A Silly Grrl Guide to working with a designer
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Alright people – it’s time we set some rules. I’ve worked with lots and lots of fantastic clients over the years and a few trouble makers who shall remain nameless. Working with a designer is one of those weird things that you’re not really sure how it works, like walking into a tattoo shop or the first time you get a massage. So I’m going to give you a few pointers because I don’t want to see any of your missteps posted on Clients from Hell or even worse…The World’s Longest Invoice.
+ KNOW WHAT YOU WANT Handwriting script or big bold text? Two columns or three? Minimalist or lots of layers? While it’s tempting to send your designer a three page document with every detail you love and hate from 12 different sites, it will not be helpful in creating a final product you love. Your designer may choose a few elements they think go together and you might wish they chose something else. I find drawings to be extremely helpful (Holler to Miss Taylor – one of my favorite clients who loves to send me drawings) – if you have a vision of what you’d like, make a little drawing, shoot it with your phone and send it over.
+ CREATE AN INSPIRATION BOARD I love using Pinterest to create a mood board for websites – clothing, photography, interior design – add whatever floats your boat and you (or your designer) will eventually see a pattern of colors and shapes. Even when someone sends an idea for what they want, say a floral pattern in pink, it’s much easier to see if they want peonies or roses, hot pink or pastel, vintage or modern if I have photos to help me grasp their vision.
+ CHOOSE A DESIGNER BASED ON STYLE Most artists have a specific style with which they design. Mine is generally clean and minimalist with bright colors and bold shapes. And I, like most designers, am happy to accommodate clients looking for all types of design, but choosing someone with a similar design sense from the beginning will make the process much easier. Check out their portfolio, shop or blog to find someone who posts images you already love.
+ UNDERSTAND THE PROCESS: Will your designer do one mock-up or four? Will they allow a set number of revisions or an endless amount? Do they charge an hourly rate or one price for the entire thing? Who will be filling in the content – you or the designer? Will they be available if you need an update in the future? What happens if you or they decide to break the contract? Make sure you 1. Sign a contract and 2. The contract states what will be included in the design. If you’d like a blog badge, a photo gallery, and multiple buttons for your sidebar let your designer know ahead of time to see if this will be included in the price or if there will be an extra charge.
+ RESPOND IN A TIMELY FASHION When choosing a time to work with a designer you’ll need to be available to respond to emails within a day or two. Make sure you don’t have a vacation or a big project at work that will keep you away from email. If you have some sort of personal emergency, send a quick email so they can move you to a different time slot. Most designers will block out a few weeks in their schedule specifically to work on your project, so if you disappear or take a week to respond to a question you’ve set back their schedule and their time to work with other clients.
+ PAY YOUR INVOICE ON TIME I schedule a specific number of clients each month to make sure I earn enough money to pay my bills. When I get to the end of the two or three weeks and am all ready to install a design, the last thing I want to hear is “Can I pay you in a couple weeks when I get paid again?” I, and most every other designer, are counting on you to pay your bill, so we can pay our bills. (Dana wrote a great post on non-paying clients and asking for refunds)
A FEW QUICK TIPS
+ Remember, designing a website takes hours. For a personal blog you’re looking at at least 6-10 hours of design time, so don’t be offended when a designer responds with a 3-digit number. You’re paying for the years of training, experience, their knowledge of the best way to put your site together. It’s like getting a tattoo – if you pay $35, you’re gonna get a $35 tattoo. Trust me…you don’t want a $35 tattoo.
+ Be honest – if you don’t like where the design is going, speak up at the beginning, not after it’s all finished and ready to install.
+ Be specific – “I’m not really loving the header” isn’t helpful. Try something like “I’d like the blue to be more like teal. I’d like the font to be about half that size. I’d like the background to be less distracting.”
+ Listen to your designer. You hired them for a reason right? They know what they’re doing and if they suggest a few changes, they might just be right.
+ For businesses – put one person in charge of working with the designer. The process will go much smoother if your designer doesn’t have to bounce ideas off five different people before a decision can be made.
+ Don’t be that client (or this one or this one or this one) If you send back a list of 20 items to be changed on the third revision either you picked the wrong designer or you weren’t very clear on what you wanted at the start of the project.
+ Create some fantastic content. Now that you’ve got a fancy new design, take some time to assess your content and see if you can give that a little boost too. Your designer will love you for it!
And for all you designers getting started in the freelance world…I’ve got a post coming up for you too!07.10.12 in design, nerd party, silly grrl guide