What to expect during a large design project
You likely know what service you need, or at least have a vague idea, and maybe you even know who you want to provide that service for you & how you want it done, but maybe you have no idea how much (if any) work you’ll need to put in. We’ve all been there!
This works for pretty much anything in the service industry, right? From home renovations (choosing furnishings, and countertops, and appliances, and paint colors, etc.), to graphic design, which is what I do!
Whether you have or haven’t worked with a graphic designer like me before, I’d be willing to bet you’re not sure what to expect, especially in a remote work or freelance situation.
Because I find myself explaining these kinds of things frequently, I know that there are a lot of you out there who have no idea & that’s okay! To help you out, I figured I’d fill you in on a little bit of what I expect from my own clients during a large project (like Branding or Web design).
5 things to expect during a large design project
After you decide what you want, I’ll let you know if what I offer is a good fit for you, then I’ll make some suggestions about which of my packages may work the best for you & your business/situation.
I don’t want you to pay for more or less work than you actually need. I’m not trying to up-sell you, or take on work that I know is outside of my skill set either. I’m really good at what I know, and that’s why I want to help you!
1. DOCUMENTS & OTHER INFO
Boring stuff first, I’m afraid!
First I’ll send you a proposal (with details about what’s included) with options that seem to fit you best. You’ll be able to select the options you want in that form, which builds your invoice for you, so you'll know how the pricing changes as you select your options.
Once we decide on a package & you approve it, I’ll send you a contract to sign digitally that outlines what’s expected of both parties! Convenient, right? Everything all up front, right from the get go.
After we both sign the contract I’ll send you an invoice for the amount you approved in the proposal. Then you’d make a payment (either a deposit to secure your spot in my schedule & then make biweekly payments for the remaining amount, or if you prefer you can pay in full). Payments can be made online with a card or from your bank account. My system doesn’t store that information unless you choose to have recurring (automatic) payments for the duration of that project. Checks are also possible, but I don’t send the receipt or apply the payment to your account until it has cleared.
After that, you’d officially be a client! YAY!
READ MORE: My Absolute Favorite Freelancer App
The first thing for a design project is that I ask you to create a Pinterest board for the project, share it with me, and start pinning! I ask for at least 50-100 pins before we get started on anything else, so I can see if a pattern develops on fonts, colors, logo styles, and imagery.
Sometimes what you end up with on that Pinterest board is a more accurate reading of what you’re looking for, than how you could ever explain it to me in words, so it’s always a huge help for me!
Next you’d get a questionnaire so I can pick your brain, and ask all the questions that help me figure out what you’re really looking for. A lot of non-creative people have trouble talking about what they want, and still others don’t even know what they want, so they can’t talk about it. My questionnaires try to pull specific information from you to help me piece that together, so long-winded answers are always welcome!
For example, if we’re working on a Branding project (a logo design + other materials), your questionnaire would be a little different than one for a Website design project. A Website questionnaire would include some added technical questions like these below:
do you want a blog? (regular posting helps with Google ranking over time)
do you want a sidebar?
do you want to connect social media accounts (so the clickable icons on your website will go to those pages)?
if so, are you comfortable giving me the login to connect them for you?
or would you prefer to do this yourself (I have a tutorial to walk you through this (it's quick & easy)?
do you already own a domain (www.example-company.com)?
if so, which company did you purchase from?
if so, please provide the URL
I will need the login in order to connect or transfer that domain to the new website platform (Squarespace).
would you prefer to connect (ownership stays with the company you purchased it from & you'd have different bills annually for the site upkeep), or transfer (ownership moves from the company you purchased from to Squarespace & you'd receive one bill annually).
do you want a branded email address (starting at about $60/year)
do you want an online booking system
if so, would you like me to set this up for you? (I'd create the login & you could change it later after setup is complete, if you prefer.)
Because that can be a lot to take in, all these documents will live in a Portal that is for you, and you alone.
You can access it any time with your own login, print out any of the above documents, check back through some of our emails, view your contact information & change/update anything as needed, and access any links I’ve provided for you (like the URL where your proofs and mockups can be found for the duration of the project, any tutorial videos I’ve made for you, or the link to our project management information, etc.).
2. PROJECT MANAGEMENT
I use a project management tool for my bigger projects, like website design and branding, because there are so many moving parts. Right now that tool for me is Trello; it’s FREE & easy to learn/use (though I also have an Asana account & am happy to use that if you’re more familiar with that platform).
I realize it can be a big ask for my clients to learn something new just for this project, but it helps SO much to have all of the information in one organized place, accessible to both parties (& their teams if need be).
No more fishing through our inboxes or text messages with fingers crossed, hoping that email or text is still there so you/I can remember what was said.
