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Design, Entrepreneurship, Marketing
Designers are visual people, creating for the eyes and in-turn, the mind.
 
With incredible skills developing colour pallets to fonts, tactile objects to expansive spaces, stunning images to coveted fashions, designers truly live in the now of visual creativity. Designing the interfaces on our phones and buildings for our offices the universal language of design is user interaction – how to simplify or enhance how people interact with everything they create.
 
Visual design touches the eye first, but it is created to stimulate the mind.
 
If a designer is already creating successful pieces, they have the inherent tools to become a strong, detailed writer. While beautiful designs get noticed, written messages persuade much deeper. So why not take the time to build out this critical skill set?
 
Fast Company uncovered how writing is a designer’s unicorn skill in March 2017, ‘Forget Coding: Writing Is Design’s “Unicorn Skill”’ however, few designers have really pushed themselves to write. The trifecta of successful design leadership tends to be:
 
– Design
– Copy
– Code (or; Production, Modelling, Prototyping, etc…)
 
Each contributing equally to a successful creative execution. Even if your method is not digital, the same thinking applies. When the final product is in the users’ hands, a nice layout is appreciated, but the content is where they connect.
 
When I was starting my career in a large advertising agency, I worked with copywriters who would supply me with the lines to place and I’d go about my merry way making something look pretty. Words were simply another shape to be manipulated into place. While the copywriter and I would have discussions about how to use it, my influence over the development of it was limited. This was a missed opportunity.
 
Most studios and design firms are smaller operations and do not have the client budget for copywriters, so those tasks tend to fall upon account managers and the client themselves. This is where the designer who writes becomes the unicorn. Taking the time to proof and double check the copy as it is placed in the design, making edits and suggestions can help create a stronger end product. The designer is the one who has the full 360-degree view of all aspects of a project. So much so that with the significant rise in micro-copy (all those little lines guiding users in apps and help sections) it has become essential that micro-copy is part of the overall creative and brand strategy.


Lorem Ipsum
What designer can’t recite lines of the glorious Lorem Ipsum!? Ever since Adobe automatically started filling it into new text spaces with the release of Adobe CC2017, filling in Greek copy has never been easier. And yet, at this stage on the design industry, it comes 10 years too late.
 
Greeking in copy worked for print design decades ago, and still has its place in very early, internal concepts. Beyond the concept stage, it’s usefulness has dried up. It’s great as a placeholder and should be used for that – getting the design into a working place where you can start to define and refine it. Advancing the design by adding in the real words, forces the designer to approach the layout with equal consideration for the content as well. Without the context of real words, the design may not be as easy for the end user as originally intended.
 
Working with the content versus Lorem Ipsum allows the designer to see the final piece, grasping the critical links behind the visual and written to guide the user along. Allowing a designer to work with, and develop, the copy can additionally provide another layer of proofing with a detail-focused set of eyes that can provide valuable insight and feedback on the words themselves.


Get Writing
It’s time to get started! You don’t have to create a website from scratch to start writing. Start small, try out platforms like Linkedin, Facebook or Medium. You could even use Evernote and start a blog (like this one!).
 
Top creatives like the lead UX designer at Bannersnack, Gery Meleg, uses Medium to publish his thoughts. He also guest blogs for DesignModo, but he republishes the same article to connect with different readers through his Medium account. He doesn’t have a personal website, so he uses his social platforms to communicate his messages.
 
While we all have the capacity to become writers, I don’t think every designer should write or have a blog. Some may be better off with a podcast, or maybe play around with video and learn After Effects at the same time.
 
Sometimes it doesn’t matter the type of content you create, it’s more important that you create it and get it out there for the world to embrace (or reject, because the internet is why we can’t have nice things). At the end of the day, you have to want to write to do it successfully. Forcing yourself to polish off and evolve this skill isn’t easy, but even just a small monthly writing habit can be a good start.
 
 
 
Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from an experienced creative professional? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and work through your branding, marketing, or creative materials to find where you need some work, and offer our suggestions.



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Design, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Startup
Think of all the great creative work we see on a daily basis. How the right image paired with the right words evoked reactions. How a new interface felt like a friendly piece of software that you were able to use with ease. Or a new product that came in such precise packaging that you wonder if you should keep the box as well. 
 
