A Case Study Checklist to Save You Time
If you’re like most creatives I know, you do amazing work for other people’s businesses while neglecting your own.
If you’re a visual person working in design, branding or photography, the added anxiety of writing about your work can make you scrap the whole project for years. But those success stories attract the clients you want to work with.
I’m here to tell you there is a better way!
Portfolio. Recent work. Client Case Studies.
Whatever you want to call it, next to your About Page, the way you visually show your work is one of the most important parts of your website.
And let’s be honest, this is what people are looking for when they want to hire you. So creating your own template for your case studies will save you a ton of time.
Just imagine, no more cold sweats or stomach getting tied in knots every time you think about talking about your work.
Here is a 7 step process to get you started!
Putting A Method To The Madness
Like any writing project, there are ways to curb the overwhelm. The most effective one is having a method and process in place that you trust.
One way is to determine exactly what information to put aside in your regular work flow. Then, as you schedule time to work on case studies, you’ll have a checklist and a starting point to plug in the information.
You can take a slow, deep breath. And let the anxiety fade a little.
1. Start at the very beginning
Remember when you sent that proposal to your client? It’s going to come in handy when you’re doing your case studies. In very simple bullet points or short sentences outline what the initial project was.
Write out what the clients goals were and what you wanted to accomplish with the work. You’re thinking through why the client came to you. Usually, it’s very different from what they actually needed.
By the end, this will only be one or two sentences at most. But those sentences need to get to the heart of the work. Think about what the client’s problem was, so you can show how you solved it.
2. How the project changed in the process
In my opinion this is what we miss when we talk about our creative work. Often it’s not a line item in the proposal because no creative project goes according to plan. This is usually where your genius lies.
But how do you write about it?
Jot down some rough sentences about how the direction of the project changed in ways you loved. Think about the places where they took your advice and that lead to the work you enjoy doing. In the end you’ll be able to use a few descriptive words about your strengths that lead to great outcomes.
3. ADD VISUALS - EVERY CASE STUDY NEEDS A STORY
This is the most important part of any designer, photographer or branding pro’s portfolio. It’s also the most overwhelming step in creating case studies.
The idea of collecting before and after screen shots or pulling together photos in the middle of all the other tasks tugging at us can stop people dead in their tracks.
Don’t let this part stop you! Persevere!
Here are some helpful ways:
Collect before and after screen shots as you finish each project. Make it a part of your work flow.
Save these images in a folder of visual images to through while you’re writing your case studies
Bring in the big guns - 2-3 times a year batch case study photography. Don’t have the budget? Do a trade with a photographer friend.
4. OWN YOUR VALUE
No one wants to read a boring case study. And let’s be honest, if you aren’t the hero of your story why would anyone want to hire you?
Not the only one on the project? Write down your specific contributions. Now is not the time to be shy. Really give yourself the credit you deserve.
Think about problems you solved. Use specific words or phrases your clients will understand. Leave out any industry jargon and go for plain words that talk about results.
5. Do a timed free write to find your voice
This is where you let your subconscious mind bubble to the surface to unearth some new words or phrases you need. It’s an easy writers trick.
Set a timer (your phone has one) for at least 8-10 minutes. Take one word or phrase that most describes your project. Try to choose one that goes a little deeper than “website design” or “brand identity”. Something that resonates with you about this specific project.
Grab your favorite notebook or curl up in the corner with your laptop. Either way, the key is to not stop until the timer goes off. It’s important because it lets you get into a flow of not thinking about what you’re writing.
If you find yourself resisting, that’s okay. Just keep writing. Eventually you’ll get little helpful jewels and some clarity.
After the timer goes off, read it out loud, slowly to yourself. This is important because you can hear things that you would miss when reading silently to yourself.
Highlight and pull out the words and phrases that resonate. Do as many (or as few) as you want until you have a few words or phrases that work for you.
6. DON’t reinvent the wheel
Create a page template that you can re-use each time. This will help you save time and overcome overwhelm in the long haul.
In the beginning try to keep your format simple until it really becomes part of your work flow. Take a look at other websites who’s work you admire and get inspiration from the format they use.
To get yourself started, do it in whatever program you use most. Make it easy, don’t do a mock up right away. You can layout the text in a simple google doc or In Design. Create a template style that’s easy to repeat.
7. NOW MAKE IT PRETTY
Distill it all into a few sentences and add some bullet points, explaining how you thoughtfully approached each project using 1-2 sentences. This is where you pay attention to the visual language you’ve come up with that will bring your case study to life.
Choose words that highlight the problems you solved. And the creativity you used to help guide your clients to making better choices.
Think of it as a high level overview talking directly to that one client you really want to work with. Show them what you thought about while you were creating the work that reflects the client’s brand and mission.
Want even more social proof? Ask your client for a testimonial to share how great it was to work with you!
A Real Life Example
I worked with Sausalito based photographer and web designer Sophia Mavrides at HI5 Studio to update her case studies. More than just a gun for hire to snap some photos and build webpages, she helps people establish their brand identity. She visually captures the essence of who they are in their business.
If you want extra support getting there, I invite you to book a free 30 minute consult with me. I would love to help you get those case studies off your hard drive and onto your website.