After three and a half years at the good ol' TGT/Tar-jay Boutique/Bullseye, I'm saying good bye to GTKYs, TB about Project Q, and OEs.
I cannot begin to describe the kick ass projects I've been able to be a part of (Launch of Threshold, New Direction for Room Essentials Product, FEED, Neiman Marcus, Justice League, Poppy Talk, Wit & Delight, Rebrand of Spritz) and the insanely talented people I've had the pleasure of working with.
Mia and I are diving into her business to give her brand a edgy and bold facelift. There is so much content coming your way soon I can't wait to share. Until then... you'll just have to drool over our mood board!
After all the documents are signed and the questionnaires filled out it's time to start getting creative! I like my process to begin with client-driven mood boards. An important thing to remember is that most clients like to be part of the creative process, so this is really their time to shine.
When I check out a new client's boards I can usually determine what type of person they strive to be and what type of aesthetic they are attracted to. First we start with a fresh (and secret) Pinterest Board. I ask the client to describe what she likes about a particular image so we can begin to see a theme and pick out the most important elements. The more particular they are with the descriptions the better! Typography, colors, pattern, design elements and layout should all be pinned but I'm also interested in overall mood shots, which could be anything from food shots to scenic views.
After the board has a general theme I look though all the images and notes. I begin pulling the pinned images in Illustrator and adding my own images for more variety and a fresh spin. I typically create two mood boards - one shows the aesthetic of the brand and the other shows what the ideal customer looks like. Showing the lifestyle of their target customer helps connect the branding and business problems into real-world solutions.
After all my questionnaires, consultations and spending time looking at my client's inspiration I usually feel good to begin designing. I shoot my client a simple "I'm so excited to work on this project" email with the aesthetic mood board attached and some bullet points of what I hope to incorporate into the branding. I don't spend too much time fussing over the board because I look at it as a work in progress.
Some general rules to remember
Make the theme obvious.
Aim to spark an emotional response.
Photoshop is your friend. If you like an image change the color or tone to match the rest of the board
Create an inspiring layout
If you squint at your mood board and you squint at the final design they should match
Yes! A potential client has emailed you saying they love your work and need help with a design project. (Insert happy dance here). Now it's time to freak out. Do you have the documents you need? Does your skill set match what they are looking for? omg omg omg. The last post of TFL, I talked about how to find the right clients for you and today we'll move onto that initial meeting.
BEFORE THE MEETING
Get yourself organized and send out proper documents to this potential client like your process page and pricing packages. Having a basic pricing document will instantly determine if your client really wants to spend the amount that you are worth.
Do some research about the person or business. Understand the basics of what services they provide and what help you could offer. If needed, do some research on their competitors.
Elevate how they communicate. Does the tone of their email match that ideal client of yours?
MEETING YOUR CLIENT
I prefer to do face-to-face meetings whenever possible - that could be at a coffee shop or through Skype. There is something about understanding a person's vibe that instantly speaks about their business more than a questionnaire could tell you. It also helps you AND the client realize you're a real person and not just an email address.
Determine how you want to be viewed by your client. This can be anything from knowledgeable and organized to flighty and messy. First impressions are everything, not just for you but for your client too! Most of my client relationships have turned into great friendships after I stopped worrying about being all buttoned up and professional and started being myself. I am still very organized, put strategies into place and gain full trust but I do so now in a more casual and personable way. I've decided to be a designer who is invested not only in my client's business but also their family and personal life.
DURING YOUR MEETING
Understand what the client's goals are for this project and what is specifically needed. Look at the big picture - they need a rebrand because their target market changed, they need a new website because they started selling product... Always keep in mind that you are helping another business and your goal is to help them succeed.
Determine a general timeline and explain your process. Bring a contract with you for them to take home or sign on the spot.
If you started a Pinterest board together or if they had any inspiration to share, print it out so you can talk about what they are attracted to. It's important that a client can tell you what they are drawn to. If they don't know, how are you suppose to?
Show off your knowledge and how it can benefit their business. Just because someone comes to you for a new logo doesn't mean that you can't take that to the next level and offer them a social strategy and graphics that go with it.
