Discover the reasons your creative workflow is broken. Find out what you can do to fix it and streamline your processes when it comes to design projects.
Yes, your creative workflow is broken, and I’m here to help you fix it for good.
Let me guess… you’re most likely spending a fortune on in-house design teams or freelancers for your creative projects unless you do it all yourself, as so many startups and small businesses do.
Yet, aside from the cost of human resources, the entire team needs the tools to perform their tasks and communicate effectively. Then there is managing the project…
How do I know? I’ve seen it many times with my experience running a creative agency and creating ads for small business owners. As a result, I also know the hard work, time, and money that goes into this ongoing process can be overwhelming.
Yet, I’m pleased to say there is a simpler solution involving fewer team members with less juggling - a structured creative workflow that makes your life easier. I’m going to show you how.
What is a creative workflow, and why is it important?
A creative workflow is the series of tasks involved in developing new design projects and marketing material, like ads. It’s not limited to ads alone, but we’ll focus specifically on your ad creative workflow process.
Usually, a creative workflow involves team members in various roles that are required to do the creative work to produce a final product. It is a list and sequence of tasks to bring your creative concept into reality. Without this blueprint, you’re lost at sea in uncharted waters.
Understanding the principles of a creative workflow
When it comes to creative workflow management, both creativity and structure need to coexist for it to be effective. With unbridled creativity, you can lose focus and direction, wasting time on insignificant creative tasks that deviate from the overarching goal and task at hand.
Similarly, by overfocusing on the structure and minutiae, you can quash the free-flowing and often limitless creativity that produces thumb-stopping ads.
Yet, by adding structure within the workflow process in the form of clear objectives, actionable tasks, visual guidelines, and creative briefs, you can provide your creative team with enough space to run around the yard but offer the fence as a boundary to reign in focus. Using this approach empowers them to play freely within the confines of the rules - everyone loves a clear boundary.
Creative agencies have been using creative workflows for years because they produce better results - and cultivate that beautiful feeling of getting final approval from a happy client.
It’s literally a balancing act between creative innovation and the reduction of errors when it comes to execution ️
What are the stages of a creative workflow?
While creative workflows may differ between businesses, they should have a similar underlying structure and sequence. You should, however, adapt your creative workflow to suit your unique business needs.
The general structure of a creative project workflow goes like this:
While there are more elements to each stage, this simple structure works well for most businesses. Let’s unpack 🎒
It all starts with a bright idea.
Said great idea can stem from a flash of inspiration while binge-scrolling or taking a stroll. Sometimes, inspiration hits us in the shower. It rarely hits while you’re at work trying to brainstorm. So, how do we work around this problem? Whether you’re flying solo or working in a team, hosting brainstorms is vital.
By creating an environment that supports what you need to do. For example:
- Phrase problems as questions - here are swipeable thought-starters to get you going
- Prioritize the time - whether you do this with your entire team or on your own, make it happen
- Develop a creative strategy - without one, you’re flying blind
- Use tools to help you get there quicker - for instance, you can collaborate on documents in real-time no matter where you are in the world - great for asynchronous brainstorms, or you can use the Madgicx Ad Library as a source of inspiration. You can browse ads by type, ad format, and industry.
- ChatGPT it! - ChatGPT is a powerful tool for generating outlines or ideas, and it gives you a base to start from. Here are 80 ChatGPT marketing prompts to get you started. Warning: Always fact-check your AI-generated responses!
What’s the number one rule of marketing?
Know thy audience.
The research phase is critical if you want to be successful. Moreover, when you research your target audience, set your goals, and define your overall plan and strategy, you can bet that your creative work will hit the spot.
Furthermore, collating this information into creative briefs and plans ensures that your creative team has sufficient details to do their tasks. In a creative strategy, you clarify who you’re speaking to, their problems, how to reach them, and your message. With research, you crystallize your insights to create a clear blueprint of goals, improving your creative workflow management overall.
Whatever the creative concept, you need a design pro to bring it to life. Usually, you have a creative team or a go-to freelancer for this, but producing enough ad creatives can be expensive! Don’t forget that you need multiple ads to test the creative elements sufficiently.
You need to ensure you’re ready for your designers with that detailed brief we’ve been talking about so that you don’t waste time on revisions, which are frustrating for everyone.
Furthermore, you need to launch your ads once the creatives are approved and implement any strategies that work alongside them. This work can be tedious if you’re downloading and uploading files and keeping track of all the different versions for each batch of ads.
Lastly, you need to test your ad creatives and measure your results to see what works and what doesn’t. When you analyze the performance of your ad creatives and their elements, it helps you to know what to do next.
In addition, it’s crucial to test creative variations and make minor adjustments as you go so you work towards the best possible outcome in terms of results. These results can then inform the ideation stage. And so the cycle continues!
Pssssst. Try Madgicx’s Creative Insights to simplify your testing process with real-time results. You can discover how well each creative element performs to scale great-performing ads and replicate what works.
Steps to develop an efficient creative workflow
Now that we know the stages of a creative workflow let’s go through what’s involved in putting yours together.
