CreateAthon is Coming: The Sales Factory's Survival Guide

  • Written by Jenni Brennison

The team at The Sales Factory of Greensboro, NC, will soon have 11 CreateAthon’s under their belt. In the past they’ve stayed up all night to offer nonprofits everything from identity branding to direct mail pieces.  This year is especially exciting because they’re bringing their newly opened San Francisco office into the fold.  So what advice do these vets have for newbies as we creep ever closer to Pro Bono Week and CreateAthon events around the world? Monique Moffit, The Sales Factory’s Director of Public Relations, shared 15 helpful tips they do their best to employ (when it comes to the sugar thing, it’s just so hard to say no. We understand.)

The calm before the storm: The Sales Factory will host its 11th CreateAthon this year.

What does it take to launch a successful CreateAthon? Aside from the obvious answer of “coffee and cool company t-shirts,” there are a few strategies we’ve learned over the years that can ease a newcomer into the exciting world of 24-hour, non-stop creativity. Below is our best advice, compiled from TSF’s 20+ veteran CreateAthon employees:

  1. Meet with clients before the clock starts and get as much information and assets (images, copy, etc.) in hand as possible.
  2. Involve everyone, not just the “creatives.” At TSF, everyone from our Controller to VP of Finance are assigned clients.
  3. Early organization is essential. Have production teams meet to discuss projects and make sure there’s one point person aware of all projects, scopes and resources allocated.
  4. Limit the number of Red Bulls you drink or you’ll throw up, but do have plenty of coffee and snacks available.
  5. Avoid sugar because you will crash. (On this, all we can say is do as we say and not as we do.)
  6. Map out a workflow schedule versus just diving in. It’s much easier if you know you have two hours allocated to design a website and then, while the client approves the design, you know to move on to working on copy for a poster or brochure.
  7. Have teams check-in throughout the day so everyone knows who’s doing what, what the time frames are and who’s running behind and needs help out of the weeds.
  8. Set clear expectations. Clients understandably get excited about the free work so it’s essential to have an agreed upon scope in place.
  9. Bring your pets to work. It’s amazing how invigorated you’ll feel after getting a little love from your furry four-legged friend.
  10. Don’t annoy the designers while they’re working. (After 12 hours, designers get twitchy and will turn on you. We’ve seen it happen.)
  11. Don’t try to power through. Instead, take short breaks and breathers where you get up, stretch, and walk away from your computer.
  12. Decide early on if clients will be on-site, if they’ll be picking up or receiving work as it’s completed, or if everything will be delivered after CreateAthon ends.
  13. If not on site, make sure clients know they need to be available and on call for 24 hours with a short window to respond to edits.
  14. Hydrate.
  15. Give staff a well-deserved day off the day following CreateAthon.

The above strategies have served TSF and our CreateAthon clients well over the years. Does everything always go as planned? So far, never. But having strategies in place, defining client needs and expectations early and committing to a fun and purposeful 24-hours will be more than enough to launch you into the always fun, always challenging and every-changing world that is CreateAthon.