AFTER THE MEETING
Follow up with any existing questions, questionnaires, contracts and final pricing.
If they are on social media make sure to follow them and start engaging. Again this helps both of you relate to one-another. Ask your client if they want their rebranding process public. This is a great way to engage not only your fans but also attract new interested towards your clients business.
When starting out as a freelancer, we are tempted to say YES! to every opportunity that comes our way. Sometimes though, we go against our better judgement and accept new clients and projects we know are going to be a pain. Finding a client that fits your style, workflow and will bring the best out in you is the most important thing to keep you sane and to continue to love what you do. The last six months I've been taking a look at how I choose to work with certain clients and why some just don't make the cut.
DETERMINE YOUR IDEAL CLIENT
You ask your clients who their target market is but do you ask that to yourself? Defining an ideal client, industry, size, project scope and budget will help you quickly determine if a client is going to be a good fit. To help you with this, look back at past projects and determine what you liked about each step of the process and why. For me, my ideal client is a small business owner who is taking a leap of faith to start their own business. They want to start off small but already have plans on where they want to be in 6 months, 1 year and 5 years. They understand their industry, competitors and have a good sense of who they are and what sets them apart. They are tech savvy, promptly respond to emails, have a sense of humor and are interested in getting to know me as a person and not just their designer. Most important, they understand that branding can change their business while strategy can make it successful.
TRUST YOUR GUT
If you're getting an uneasy feeling after receiving emails or meeting a client face to face it's a good sign that this project is not going to be a good fit for you. We all take jobs because we have down time or need the money but the stress, late nights, and too-many-revision workload just isn't worth it. Trust me! I had a really difficult client this past year who was arrogant, also in the design industry so didn't trust anything I did, and didn't give my questionnaire or process any attention (in fact, he refused to answer the questionnaire claiming that I should know exactly what he wanted). After our initial phone call I KNEW this wasn't a client I wanted to work with but the project seemed great at the time. A lot of effort was wasted and I was the one that ended the contract after the project went out of scope too many times.
EVALUATE IF YOU WANT THIS NEW CLIENT AND PROJECT
Time and money are big factors in taking on new projects. You should never sell your skills short and make sure to take time to breathe every once in awhile. Each designer has a certain niche and it's important to step out of that from time to time but make sure that the learning curve is manageable and the project is appealing. As I expand my own skill set by collaborating and taking classes I'm also beginning to schedule my new clients better and even started a wait list.
Taking on clients and projects that aren't a good fit isn't worth the time you spent agonizing over it. We've all had clients from hell and I know there are designers from hell out there too. But once you find a few perfect clients your life seems to run more smoothly and you are super jazzed of the work that was created.
The next post in The Freelance Life series we're talking about documents! Not only will having documents in place for each step of the process make you look more legit but it will also streamline your work. Below are the documents I recommend creating to take your freelance career to the next level. If you need extra help I'll send you samples of each of my documents if you email email@example.com
Sending a general pricing sheet to a potential client will quickly determine if they have the budget for you to work together. It also keeps you true to your value. We'll talk more about pricing later but a few things I recommended: Putting a date or season on your pricing sheet clues in your clients that your prices may change (ex: Spring 2014). Adding a '+' after a value let's clients know their specific project could cost more. Your pricing sheet is also a glimpse of what services you offer, by listing these it could spark other needs from your client
A process document breaks down what type of work goes into each stage, what is needed from them at that time and a timeline to follow if they want their project delivered in a timely manner. Make sure you include a research phase just so your client is aware that you are doing a lot of work on the backend that will influence your design decisions. My steps: Becoming a new client, Gathering Information, Creating an outline, Harnessing creativity, Designing multiple directions, Making Revisions, Finalizing Files.
