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Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic design business

Offering resources to help streamline your home based graphic design and web design business so you can get back to what you do best… Designing!
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Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic design business
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Now displaying: May, 2019
May 27, 2019

The Goodbye Packet

Last week I told you about Client Offboarding, the process of finalising a design project and preparing a client for working together again in the future. Offboarding is a way of informing a client that you’ve completed the work they’ve paid you for, and any additional work from this point forward will be considered a new project, incurring further fees.

In this last part of the Client Onboarding series, I’m talking about the Goodbye Packet, a way to collect and package up all the offboarding information in a convenient package to hand over to your client.

What is a Goodbye Packet?

A Goodbye Packet is a document informing a client their project is complete. It lets them know that any additional work you do will incur extra charges. You can also use it as a transition phase between your web design contract and your maintenance package.

If a client continues to ask for changes after the completion of a web design project, it’s a good indication that you should sell them an ongoing maintenance package if you haven’t already done so.

In brief; a well put together Goodbye Packet should accomplish the following:

  • Informs the client of the completion of their project, stopping them from asking for more changes.
  • Thanks the client for choosing you as their designer showing how grateful you are.
  • Instructs the client how to access their deliverables such as downloading asset files or logging in to their website and any other relevant accounts.
  • Teaches the client how to use their website.
  • Relays essential details about their design project.
  • Encourages the client to hire you for more design work in the future (or right away if you can manage it)
  • Answers common questions most clients have at the end of a project.
  • Shows the client how professional you are, which will make them more likely to refer you to others and to use you again in the future.

Unlike the Intro Packet, which is a document about you and your business, a Goodbye Packet is all about the client. It’s about making it easy for the client to transition to using whatever it is you created for them.

Where the intro Packet is handed out to all clients showing them your services and design skills, the Goodbye Packet is a document customised to each specific client. There are pieces of it you can reuse again and again, but overall, it should be unique to the client receiving it.

How to create a Goodbye Packet

A Goodbye Packet is a document you create for your client. It could be a printed booklet, a Word document, A PDF, A dedicated page in a password protected client area of your website, or even something as simple as an email. The platform you use to create your Goodbye Packet is not as important as the information that goes into one. However, no matter the platform you use, do make it look good. You are a designer, after all.

Some sections of your Goodbye Packet can be reused from client to client with minor changes. Creating templates for them can save you time and save you having to create each one from scratch — website login instructions, for example. The instructions to log into a website are the same for all sites; it’s just the URL, Username and Password that changes.

Contents of a Goodbye Packet

Think of your Goodbye Packet as a small booklet, whether it’s printed, a PDF or a web page. Here's what it should contain:

  • Cover:The Goodbye Packet is all about the client and should be recognisable as such. Design the cover with the client’s colours and branding.
  • Introduction:Give an overview of what information the client will find in the packet and why it’s crucial they hold onto it.
  • Access Info:Provide login information for websites or any other accounts you created for the client. Make sure they know to keep this information safe. Better yet, provide them with a temporary password and instructions on how to change it.
  • Quick Reference:A cheat sheet if you will. This section should contain information such as font families, Colour codes/values, Image guidelines for the website, branding do’s and don’ts. Think of this as a mini style guide.
  • Tutorials:Provide links to online resources or written or video tutorials you’ve produced yourself showing the client how to use their new product.
  • Additional Services:Remind the client that you are available for further work should they need you. Also, remind them of other services they may not be aware you offer.
  • FAQ:Provide answers to commonly asked questions. Such as the importance of keeping a website updated (if they haven’t hired you to maintain it for them). Or when to use different file formats.
  • Conclusion:You should end your Goodbye Packet by thanking your client for hiring you and letting them know you are there for them should they require your services again. Don’t forget to ask the client for a testimonial.

Why use a Goodbye Packet?

Why take the time to dress it up when you can send a simple email with this information? It’s all about exceeding the client’s expectations, a crucial part of building a long-lasting relationship.

A Goodbye Packet is a simple extra step that most businesses don’t provide. Your clients will notice and appreciate it, which means they will be more inclined to spread the word about the great services you offer.

It’s a great way to mark the finish of a project, minimise revisions and questions, and finally, set your client up for success.

