4 easy tips to fall in love with your designer
In every successful relationship, there should be trust, and the relationship between clients and designers is no exception. Throughout my career, I have seen people hesitant and nervous when working with designers.
Like a first date, if it’s the first time they are working with a freelance designer, there’s a cloud of doubt. I have heard things like “I don’t think visually, I’m out of my element here”, “I’m not a creative person, so I don’t understand how this works”, or my favorite “I don’t know how to explain what I want, I’ll know when I see it”.
Sounds familiar? well, let’s take it step by step.
Note: if you have worked with freelance designers before, you might think this post is irrelevant to you, but I think you can still find beneficial information that can help improve your relationship with designers in the future.
Step 1: Relax
You are in good hands; experienced designers are here to help you. Be assure we want your business to succeed as much as you do. Why? because if you do well, we do well. If your company succeeds, we can not only brag about it in our portfolios, but it also means you will want to work with us again, and that’s more business for us.
So, be open to listen to our advice, especially if we are presenting specific reasons why we recommend something. We want what’s best for your brand. I’m not saying you need to agree with us 100% of the time or do exactly what we say, that’s not good either. The best results happen on a two-way conversation, and this brings me to step 2.
Step 2: Do your homework
Now that you know you are in good hands, it’s time to get to work. For a successful project to happen, we need to collaborate, and that means you need to do your homework too.
The best scenario for collaboration is knowing that we need each other. We, the designers, specialized in print, branding and/or interactive, are specialist in design. We have the knowhow on that field, but you the client, are the expert on your business. You know your company better than anybody, and we need to work together.
And if you are wondering what your homework is exactly, below is a simple chart explaining what you need to bring or think about when starting a new design project:
- A registered name. Make sure you can use the name you want before you hire a designer to do the logo.
- A creative brief detailing your company’s background, goals, your target audience, your primary and secondary competitors, and most importantly, the why behind everything.
- A digital creative brief detailing who's the audience, why does your web/app exists, what are the 3 main tasks or purpose you want users to accomplish while they are there, what are the secondary tasks, what is your web/app goal, and any other data you think would be important for us to know.
- Do you have content for this website? if not, where is this content coming from and/or who do you think would oversee creating it.
- Do you have content? if you don’t, ask us for advice to find a good creative writer.
- If you have content, text specifically, please organize it in a Word document, so we can review and understand it easily.
- For images, PLEASE don’t send images/photos in power points or Word documents, you will give your designer nightmares and we won’t be able to use them.
- Do you have a printer you want to work with or do you want recommendations?
Step 3. Give high quality feedback
By this I mean the following:
A. Give us consolidated feedback
If you have a partner in your business, if there are other decision makers, or if you want other people’s input, let us know early on. We need to know who is involved in the process, who is the person making the final decisions, and who we’ll be the designated single point of contact. This will avoid confusion and possible setbacks.
After you hear other people’s opinions, gather all their comments and note only what you think is relevant. If you have questions, mark them so you can resolve them with the designer’s help during your next meeting or call.
From my experience, when a client brings comments from other partners that haven’t been resolved internally first, the project gets delayed. We, unfortunately, can’t make the decisions for you, designers can and will make recommendations, but somebody from the client side must decide and approve designs to be able to move on with the project.
B. Give us relevant feedback
Every stage of the design process usually requires approval, so we need to focus on those key decisions as the work progresses. For example, if we are in the process of designing a logo and it’s the first round of designs, concentrate on giving us feedback related to that first. If you have references or ideas for other parts of the process, for example for the stationery or the web design – those are always welcomed – note them and mention to the designer that you have some thoughts, but make a priority to resolve the impending logo questions first.
And most importantly: don’t be afraid to ask questions, we are very happy when clients ask questions and it’s your absolute right to ask us to clarify.
Step 4. Sign a contract or work agreement
A lot of designers, including myself for a while, didn’t work with a signed contract or work agreement. Most of the time this is OK, but I fully believe the relationship is better if both parties have all the details figured out in advanced and in paper for full transparency. That way they both know where they are standing and what to expect from each other.
It doesn't have to be a complicated contract, but these are some of the items you will most likely see in an agreement with a designer:
A. Project or item cost and what does that include:
- For most projects, there is an X amount of revisions (3 to 5 are the most common numbers). Each designer, depending on the project and budget, can be different, so make sure you have that information ahead of time to plan accordantly.
*Tip: Having less than 3 revisions is unusual, unless the project has a tight schedule or a limited budget. If that’s the case, it might also include a rush fee.
- Advance deposit: most designers, including myself, work with an advance payment. This covers the hours used until the project is completed. Sometimes this is done 50% in advance / 50% upon final submittal, but sometimes it can also be divided in to 3 payments of 30% / 30% / and 40%.
B. Roles of key people.
- From the designer’s point of view, we need to know who’s the decision maker, who’s our single point of contact, and who’s involved in the project. From the client’s point of view, you need to know what are the responsibilities of the designer. For example:
- If you are doing website, is the designer also going to code the website? If not (most likely) you would need to request a quote for development separately or ask if it’s included in the project’s cost. Who is going to oversee the uploading of all the content, the client, the designer, or the developer?
- If you are doing a print job, most quotes won’t include the costs of professional printing, fonts, stock photography, and/or photo shoots. How is that going to be quoted and/or payed? and, if the designer is responsible to supervise the printer (most likely) this should be included in the agreement as well.
C. What happens if the project goes out of scope?
If the project's needs change or it’s delayed, are you going to work with the designer on an hourly basis? are there any late fees, rushed fees, or penalties?
D. What does the work schedule look like?
The contact or agreement should indicate at least an approximate start and delivery date, as well as how long each item/service will take (business days, weeks or months) and how many hours are included (unless you work on a flat rate).
Don’t be surprised if you see other items listed on the work agreement or contact. Among those could be: requiring that the client approves a design (in writing) before moving to the next stage. For example, in an interactive project, the designer might state that the design won’t start until the sitemap and wireframes are approved, or that the wireframes won’t start without content, etc. It varies from project to project and from designer to designer.
I hope this helps improve your relationship with designers. The goal is always to have a smooth ride (or not too bumpy). And remember that we are friendly and fun people, but we also take our work as seriously as you take yours.