I use Trello to put dates on the calendar when you or I will be unavailable, due dates for work submission & your feedback for my submitted work, so we can stay on schedule. Anything that is assigned to you will send you reminders about the due dates coming up so no one will forget (myself included!).
Trello is available on a web browser, desktop app, mobile app & syncs across all devices. Since it reminds you/I when a task is due, and we can mark it as Complete, we can stay on task as we move through the project. You'll always know what's going on and what comes next.
3. VISUALS & MOCKUPS
Next we move onto the fun part! I’ll create a page on my site (that only you have the link for), where I’ll post the proof for each stage of the process, along with any mockups, etc.. That means no email attachment downloads, no texts of images, and no back & forth!
There would be a link to a short form at the bottom of the proof page, where you can fill out a request for revisions or approve it before moving forward.
Once the final design is approved, we begin working on the small stuff if those things are included in the package you chose: like business cards, social media banners & profile images.
Once the branding is done, and if our project is a web design project, we’ll move onto the web site design!
The reason this part starts after the brand design is done, is because the website design should match the branding in order to feel consistent across all of your online business platforms. So it’d be silly to start it before I know what the style will be, what colors/fonts to choose, and things like that.
Prior to this stage, you’d be required to submit a lot of pre-work or homework (that would all be due before this stage). There are due dates for each part, and they’re spaced out so you don’t get overwhelmed.
If you’re wondering what kinds of things are included in the homework, it’s the meat of your website. I'm not a copywriter, though I can recommend one if needed, and since you know your business best, the only person who can give me most of this information, is you!
what service(s) you provide
details (on each, if there is more than one)
the pricing for your services or your service packages
your business bio with a brief bit about yourself, if you own it
your contact information
(how your customers will contact/find you)
Photos you want to use
do you want to use stock photos
if so: free or purchased (recommended)
professional photos of you!
whether you want to have a branded email
(for website projects) which social media platforms do you want to connect?
(for website projects) what you want your domain to be
(for website projects) whether you want to have an online booking system incorporated
(for website projects) portfolio, team, or product photos
(for website projects) do you want a blog
if so there’s more information about what to include on that page
(if not, I have resources to point you to for those things)
+ more where applicable & based on each client’s business type
5. FEEDBACK & COMMUNICATION
HOW I COMMUNICATE WITH YOU:
Phone calls are by appointment only (so I can separate my work time from my family time, because that’s important to me; I also have my own business to run, so I can’t be available for phone calls at all times).
Video chats are also by appointment, whenever needed and I like to schedule at least one per project so we can meet face-to-face and get a feel for each other’s personality!
Most of my clients aren’t in my city or state, so in-person meetings are not possible in most cases, though I’m definitely open to them if you’re truly nearby.
I also do video tutorials for onboarding & offboarding to literally walk you through how to use the tools like Trello (our project management system), Squarespace (my web design platform of choice), and Google Drive or Dropbox (where I’ll store your final files for you to download & I’ll explain what’s in there & where to use it).
HOW YOU COMMUNICATE WITH ME:
The most important part of having a great experience is communication. I can’t stress that enough, especially when working with someone remotely. I can’t know what you don’t tell me, because I can’t read your mind!
When you submit your pre-work/homework you can upload information as attachments to the appropriate area in Trello.
For example, in the homework section there’s usually an area for you to put any photos of your current branding if we’re doing a brand refresh, so to do that you would upload the photos to that Trello card.
To give me the written content for the website, like your package pricing, service details, contact information, etc., you could attach it as any of the following formats:
any file from your computer (ex: Word doc, .pdf, .jpg, etc.)
a link to a Google Drive document
something from Dropbox, Box or OneDrive
a link where the most current information can be found
Email is great, as long as it’s not information I’ll need to hunt down later for the project (such as content or images for the website, etc.). We all forget things though, so if you slip up on that one, I’ll remind you by saying that I’ll put that information in Trello (or Asana).
I’ll continue to encourage you to keep as much info as possible in Trello, so we can both find & keep track of it easily! Plus, when the project is done & the support period is over, it makes it easy for me to archive or delete all of that (sometimes sensitive) information, protecting your privacy!
Family is a huge priority for me, but I also tend to be a workaholic, because I absolutely love what I do!
That being the case, please know that if you were to email me at 11pm, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be replying before 8am the next day (even if I’m awake), because I’m “clocked out” and on me-and-family-time.
Now, if it’s launch day and you email me in a panic because something has gone terribly wrong, I’ll keep an eye out for something like that, obviously, but that’s highly unlikely. I choose my platforms wisely for that very reason (stability).
I work during regular, reasonable hours, and frankly you should be too! We all need rest in between working hard to build our businesses, so we can resume our work with fresh eyes later. Right? And if we don't take care of ourselves, then everything & everyone around us suffers.