What is a Creative Brief?
A creative brief is a document that creative freelancers and contractors use to outline and define a project for a client. It provides guidelines for what specific goals of the deliverable should be.
For example, your creative brief should include a budget and objective for the project as well as a description of what you will provide, such as print design materials, marketing copy, product photography, or social media posts.
Creative briefs are typically created after a proposal has been accepted and a contract signed.
Note: Our creative brief template takes the best elements from over 100+ self-employed briefs. Use our client-winning brief template here for free.
Who Should Use a Creative Brief?
A creative brief can be used by any freelance business owner or contractor working in a creative industry. You may need to use a creative brief if you work in:
- Writing or editing
- Digital marketing
- Graphic design
- Web design
- Social media marketing
- Culinary arts
- Photography or videography
You can use a creative brief whether you’re a full-time, part-time, or casual creative freelancer.
When to Use a Creative Brief
You should use a creative brief any time you’re preparing to start a new project for a client. For example, use one when:
- You want to organize all of the information about an upcoming project for a client to review before you begin.
- A client approves your creative proposal and signs a contract and you want to take the next professional step.
- A client hasn’t been clear about what they want and you would like to clarify their expectations before you start a project.
- You want to document the specifics of a project to help inform your invoices down the road.
- You want to ensure you and a client are on the same page before you start your creative process.
Since creative briefs help to keep projects on time, within budget, and stress-free, it’s good practice to create one not just for every client you work with, but for every individual project that you take on.
Regardless of which creative industry you work in, they’re a major part of ensuring that the deliverable you provide to a client is right the first time around.
How to Write a Creative Brief
Even though Bonsai’s creative brief works for a variety of industries, the steps you need to take to create yours are typically the same. Here’s how to make a good creative brief that benefits both you and your clients.
Step 1: Meet with the client
If you haven’t met with or talked to the client about the project in detail, this is the first thing you need to do. In order to make an informative and useful creative brief, you’ll need to know exactly what the client is looking for.
In your initial meetings with a client, ask questions related to:
- The company background and brand identity
- The marketing campaign this project will be part of
- Who the target audience is
- What the project objectives are
- What will determine the success of the project
As you’ll see in the following steps, this information is key to developing your creative brief. The more that you know about the client and project before you begin, the more likely you are to develop an impressive deliverable that hits the mark.
Step 2: Describe the project in detail
Once you have a solid understanding of what the client wants, add the information to your creative brief template. Be sure to include:
- The purpose of the project (for example, what is the problem and what is the solution)
- Who the target audience is
- What your responsibilities are (which services are you providing)
- What the deliverables are (print materials, wireframes, written content, branding plan, etc.)
- Requirements, such as key messages you have to use, the company name and logo, or a disclaimer
- A description of the product or service the project is centered around
Here’s an example for a loungewear clothing brand:
The purpose of this digital marketing campaign is to raise awareness about the company brand and to increase product demand. The target audience is made up of social media users between the ages of 18-35 of either gender who have a proven interest in high-quality loungewear clothing through their interests and interactions with other brands and advertisements.
The freelance marketer will develop a digital marketing plan that includes a timeline, suggested distribution channels, and ad copy.
The freelancer must use the company logo and product images provided by the internal creative team.
Step 3: Include the timeline
Whether the project has a single deadline or it’s made up of a number of project milestones, you should outline any due dates here.
This helps to keep client expectations in check and ensures that you have enough time to get the job done.
You can also describe your creative process here if you want clients to understand what you’ll be doing behind the scenes. For example, researching customers through user testing, gathering background information about competitors, or meeting with project managers to develop a strategy.
Just make sure to include due dates for each step, even if they’ll fluctuate based on the client’s input or responsibilities within the project.
Step 4: Define the project budget
At this point in the process, you should already know what the client’s budget is and they should have already approved your hourly or per-project rate. While you don’t have to be as detailed about pricing as you would be in a formal creative quote, you should at least define the project cost in your brief.
Depending on your industry and the project this could be a per word or hourly rate, per-project fee, exact amount, or a range. Regardless of how much detail you go into, including an approximate budget is one of the necessary details in making a creative brief template.
Step 5: List competitors
Next should come a list of potential competitors for you to review and analyze. This will show you what your client is up against and help you to create a deliverable better than what the competition has.
Depending on the project and client, this could be a simple bullet list of company names or an entire section made up of key competitors and their company information.
If this information isn’t relevant to your creative brief template, feel free to leave it out.
Step 6: Provide a distribution plan
Your distribution plan will change based on what type of freelancer you are and which services you’re providing to a client. However, you should still outline your plan in your creative brief template.