So what are you waiting for? Get working on your Goodbye Packet ASAP

The Client Onboarding Process

So there you have it, the Client Onboarding Process:

When combined, they form a proven recipe for success when it comes to turning potential clients into long term paying clients. I hope you found value in this Client Onboarding series and that you see growth in your design business by implementing it.

Does your Client Offboarding process include a Goodbye Packet?

Let me know about your Goodbye Packet and your overall Client Onboarding/Offboarding process by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week 4-Week Marketing Boost

The Four Week Marketing Boost! is a free guide I created that will help you strengthen your marketing position, boost your brand’s awareness & social presence and ultimately ensure you are in tip-top shape to offer a best first impression to potential new clients.

This guide is divided into 20 short actions that comfortably fit into your regular day and are designed to take as little time away from your client work as possible. Although you can complete these exercises quickly, it is recommended you tackle only one per day, spending no more than 30 minutes per task. After completing this four-week plan, you will be in a better position to present yourself to, and win over new clients.

You can download the Four Week Marketing Boost for free by visiting marketingboost.net. Or, if you are in the U.S.A., you can text the word MARKETINGBOOST to 44222.

Improve your business' image and create the best first impression possible to attract more clients.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

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Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

May 20, 2019

Client Offboarding

[sc name="pod_ad"]Client Offboarding is the final step in building that oh so meaningful client relationship that will keep them coming back to you time and again with more design projects.

For the past few episodes, I’ve walked you through the various steps of Client Onboarding — everything you need to do to turn a potential client into a paying client. But once the client is onboard and you have their project, is that the end? Of course not. The whole purpose of Client Onboarding is to create relationships with your clients. What kind of relationship would it be if it ended once the project is over?

Acquiring new clients is hard work, especially the type of clients you want to work with and that pay well. But what’s even more important is having those clients come back in the future with even more projects.

They say it takes roughly five times more time and energy to land a new client than it does to keep an existing client. If you can get even 5% of new clients to come back, you should be able to increase your profitability by 25-125%. That’s huge.

The best way to keep an existing client is to impress them with good work and by exceeding their expectations.

All the steps in the Client Onboarding process, The Intro Packet, The Client Meeting, The Design Proposal and The Contract are all used to impress good clients with your organisational skills and the thoroughness you bring to your profession. By setting high standards from the start, you create a powerful impression that will encourage clients to come back again and again. But to hit the ball out of the park, you need to have a good Client Offboarding strategy.

What is Client Offboarding?

Client Offboarding is the process of finalising a design project and handing over everything you’ve promised to the client. It informs the client that their project is now complete. Should the client require your services again in the future, you would be happy to help them under the umbrella of a new project.

Where client onboarding was all about turning a potential client into a paying client, the point of client offboarding is to transition them from being a current client to a future returning client.

What does Client Offboarding do?

Client Offboarding defines an end to a project and prepares your client to bring you future projects.

Have you ever finished a project, only to have the client linger on, asking for adjustments or more work? This is especially bad with websites. The client contacts you weeks after it’s launched asking for fixes and changes. Do these fall under the original project or is this considered new work? Without proper offboarding, it’s kind of a grey area.

Client Offboarding clears up this confusion by informing the client that their project is completed and all future work will be considered a new project. In the process, it makes the client feel welcome to bring you more work. It’s another way of showing your professionalism.

The Client Offboarding Process.

Just like the steps involved in Client Onboarding, you’ll have to adjust your offboarding process to work for you and your business. But generally, the process should look something like this. You’ve finalised your revisions; the client is pleased with the work you’ve presented them, and they give their final approval. Now it’s time to begin the Client Offboarding Process.

Project review:

Go over the final project with the client. Review the website or other deliverables and make sure the client knows and understands what it is you are giving them.

Go over any expectations that were in your initial proposal or contract. For example, I allow 14 days after a website launch for fixing any bugs or small errors. After 14 days, any requests are considered a new project. The client was told this information at the beginning of the project, but I remind them again during the offboarding process, so there's no confusion.

Provide deliverables:

Package up logos and other design material and deliver it to the client in an efficient matter. If a style guide was part of your package, this is when you present and explain it to your client. Launch websites, publish content, deliver printed materials, hand over whatever you are expected to give your client.

