When FreelancerMap asked 400 freelancers to describe their biggest complaints about their job, 11.9 percent said that clients expecting them to work around the clock was at the top of the list. We live in an age where online retailers such as Amazon have conditioned consumers to expect everything instantly. Freelancers may frequently receive calls, instant messages, or emails from clients at all times. In some cases, the client may not even be in the same time zone. To avoid this type of time management problem, one important step freelancers can take is establishing some reasonable policies about handling communications with clients, particularly regarding revisions.
Agree to the Creative Process in Writing
Communicating clearly with your client about how the design process works and what they should expect and not expect will help you streamline your communication and avoid unnecessary time wasting. The best way to do this is to get an agreement in writing before starting work. Design director and illustrator Daren R. Guillory recommends a written estimate for smaller projects or a full written contract for larger ones. Estimates should outline project specifications, number of concepts, work categories and how many hours the project will take. This should include a clear description of how many hours of phone consultation and rounds of revision are included without incurring an additional fee, as well as what you will charge for additional work beyond these limits. For contracts, the American Institute of Graphic Arts provides a template as well as tips on best practices.
Start with Conceptual Agreement
Professional graphic designer Vince Palko, president of AdToons and author of The Art of Selling Using Cartoons, begins his projects by getting an understanding of the marketing highlights of his client’s product or service so that he has a clear concept of what he’s trying to achieve. Communicating about what your client wants your design to accomplish for their business will help make sure you start your project off on the right foot. It will also help you both stay on the same page. A good way to do this is by designing a list of standard discovery questions you can ask your client at the beginning of a project. For instance, who is your client’s target market? What problems does their product or service solve for their market? What benefits do they want to emphasize?
Show Them a Thumbnail First
Commercial artist Neal Adams, famed for his work on comics such as “The Avengers” and “Batman,” always begins his drawings with a small thumbnail sketch of his general concept. A thumbnail sketch is a small preview of your final design that only shows the general outline of your composition and lighting arrangement without complex rendering details. In web design, a website wireframe can serve a similar purpose. Using a thumbnail or wireframe at an early stage of your project gives you an opportunity to make sure your client likes the direction you are going before you put detailed work in. You can email a thumbnail sketch to your client or show it to them on a portable device like a laptop or tablet when you meet with them. This will ensure that your client is on-board with your general vision before you develop your design, saving you revision time later.
Similarly, after you develop your thumbnail into a rough draft, you can show your design to your client at this stage as well. Lay out benchmarks in your creative process where you meet with your client to get feedback and make sure your client is satisfied with your progress.
Save Earlier Stages of Your Project
As your project develops, periodically save the latest version of your design as a new file. Do this at key points in the project such as the thumbnail stage, the rough draft stage, and when adding individual layers of your design. This will make it easy for you to back up to a previous stage in the event your client does not like a particular addition.