4 Simple Steps To Preventing Studio Backlog

A simple guide for Creative Services Managers

Nobody likes that feeling of having business line managers or sales teams wondering why their marketing pieces aren’t ready. Their requests sometimes get put aside because the in-house designers are busy working on higher profile projects. Meanwhile, their patience gets thinner and your team's reputation suffers. It's much worse if this is a regular occurrence.

Preventing this is simple. All you need is a project identification system in place. This doesn't involve expensive options like hiring another in-house designer or outsourcing to an agency with lots of overhead. You simply identify the projects you keep in-house and those which you can easily outsource to a work-from-home freelancer and then run with it.

This keeps your in-house designers fulfilled by working on the projects they enjoy, the freelancer working on the miscellaneous or recurring projects and your entire project pipeline flowing smoothly. Most importantly, it keeps the business lines and sales teams satisfied with you and your team’s productivity.  

Here’s how you do it...

STEP 1: Identify the criteria for both in-house and outsourced projects.

Sample criteria for in-house projects:

  • the designer enjoys the project
  • the designer is skilled for the project
  • the designer has the right software for the project
  • the designer learns or sharpens skills from the project
  • the project challenges the designer
  • the project is highly confidential, even with a signed NDA

Sample criteria for outsourced projects:

  • the project is recurring (weekly or monthly)
  • the project is template-based
  • the in-house designers are busy with other deliverables
  • the project can be managed through email, phone and FTP
  • the project is disliked or burdened by the in-house designer
  • the project greatly hinders the studio's workflow

STEP 2: Inform your teams and equip the freelancer with project files and brand guidelines.

In a team meeting, show your project managers and designers know how to determine if projects should stay in-house or be outsourced. IMPORTANT: Use this 4-slide PowerPoint file to help present this to your team. In the file, you’ll see a 2-column chart on slide 2. The left will contain in-house projects and the right side will contain outsourced projects. Then, think of 10-20 past, present and future projects and place them in the columns accordingly. This will give everyone a chance to bring up any concerns. Have a bit of fun with!

STEP 3: Brief the freelancer when a new project fits the criteria.

A simple email with a project description is all you need. Send the project files through email or through an FTP if they are large in size. Use phone or Skype if you prefer.

STEP 4: Proofing and finalizing the projects.

Review the PDF proof from the freelancer. Perform your edits where you are most comfortable – in Acrobat, email, or handwritten then scanned. Just be legible! The freelancer will send you the final file formats upon approval.

Your team will discover that you can actually outsource more project types than you had initially thought. The goal is to have them spend more time on the projects they enjoy, while preventing studio backlog and complaints.

I hope you find this to be a useful system for your team’s workflow. Don’t forget to use the 4-slide PowerPoint file as a guide to communicate this to your designers and project managers at your next team meeting.

Questions? I can be reached at seb@overflowgraphics.com or 416-999-7096.