Provide access information:

Provide usernames and passwords your client will need to access their website, analytics, emails or whatever. I usually record a short screen capture video walking a client through how to use their website. It's a great way to reduce any follow-up questions once the project is over.

Send Invoice / Request payment:

If your payment terms stated full or partial payment upon completion of the project now is the time to request it. Send your final invoice or payment reminder and ensure the client complies as per your agreement. Some contracts state that payment in full must be received before any deliverables are turned over to the client.

Offer more services:

The client offboarding process is the perfect opportunity to once again explain to your client what other services you offer. Be sure to ask if there’s anything else you can do for them. Don’t presume the client knows what other services you offer.

Thank the client:

Thank your client for choosing you for their project. They could have used any designer, but they decided to hire you. Make sure they know you are grateful. Consider sending them a handwritten note. A personalised card delivered in the mail is much more memorable than an email or phone call. If they were a good client, consider sending them a thank you gift. Unexpected gifts are a fun way to make the client feel important and valued.

Followup and ask for feedback:

Follow up with the client after a predetermined amount of time to make sure the client is satisfied with the way the project turned out. If the project was for an event, inquire how the event turned out.

If the client is satisfied with your work, be sure to ask them for a testimonial about your services and their experience working with you.

Ask for referrals:

The perfect time to ask your client for referrals is when the positive experience of working with you is fresh in their mind. If the client enjoyed working with you, they’ll want others to experience what they did and will be more open to spreading the word about your services. Don’t presume clients will talk about you. Permit them to.

Celebrating the project:

You did good work for your client, show off what you did by sharing your design work on social media. Make sure to tag your client in your posts. If you add the project to your portfolio, be sure to inform the client so they can share it with their audience as well.

Cutting your offboarding process short.

Everything up to this point presumes you enjoyed working with the client. However, There may be times when you don’t feel a client merits the full offboarding process.

Maybe, after working with the client for a few weeks, you realise the two of you are not a good fit after all. In cases like these, you want to provide only as much information as to satisfy the client that their project is complete.

In these instances, you can forgo the client retention parts of the process. That’s not to say the client won't come back in the future. You did do a fantastic job on their project, after all. But you can minimise the encouragement you offer them. If they do come back, you’ll need to decide if it’s in your best interest to work with them again or not.

Things to remember.

Let me state once again that your offboarding process needs to be personalised to you and your business. The whole purpose of client offboarding is to prepare the client for the next go around and to encourage them to make that sooner rather than later. If you do a good job, clients will be eager to work with you again.

What is your client offboarding process?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Dribbble's Hang Time

Dribbble’s Hang Time takes place on June 6 at NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center. It’s a one-day inspiration fest tailored to designers. It’s a full day of connecting, learning and community.

There’s going to be several speakers offering hour-long sessions fielding questions about tips, tricks and best practices that working designers can utilise as they get ready to take the next leap in their careers.

Hang Time attendees can also expect designer showcases, live drawing, workshops, discussion panels, case studies, fireside chats, and personal stories of living creatively—each in an intimate, limited-seat setting for a meaningful conference experience.

The day is capped off by a networking after-party where you get to hang out with other designers and design celebrities.

Dribble is offering $100 off the price of tickets for listeners of Resourceful Designer if you use the code resourceful at checkout.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Android
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

May 13, 2019

The Design Contract

The Design Contract is the final part of the Client Onboarding Process. This vital part confirms that a potential client is now a paying client.

In this series, I talked about the Client Onboarding Process as a whole before breaking it down into the individual components, the Intro Packet, the Client Meeting and the Design Proposal. Each of these different elements helps win over potential clients encouraging them to hire you, which brings you to this next step, the Design Contract.

In the last episode, I shared a statistic with you; 48% of designers don’t use a contract. I find that number mind-blowing. Not only does a contract establish you as a professional business, but it’s your protection against anything that may go wrong with the project or the client.

Have you ever been part of a design forum or online group where someone mentions an issue they are having with a client? What is the #1 response or comment they receive? “Did you have a design contract?” If you are part of that 48 %, I hope you take note and add a contract to your client onboarding process right away.

