Special Feature: How to Manage a Project (for Creative Types) by Tyler Omichinski
Last week, Tyler Omichinski shared his recent experience on transitioning from writing to another creative medium. He returns today to share how he could manage a project for the successful completion of his new venture.
The world of being a creative of any kind is changing. Very seldom does anyone get to wear just one hat anymore, and so often you’re going to have to learn how to jump around and do different things. In the worlds of game design and comics, for example, the writer is often doing double duty as a project manager.
Even writers working with publishers have to take on more responsibility, often spearheading marketing efforts.
In light of all of that, you need to know some project management. Lucky for you, this is a crash-course in the basics.
A Plan Is Necessary
Before you do anything, you need a plan. This includes a schedule, figuring out when different things need to be done, and who is going to do them. When you’re first working on it, you’re likely going to have a lot of question marks when you don’t know how long different tasks will take.
Figuring how long things take is a combination of asking people who have done it before you and learning from your own mistakes.
One of the most important aspects of having a plan in place is that you will know if you’re on schedule or not without having to refer to your gut or what is in your mind. You’ll have something written down that you can compare your situation to, and play with to figure out ways to make up lost time.
Planning like this will also allow you to map out the processes. Whether you get into it and go full Gantt Chart or not, some sort of plan is going to help you visualize what things can be done at the same time, what things need to be in what order, and so forth.
Maximize your Soft Skills
No one ever sits down and tells you in school or anything that those soft skills you learn out on the playground are some of the most important. This is everything from how to talk to people, how to appropriately express displeasure, and more.
So much of managing any project is just talking to people, and knowing how to work with them. This includes knowing how to judge whether or not you and another person are going to get along together.
The sad truth is that this also often means you’ve got to be the bearer of bad news. You’re going to have to fire people sometimes, or otherwise let them know when they’ve screwed up. None of that is great.
This is especially hard because a lot of us got into creative careers because we were a bit quieter, and didn’t want to do this kind of work. Preferred to avoid conflict.
The industry changed though – we’ve got to do the work.
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Plan for Failures
As a poet once said, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men. Gang aft agley”. Things will go wrong, and your plan will not survive first contact with the world.
That doesn’t mean to throw your hands up and use it as an excuse not to plan, but rather that you need it to help you figure out what to do when things go wrong.
In any project, I make a point of adding between 10% and 25% to the amount of time I predict it will take me. This is to account for any range of problems, from deaths in the family, to an artist being late, to any other foul problem that could befall it.
This includes other ways to cover your butt as well – securing extra printers in case one suddenly isn’t able to make the original quote work can save you a lot of headaches and panic. The name of the game is doing your legwork and assuming things are going to go wrong.
There is so much more to learn about project management, and it is a discipline all to itself. These basics are all you need to muddle through, but I heartily recommend Project Management for Dummies as a good starting point if you really want to get into some of this stuff.
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