What if the job takes more than the three hours? What if the client wants ten revisions? Will I scare the client away with this quote? If you are having these thoughts of self-doubt whilst quoting for freelance, you’re not alone. I have had all these thoughts when first starting out as a freelancer… It’s completely normal, which is why I have written below the 10 helpful tips that I learnt (the hard way) when starting my freelance business. In less than three months after starting out, I was able to work full time as a freelance graphic designer, with clients that paid on a regular basis, and you can too…
1. Do a reference check on potential clients
When first starting out I landed several regular and one-off clients, which I often struggled to know how to quote accurately for? Then I realised something… I wouldn’t walk into a job interview without doing background research on the company that I was walking into? So why should pitching for a client be any different? If you are about to sell yourself to a client, be prepared and have some background research ready to go? This will make the client more comfortable about hiring you as the right professional for the job because you understand their company or brand. Once the client begins to ask you a few questions you can offer some of the key points you have found to be positive about the company branding.
2. Listen to your Client, Before Offering Ideas
They have come to you for your expertise and they will try and explain what they want to you, but sometimes this process can be not very clear. Hence the hiring of professionals for the job, hopefully, this is you. They will be relying on you to bring their vision to life, even if they have no idea just yet what that vision is just yet so, listen carefully to them before offering your creative pitch about their business. Take notes as this will help you recap later. The client will often use words (or clues) that are commonly used internally within the company. These words may be a part of their mission statement or brand statement and is often a strong the key selling point of the overall business.
It is also important for you to ask any questions about things you are not familiar with or do not understand. You are not expected to know everything about their business and it is important that you learn as much as you can from the client themselves. It will help you understand more about the scope of the project. It might be useful to draft a few questions prior to the meeting, so that you can ask at the end of the meeting, to ensure you have everything covered.
Here are a few example questions, but the relevance will depend on your particular freelance skills:
- Do you have a brand guidelines document? Ie fonts, colours, logo usage.
- What different mediums will the design work be used for ie website, social media, print catalogue, billboards – perhaps have a checklist of all available options so you easily tick through the options
- When is the deadline for the work? Or Is there a timeframe?
3. Give the Client Some Homework?
There are certain things the client may not have yet thought about, that you will require in order to quote correctly. Providing the client with a few questions to think about and get back to you will help the client to understand what they want and will potentially eliminate confusion in understanding the requirements of the project. It may also be helpful to get the client to send across a few visual examples of other previous branding examples, websites, logos or other brand styles that they believe aligns with the companies’ direction? This will more often than not guide the client to what they like, and more importantly, what they do not like, so you can work together in a more seamless process, without wasting your time.
The briefing process is the most important part of the process. Once you both understand the direction, colours, branding, styles and expectations, the actual designing of the project part will work more efficiently. Larger companies will usually have a brand guideline document outlaying all of the brand design rules including primary and secondary font usage, logo usage, colour guides etc.
4. Provide a Project scope
One of the first jobs I landed was for a circular logo, with a semi-detailed illustration, but after doing the research, 20 options per revision and ten revisions later, I had gone way over the estimated budget. This was a lesson I learnt quickly as a) I never gave the client a scope of how this project would work once I was hired and b) I didn’t factor in the administrative duties, the research phase and the timely back and forth communications across email, phone and in-person. I also realised that I had not asked enough questions prior to starting to really understand what the client wanted. The next time around I provided a scope document prior to starting the work. This scope outlined the project milestones and exactly what the client is paying for, including timeframes, number of revisions allowed before additional charges apply (usually 3) and what exactly you will provide the client ie 3 x RGB web banners in 300px x 300px. Some clients will be easier to work with than others, so if you have a project scope that outlines both parties’ responsibilities, then you can eliminate any unwarranted expectations down the track.
It is fair to add up your research and administration time; however, you can add it into the hourly rate and add a note in the scope disclaimer that you have allowed for this in the hourly rate. for example, it may only take you 3 hours to design a series of web banners, but researching for the correct font, downloading image files, exporting to all the correct file types and sizes and uploading to a file transfer server are all time-consuming tasks, and should be accounted for in your quote.
There are various time-tracking apps (such as App & Co or Bonsai) that you can use to track how long these tasks may take you, each time you start a new project you should take note of how long these tasks take you and build a Quick quote sheet of jobs completed, time taken and cost of your services. This will help you in the future to quote quickly on similar jobs.
5. Lock it in with a signed contract
A contract will ensure that that you deliver the job in a timely manner and get paid for the gig. This may seem straightforward, however without a firm agreement in place the job can often get blown out with additional changes, edits and updates, that have not originally been quoted for. This is essentially a set of guidelines to formalise your ‘scope’ document as discussed previously, to ensure that both parties are accepting of the terms, both parties will sign the document to ‘seal the deal’ as a mutual agreement of commencing the project. Bonsai has great contract templates tailored for all types of freelance professions from developers, to writers and more.