Before I go any further, let me state that I am not a lawyer. Do not take anything I mention here as legal advice. My advice is for you to either have a lawyer draft up your contract or at least create one yourself and have a lawyer review it. If you don’t have the budget to consult a lawyer, please find yourself a ready-made contract and start using it today. A quickly written, non-lawyer verified contract is still better than no contract at all. Then, once you have the means, consult a lawyer.

As Mike Monteiro, co-founder of Mule Design Studio said.

“You need a lawyer when you decide to stop being a design amateur and decide to start being a design professional.”

Here are two sources for free design contracts you can modify for your needs:

Stuff and Nonsense - Contract Killer

AIGA Standard-Agreement

What is a Design Contract?

A Design Contract is a legal terms and conditions document that defines the expectations of a project for both parties. A design contract should contain:

  • An overview of who is hiring you, what they are hiring you to do and for how much.
  • The respective responsibilities agreed to by both parties.
  • Specifics listing everything included and not included in the scope of the work involved.
  • What happens should one of the parties change their mind about anything pertaining to the project.
  • An overview of liabilities and any other legal matters.

In other words, Your design contract needs to cover your process, what the client can expect, what you can expect from the client, time frames, payment details, technical details and any other legalese you deem fit.

Everything in your contract should be explicitly stated and agreed upon by you and your client before a project begins.

Do you really need a design contract?

Maybe you're thinking “if 48% of designers don’t use a contract then how can it be so important?” Let me tell you. A contract is the only surefire way to protect you and your business’ interests while working with a client. So the answer is it's crucial. You should use a design contract for every client and every project you take on.

In the case of disputes, a signed contract will quickly establish if anyone is at fault, and what actions should be taken to remedy the conflict.

With that said, you need to be reasonable. If your mom or sister wants you to design an invitation for their annual poker tournament, you don’t need her to sign a contract. Friends and family are exempt, most of the time that is. My rule is; If what I'm designing will be used to generate money then I have them sign a contract, even if it's family. This includes charities, fundraisers and non-profits. When money is involved, it's better to protect yourself.

Contracts prevent problems.

You want client relationships to go smoothly, don’t you? A contract can help by preventing problems before they start.

A Contract protects for both parties: A good contract should benefit both parties signing it. Not only does it protect you but it should protect your client as well.

A Contract shows your importance: The goal of any client relationship should be to see each other as partners. A contract establishes this. Without one, a client may think you are working FOR them instead of WITH them. They will treat you differently if you get them to sign a contract.

A Contract makes expectations clear: When both parties understand their roles, the whole project will move smoothly.

When do you present your contract?

A great time to present your contract is as soon as you finish your Design Proposal. Everything is fresh in the client’s mind, and they are receptive to moving forward. You can even use it as a stepping stone or launchpad to land the client.

“That was my proposal for designing your new website. If you would like to move forward to the next step, here's a contract we can go over and sign together before beginning working on this project.”

Presenting your contract may be all that’s needed to push the client to hire you.

If the project doesn’t require a proposal, you can email your contract to the client and request they sign and return a copy of it. Make sure your contract is clear that you will not start on a project until you have the signed contract in hand. Don't fall for a "The contract is in the mail so go ahead and get started." line.

As a side note: If a client brings their lawyer to the meeting, you will want to have your lawyer present as well. Never discuss your contract with a client’s lawyer yourself.

Not all Desing Contracts are the same.

Drafting a Design Contract takes time, and lawyers cost money. Although tempting, it is not advisable to create a single contract that covers every type of project you undertake. Some sections of your contract may be reusable, but most need to be flexible enough to adhere to the scope of a given project.

For example; a contract for a logo design should include a transfer of Intelectual Property clause upon completion, but a contract for website design has no such requirement. It’s best to have variations of your contract for each type of design work you do.

What goes into a design contract?

Here are different sections you will want to include in your design contract.

Define the parties: Name yourself and your company as well as the individual you will be dealing with and their company name. Make sure you mention your contact person by name. It can save you having to deal with multiple people at the client's company.

Project Basics: Outline the scope of the job, what project(s) the client is hiring you for and what process you will take to complete said the project(s)?

