How do you turn a set of ideas into a story board?
This is what we spent much of today doing – something that took longer than I had anticipated and made me appreciate more the work that Alice, Dave, Kate and Nyika had put into the first two digital videos. With only one pair of people to watch over compared to the two pairs last time, I was perhaps more involved with what was going on than with the first group.
At the same time, I began to feel more at ease with the idea of being a ‘project manager’ in the better sense of the phrase. ie. letting Dana and Michelle get on with what I had commissioned them to do and not feel bad about not ‘being seen’ to be doing stuff – rather listening and observing, and providing a steer or suggestions as and when necessary. It seems to have worked thus far. My view is that when working on something creative with talented people, you can’t micromanage them without squeezing the life out of the project you’re working on. All too often in my experience, managers have ended up doing this because of the lines of upwards accountability and the number of tiers that are in the system. Yet as I have noticed with these projects, there is a completely different feeling when you are working with other people on your project that you are paying for directly.
Moving from planning to script and storyboard
This is where we are now: We spent yesterday scoping the problem and deciding what we wanted to include and exclude from the digital videos. Today overran by more than I had planned, but with good reason. Turning the ideas and running order of things into a line-by-line script is not nearly so straight forward. There’s also the challenge of deciding which screenshots we want to use too. What will be the most suitable for the prospective audiences?
For the social media analytics digital video, the audience is likely to be much more specific than that of the other digital videos. It’s unlikely that I will use this guide for personal users, but far more likely for a corporate audience in a large organisation. Actually, it was a new commission from an organisation that led me to decide to prioritise this and the Twitter guide ahead of the other guides that I had in mind. Those I am putting back for later in the year.
The Twitter guide is likely to be slightly longer than the Facebook and blogging introduction guides. The simple reason being that a number of potential and existing clients have shown an interest in Twitter – and its pitfalls. How do you decide what to include and exclude? It was during today that we decided we’d need to make a follow-up guide later on – tackling problems and issues that are not always addressed in such guides. When we read through the script, it was clear we would run over the 5 minute target I had originally set. Rather than reading through things quickly, I made the decision to relax the limit and have things explained more slowly but more clearly.
One of the things I’ve found is that ‘working from home’ and working alone is not something I’m particular fond of or thrive in. Which seems strange from a single freelancer’s perspective. Hence why we’ve spent some of the planning and writing time in local cafes for a change of scenery. Something that I’ve been pondering on & off for some time is the conduciveness of working environments to what organisations actually want to achieve. It’s no accident that some of the top creative companies have tried to be innovative in terms of trying to create relaxing, open and friendly working environments for their top talent. It’s one of the things I noticed when I first went into the Government Digital Service‘s offices as well as those at Yammer, when Mia Day invited Puffles and I for a visit. If people don’t feel comfortable in their working environment and who they are working with, getting the best out of them will be a problem.
Working with a team as both ‘team leader’ and commissioner
Actually, I don’t really see myself as a team leader in this role. It’s three friends working together to produce a specific set of products – ‘virtual’ as they may be. Working with the six people who have joined me so far, I’ve noticed the difference between how they are for example as friends at a pub lunch, as ‘Twitter personas’ and working professionally and diligently on projects. The only difference with the last of the three is that they were all working to create something that I commissioned them for. In that sense, it’s a rare privilege to see the many sides to their personalities. Quite often we only see people in a single context. How many of us see our parents or siblings in a working environment? How many of us engage regularly with the majority of our workmates on social media?
In a strange way, it’s a little insight into the sort of working and living environment that I aspired to work in during my college days: One where the people you worked with were the people you socialised with – only in those days I guess I aspired to live in this nice little upper-middle-class bubble, far away from the problems of the world in a nice part of town.
I guess it’s made me think more about where I want to go in the future, what I want to do, who I want to work with, for what purpose, where and how. I’m fortunate that I’m in a field where there is a strong enough demand for what I offer, given the limitations and barriers I currently face health-wise. At the same time, I’m glad that I’m able to work with some very talented friends to overcome those barriers and substantially improve what I can deliver to prospective commissioners. For me, part of the ‘growing up’ process is acknowledging that I don’t need to do everything myself. In previous blogposts I mentioned about wanting to become significantly more skilled in a whole host of different areas. But life’s too short for me to cram all of those competencies into me – certainly to the level that I would want to get to. Yet for the things that I want to achieve with creating these guides, I’ve found I don’t need to. Working with others is far more enjoyable for me. (Hence why I don’t think I’m cut out for a PhD!)
Learning thus far?
One thing that has made a significant difference is spending time with people in a professional working context. The expectations are slightly different from say meeting up for a pub lunch – lovely as they are. One thing I have been fortunate with is that the people I’ve chosen to work together have gotten on splendidly and have been ever so supportive of each other. They’ve continued to be ever since. As is the nature of being un/underemployed, we are in an environment that’s different from the institutionalisation of formal education: We are not in large groups with the same familiar faces every day. That in itself was a culture shock for me upon leaving college in the late 1990s – something I never really came to terms with and quite possibly never will.
In terms of timing, the next commission I do, which I hope will be next month depending on future commissions that I receive, may well be over four rather than three days. Day 1 for planning, day 2 for script writing and making storyboards, day 3 for screen-casting and audio recording, and day 4 for editing. I hope it will be with two pairs too. For both projects we have worked five hour rather than eight hour days. Health-wise I cannot manage more than this. It also increases the flexibility during the day of when we start, what breaks we want to take and when, and when we finish. While I could do 3×8 hour days, I also like to leave time for relaxing and socialising too. For the first project, on the night before the final day we all went out for a curry. With this project, six friends joined us for dinner this evening – which was lovely. Broadening and deepening our social community.
If all goes well, the actual recording won’t take long at all because of the time spent planning – thus allowing us to concentrate on the editing. Fingers crossed we’ll complete the guides for the weekend!