It is important that within the contract all response times are outlined. Perhaps you have agreed to a 24-hour turn-around per revision, but if your client is taking over a week to respond you will lose our workflow chi and you may get distracted on other projects, while you are waiting for them to get back to you.
You can also outline your administration fees, which covers you for the additional things you do for the client outside of the actual design or freelance work, such as research, file exports and uploads. This can be noted as a percentage of the total project, as the larger the project, the more research and administration time that will be required. If you have agreed to do a certain amount of monthly work, then this needs to be locked in here also. For example, you may have evaluated the work and it will take approximately 20 hours per month to complete the work, then agree on an amount with the client and add this also to the written contract or agreement.
6. Use professional quoting and invoicing programs
While using a downloaded word template for your quoting and invoicing might be free, there are loads of new systems these days that can make your one-man freelancing business look like a professional company. Here are a few that I recommend, some are paid, and some are free.
- Bonsai: FREE 14 Day trial, then plans starting from $16 a month – Awesome Interface
- App & Co: FREE to use and you can even collect payments through the system. This program was built by Fiverr
- Myob: FREE 30 Day Trial, then $27.50 Monthly
- INVOICERA: Free Plan for up to 3 clients, $15 per month to upgrade to Pro
7. Professional Email Setup
While it is free to use Hotmail and Gmail email clients and you are able to easily access your emails from anywhere with internet service, it is best that you set up an email that has your domain or freelance business name within it. Many email clients will send Gmail and Hotmail straight to junk and if the client has to go fishing for your email in their junk folder, it may get missed. If you have a website set up you may be able to add email services via your hosting system, or even if you just have a domain name secured, most domain name registers will have an email services function. Most services will come with easy set-up documentation to walk you through the steps to setting this up on your desktop and/or mobile device.
Also, design yourself a simple email footer inline with your logo/branding design. It is important that you add your name and contact phone number as text, rather than within the image, in case the clients’ images do not download images automatically, it can be read as text. Most current Outlook email clients are set to not download images automatically due to security and download speed reasons.
8. Set up a revision template
In your scope, you may have agreed to three options per revision for the client to choose from, so setting up a template which easily identifies which revision you are sending them is very important for digital communications. The job number and revisions should be a part of the file names so that you can easily refer to previous versions if required, and make sure you NEVER save over an old option, continue to save new copies as you go. Trust me, if I had a dollar for every client that picked one of the first or second revisions because they’ve changed their mind and actually do like them, I’d be rich. Make sure you have a system for filing and allocating project names/numbers so that you do not misplace files that you may need to refer to at a later date. See below the information that should be on every page of your revision documents:
- Your branding colours, logo and contact details.
- Your disclaimer ie All copyright remains the property of The Digital Artisan Co. until final artwork is delivered. This is just a little more security for your work as the client may be able to take the other version elsewhere for the next redesign. Also, if you produce certain pieces of art that the client discards and does not want to use, you may be able to use these concepts elsewhere for another client, if suitable.
- The clients’ name ie Google & Co
- The project name with a clear reference ie Logo Redesign 2018 or Black Friday Landing Page 2018
- The Revision number ie Revision 3/5
- Give each piece of art on the page a reference ie A, B or C. This will help the client identify exactly what they are referring to. For example, the client may like the logo font from revision 2A and the icon from revision 3C. in one sentence of an email you will have a clear understanding of what the client wants for the next revision.
Have a system in place for how you send files to your customers. Even if you are looking after the printing, it is important for the client to hold onto their own digital assets for future reference or reprinting. You shouldn’t be expected to email the logo in a different format every time the client requests it. They should already have the digital assets file saved somewhere accessible to their team for in-house use. Package up all of your files including the documentation (‘how to’s for using the website or social media if applicable), Font Files, Logos in various web and print sizes and formats. Make sure to also include an .eps format for future large-scale print jobs, as this is the format pre-press printing companies may request. Different email clients will have different upload limits, usually around the 10MB limit, but for files up to 50MB you can use online file transfer clients such as mailbag.com,
10. Encourage Reviews
Make sure that once you have completed the job you follow the client up for a review or testimonial. This can be either in the form of a Facebook review, Google Places, your website, or simply via email for you to use as future testimonials across the web or other channels. Before the internet was so prominent Word of Mouth was the best form of marketing a business couldn’t buy, these days it is still as relevant as ever, however, reviews can also come in the form of influencer reviews and customer testimonials.
Let me know if you have any thoughts, questions or feedback. I’d love to hear your thoughts.