Monday, July 25, 2011

Reader Request: The Facts of Freelance

Recently I received an email containing questions relating to freelance design. After reading through the message, I realized that others might have similar questions, so I thought I'd put together a blog post about it to cover the basics.

Without further ado, here we go!

First and foremost, identity design is not something that I specialize in. Sure, I'll do it, but it is not my favorite thing in the world. These are some old logos that I've designed and haven't done any recently. Once in awhile I'll design one for a client at work, but other than that, I do more with illustration, photography, image editing, layout, advertising / marketing materials, etc.

However, identity is something I'd like to add to my portfolio, so if you are in need of a logo, please don't hesitate to contact me:

How can I gain more experience with identity design? 
Practice, practice, practice! Research branding and corporate identity. Read about what makes or breaks a brand's image and then try it out for yourself. Don't have freelance clients yet? Make them up.

Create a "company" and then create a logo and other complimentary pieces to go with it. A website mockup, brochures, business cards, signage, etc. Also, if you do something like this and bring it to an interview, you'll score major props for being a self-motivater.

Another word of advice is to rebrand an existing company or product. Once in awhile when I'm bored, I'll dig through my pantry or closet and find something that has greater potential than what is being portrayed and I'll rebrand it with a fresh, new look. You aren't making money, but you are getting an experience paycheck.

I'm lost when it comes to pricing--how do you decide what is an average / fair price for your work?

Research is key. Some of the factors to consider are:
  • Your location
  • Your demand (are you super busy or are you desperate for experience at the moment?)
  • AIGA's designer's salary report
  • Type of project
  • Your experience level
Anything web-related, I instantly jack up my prices because I know things always take longer with web. Print materials can be whipped out in no time, but web requires browser checks, extra formatting, and coding.

If a client is looking for a lot of things, such as a complete identity package, I'll do a project rate. However, if you have an on-going item you'd like designed (i.e. editing photos on a regular basis, website updates, etc.), I'll charge an hourly rate. If you are in need of the initial site and then updates, I'll charge a flat rate for the site creation, and then an hourly rate for the updates. I keep things personalized and tailored for different projects and clients, yet my prices are pretty static.

Once in awhile, if I've done a ton of work for a client i.e. complete identity package plus a large brochure, sometimes I'll throw in a complimentary service such as an envelope design or a banner as a perk.

Keeping your clients happy is key! If you don't satisfy their needs, they will go somewhere else and find it!

I like to use the flat fee whenever possible because it encourages me to work as fast as possible while keeping my prices down which results in keeping my clients up.

What are your top 5 questions to ask a client when designing a logo for them?

1. What defines your brand / what is the image of your brand that you would like to portray? (Words, colors, emotions, etc.) 

Some examples could be:
  • Strong
  • Confident
  • Modern
  • Fresh
  • Simple
  • Whimsical
  • Flashy
  • Corporate
  • Playful
  • Reliable
2. What are some of the goals that you have in mind for your logo? Or, what do you want your logo to do for you? 

(Increase sales? Develop your brand? Introduce a new tier of your company?) You really can't design a logo without a goal in mind. You might craft up the best logo design ever, but if it does not meet the needs of your company, what good is it? Kind of like an amazing book cover with boring content--as soon as a client gets past the first look and dives deeper, they will be disappointed.

3. Can you share with me some things that you like in terms of design? 

(Organic shapes? Rigid and structured? A formal / corporate feel or more of a causal, laid back look? etc.) Ask them to show you examples because I have found that working with clients that are not familiar with the aspects of design have a hard time putting things into words. Also, examples work well because what means "original and funky" to you, might mean something completely different to them.

4. What is your tentative timeline for this project? Also, could you provide me with a ballpark budget?

Allow for enough time to brainstorm, sketch, create concepts, and go through rounds of revisions for the ultimate quality. Also, regular check-ins with your client keep you both on the same page--resulting in a happy client! On this same note, stay within their budget and if something comes up where you might be going over--be sure to check in them before you do it. No one likes a surprise invoice.

An easy way to say this is to put it back on them. Something along the lines of, "If you decide you want to take this another direction, we'll head back to the drawing board together and rework this until you love it. However, if you're really set on that particular typeface, the price is going to increase. I can proceed with that or I can offer you a selection of comparable fonts if you're set on staying on track with your budget." Focus on the positive and provide options -- customer service is key!

5. What types of media do you foresee your logo being a part of? 

Brochures, web, huge signs, small business cards, etc. By knowing the big picture in the beginning, this will allow you to be aware of all the different ways it will be used. This is key while you're designing it because you don't want to have to go back and say "well, since this is going to be shrunk down really small on your business cards, we're going to have to rework your design that you already love..." You don't want to take things away from an already happy client.

Possible Interest:
  • One of my favorite articles about branding is Blood Sweat and Tiers over on Head on over for a great read on developing brands and sub brands.
  • is your best friend. Their website offers so many great resources for aspiring designers of all types!

There you be! Hopefully that answered your questions and cleared things up. Let me know if you have any other questions--I'd be happy to help!

What are some brands that you love?
What inspires you?
Do you have any questions about design that I can answer?
Any stories about a surprise invoice, bill, or fee?


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