9 Key Elements That Make a Great Creative Project Manager

December 30, 2015
4 minute read

Originally published December 2015, updated October 2022


What is a creative project manager?

From overseeing the big picture to managing the day-to-day, creative project managers are required to ensure that projects are carefully handled from start to finish.

Understanding how to lead a team is contingent on understanding yourself—especially in the creative industry.

A project team is nothing without its fearless leader. The role of a creative agency project manager can be split into nine key elements:

1. Communication

Communication is arguably the most important thing for a creative project manager to master—no matter the project, client, or campaign. You may have the best creative resources at hand, but if you can’t facilitate an effective exchange of ideas across your team, your hands are tied And it’s a whole lot more than simple sweet talk. Stakeholders can see right through charm and empty promises.

In short, communicate effectively and you will get things done.


2. Goal Setting

Every project has an end goal. A successful creative project manager knows how to split this goal up into attainable, time-based mini–goals. Setting clear project goals is critical–when a creative team knows exactly what they are aiming for, they will be motivated and productive, and the end goal will be successfully achieved.


3. Transparent Processes

Creating transparent processes in project management fosters trust, as well as excellent communication between project managers and team members. In successful project management, there is a process to everything, from the way work is delegated, to the way it is handed in. Being transparent about the reasons behind the way things are done sets an atmosphere of trust and collaboration.

4. Inspiration and motivation

The best leaders are those who create a vision of the future that is as compelling as it is attainable. And they motivate their employees to achieve these goals. Creative projects often encounter long processes and setbacks and a project manager needs to be able to keep a creative team motivated despite these. A culture of inspiration and positive reinforcement motivates your team to perform at their best. And focusing on creating this environment for your employees will breed talent, internal growth, and creativity across your project team.


5. Integrity and honesty

This should go without saying, but great leaders are honest and transparent. They follow through with promises and deliver results. Leading by example, or walking the walk, is the best way to encourage results from your team.


6. Self-awareness

A successful project team is nothing without a stable leader. And success begins within. Philosophy aside, knowing yourself ensures that your team can be the best they can be. When you have a sense of your role, it encourages you to do something about it.


7. Conflict management

Conflict management is usually a sticky situation—but in the creative industry especially, people will get into disagreements on projects (c’mon, many of us have major egos). These squabbles must be mitigated and addressed as soon as they begin in order to avoid future conflict. Understand the disagreement, confront the disagreement, and ensure that those involved walk away feeling comfortable with the proposed solution.


8. Agility and adaptability

As you know, projects change all the time. Adapting to change requires a willingness to stay open to new ideas—and the know-how to adapt to new situations.  Whether it’s scope or resources, it’s important to be able to act swiftly and intelligently.


9. Industry knowledge

In the past, project management was considered a generic skill set. The reasoning was that if you could draw a project plan, execute, and monitor project issues, then you’d make a successful project manager.

Fast-forward to 2015, and this is no longer true. As a project manager in the cutthroat creative industry, it’s vital to have specific industry knowledge. Knowing the ins and outs of agency life is really the only way to ensure successful campaigns.


how to become a creative project manager?

Having discussed the key elements involved in being a project manager, you may be curious to know what exactly is involved in becoming a creative manager. 

While there is no one route to becoming a creative project manager, most PMs start out with a bachelor’s degree in a topic related to project management, such as communication or marketing. The next step is to gain experience in a managerial role, proving your ability to multitask, organize, and communicate successfully, as well as gaining the experience you’ll need to be a project manager. With these two aspects–education and experience, you can write up an impressive creative project manager resume.

The creative project manager job description varies but ultimately requires the same core elements. For example, you could be a marketing project manager, a systems project manager, or a construction project manager. For all of these types of managers, you’ll need to be organized, efficient, have an eye for detail and be a good communicator. All of these creative manager jobs will require planning and organizing project budgets, setting timelines and defining project scope. The type of project manager you choose to be should be a reflection of your interest. For example, if you enjoy IT, your passion will make you a good IT project manager.

You probably want to know what sort of salary you can expect as a creative project manager. The creative project manager salary varies but is generally based more on experience than on the precise role description. According to Comparably, the average salary of a creative project manager is $101,274. Although it gives you an idea of what you could be making as a project manager, this figure is obviously very versatile and will change according to factors such as location and level of experience.


Project management software for

creative managers

With so many responsibilities, tasks, and resources to maintain control of, creative managers need a way to stay on top of their jobs to be successful.

Luckily, we live in a day and age when it is possible and easy for project managers to keep it all together by means of project management software.

Difficult, tedious, and time-consuming project management activities become easy, straightforward, and snappy with the use of good project management software.

Workamajig is a PM tool that caters specifically to the needs of creative agencies, saving project managers time, energy, and resources. For example, project managers who use Workamajig are able to see which resources are available for new tasks with one sweeping glance at their Workamajig interface. They can assign, track, and review project tasks all within the same, user–friendly software. Creative team members love Workamajig too. It allows them to communicate easily with managers and fellow teammates, clearly see project goals and breakdowns, and keep them updated with notifications.

Propel your team forward, empower your agency with success.

Don’t wait to get going with our unbeatable project management software!

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