My ProcessJust in case you have any questions.
Building a Working Relationship
Interpreting your needs is critical and the 2-way street of communication is key to achieving a solid understanding of your objectives. Our initial meeting, usually via phone and/or email, is a time for information gathering, getting to know your preferences, determining your target audience, exploring job specifications, setting preliminary deadlines, and discussing budget considerations.
Quite often, this process helps to sharpen your focus so you can hone in on the essentials of your project. At the same time, I gain important insights into your philosophy, your business, and your personality.
This foundation will drive your project. Our communication should continue throughout the entire design process.
Concept Building & Development
The initial creative process is an exciting period. The ingredients … a good part talent, another part inspiration, some research, experimentation, a dash of dumb luck, and perhaps a little mind reading … are all filtered through the parameters we’ve discussed.
Although it depends on the nature of a project, I usually develop a few concepts and narrow them down to the ones I feel are most effective. If your project is a complex piece or your expectations are already well-defined, I may limit the preliminary concept to one.
All projects are appropriately scheduled into my workflow. If you have an emergency deadline, I do my very best to fairly accommodate all.
Proofing & Revision Phases
You’ll receive your proofs electronically, as medium-quality PDF files, which you can view and print from your desktop. At this stage, the concepts are somewhat roughly developed. It’s important to get your input before spending a lot of time on every option. I anxiously await your feedback … and welcome it all.
During the first proof, it is common for clients to mix-and-match elements from several of the options, such as: “I like the font in this one, the image from that one, and the color scheme here. Can I see those things together?” There are no limits to the possibilities. We narrow down the options to one or two, discuss alternatives, and we tweak-tweak-tweak until you are thrilled with the final result.
On the rare occasion, we go back to the drawing board. This may change the scope of the project.
At the final proofing / approval stage, it is your responsibility to ensure that everything is correct and exactly as you want it.
Final deliverables for print materials are typically a high-resolution, press-quality PDF sent to you or your vendor for output or a medium-quality PDF for electronic distribution. If you need something other than a PDF, please let me know at the outset of our discussions as it may affect the scope and estimate for your project. An estimate is quoted for a single final piece or work product and not the working file(s).
Examples of other files in their authoring applications would be MSWord, Illustrator, InDesign, Quark, PhotoShop, etc.
As an aside, I do not design in MSWord which is a word processing program and not a page layout program.
If your project is a PowerPoint presentation, the deliverable would be PowerPoint.
Final deliverables for websites would be the uploaded files to your hosting company.
Production or Launch
Once we have arrived at a happy design conclusion, it’s time for gratification. The moment has arrived to print, output, electronically distribute, or launch your project.
Some jobs will be used or produced in-house, requiring nothing further from me. For others, I send the appropriate files to the appropriate venue, per our discussions.
Preferring control over printing decisions and quality control, many clients like to comparison-shop or already have a relationship with their own print shop / digital printer — or in the case of websites, have their own web host. In this case, I contact your account representative, confirm their set-up requirements, and arrange for transmission of the electronic files.
Conversely, I can handle the printing for you. I charge only for my time necessary to complete the job, with no ‘up charge.’ The shop would bill you independently, or we could arrange for pre-payment of the printing. I am happy to manage the production phase in whichever manner best suits your needs.
I encourage website clients to set up their own accounts with hosting companies so they remain in total administrative control of their sites. I do not believe in holding my clients’ websites hostage. If I disappear off the face of the earth, you won’t have to worry about your website disappearing along with me.
Logging Project Time
I do not guess at time spent on client projects. I use a database in which I enter my log-in and log-out times for your specific project. The database performs all calculations in real time. If I am interrupted for phone calls or the like, I log myself out of your job to address the interruption. For ease of input, I round up or down to the closest five minutes.
If you should ever want to know your project status, I can tell you immediately. If you have any concerns, I encourage you to ask. I won’t be offended. Really.
As a result of changes in the scope of a project, my original estimate may differ from actual time invested … either up or down … and will be invoiced accordingly. If I spend less time than I estimated, that is what my invoice will reflect. I strive for zero surprises, and if a project looks like it’s creeping, I do my best to let you know when we are approaching an estimate limit.
Fees & Payment
My freelance work is service-based. Fees are invoiced according to my time invested in your project. I charge an hourly rate with consideration given to not-for-profit organizations, start-up businesses and referrals. Website design is charged according to a different fee schedule which is available upon request.
As a good-faith gesture, I ask that 50% of the estimated total be paid in advance with the remainder paid upon completion. As we build a working relationship, we may amend this stipulation.
Letter of Agreement [LOA]
Before beginning new projects with new clients, I respectfully request an agreed-upon, slightly customized, standard ‘Letter of Agreement’ [LOA] which is endorsed by the Graphic Artists Guild … Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines [www.gag.org].
At the outset of our partnership, I will fill out the particulars of the job and email the LOA to you. If all looks satisfactory, please sign it, scan it and email it back to me. I will sign and email you back the completed contract.
For a long-term relationship, we can complete and file a blanket agreement that will apply to all projects.
I take the confidential nature of my clients’ work very seriously. I never-ever share trade secrets between clients or access their files for others. If you should want to send or share your files to/with others, I will need to have your express permission either verbally [confirmed by email] or in writing.
Back Ups & Archives
Although I cannot assume legal liability for the safe housing of files, I do maintain a regularly backed-up system and the files are stored in a fire-safe file cabinet.
I reserve the right to show my work in my personal portfolio [digital or physical] or for self-promotion.
The fact that you are pleased, thrilled, and delighted is paramount. I work very hard to make sure that you get exactly what you want and within a reasonable budget. Your business and ventures are important to me. I think of myself as your silent partner, and take pride in making the whole process a satisfying and painless one, minus frustration and disappointment. If you have any concerns or issues to the contrary, please feel encouraged to talk it over with me. It all comes back to communication!
Ideas for Staying Within Your Budget
Communication … Communication … Communication
Communication is key. Elaborate on your expectations. I will reiterate my understanding of your wishes. The better I understand what you want, the better the chances of getting you what you’ve envisioned … and sooner. It also limits the chances of making revisions that were not needed.
Plan Out Your Project
Although I absolutely love free rein on a project, it does add time to a project.
Clients generally have a vague — sometimes concrete — idea of what they want that’s just waiting to be actualized. Jot it down … scribble notes … draw stick figures … provide existing documents that support what you’re looking for … collect other printed pieces that reflect the approach you’re envisioning … send me links to websites that strike you. It all helps me get into your head.
Keystroke Your Content
Provide your content in an digital document such as Word, PowerPoint, within an email message, ASCII text, etc. I can access text from most file formats.
Depending on quantity, keystroking can add a great deal of time to a project. If provided, you also have the opportunity to make sure it reads exactly the way you want, avoiding revisions and possible typos if I input it.
Minimize revision phases. Try to keep a list of changes and submit them at the same time rather than in dribs-and-drabs. The more a document is touched, the more it adds to billable time.
Provide Past Projects
If you have digital files that contain elements such as your logo or art [that you are licensed to use], it can eliminate the need to re-create or replace those elements.
Estimates, Running Totals and Final Costs
I provide an estimate of the time I feel a project will take in our Letter of Agreement. However, it is not a hard and fast rule.
If a job takes less time than I estimate, that is all I charge. There are also times that a project runs over my estimate. Each job is different, and there are many reasons a job ends up being more involved than anticipated.
If you would like a running total as your project progresses, just let me know!