A contract is an absolute must, if not the most important document you need to have. I don't care if you're doing work for your aunt, a contract will keep both her and you protected. My contract has changed drastically overtime and edited after dealing with not-so-great situations. Things you need to include: What services you are being hired for, additional service charges (hiring out a developer, copywriter…), payment timeline, project timeline and copyrights after the project is complete. Some things that I've needed to add in: What happens when a project goes drastically out of scope, What happens when a client wants out of your design services and What happens when YOU want/need out of the project. The un-signed contract should only be valid for 10 days to make sure that your client understands you need to know if the project is going forward and also that they can't come back 5 months later and expect the same price. A more in-depth look at contracts: AIGA, Smashing Magazine for different types of work, How, Stuff and Nonsense
To get things started in the right direction it's important that you know everything about your clients business to create design to compliment their services. This might seem like a lot for your client to answer but TRUST ME - if they can't describe their service or what they are looking for it will lead you on an endless goose chase. After the questionnaire you can move onto Pinterest boards or sharing actual inspiration
You want to get paid right? There are certain add-ons to your invoice to make sure you get paid quicker. Make sure you date your invoice and list the services that were performed. Add a date that the payment needs to be received by (I put 7 days from signed contract for the down payment and 21 days from the invoice date on everything else). Add a late payment amount - this could be a percentage of the invoice or a flat fee. I email a reminder on the 18th day, and send a new invoice on the 22nd day for an added amount of $50 each week it's late.
Add your contact information to each of your documents
Make each of these pieces cohesive to your brand.
Name your files properly (KaydRoy_Contract_ClientName.pdf)
Date each piece
Save as PDFs and keep in a safe place
Let me know if you have any other tips for Freelance documents!
Piggybacking on last Thursday's post about How To Begin Freelancing, I'll share how I began to take freelancing more seriously.
During college I had freelanced for a lot of wedding clients, created brochures, designed logos for family businesses and created some illustrations for a swim school. I dreamed of creating some actual projects and worked night and day to add to my portfolio. Fast forward to graduation when I receive an email from Elizabeth Dehn, who described herself as a beauty junky with a new skincare line and signed her email 'don't think I'm some crazy who's just mixing up lotion in my kitchen.'
From the first email I knew that we would get along perfectly. I was used to being very formal in emails to clients (thanks to Career Services and my mom) but Elizabeth's email was more like friends conversing. A lot of how I currently run my business was determined from this project and relationship. Elizabeth knew she needed someone local, young and with a clean aesthetic so she searched on AIGA/Behance and stumbled upon my page. I'll be talking more about pricing in another series of The Freelance Life later but found that an itemized quote with a range of time clearly explained all the work that would go in from my end and why direct feedback in a timely manner was so important.
After we agreed to work together, Elizabeth sent over inspiration she loved and why she loved them. I was beyond thrilled to get to work but guess what... my first attempts were a total flop. Looking back I can clearly see where I went wrong - I tried to over design. Elizabeth was amazing at redirecting and pulling out things she did like. Phase two of Elizabeth's project went much better.
During this time I also took a trip to India, got engaged, moved into a house and landed an internship. Elizabeth's labels continued to change as I stumbled over InDesign, understanding how to pass off files to the printer and keeping everything consistent. I applied all the new knowledge I was learning at my ad agency internship to make the labels perfect. I focused closely on the details - spacing, content rag, consistency and created better file formats.
The final labels turned out amazing and truly represented the product that Elizabeth created.
The new skincare line was featured in magazines, raved about online and ended up on The Dieline. My portfolio gained so much attention during this phase that I received (and sill receive) many emails to help other businesses with design work referencing this project.
What I didn't realize at the time of agreeing to this project is that Elizabeth knows just about everyone in MInneapolis, especially women who are entrepreneurs. Shortly after the project launched I was contacted by Christina to help with some design work for her business Style-Architects, and that design relationship has been going on strong for 3 years now!
I couldn't have asked for a better client or project to take my freelance career to the next level.
Due to the manufacture closing, the original skin care line is no longer available. But because the product was out of this world One Love Organics quickly collaborated with Elizabeth to bring you Elizabeth Dehn for One Love Organics. The packaging... beautiful. The product... simply amazing.
