Well, it’s been such a busy time in atom HQ over the past seven years or so, but I thought it was about time to get my new website online.
Take the time to design my website I said to myself, ‘that won’t take long’ I heard the voices say. Yeh right. Almost exactly one year later and it’s finally done. Good thing is, I have managed to pull together some nice pieces of design work to showcase on this new website, alongside some old pieces of work that I still like.
So, I thought I would start my inaugural design blog post with something that seems to be a huge challenge for many a graphic designer. Finding the right clients to work for.
The truth is that not all clients are the same and the vast majority are not out to rip you off. You just need to find the good ones and keep them.
I have been designing and branding stuff for clients of my own now for eight years and throughout that time, I have been fortunate enough to work with some talented and inspirational individuals: clients, friends and design acquaintances.
I have always try to treat every client in their own right and not get bogged down with the ‘once bitten, twice shy’ approach if you do get stung. If you worry about this with every new client you would never be able to move on. Sometimes stuff happens, so you should deal with it and try not to get caught out again.
Of course, one of the hardest things about being a freelancer or lone designer is sorting out the ‘slippery’ clients so you get paid when the job is done. The truth is that not all clients are the same and most are not out to rip you off.
One thing that I do after the generalities are out of the way is to mention payment terms and contractual obligations. I’m not talking the full ten commandments here, but I find that when I mention 50% upfront and 50% on completion, it very quickly defines if clients are still willing to engage with me.
The ones who say “I am not paying for anything until I see some design work” are generally the ones to watch out for. These guys will bleed you dry of your time and generally waste your time. They will also be the ones who who will be looking for ways to try and find fault no matter what you do. Try and avoid them if you can.
Here are some ‘slippery’ phrases to look out for –
ª I want to build a relationship with you and I have more work to offer you
ª I can introduce you to some great new clients
ª If you do this for free it will be a great portfolio piece for you
ª Budget is not an issue so don’t worry about that. Lets start working together first and worry about costs later
ª You’re the designer, I trust you
ª Is that your best price
ª How much do you take to design a logo or how much for a brochure –
These questions and statements are open ended – avoid as the people asking them will generally place no value in design output or process.
I think out of all the important things a designer must keep in mind, two I think should rise above all.
The ‘elusive’ brief:
I am a great believer that the design brief is quite possibly the most important tool any designer can have in their arsenal. A design without a brief becomes subjective and open to many levels of interpretation. With a brief the project becomes objective with outcomes that are based on specific needs for the client. Now it goes without saying that a brief sometimes isn’t required but only when you have known the client for such a long time that they trust you enough not to have it, but I still think it’s important.
Another important piece in the designers arsenal is the contract. It will obviously include items such as payment terms, what happens if there is a dispute etc, but make sure it isn’t totally weighted towards you. It needs to be totally fair, but ultimately if the client doesn’t pay, and it is written in your contract, then the IP for the designs will lie with the designer until payment is received in full!
When I first started out I didn’t really have a contract and most of my work was completed with a handshake. This worked for a while but I soon realised that I needed one very quickly. So get a contract it will be a lifeline for you in times of contract disputes. It is there to protect both the client and you.
There are lots of other important things to have in your arsenal as a designer but these are probably two of the most important thing in my opinion.
Find clients who value the process and ones who value what you can bring to the table. Make sure you get on with them and make sure that money isn’t the driving factor when picking clients and projects.
Sometimes it’s good to do the odd ‘freebie’ for your existing clients. It makes them feel happy.
Good clients are hard to find but amazing clients are worth fighting to keep.