Client responsibilities: List the client's responsibilities at each stage of the project (providing content, providing logins and passwords if required, proofreading).

Deliverables:  Define what the client will receive from you at the end of the project, as well as what you don't provide. For example: who is supplying the images and copy for the project? Do you offer layered working files at the end of the project, or do you only provide final JPGs or PDFs? Also, be sure to talk about storage and archiving. How long do you retain files once the project is complete? Is there a charge should the client ask for files in the future?

Procedures: Mention the processes you follow, such as the number of proofs you will provide and the number of revisions the client is allowed. You can also state your use of third-party contractors if you use any.

Timelines and deadlines: You should both agree to realistic schedules and deadlines for the project. How long should each stage take? How much time will the client have to review each step? Also, remind them of your acceptable contact schedule and contact methods, so you don't get interrupted late at night asking how the project is going.

Payment details and terms: List the total cost of the project. Also, mention any payment stages or breakdowns. Include penalties for late payments as well as fixed or hourly fees for additional work outside the scope of the defined project.

Confidentiality and NDRs: Because of the nature of most design projects, and how we are privy to information before it becomes public, it’s a good idea to state in your contract that all sensitive information provided to either party is confidential. You can also indicate your willingness to sign a non-disclosure agreement should the client request one.

Intellectual property: As the designer, you automatically own the rights to anything you create. If an IP transfer is required, state when and under what conditions this will happen. Also, be sure to mention what you do and what you don't include in the IP transfer. If you are licensing your IP to the client, what are the terms of the licensing agreement?

Promotion and credit: Include a clause giving you permission to promote and share the work you create, including intellectual property you’ve signed over to the client. Have an allowance in your contract that allows you to use the work for self-promotion and to submit the work for competitions and display. Also, include any information for the client to appropriately credit you for your hard work. Include the exact language you would like them to use when crediting you in press releases, in awards and competitions.

Cancellation: State what happens if either party needs to end the project for some reason. What happens to any payments you've received or fees that are pending? Are there different cancellation policies for different stages of the project?

Force Majeure: Also known as “Acts of God”. You should specify what happens should any unforeseen situations beyond your control make you unable to complete the project. Can the project be salvaged through extra time? What happens to payments?

Liability: Make sure you cover yourself should something go wrong. You don’t want to be held responsible for problems down the road.

Legal jurisdiction and legal fees: Should you have to enforce the contract in small claims court, state that all legal proceedings take place in your local jurisdiction and that all legal fees are the responsibility of the client.

Personal guarantee:(Most clients will ask you to remove this section): Should for some reason the client company fail to pay you, this permits you to go after the person who signs your contract for payment.

Signatures: This is the most crucial part of the contract. It’s the part where both parties agree to the terms within. Signing the contract makes it legally binding.

When things go wrong

I hope it never comes to this for you, but should a situation with a client turn ugly; your contract is what will protect you. A good design contract will allow you to quickly and easily sort things out and possibly salvage the relationship with your client.

Should any disputes arise, get on the phone or meet the client in person. Talking directly to the client can often deescalate a situation before it becomes a big mess. Calmly remind the client of the terms of your contract and what they agreed to. Not reading or not understanding something in a contract is not an excuse that holds up once they’ve signed it.

If you can’t solve the issue through conversation, get your lawyer involved. It’s their job to handle situations like that. Use your time to concentrate on the next client and project.

Keys to remember

Your contract has to fit your workflow and policies. Even if you find a ready-made contract template online, you need to alter it to apply to your personal needs.

Find a lawyer: I’ve already mentioned it but it merits saying again. You really should consult a lawyer about your contract. It’s cheaper to craft your contract and have a lawyer review it than it is to pay one to write it up from scratch, but either way, it should be seen by a lawyer, so you know that it’s legit. Keep in mind that the contract you found online may not be suitable for your jurisdiction.

Ever Evolving: A contract is a living thing. You should always be improving it by adding details from each experience you face. If you run into a difficulty with one client, alter your contract to prevent it from happening with future clients.

Let the client read it: You want to present your proposal, but let the client read your contract on their own. Offer to answer any questions they have about it, but allow them to absorb it at their own pace without any pressure from you.

