Delivering amazing, creative work is only a small part of the battle when it comes to running a successful agency. The emphasis on creative delivery is understandable–good work is what your clients came to you for, and good work is what gets you paid. But a lack of emphasis on project management can seriously derail your creative team’s best efforts. This is where a Project Management Checklist can help keep you on track.
Without a strong project management process, even the most talented creatives suffer from poor time management, lack of project clarity and confusion, leaving agency leaders to risk missed deadlines, scope creep and refusal to pay. Mitigate these obstacles before they arise with a clearly defined project management process that helps agency leaders guide creatives from project onboarding through to completion.
Even the most organized project managers need to take time to regularly reevaluate processes for efficiencies. We’ve organized our own project management process into a downloadable agency project management checklist. We’ll review best practices for things like:
- Coordinating discovery meetings
- Identifying key project stakeholders
- Writing through creative briefs
- Outlining deliverables
- Timeline setting
- Risk management
Does your creative agency already have a clearly defined and documented project management process? We’d love to hear about it. Send us your tips or comments below.
Before the ink starts to dry on your project sign off, it’s time to begin managing your project for success.
□ Client Discovery Meeting
Your initial meeting with your client sets the tone for the rest of your relationship. You’ll get to know their brand, what problems they are facing, and begin planning how your agency can help. Be prepared for the meeting with a list of guiding questions, and take notes. Your creatives will refer to these notes later. Develop a Client Communication Plan
How does your client want to be communicated with? Will you be having regular calls or meetings? Will members of your creative team liaise directly with the client, or do you have an account or project manager who will handle this? Set out communication guidelines for mutual success.
□ Write a Creative Brief
A good creative brief sets up both project management and creatives for success. This will be your creatives’ go-to document for guidelines, and something you can refer back to throughout the project to ensure you’re staying within the scope and completing all your deliverables.
Looking for a creative brief template? Hey, we have one of those too.
□ Identify Key Project Stakeholders
For smaller projects, this may be simple. But for larger scale projects, you’ll want to create a hierarchy of people involved in project communications and success.
□ Identify the Client and Creative Teams
Based on your agency’s capacity and resources, plan out which employees you’ll need to allocate to the project. This will be affected by your project timeline, and in turn your budget, should you need to bring on consultants or freelancers.
□ Outline Deliverables and Project Plan
You’ll likely have already included your list of high-level deliverables within your project signoff and creative brief, but project planning involves breaking it down into its smallest parts. Once your deliverables are in order, set up tasks and subtasks within your project management software and assign accordingly. Mapping everything out early allows you, your creatives and your clients to have a visual understanding of project progress.
□ Establish Project Timelines
Once your deliverables are clearly determined, you’ll need to map out the amount of effort (hours, days, etc) to allocate for each task. After determining how long each task takes, map out delivery dates. Here, you’ll need to consider both your clients’ expectations for project completion and the amount of work your agency can reasonably complete within that time.
□ Determine Budgets
Once you’ve determined the deliverables and timeline of the project, you’ll need to map out your budget. This can be one of the hardest parts of project management because every project is unique and comes with its own uncertainties. Because of this, it’s important to factor in a contingency buffer (usually a percentage such as 5-10% of the total project cost).
- Staff, consultant and freelance salaries
- Disbursements such as print costs, software licensing, etc.
- Travel costs
- Office space rental
- Office equipment and hardware (computers, telephones, wifi, etc)
- General administrative costs
□ Consider a Risk Management Plan
Risk management is a significant but often overlooked portion of project management. Consider all possible risks to your project, such as:
- Unclear deliverables and responsibilities
- Communication breakdowns and misunderstandings
- Scope creep (when your client begins changing requirements after the project has already started)
- Poor resource management
- Lack of client feedback
- Time and budget misallocation
□ Document Everything
Keep all client communication and reports documented in one place. Save everything, from meeting notes to time tracking reports, it’s better safe than sorry. This not only can prevent issues if a disagreement with the client arises, but will also help you better plan your next project.
□ Schedule a Post-Project Follow-up
As project managers, you’re always looking for a better, more efficient way of doing things. Gather feedback from agency leaders, creatives, and your clients. By continuously honing your skills, you can make mistakes a learning opportunity.
The Ultimate Agency Project Management Checklist [PDF]
Natasha Carter is a Communications Manager at Function Point with a background in market research and strategic communications. She enjoys building high-value experiences for customers along their path to purchase.