This is part five in a six-part series exploring the tools graphic designers who work for churches need to succeed. You can go back and start with part one.
“Hey, I know this is last minute, but we need to get a self-mailer to announce the upcoming Sunday, so if you can whip something up really quick, we need it to the printer by the end of today. Thanks.”
Has this ever happened to you? I’ll go out on a limb and say “Yes,” mostly because I know it’s happened to me on more than one occasion. There are different reasons that might happen, and sometimes it’s a legitimate reason (and in those cases sometimes you just bear down, place your creative values on a shelf, cover your eyes and just get something done), but more often than not this happens because there are no clear boundaries.
What? Boundaries? Isn’t that something for parents and children or couples and married people? Nope. Boundaries are a necessity in any relationship—especially where you work. Without defined roles, clear guidelines and a unified mission, you will never succeed as an individual or a team. How can you know if you’ve succeeded if you have no idea what you want to achieve?
Therefore it’s very important that you have written goals, responsibilities, milestones and guidelines so that everyone in your organization and team has proper expectations.
If you don’t have a job description, stop what you’re doing right now and write one; because everything we’ve discussed to this point will be fruitless if you have no written guidelines for your job. Your duties need to be clearly outlined:
- What communication and design are you responsible for?
- What format does content need to be provided to you in?
- What reasonable revision schedule is allotted to each project?
- What time line is reasonable from start to completion for each project?
Without a clearly stated job description you will be required to do whatever is asked, in whatever time is asked, without any reasonable outcome based on your skills and talents.
There are many variables for any given project and without clearly set boundaries (set through your job description) you’ll be pushed beyond your limits–working late, missing deadlines, compromising on creativity and soon find yourself exhausted and dreading your job.
Your boundaries need to include rules for what you are to do, what you are asked to do, how long you are given to do it and what things cannot be expected for you to do. Develop a project pipeline that covers the various types of projects you typically do and includes an understood method of delivery, execution and finalization. Time will have to be allowed for incubation of ideas, for concept presentation, a reasonable set of revisions and final approvals before anything is completed. That timeline will vary given the scope of the project (for instance: a sermon series should be complete 30 days before the date, giving at least 3 weeks from concepts to completion given all it’s iterations of backdrops, inserts, mailers and slides).
No. This is the most important word you will learn to use when setting appropriate boundaries. You will be able to say “No” because you have a written job description that states what is required in your job (seems pretty self-explanatory doesn’t it?). This isn’t to say that sometimes you won’t do some projects on tight turnarounds; but if you constantly and consistently allow for people to bulldoze your boundaries your job will consist of doing whatever is asked, no matter how unreasonable.
You must set a solid boundary of what is expected or you simply won’t be allowed to say no. Your goal isn’t to make life difficult for your clients, but simply to give value what you do. Solid boundaries help solidify your confidence (and others confidence in you, if you’re allowing yourself to be used as a doormat, you won’t be respected, and if you’re not respected, there is no confidence in you), enables you to have determination in approaching ideas and fosters clear and honest communication.