Be as detailed as it needs to be: Because it’s an evolving document, it’s OK to have a long contract. The more you cover, the more you protect yourself.

Contracts are negotiable: It’s ok to negotiate the terms of your agreement with a client. Just make sure that the newly negotiated terms benefit you.

There you have it: Design Contracts, the final part of the client onboarding process.

Next week I’m going to finish off this series with client offboarding, an essential part in solidifying your client relationship. I hope you’ll join me for that one.

Have you ever had to enforce your contract with a client?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week BEEFree

BEEFreeis an easy, quick way to design elegant, mobile responsive emails. Over 1,000,000 people have used the BeeFree email editor. BEE aims to be the best drag-&-drop email builder for designing mobile-responsive emails, quickly and easily, anywhere. Check them out.

Listen to the podcast on the go.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Android
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on iHeartRadio

Contact me

I would love to hear from you. You can send me questions and feedback using my feedback form.

Follow me on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

May 6, 2019

Continuing the client onboarding process with the design proposal.

Part 4 of the Client Onboarding Process is the Design Proposal. A tool you use to convince clients that you are the designer for their project.

Last week I told you all about the Client Meeting. The part in the process where you learn about the client and about the project they are presenting to you. After a successful client meeting, you should know whether or not you want to take them on as a client and tackle their design project. You should also have a good feel for whether or not the client is inclined to hire you. The client onboarding process is all about finding the right clients that fit your business and goals.

If after the client meeting you’ve decided you're not a good fit, then there’s no need for a proposal. Simply thank the client for considering you and inform them that you are not the right person for their project. However, if you think you are a good fit, and you would like to work on their design project, the next step is the proposal.

Is a design proposal required

Before I dive any further into design proposals let me state that unlike and Inro Packet, which is an important advertisement for your services, or the client meeting, which is required in order to figure out what the client needs from you, not every design project merits a design proposal.

If you are bidding on a website worth thousands of dollars, it makes sense to create a proposal. However, if a client has an existing logo and they're asking you to design a business card, or they have a powerpoint presentation already done and they just need you to “make it pretty” for them, then there’s no need for a design proposal.

Weigh the pros and cons of creating a design proposal against future returns from the project in question. Is it worth spending an hour, 2 hours, 10 hours or more working on your proposal in the hopes of landing a design project? It all depends on the possible returns you will get on that investment. It’s up to you to decide whether or not a design proposal is the proper next step.

The Design Proposal

Too often, designers, especially freelance designers work without any kind of protecting documents in place, documents outlining the parameters of a design project. Industry statistics suggest that 48%, almost half of all designers don’t protect themselves with a contract. Without any such documents, agreed upon by both the client and designer, what’s to prevent issues such as scope creep or missed payments from happening?

Proposals and contracts are a designer’s best friends. Not only do they protect you and establish the groundwork for a smooth project, but they can help you close the deal, and land more design work.

Don’t confuse the design proposal with the design contract. A proposal isn’t always required whereas a contract should be. Some designers combine the two but know that a proposal and a contract, although often used together, are in fact two different things. I’m going to talk about the contract in the next episode.

What is a design proposal?

A design proposal is a document you present to a potential client outlining details pertaining to their particular design project in order to convince them to hire you.

The content of the design proposal is generated through the information you acquired during the client meeting.

Just like an intro packet, a design proposal isn’t just a tool to present project details, it’s a tool to show off your talents. Create your design proposal in a way that showcases your skills as a designer. It needs to look professional since it’s a representation of you and your brand. Wow the client with your presentation and they’ll be itching to see what you can design for them.

Once you’ve created your first design proposal you should be able to reuse its layout for future clients with minimal alterations except of course for the content pertaining to the client and project in question.

As a freelancer, a designer running your own business, you need to get comfortable with presenting design proposals if you want to continuously get bigger and better clients. In time, you will become so good at preparing design proposals that it will become second nature to you.

The structure of a design proposal.

A design proposal should be well presented to show off your skills as a designer. It should also contain pertinent information leading the client to want to work with you.

What a proposal shouldn’t be is a novel. Nobody wants to read through a dozen pages regardless of how highly they think of you. Aim for a one or two page document containing five sections plus an introduction and conclusion. Your content should say as much as you can with as few words as possible. Just like designing, simplicity wins.

