• Matt Smart

Content Creation: Expectations vs. Reality

Updated: Jun 15

Pearl Jam once sang ‘Nothing is as it seems’.


It’s scarce things go accurately to plan. Usually, that’s what keeps things interesting. But sometimes, as content creators, we may have too higher an expectation about a situation. I’m stereotyping here, but of the graphic designers I have worked with, the social media pro’s I know, the majority have a sunny, yellow disposition. More often than not, they can get so excited by the idea and the result that the journey getting there is the detail they don’t want to be bothered by – and that’s where the reality hits you – hard!


Here are my top 5 expectations vs reality scenarios I have dealt with and, consequently learned from to be a better content creator.


Expectation: Clients website is already a well-designed, content ready marketing machine.

Reality: Phah!

The reality is that there are more poorly designed websites out there than well-built ones. Unless you’re working for a large company with a big budget, chances are the site will be a second thought. However, there are many small businesses with fantastic websites, and usually, that’s because much of their commerce will originate. When working with a new client, pay attention to their site and the efforts they have put in, this will help you create a more realistic price when quoting work. If you’re interviewing for a job, don’t mention all the negatives, just discuss its potential!


Expectation: A vast budget.

Reality: None. It’s up to you to make money!

You have won the contract, or you have got a job whereby you have to create the content. The company have hired you, so they must be serious about making this work. But you quickly realise there’s no budget for improvements to the site. I have been in this situation several times, and that’s when you quickly learn a coding language. What makes things worse is your content has to make the company money now – this is a reality that can be quite painful.


Expectation: This Company have Personas already created! Booyah!

Reality: They’re Personas designed on perception and a ‘finger in the air’ approach.

Personas are the foundation of good content design. Without them, you are practically shooting in the dark. But a good persona is built on hard data. This data has to be validated, understood and then used to fuel the imagination of a good content designer. As a wedding photographer, it would be easy for me to assume that the people that book me are women between 22 and 28, have a household income of £40k. I could market to that segment all day long and be annoyed that I wasn’t getting the bookings because I was ignoring men, different age groups and income bands.


Expectation: Design concepts – everyone loves you!

Reality: You have a ton of amends!

The first gig you get and you hand in the first designs right on the deadline. But the client turns and says, “I don’t get it, why have you used this image?” or “I’m not sure about the colour” or the worst one, “I don’t like it”.

It can crush your confidence, but remember, you are the specialist here. Explain your reasons and help your boss to understand that their perception is precisely that, their interpretation and opinion. If you have researched your design well enough, you should be able to persuade them to your way of thinking. However, always take what feedback you can and use it to improve!


Expectation: Design takes minutes.

Reality: Design takes weeks!

A two-way street for this one. If you can do a job in 30 minutes, it’s because you spent ten years learning to do it in 30 minutes. But if you’re always expected to deliver within 30 minutes, then there’s a problem. To design great content, you have to research a topic, fully understand how the user will engage with it and then you have to create it. Content creation takes time – and your boss needs to appreciate that.


What are your experiences? Let me know in the comments!

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