Show Your Work

I didn’t get in trouble for much in elementary school, but I do remember being notorious for turning in papers that were returned in all cap red letters reading: SHOW YOUR WORK. It made no sense. The answers were correct and the assignment was complete… so why should I have to show my work? And why did I have points removed from my high score? I didn’t understand.

Perhaps you can relate.

A few decades removed, I’m still amazed just how much of all you really needed to learn, you learned in those early school years.

The marketing realm and creative process can be a black hole of sorts. It leaves your clients with many questions. Like:
• Why does it take so long to develop an idea sometimes?
• Is a 500-word piece really worth all the hours required to get it written?
• How hard can it really be to identify key words?
• Doesn’t technology make it possible to bypass the thinking required to get in the mind of your target consumer?

If you’re like your third grade self you might think, “of course it takes time… and absolutely, those things are worth it.” “Doesn’t the end result speak for itself?”

But the hard truth is that in many instances it just doesn’t. In a dollars and sense world, there’s a belief that you’re charging for a lot of fluff… that you’re majoring in the minors… and that somebody else somewhere can do it just as well for less.

A lot goes into being disruptive and creative. What seems simple is often not. In a world where seemingly everything can be measured by a software package − it’s all about showing what you are doing. How are you helping the people you serve understand the invisible (and time-consuming)“magic” that goes into the deliverables you create? How can you show what you actually do all day?

For all us misunderstood practitioners here are a few ways that you can show your work and include your (internal or external) clients in the time-intensive creative process:

Time Lapse video
There are a ton of things that go into “running some facebook ads”… or “writing that blog”… or “producing that video.” You have to do competitive research, try a variety of layouts, play with headlines and other copy, look for images, verify that all online rules are met, create multiple sizes… and build alternate versions.

That’s just the beginning.

You could tell them about all the things you’re doing – but that’s exhausting.
What if you could show them? You can. Set up a handheld video camera over your shoulder to capture all the things you’re doing… or use online software like Camtasia, CamStudio or another screen recording software. Then take all that footage and speed it up, highlighting all those big things you had to do that EVEN YOU forgot you had to do. In this case a picture is worth more than a thousand words and goes a long way toward justifying (or increasing) your fees.

Show the versions that led up to the final deliverable
500 words is simple, right? Kind of.

What about building a wire frame… or writing a 30 second advertisement script?

Truth is that we all know that simple is hard… it only looks simple when it’s done. Collecting and displaying the multiple versions that led up to the finished piece is a great way to show how little changes were critical toward completing the ultimate piece.

You might consider a flipbook tool like issuu or FlippingBook to upload your different versions as PDF. This is a great way to visually demonstrate the time and skill it takes to modify a deliverable as you edit back. You’ll be able to show how you created a better product and better communicate why it takes so much time…

Another option is to include some user testing of a wire frame or landing page using affordable mouse tracking software that actually records how people consume information… Bonus is that you also get to show why the extra time is a smart choice that is worth paying a premium for, and how you’ve actually saved them a lot of money in the long run.

Show the version you wish they would have gone with
Now I’m sure it never happens in your business, but at Rogue, we don’t always get to launch the deliverable the way we thought it should be delivered. In the end, there’s an element of meeting client needs and serving at a client’s pleasure that has to be accounted for. But that doesn’t mean that’s where your work has to end.

Maybe the approach you’d like to take is not worth falling on your sword for with the client, but what’s stopping you from going off and creating the version that you’re more proud of? When you’re done, you’ll have a version you can share with your next client about the type of work you do, (and there’s no law that says that you have to show future clients the version that actually launched).

But here’s a benefit you might really like: It’s hard to keep great employees engaged, especially if they’re not able to do things that they think can get greater results or that they feel align better with best practice. This approach offers a great way to continue iterating on a project letting the team produce “the something they’re more proud of” and has the added benefit of elevating your project reel.

Now that school is back in session, it’s almost certain that you’ll soon be reminding your brainiacs that they need to show their work. Turns out it’s great advice we’d be wise to take ourselves.