I get so many messages about freelancing that I'd decided to start a series sharing my advice. These posts will cover How to get clients, Contracts, Pricing, Presentations, Organization and anything else you want to learn. I began taking on small projects during college and it quickly escalated to consuming most of my waking hours. During this time I had no one to learn from so I turned to my trusted blogs. I made many (many!) mistakes, lost some money along the way, but also helped create some pretty spectacular businesses.
So, how do you start?
First you need to put a portfolio together. Sites like Behance and Cargo are easy to set up and look professional. I've attracted many clients from having a Behance site because it's easily searchable and visual. After you have a few projects under your belt you should purchase your own domain and apply it to your cargo, wordpress, squarespace, etc... site.
Next you should spread the word that you're looking for projects. Most likely you have a family member that runs a small business and needs a new logo or a friend looking to make their hobby profitable. Post your news on Facebook and even put it in your parent's Christmas letter. These projects aren't going to make you a lot of money because A) you have no experience and B) you need the project in your portfolio more than you need the money.
Sign up for freelance sites like Elance or oDesk which let you create a portfolio and browse through hundreds of projects. Don't forget about Craigslist either, a lot of people have no clue where to go to get design work. I was skeptical about elance at first but had a really successful project with a gal who actually runs a marketing agency. Because of our experience working together she has handed off a handful projects in the last few months.
Create projects for yourself. If you can't seem to find the right freelance project for you - whether it be a styled shoot, hand lettering, editorial illustration or boutique branding, DO IT YOURSELF. Having full control over a project might just be what your portfolio needs to attract other clients. Two projects of mine get the most press and they are the two projects that I didn't have any client feedback on
Make friends with those you admire. It could be as simple as a twitter/instagram conversation to get the ball rolling. Ask local people to coffee or happy hour. You'll find that people love sharing stories about themselves and hopefully you can learn a bit from them. Freelancing can be a lonely life so make sure to keep in contact, ask for continuous feedback and work together at coffee shops.
Figure our why you want to freelance. Is it to make money on the side? Is it to be more creative than your current job allows? For me I love being in charge of all the working pieces - meetings, proposals, research, designing, presentations and launch parties. I feel amazing when helping a small business express who they are so juggling client work with my 9-5 is hectic at times but I wouldn't change it.
If you are currently freelancing, I would love for you to share any tips that helped you begin!
photo via Death to the Stock Photo
There is nothing that drives me crazier than poor file management. It is one of the most crucial tools you can have and is often overlooked. The following structure reflects the various stages of your project and explains why I set my folders up this way.
I have a master folder called 'Freelance' where all my design files are stored. Each client has their own folder with brand assets, working files and production files in it. You can also organize your files by Project or Job Number but I've found that separating the folders by Client ensures that you always have the correct documents to pull from and reference to. Even if I'm feeling lazy one night I'll make sure to save any work in this folder for quick navigation.
Within each client folder I break out the process into four stages and separate folders. It's important to have a number in front of the title so your folders stay in this order.
This folder stores Brand Guidelines, Photos, Logos, Icons and anything the client gives you. I also place the initial consultation pdf, the agreed upon scope of work and the estimated cost here.
Any file in which I am exploring aesthetic or layout for design direction goes into a Working folder. This folder is broken into subfolders with the project name as a title… 'Branding', 'Business Card', 'Brochure'. These folders will fill up quickly so it's best to have a file naming structure in place too.
When I'm ready to show design direction or get approval on a proof I export jpgs from the Working files and place them into a branded presentation document. I only export jpgs at this stage so the file cannot be opened back up in Illustrator for the client to steal. The client will receive versions of a PDF (v1, v2, v3) and so on while I continually add pages to my InDesign document to keep track of everything that was presented. This folder has a subfolder called 'Links' for the exported jpgs.
All final files ready for press are stored here and also shared with the client.
After a project has completely wrapped up I move the entire Client folder to a Completed folder. This way it keeps my active folder clean with current projects and clients. If the client decides in a few months or year that they need another collateral piece it's easy to pull up all the assets and past pieces
Why you'll love this system:
You'll save time
Every time you stop your process to find that one image or that one pantone color you interrupt the flow of your work. Having an organized file system will save you tons of time! Remember not to have TOO many subfolders though. That can be just as horrible as having none.
