If you’re a creative type, you may have noticed that it’s not always easy to hand over the reins of creativity to someone else. You may have noticed that this is true even when the thing to be created isn’t the kind of thing you usually make.
I recently experienced this for myself. My business, Cover to Cover, needed a website. There were a couple of ways to bring this about: build the site myself, or hire somebody to do it.
Part of me was tempted to dust off my long-neglected HTML skills and go with option #1. I could save a lot of money that way. True, I wasn’t a web designer, but I’d been doing book covers for years, and I could apply my knowledge of aesthetic principles to another medium. And it was my site promoting my business, which meant I should make it with my own hands. Right?
Wrong. So very wrong.
When it helps to get help
My ability to create professional book covers and interiors didn’t make me an HTML guru. In fact, the most useful thing I knew about web design was that it’s really hard to make things look the way you want them to. Furthermore, every medium has its own special conventions to learn. Either I’d end up creating something subpar, or I’d spend months and months trying to do what a pro could do in three days.
So instead of letting my ego drive, I took the following steps:
- Mocked up a couple of web pages in Photoshop (no HTML coding, just visuals).
- Asked a web designer if the mockups were good enough for him to work with (he said yes).
- Gave him the mockups and said, “Please make this better.”
- Received a design similar to mine, but better.
- Asked for minor revisions.
- Received minor revisions.
- Had a fully functioning website.
Was it scary to hand this project over and hope for the best? Maybe a little. But I had a good grasp of my abilities, and I’d seen the web design company‘s portfolio. I knew whatever they turned out would be superior to what I’d produce on my own. And it was.
You don’t have to do it all. If you’re publishing a book, it’s OK to stick to what you’re good at (like writing) and let other professionals do what they’re good at (like cover design).
That said, being in the passenger’s seat doesn’t mean you have to relinquish all control, or even that you should! The driver, your designer, knows the terrain and how to operate the vehicle. Your job is to have an idea of what your destination will look like—however vague or specific that idea might be—communicate it to the designer, and provide feedback on how close you’ve gotten.
The collaboration is where the magic happens.