Open a Job for Every Project – I’m Not Going to Nag

I just re-read this article in AdAge Small Agency Diary, "Beware Those Tiny Daily Decisions: They Can Come Back to Bite You". It speaks to the creative-side, but there is another side – and it comes down to resources and cost.

Call me a control freak – or a nag if you don’t get it – but I like to know what’s going on in my agency. As I said yesterday, a hundred little things really add up. Even ten little things add up. One little thing can trigger a chain of events that will throw all projects – and your fabulously creative staff – into chaos.

Chaos is bad. And very expensive.

Actually, I’ll change that paragraph – I need to know what’s going on in my agency. Because someone has to pay attention. If not, you have a bunch of people running around asking who has the latest version of X, and upon locating it, wondering if it really is the latest version. Such a waste.

You need a few rules to keep life orderly and just a little predictable.

So those rules include writing a job order (job start, ticket, whatever you call it) for every project that comes in the door. If this little quickie is part of a Bigger Project – like a campaign – was it factored into that plan or are you just sneaking it in under the veil of the Big Project?

Sneak it in and you just gave away something for free. I will find out, hunt you down and make you fill out a form. Dang. You just screwed up our planning, time allocation and budgets – not to mention the potential to make a little more money. So we can stay in business – and get bonuses.

I’ll explain. The purpose of a job order is to outline your direction on the client’s desires. In other words, it is the plan. We will know what is expected, and when – in writing. Other than someone’s weird interpretations – it should be pretty clear what the deliverables are.

Now come those small deviations (from the original job order) and justings (just do this or that).

Document the deviations and the tweaks – through a collaborative app like BaseCamp,  or at least on the file or proof - or better yet, invest in agency management software. Email is NOT collaborative software, sorry. Remember that game of telephone? Projects go the same way. Who made this change anyway?

When it’s time to send that little job back to the client, you’ll know why project X now looks completely different than the original job order. It’s documented. Further, when you check the accrued hours on the project you’ll know exactly why the Quick Little Job is now in the thousands of dollars. And late.

Of course, in my perfect world, I’d have you do a change order.

You’d be amazed at how ridiculous some changes are when you actually have to write them out. The mere act of articulating a change makes you think about it. Speed doesn’t equal efficiency.

If you don’t find documenting changes compelling, there is this: It will become crystal clear the origin of all those little things that send a project into the stratosphere of time and cost, or delayed to the point it is no longer relevant. A client who has become creative director; an AE who can’t say no; an AD who just wants to do a little more; a studio that has to re-work the file because it has morphed into something unrecognizable.

You get the idea. And by the way, never work on anything without a legit job number. We can all be gatekeepers of profitability.