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How a Fairy Tale Graphic Design Project Would Go From Start to Finish

How a Fairy Tale Graphic Design Project Would Go From Start to Finish - Get More Clients and Feel Less Stressed

By Lois Knight

Fairy tale graphic designer freelance projects from start to finish

Once upon a time there were three bears”¦no, no, wrong fairytale, sorry about that. Once upon a time there were three graphic designers living in the lap of luxury, projects seeming to start and finish themselves with barely a single client consultation. The money flowed like good wine and life was good for all. Okay, show of hands; how many graphic designers have this lifestyle? Yeah right”¦you in the back”¦put your hand down; you’re making the rest of us look bad! Now really folks, how many of us would LIKE this lifestyle? I know I would!

The reality is most of us have to get out and hustle to meet new clients and bring home the bacon. Another sad reality is that sometimes we are our own worst enemy. From being consistently late or unprepared to making a dozen minor changes to a design that corrodes the wages we strive to earn, we booby trap our own success by not planning further than the end of our noses. When you have that first all important meeting with a new client do you set down ground rules in writing? Or do you keep it all in your head? Do you take notes or call the client back for clarification half a dozen times? How many changes do you include with your bid for a project? Or do you leave that up to the client until they are happy? Are your prices laid out clearly in writing or do you talk in circles until the client is dizzy from the ride? Do you work on a retainer with a written contract or a handshake? All these things matter if you want a fairytale instead of a nightmare.

The reason I started out with an intro to a fairytale is because we’d ALL like a piece of that pie. The truth is we can have it, if we do a little homework.

I have found by following a few simple guidelines, my client base has increased and my stress levels have decreased.

First Meeting:

1) Be on time and be prepared to take notes. If you have one without the other, you’re already shooting yourself in the foot.

2) Dress the part. You are a professional after all.

3) Bring a notebook or tablet and working writing utensil to take down details of the project you will be working on. Don’t expect them to provide it.

4) If for some reason, you are running late, call and let them know ahead of time. This lets them know you value their time.

5) Do NOT do this (3) more than once if you plan to work for this client on a regular basis.

6) Go over what services you will provide with the price quoted such as touch ups and reworks.

7) Go over your fees, retainers, and other written material and have the client sign off that they understand with the date. You will need two copies. One for you that is signed and one for them to keep.

8) Set a return appointment to go over your ideas and rough drafts for the project. Write it down!

When you are ready to begin working on this project, pull out the notes, rough sketches, and any sample material that the client may have given you and go over it thoroughly. What were your initial reactions to this project, simple, complex, unsure? Jot down any other thoughts you may have before starting to work with a pencil and paper to create thumbnail concepts for the next visit. I like to have at least 3-5 good solid ideas prepared as thumbnail sketches for clients to view on my return visit. These are prepared in a simple manila folder and stapled at the top once. A folder for each person involved in the decision making process with thumbnail copies and a cost breakdown should be included for the second meeting.

Second Meeting:

1) Be on time and be prepared. Make sure your material is neat and ready to present. Practice what you want to say in front of a mirror using one or two word prompts to help you stay on track.

2) Be polite, using proper names such as Mr. or Ms. Jones. Do not use the familiar unless they indicate to do so.

3) Keep your presentation to about an hour but make sure you have answered all the client’s questions as well as your own.

4) Write everything down pertaining to your meeting that may be important later. Make sure you bring your tablet and writing utensil for notes, corrections and any minor changes.

5) Have the client sign off on the thumbnail concept they decide on with any changes they would like to see. Make sure this document is dated as well because this is what gives you actual permission to go to work.

6) Set a return appointment to show your final rough drafts.

Now that you have the actual idea they liked the best, you can go to work. It is extremely important that you understand exactly what the client is conveying, so go back over your notes again. There is absolutely nothing more frustrating than to get sidetracked on a project because you forgot the one tiny detail that the client said they could not live without. Read the notes! It is worth the five minutes. I tend to create about three versions of the same concept for the client’s final review. I may offer a different color or type of lettering I feel may be more appropriate if it is not a copyrighted issue, or the design may have minor variations in the layout. Once these are created, I label them and create folders for my next meeting.

Third Meeting:

1) Be on time and be prepared. (Are you starting to get the idea this is important?) Make sure your folders are neat and ready to go for everyone involved in the decision making process.

2) Ask the client to proofread any and all text included in the project. If possible, have at least two other people read and sign off that all spelling is correct as well. Double check phone numbers and website addresses carefully for potential errors. If you can’t spell shirt without embarrassing yourself, find someone who can!

3) Make any final adjustments to layout, spelling, colors and any other details that need to be changed and have the client sign off on them.

4) Make your final appointment.

You are now ready to make your final draft for production. Make sure you take five minutes to go over the new material notes and make all the necessary changes that were approved. Once these changes are made, you are ready for the client to sign off to print. This is your final appointment. Once the client signs off on the changes, the project is then printed by you or a reputable print shop and delivered with the invoice for the agreed upon amount. Some graphic designers will use a courier service to deliver and some like me like to give the hands on approach and deliver the project myself. This gives me one last opportunity to thank the client and ask for a referral or an opportunity to work on another project. If you did a good job on this one, in most cases they will be inclined to give one or both.

By following these simple steps you too can have a fairytale ending to your graphic design dilemmas. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

Here are More Helpful Articles About the Workflow Process of a Graphic Designer -

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[tags]graphic design process, process of graphic design project, design project from start to finish, graphic design project from start to finish, graphic design workflow, graphic design workflow process, graphic design process, design publishing methods, graphic design methods, graphic design, design, web design, publishing methods, start to finish workflows[/tags]

By Lois Knight - You can also see Lois Knight’s Articles on Freelance Folder

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3 Comments

  1. Posted March 17, 2008 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    As a new freelancer/student with just a few projects under my belt I love finding blogs like this to help me make a very solid foundation to my business. It seems overwhelming at times everything that you need to keep track of, but I will survive. Looking forward to more articles so I can become a better designer, thanks!

  2. Posted March 19, 2008 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    I do really like this blog. It can really help! Please post more! More power to you!

  3. chris day
    Posted March 19, 2008 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    A very nice article!

    The only thing I might add to this well-written blog entry would be more detail about the printing process. Those of us that must work with a wide variety of print shops know that they present a whole other set of potential problems. Making sure a client’s design project is printed (and any bindry work done correctly) can be a huge headache, especially if the client chooses the printer.

    It’s a good rule of thumb to always, always add enough extra time to a project’s deadline to allow for printing holdups. In fact, the challenges of working with print shops could fill a whole series of articles.

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