How to brief your creative agency or freelancer

Let's say you have an upcoming project and you need to hire a creative agency or a freelancer to execute the project. You're busy, and quite frankly, you'd rather just outsource so that you can get back to your mounting to-do list. Whoaaa....not so fast. An insufficient brief can ruin your project and end up costing you more than you'd bargained for.

So how do you go about crafting a brief that will inform but not overwhelm? These are a couple of points to keep in mind:

1. Decide on a budget:

Even if you don't have the final budget, you should have a ballpark figure so that you know what you're working with. Inform your agency or freelancer of the budget early on in the process so that neither party's time is wasted. If your budget is not in line with what they charge, it's best to find another supplier. Please resist the temptation to ask for a discount. Rates are set deliberately and shouldn't be negotiable.

A big brand once asked us to do a proposal for a video they wanted us to shoot. We attended a meeting to see what they planned to do and to get an understanding of their needs. We left the meeting excited about the project and spent the next two days crafting the perfect proposal. Two full days. Let that sink in. We really went to town.

When we phoned to set up an appointment with the client to present the proposal we heard...


After repeated follow-up calls the client informed us that they hadn't decided on a budget and that they would schedule a meeting once that was done. The meeting was never scheduled and the client never saw the presentation we created for them. Apart from being disappointed, we'd spent days working on a proposal and that time and energy could have been spent more productively on another project. Be transparent with your budget to make sure everyone is on the same page.

2. Plan ahead so that you don't have to book last-minute:

Aaah...last-minute bookings. They're a sure-fire way of ensuring you don't get the result you want. These are two possible reasons why clients would leave a booking to the last minute:

* They could be so price sensitive that they delay hiring someone until it's almost too late.

* It could also be that they haven't planned their project properly and are generally operating in chaos.

Neither of these bodes well for the success of your project. When you expect a service provider to create magic in a short space of time, you're showing them that you don't respect them or value their time or their process. Planning a project properly sets a foundation for its success.

3. Show examples if possible and get input from them:

Whether you're looking to create a video, to do a photo shoot, or to have content written, sharing work you like is one of the most effective ways of getting your ideas across. You may have a very clear idea of the creative direction you would like your project to take but it won't be possible to head in that direction if your service provider isn't aligned with your vision. Find samples of projects that resonate with you and share that with them. Ask if they're able to do what you have in mind and be willing to hear their thoughts. If your agency or freelancer has been around for a while, they will have enough experience in the field to make suggestions that will contribute to the success of the project. Hear them out, you may be pleasantly surprised at their input.

4. Don't over-brief to the point of paralysis:

I've had a few situations where the client sent me a shot list for an upcoming event that was so long it totally sapped all my creativity. Sometimes a photographer is forced to be so busy ticking items off a list that they have no time to devote to finding spontaneous moments to photograph. The best way to counteract that is to make sure they know which shots are vitally important and then to leave the rest up to them. After all, that's why you're hiring them, right?

5. Book someone you trust:

This is closely linked to the point above. There comes a point where you have to learn to let go and to trust that the work will be done well. It goes without saying that you should hire someone who has the experience and creative vision required. However, once you have the confidence that you've found the right service provider, trust them to do the job you've hired them to do. Don't micro-manage them. This is how you get the best out of a creative agency or a freelancer.

6. Hire an agency/freelancer for their style:

Creatives all have different styles, that's what makes us creative. We operate in a zone where our creativity flourishes. Expecting us to create in someone else's style throws us off completely. Sharing creative ideas is important (see point 3), but hire someone whose style you love. It will enable them to maximise their creative output and their work will probably blow you away.

My hope is that you've found this helpful and that you'll be able to create clear, concise briefs that will ensure your project is a raging success.

As always, we're available to tell your story using photos, videos and words. Pop me an email at to discuss your ideas.

Until next time,