You'll feel in control (especially if someone is looking over your shoulder)
We've all had those moments where you just cannot find the file you were working on and when you do find it, it's in the most bizarre place. This file structure is like organizing your home - you'll know where everything is in a snap!
It makes sense
Even if you come down with amnesia you'll be able to navigate this structure. It's easy to find what you need by asking yourself 'what client is this for?' 'Is this a final file or a working file?'
Teams are built on organization!
If you are co-designing or need to share your files with another designer it's best to be organized. Don't forget to name your files properly either!
See also: Finish Projects Correctly
Computer Image from Death to the Stock Photo
Oh man, I can't wait to show where we're going with this branding piece but it has to remain super secret for now. This is a really great example of Pinterest boards actually connecting people. This new client repinned 10 of the images on this board and finally reached out to explore working together. It's a great example of why I organize my Pinterest boards the way I do.
Images: Beautiful Landscape Photography by Nicola Odemann, Branding for the Mule by Foundry Collective, Chocolate and Oat S'mores Recipe by Donna Hay, Workspace in Paris photographed by Petra Bindel, Field Notes Journal and Wallet found in 1924's Tumblr Page, Dope Collection from Stampd
Now that everyone is a few weeks into their new dreamy internship I've received a few questions about how to kick-ass at intern-life. No, it's not nearly as glamorous as it appears and yes, almost everyone sucks at being an intern the first month. I received an internship my Sophomore year of college and made some massively expensive business decisions, got my butt kicked when I thought I knew it all and failed time after time. I am not by any means the best designer, but I do know what hard work feels like and what success looks like.
It’s one thing to obtain an internship but it's another thing to be a kick-ass intern. Here are a few top rules to live by:
1. You don't know it all - and that's okay. If you knew it all you'd be running your own shop and not interning. School teaches you the fundamentals of design thinking and practices but your job will give you experience on applying these to real clients with real deadlines and a real budget. You are there to learn and to hopefully land a full-time gig. Say 'yes' to every opportunity presented to you because you never know who you will impress or who you will meet. This is the time in your career to get your ass kicked by your art director - ask questions, stupid questions, smart questions, the same question... learn everything you possibly can.
2. Take your internship seriously. Show up on time. Don't brag about getting wasted and throwing up on the side of a building the night before. NEVER post anything bad about one of your companies clients on Facebook. Now is the time to be a Sussie-Do-Good and pay attention during meetings. Make sure you are communicating with your teammates about projects and be vocal if you can help. If you have something to complain about make sure it is presented in a mature way with a possible solution.
3. Exceed expectations. The one plus side of coming right out of school is that you aren't jaded by the industry and don't know the rules of the business. This is a great opportunity for you to share what you know about the latest technology, processes or programs. You never know when your idea may help a client or change the way a business interacts. If you have down time make sure you aren't just surfing Facebook but are working on skills that will make you stand out.
4. Set goals and keep track of your progress. Make your goals specific, like 'I want to learn how to better put a mood board together' or 'I want to learn how to deliver an effective presentation'. Once you've come up with your goals make sure your creative director knows and make a game plan of how you can accomplish them. If there isn't bi-weekly meetings between you and your boss set up some time to go over what you completed last week, what your working on and what projects/goals are in the future. Typing up a sheet like this each week will help you keep track of everything you did during your internship and is a great tool to help you get hired when the time comes.
5. Understand that the success of your internship is completely up to you. You are the one to decide how much effort you put towards your day-to-day interactions, attitude and projects. You could skate through your internship without absorbing strategy, design process and work culture but that wouldn't make you a good employee to keep around. Make connections with those around you on a business and personal level. If you admire someone you work with try and emulate their attitude and characteristics. Have any other advice?
Bold, colorful, and most of all, FUN! I just wrapped up a branding project and forgot to show you the mood board. Branding and collateral pieces posted soon!