For example, if you’re a product photographer, will you be providing print or digital copies of the photos that you take, and which format and size will they be in? Asking these questions gives you a better understanding of what the client wants you to do.
When both you and your clients have a clear picture of what’s expected of each party, it ensures that the project goes smoothly and that it will be a success.
Step 7: Send your creative brief to the client
Once you’ve filled out all the relevant sections, you need to send your creative brief to the client for approval. This is a great opportunity for them to refine your creative brief even more by providing insight, ideas, and examples where relevant.
They may also provide other details, like additional competitors, more information about their customers, details about what has or hasn’t worked for them in the past, branding goals, and more.
After they’re reviewed your creative brief and offered any feedback, you can get to work on the actual project.
Why Should I Use a Creative Brief?
Using a creative brief has a variety of benefits, from fostering effective communication between you and your clients to keeping your pricing in check. Here’s why you should use a creative brief for your next creative project:
1. They encourage good communication
The more you know about a project, the easier it will be to complete. While a creative brief may seem like a lot of work upfront, it actually saves you from having to deal with a lot of back and forth with clients while the project is in the works.
The less time you spend responding to emails and phone calls, the more time you have to dig in and focus on the work.
And, the more polished the end product, the happier the client will be with your services, making them more likely to hire you again in the future.
2. They keep your client paperwork organized
If you’re trying to juggle more than one client at a time, you know that keeping track of who asked for what and when can be challenging. Creative briefs are actually a great way to organize your paperwork and keep track of projects, which works to inform your contracts, invoices, and quotes down the road.
For example, if you start a project for a client and define the cost in your creative brief, you can use it to create an invoice once the project is finished. If there was extra, unanticipated work involved, simply review what was included in your brief and add the additional costs on top.
Then, when you go to do a similar project for another client in the future, you can look back on previous creative briefs to get a feel for pricing and what you can expect in terms of the workload.
3. They keep project scopes in check
One of the hardest things about freelancing is trying to avoid scope creep so that you don’t end up doing extra work for free. A creative brief is an ideal way to keep project objectives and scopes in check because it outlines exactly what you are being hired to do and for how much.
If the client requires any additional work outside of the brief, you’re well within your rights to charge extra. Just make sure to let them know beforehand so they can decide whether what they’re asking for is within budget or if they want to hold off for now.
4. They’re part of a professional creative process
If you’re a professional freelancer, you know that it’s a good idea to have an organized and polished process for any new project you take on. Creative briefs keep you from having to fly by the seat of your pants when it comes to approaching a new project. And they’re a great way to showcase your professionalism to clients.
5. They save you time and money
A good creative brief saves you time and money by cutting down on back and forth, revisions, and waiting for clients to get back to you. Instead of waiting around to hear back from a client or having to provide multiple iterations of a project, using a creative brief increases your chances of getting the work right the first time.
If you charge a project fee, this means that you make the most amount of money in the least amount of time. And, if you charge hourly, it means you don’t spend too many unpaid hours responding to emails or asking clients simple questions.
Making a Creative Brief Template is Simple With Bonsai
Customizing your own creative brief is easy with Bonsai. Using our free creative brief template, you can:
- Add your own logo and brand colors
- Include client- and project-specific information, like specific goals, target audience, project objectives, pricing, timeline, and more
- Save it as a creative brief template PDF
- Send digital copies straight from your Bonsai account to clients for approval
Bonsai helps you to make professional creative briefs that keep your projects on track, impress clients, and stay organized. Sign up now to start making your creative brief template today.
Creative Brief FAQs
What format should I use for my creative brief template?
You can send a creative brief in a variety of formats, from a Microsoft Word Document to a Google Document. However, it’s recommended that you use a creative brief template PDF instead since it’s the best option for maintaining formatting and ensuring that your content isn’t changed after it’s been sent to a client.
Use Bonsai to create and send a creative brief in PDF format to keep your design crisp and clean.
How long should a creative brief be?
The length of your creative brief depends on the project, but you should typically aim for 1-2 pages. If the client’s project managers request more detail, you can always add more information, but do your best to keep it straightforward and easy to understand. The point of a creative brief is to make the actual work easier, not more complicated.
What are deliverables in a creative brief?
Deliverables are what you’re expected to provide to the client once the project is complete. Depending on your industry and the project, these could be physical materials like printed flyers or brochures, or digital assets, like an advertising schedule or written ad copy.
- Creative Proposal: This template is used before a creative brief and describes a potential project to a client. Use this document if you’re pitching a project to a new client.
- Creative Quote: Use this template when providing a formal quote for a creative project to a potential client.
- Copywriter Contract: Use this template to create a contract for copywriting jobs.
- Photographer Contract: Use this template to create a contract for photography jobs.