- Collaborate effectively from the start
Before you begin, it’s helpful to enter this process with the mindset that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. If you involve all team members from the outset, you’re likely to get better input because of the diverse thinking and varied experience in the room. Laying the foundations to support this is a vital part of your workflow.
Furthermore, maintaining this level of open communication from the start with regular check-ins and updates ensures that everyone keeps a finger on the pulse of the project.
Nowadays, it shouldn’t make a difference if you’re working remotely or in an office - there are oodles of productivity, communication, and project management tools to choose from. Here are some of my favorites:
- Identify potential issues and red flags in your process
Whether you start by assessing your current creative workflow or implementing a brand new one, ensure your creative team’s input on areas that can improve or which areas are frequently problematic. Doing this allows you to see the process issues you may have missed and to make the necessary adjustments. Here’s what you can do:
- Determine individual versus group activities
- Identify where communication breaks down, or systems fail
- Ensure everyone has access to the right tools and resources like brand kits, templates, software, etc.
- Identify causes of bottlenecks and administration issues
- Gather your full team’s input
- Clarify goals and responsibilities
While this may seem obvious, it’s important to mention. By clarifying what you’re trying to achieve with your workflow, you’ll waste less time all around. In addition, by making sure each team member knows what they need to do within each step of the process, what they’re responsible for, and how to hand over their work, you make this a flow. Every step of the creative process should be mapped out with this information so that everyone knows what to do.
It’s also key to make sure you have a way to send new work requests to one another with the right information and hand over tasks efficiently. Here are my collaboration-inducing ideas:
- Host project kickstarts
- Have in-person, online, or asynchronous brainstorming sessions
- Define team structure, roles, and responsibilities within the flow
- Use the S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely) goal-setting method to refine goals
- Capture it all and make it easily accessible for your team’s input
- Define the flow of your creative process
The moment you standardize a process, it breeds efficiency. If you write down each step of the process and match the roles and responsibilities you’ve worked out in the previous step, you have the beginnings of your creative workflow process. Here are some things to consider:
- Define each point of the process to include who is responsible, what they need to do, who monitors and manages the steps, and the details required to complete the task for all involved.
- List the stages you’re likely to have for each step in the workflow in the order that they occur.
- Create templates for documents that you need to create often. These could be briefs, slide decks, outlines, artboards, checklists, etc. These can take the form of software tools, automation, or good old Google Sheets.
- Schedule the time or have an idea of realistic time frames for each stage of the workflow as well. People work really well with reasonable deadlines, and incorporating this into your process and scheduling will only improve your creative workflow.
- Get your team’s buy-in on the process - if they’re part of creating the new process, they’re more likely to adopt any changes.
- Pick the perfect tools to support your process
By having gone through the earlier steps, you should have a clear idea of what you need to achieve, which helps you narrow down the list of tools you’re going to use. Here are some of my favorite tools to support your creative workflow process:
- Inspiration and research - Madgicx Ad Library (browse and save ads, send creative briefs)
- Visual communication - Canva (whiteboards, content calendars, and more), Loom (easy video and screen recordings)
- Visual feedback and reviews - Markup.io (comment on elements on a web page), Squidly.ink (browser commenting and team collaboration)
- Brainstorming - Canva (mind maps, presentations), Miro (organizational charts, process mapping, mind maps)
- Implement the perfect revision process with smooth handoffs
Reviewing the work and making necessary revisions is a key part of the process. Your reviewing system should make sure you pick up any mistakes or errors that can easily be missed by the people doing the work. An extra set of eyes is required to catch these mistakes before you unleash your new ad into the world.
During this stage, you should also ensure that there are no delays in handing over from one team member to another. This can easily be handled by the software tools of your choice, but make sure that there is a solid system in place to prevent balls from being dropped.
Often, this process goes back and forth between the creator and the reviewer. It's super important that it’s efficient and works for all parties involved.
Streamline your creative workflow with Madgicx!
Let AI support you by taking over your tedious tasks so you can create a seamless creative workflow. Save valuable time and simplify your entire creative process with Madgicx’s Creative Workflow.
From inspiration to design to launching new ads, Madgicx offers a simple and enjoyable solution:
- Ad Library - Browse the Madgicx Ad Library for ad inspiration. You can search by industry, brand, or format or simply let AI do it for you. You can also save ads to boards if you upgrade your plan.
- Sparkle - Outsource to the pros! Send design briefs to Sparkle straight from Ad Library and get your creatives in 48 hours. Sparkle has three plans to choose from, all with unlimited revisions.
- Ad Creation - Once your ad creatives are designed, you can launch them straight from Madgicx using the Ad Creation tool!
- Creative Insights - Analyze the performance of your ad creatives and their different elements.
Now, with all this information at your fingertips, you can craft your own creative workflow that is tailored to your business. Start now with the Ad Library.☯
Browse for inspiration, follow trends, monitor competitors and brands in your niche, and send briefs - all from one place. You can save your favorite ads to shareable boards if you upgrade your plan for $9 per month.
As a content and technical writer, my goal is to help business owners and advertisers navigate the digital landscape.