors — but don’t trust their work.

This is not a blanket statement about the quality of subcontractors’ work. Instead, it’s a realization that everything that gets handed to your clients reflects on you, your work, your brand, and how you want and need to be perceived by your clients. You can’t afford to trust anyone to be as vested in that as you are.

And that’s because it’s your reputation that’s at stake, way more than theirs.

To your clients, your subcontractors are anonymous. In most cases, your clients only see you, they only deal with you, and they’ll hold you responsible and accountable for any mistakes — including the ones your subcontractors make.

I find it best to assume that the subcontractor does NOT check his or her own work. As such, it would be most ideal if that work could be proofed by two people, before it gets released to a client. But make sure that it’s at least checked once.

DO create a gatekeeper

Whether it’s you or someone else, create an internal gatekeeper. Nothing goes to a client unless that gatekeeper has checked that work first and officially approves it.

If you use someone else, make sure that person is skilled in quality control. They should be well-trained for your specific QC tasks. And, they should understand and be able to deliver the level of quality that you want for your business.

Personally, even if I did use someone else, I’d still want to see a piece one last time before it went out the door.

Control freak? Perhaps. And the day might come when I’ll have to let go of that control, for the sake of better efficiency.

But, by approving that work myself, I do feel better about being ultimately held responsible for its quality — because, in the end, I was the one that personally let it through the gate.

DO write a checklist

For yourself and for others, a checklist of what typically needs to be looked for when proofing work is extremely helpful in preventing mistakes from passing through to the clients.

Did you proof for misspellings? Check!

Are all the colors CMYK? Check!

Does each bullet-point sentence end with a period? Check!

It might be that different jobs and different phases of a project will have different checklists.

For example, the checklist that you use for a job that you are proofing right before it gets released to a print vendor won’t look like the checklist you’d use for a website landing page.

But by creating checklists for things that you know you’ll need to check, you’ll be less likely to forget or miss anything.

DON’T hide behind your agreements, your indemnity insurance, and your business’s limited liability

While it’s important to have such things in place for a worst-case scenario, don’t use your project agreement, the fact that you have insurance, or your business’s status as an LLC or an incorporation as excuses for doing a poor job.

These things are intended to protect you in extraordinary circumstances.

They are not meant to be your “out” so that you can relax on quality control. A signed contract stating that you can’t be held accountable for anything that your client deemed final and approved is not your invitation to become sloppy and lackadaisical.

You still have to take responsibility for diligence on your own end — and that includes creating work that is clean, precise, properly formatted, and free of typos.

Remember: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Pursue (but don’t expect) perfection

We are all human. We all make mistakes, and none of us is perfect.

However, despite how futile the pursuit, we can and should still strive for perfection. Yes, it’s true that in doing so, we will inevitably fall short of that goal — each and every time. 

But remember that an archer who shoots for the farthest target — even if the mark is missed — will still shoot the arrow much, much farther than the archer who shoots for the nearest target.

Imagine how high the quality of your work can go, if you just shoot for it by double checking your work and paying attention to all the details. And then, imagine just how impressed your clients will be — so much so, that they’ll recommend you over others.

Higher quality equals more word-of-mouth referrals. More referrals equal more work. More work equals more money.

I was never very good at math — but these equations, I understand.

Don’t be the designer who doesn’t bother to check his layout. Don’t be the writer that doesn’t bother to proofread her blog post. Pay attention to the details, implement quality control, feel great about your work — and see how much farther you can take your creative business.

Comment below and tell me how you’re going to implement better quality control into your business. 

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About Patricia LaCroix

Patricia LaCroix has had a career in marketing and publishing for longer than she cares to admit. But, despite that it reveals her age, she’s willing to say that she’s been working a creative business from home in some way, shape, or form since 1986. Her creative skills run the gamut and include expertise in both visual and written forms of communication. Patricia’s entrepreneurial yet giving spirit drives her to help others learn how to work from home and create their own “lifestyle” careers.

 

More about Patricia’s business: LaCroix Creative is a full-service creative business in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. Patricia leads a talented team of associates who assist her in creating effective graphic design and written content — in print and online. Decades of experience — partnered with caring, personal attention — make LaCroix Creative especially well equipped to serve solopreneurs, start-ups, educators, coaches, healthcare professionals, and self-publishing authors.

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Comments

  1. Olumide Olumoroti says:

    But it take mores than just desire

    a little error I noticed

  2. Hi Patricia,
    Some excellent advice here. Resonates with my own experience of dealing with clients and work ethic. Thank you very much.

  3. sukses selalu ya 🙂

  4. Thanks for sharing this great blog. Very inspiring and helpful too. Hope you continue to share more of your ideas.