Every proposal should have an introduction, a body and a conclusion and it should show the client the value you bring to the relationship.

Introduction:

The introduction should be a brief overview of what you discussed during your client meeting. Outline what you learned about the client and what their goals are pertaining to the project in question. You can even mention how the work you will create for them will help them achieve their goals.

Be sure to also state why you are excited to work on their project and why you are the perfect person for the job. Always assume the client is considering other designers so use this opportunity to sell yourself.

The Body:

The body of your design proposal should be divided into 5 sections.

  1. Define the client’s problem.
  2. Offer a solution to the client’s problem.
  3. Highlight the benefits over features of your solution.
  4. Present your price(s) and terms.
  5. Ask the client for a decision (CTA).

1. Define the client’s problem

Most clients don’t care about you or your business; they care about their own business and whether or not you can solve whatever problem they are facing.

As a designer, your job is finding solutions to problems presented to you by clients. You can’t find those solutions unless you know what problems your clients are facing. Use the information you gathered at the client meeting to identify the problem and define it at the beginning of your design proposal.

Be specific, use any data, stats and figures to illustrate the gravity of the client’s problem. This will not only show the client that you understand their situation, but that you care and are approaching it seriously.

Don’t define the problem in an abstract way the client may not understand:

“The problem is the client needs a better brand”

Instead, define it in a way the client will recognize and appreciate:

“Over the past few years, the client company has faced stiffer competition from newcomers in their space and feel like they are losing ground. One of the reasons is because the client company doesn’t have a strong brand they can incorporate across their marketing material.

Client company requires a new brand image that will allow them to create a unique and memorable identity that can compete in their industry. This new brand should be unique and create a strong presence for their marketing and advertising campaigns.”

The more you make recognizable to the client, the more they’ll think “this designer understands us”.

2. Offer a solution to the client’s problem.

Up until this point, the potential client has suspected that you are the right designer for their project. This is your chance to stick the landing. Confirm their suspicion by offering them an outline to your solution for their aforementioned problem.

Keep in mind. It doesn’t matter how good a designer you are, if the client doesn’t believe you can offer a solution to their problem, they won't hire you. Make sure you explain in your proposal how the course of action you plan on taking will solve their problem. However, don’t offer the solution itself. Remember, at this stage, the client still hasn’t hired you yet. Let them know what you can do for them without going into specifics.

For example, tell them how their new website will convert more visitors into customers but don’t tell them what plugins or methods you will use to help you convert that traffic.

Your solution should include:

  • A course of action outlining the steps involved in achieving the solution.
  • Reasons supporting why those actions will produce a solution.
  • An explanation of how the solution will solve the client’s problem

Show the client that not only do you have a plan to tackle their problem but that your solution has a reasonable chance of success.

Don’t present a solution such as:

“I’ll design a new brand or a new website for the client”

Instead, present something more on these lines:

“For Your company to increase its foothold in your industry an updated brand image is required. Achieving this new brand image will first require extensive study of both the target market as well as what is currently working for your competition.

From this study, new visuals and text will be developed that clearly convey your message and tangibly represent your brand, which in turn should help your garner a greater market share for your company.”

Again, play to the client’s needs. If you do a good job with this section, the rest of your proposal might not even matter. The client will want to sign on the dotted line right there and then.

3) Highlight benefits over features.

On top of just offering a solution to the client’s problem, you should identify the benefits the solution will bring to the client.

How will the solution give them an edge over their competition? Briefly talk about the features of your solution and then concentrate on what benefits those features will bring. You have a much better chance of closing the deal with the client if you can accomplish this and show them what they will get from their investment.

“As I work with you to create a new and unique brand image. I’ll also create a style guide for you to follow, that will allow you to keep a consistent brand image across all platforms both online and in print.

Through use of this guide, you will be able to consistently apply your new brand to create memorable visuals and help you attract a larger market share in your industry.”

Use this section to show the client that your job as a graphic designer goes beyond simply creating pretty images. This is where you prove your value to them.

4) Present your price(s) and terms.

The main purpose of a design proposal is to encourage the client to make a final decision and hire you. They can’t make that decision if they don’t know how much of an investment is required. Outline your prices and terms in a clear concise matter and let the client know what they should expect.

