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Marketing Design Dispatch

How outsourcing has helped me keep my head above water

You know those "oh sh*t" moments where you suddenly realise you've bitten off more than you can chew, and you're not going to be able to get it all done?

That was me for a good chunk of 2022.

I was finally settling in to my role as Creative Director. I was leading a great team of talented, passionate folks. But while my team remained the same size, the creative needs of the business had grown. A lot. They were ramping up quickly, and I realised far too late that I didn't have enough resources to meet them all.

The times when we'd have to scramble to meet a deadline became more regular, and I'd find myself needing to jump in and format blog images or social media graphics. That's when I had my "oh sh*t" moment. I hadn't forseen that we'd need to increase our capacity, so I hadn't set my team up for success. And it was causing me to have to spend time on the layout details, when what I really needed to be working on was levlling up our systems and resources to avoid the scramble in the first place.

It took me a while to pull us out of the chaos, but we're finally in a place where our heads are above water and I'm able to spend time on bigger-picture strategic efforts because I'm not needed as much in the day-to-day of meeting our asset deadlines.

Two key things helped with this:

  1. Getting better visibility into the asset pipeline by making everyone submit their requests to a board in our project management system, (previously we weren't strict about it, and folks would ping either us or our freelance graphic designer directly, so it was hard to see the full picture of the work on our teams plate).
  2. Outsourcing.

With no new headcount slated for my team until 2024, I instead advocated for the budget to spend more on getting external help. I'd learned from season 3 of Inside Marketing Design just how many other companies lean on freelancers, studios and agencies for design help, and this helped me get over the pride (and ego, let's be honest) that had prevented me from outsourcing more projects myself. I felt like I should be able to do it all internally.

Not wanting to spend 2023 in the same state of chaos we were in for 2022 though, I managed to get budget signoff to subscribe to Creative as a Service solution Superside (who came recommended from the team at Oyster in season 3, episode 7 of IMD).

We've had the super talented freelance graphic designer Hollie Arnett as an extension of our inhouse team for a while now, but adding in this extra capacity with Superside has been just what we needed to stay flexible with our resources and increase our output. It hasn't totally removed work from our plate internally, as we're still managing the projects and directing them creatively. But boy has it been nice not to have to suddenly jump in and lay out a bunch of different ad sizes or blog graphics every other week.

If you're a fellow design lead or solo designer drowning in work right now: I see you. I've been there. And it's time for you to ask for help.

I made a video all about outsourcing and what I've learned about making it an effective process. I hope it might help you to do some advocating internally to get the support you need to keep your head above water.

video preview

You'll learn more about Superside in the video too, cos they sponsored it!

Inside Marketing Design season 4 is coming soon

Like, really soon. Like this Wednesday.

I'll be releasing episodes monthly this year, instead of weekly over a 3-month period. My hope is that it will give you more time to digest all the knowledge about how other companies operate. AND it'll mean regular insights throughout the year 🙌

In Episode 1 I'm joined by my teammate, Senior Brand Designer David Preston, for a detailed look inside how we operate brand and marketing design at ConvertKit. I started season 1 in 2020 the same way; but back then I was the only marketing designer in the company so it was a solo episode.

Go give that a listen in the next few days so that you can compare it to how things are now when season 4 drops!

video preview

Hope you all have a good week! If you want a guaranteed way to start it off on the right note, check out Enter Shikari's new album A Kiss for the Whole World. I've had it on repeat since it was released 😍

A Kiss for the Whole W...
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Enter Shikari

See you in the next issue,

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