Avoid itemizing your prices such as for a website: Home page $1500, Services Page $500, About page $300, Contact Us Page $200

Doing so makes you seem like a commodity.

Instead, offer one price for the project: Website $2,500

It all comes down to confidence, clarity, and transparency in what it is you are offering to the client. Even if you are a new designer, remember that you wouldn’t have started on this freelance journey if you didn’t believe that you are good enough to be paid for your services. Don’t be afraid to ask for the money you deserve.

The design proposal is a great way to present your three-tier pricing strategy, showcasing what the client receives for each option.

As for terms and conditions: Make sure you indicate things such as how many revisions you offer, remind them how and when it’s appropriate to communicate with you, and any other details you think they should know.

Make sure you also mention when the “working relationship” on this project begins. The client might think you’ll start working on their project as soon as they sign your contract. If that’s not the case be sure to let them know in your proposal.

5) Ask the client for a decision (CTA).

The design proposal is the final step in pitching the client, giving them all the information they need to make a decision. Close the deal by making it easy for the client. Lead them down the path of what you need them to do next in order to accept your proposal and move forward. In other words, ask them to commit.

Ask them to

  • Approve the proposal
  • Pay the deposit and sign your contract
  • provide you with the necessary content and deliverables to get the project started.

Be sure to mention in this section how excited you are to work with the client and how you can’t wait to solve their problem. This goes a long way in assuring the client they’re making the right choice in hiring you. However, don’t presume the client will just sign away without encouragement. You don’t know if they are also entertaining proposals from other designers. So ask them for a commitment.

The Conclusion

By this point, you’ve already said everything there is to say, so keep the conclusion brief. Once again thank the client for their time and how you look forward to working with them and how you hope this is the start of a long relationship.

If you’ve done your job right, the client should accept your proposal. All that’s left is for them to sign the contract which I’ll talk about in the next week.

Protect Your design proposals

  1. The design proposal is a valuable document. It outlines the strategy for a design project and borders between consulting and proposing. Be careful about who you share proposals with. If you are unsure about the client's intent to hire you, you are best to not share your proposal with them until you are almost sure they are on board.
  2. Just like the client meeting, you should always present your proposals in person, over video or on the phone. Never email your proposal, never mail your proposal, in fact, never print out your proposals. For some large projects, you may have spent hours preparing your proposal so you want to make sure it is received properly.
  3. If the client asks you to email your proposal to them, simply tell them your policy is that all proposals are presented.
  4. Always present it to the decision maker. Insist that all parties that need to sign off on the project are present during your presentation. You do not want your proposal to be translated to someone via a middleman who may not have understood you and has no interest in whether or not they hire you. Insisting on presenting to the decision maker will affirm your position as a professional, plus it protects you from clients receiving your proposal and then never hearing from them again.
  5. Don’t leave your proposal with the client. You are presenting your ideas on how to solve the client’s problem. That's valuable information that you’ve invested time developing. Until the client has signed your contract and given you a deposit, that valuable information should remain yours. If you leave your proposal behind you are inviting the client to use your hard work to shop around for a more affordable designer.

The design proposal is a process

Creating a design proposal might sound like a daunting task. In fact, It can be an entire design project in itself. But rest assured, you’ll get better and quicker the more of them you do.

Think of your design proposal in terms of quality over quantity.  It’s not about sending out tonnes of proposals, it’s about sending out quality proposals. One well-designed proposal could be the difference between acquiring a high-quality, high paying client, or not. Take the time to do it right and it will pay off in the long run with better jobs, higher paying clients and longer relationships with them.

Plus, you can take pride in knowing that by using a design proposal you are presenting yourself as a true professional designer, and as such, someone who merits to make the money your skills and expertise deserve.

Do you use a design proposal as part of your client onboarding process?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week The Logo Package Express

Saving out logo files for clients is really boring. The Logo Package is an extension for Adobe Illustrator that makes exporting logos very easy. I’m super excited to start using it! Logo Package Express automates the colouring, exporting, and sorting of logo files. This is going to save hours and hours of time. Watch my demo of The Logo Package in use.

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Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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