All of these pieces, products, and designs came to life from a creative brief. A creative brief is the foundation of any design project, UX product, marketing campaign and really anything produced by a creative team. In essence, a brief is a roadmap outlining the journey that the creative team is about to embark upon. The brief shows the team where to start driving to discover ideas but also how to evolve those ideas into fully formed concepts that complete the journey. 
 
One of the biggest challenges multidisciplinary teams face is getting, and keeping everyone on the same page. The creative brief is the proverbial shepherd herding all the stakeholders together. It provides a central point of reference to clarify the project goals, details, mandatory elements, timelines and budgets for creatives and clients to reference throughout a project. It also has the added bonus of acting as a cover for scope creep for creatives and a deliverable list for clients. A creative brief also provides a way to navigate the messier parts of collaboration on big, complex projects with multiple moving parts and people.
 
In the blog, 5 Ways to Keep Revision Costs Down, one of the key elements for cost control is a detailed creative brief. By capturing all the project elements in one place, both client and agency teams can be held accountable allowing for a more accurate quote and fewer revisions in the final stages.
 
A 2017 survey of over 1,200 international advertising executives by Ad Age asked them to rank clients on topics including integration, procurement, compensation, and consolidation.
 
Specifically, regarding creative briefs, their response was, “Agency assignment briefs were a major problem area, highlighting the old ‘garbage in, garbage out’ mentality. Most agencies reported some level of frustration regarding the quality of assignment briefings: 53% found briefs complete but lacking in focus; 27% found them incomplete and inconsistent; 20% found them complete and focused most of the time, and zero respondents found them complete and focused all the time.”
 
Now, more than ever, teams need to orchestrate and distribute brand campaigns that include multiple media options, timed deliverables, and collaboration efforts with creatives located all over the globe.
 
At the start of a creative project, it is important to answer some essential questions from the key stakeholders.  
 
      • What problem needs to be solved?
      • Who is the target audience?
      • What product, service or solution will solve the core problem?
 
Clarity around these aspects is at the heart of any project success. These questions work for any project type and help get everyone on the project aligned with the main objectives.
 
At its purest, a creative brief is like building a house; a strong foundation will ensure everything else stays together. So, how do you want to build your house? Here are some tips.
 
1. What Are Your Goals?
Before diving into the details of the project, try focusing on a few details. This will allow you to keep the project manageable and your brief focused. However your project is structured, it is important to lay out individual goals that will comprise the steps required to complete the project. 
 
Having a clear vision of who you are is critical when communicating your goals to the team, so they can amplify your amazing qualities. If you have a brand guide, you’ll need to attach it to the creative brief to reinforce who you are and give the creative team a reference they can look to when questions arise. If you do not have a brand guide, now is the time to get one (warning: self-promo ahead) from Method Creative Studios; user experiences driven by simplicity. 
 
2. Who Are The Key Stakeholders?
Ownership drives accountability, on both the client and agency side. Having someone, or team, listed as the decision makers for the client and main point of contact for the creative team allows each group to identify the project leaders. The brief should clearly outline who’s driving the car and who is the senior leadership that can provide guidance if problems arise.
 
Selecting stakeholders who will play an active role in the process will leave the teams with a clear understanding of who they need to turn too when questions arise. However, be sure to not overload already busy staff who might overlook important details. Realistically, this isn’t always possible, but it’s nice to dream, right?
 
3. Who Are We Talking To?
This should be self-explanatory. If you don’t know who you’re talking to this project is far too embryonic for a creative brief. At this point, you should know who your audience is and what their customer person looks like. This needs to be clearly communicated to the creative team. If you have research and detailed persona outlines, put this in an appendix. The agency teams love having a detailed understanding of who they’re talking to.
 
4. What’s The Deal With Your Competition?
Who’s the competition? What are they doing? Where are they finding success? When are the right market conditions? Tell us your ‘why’ statement. This information will help inform the direction that your product, service or brand will go to stand out and help focus both client and creative teams towards a clearer picture of the destination on the roadmap that is our creative brief.
 
5. What Is Our Key Message?
This is the biggie of the project, everything created is in service of this message. To help point the creative team in the right direction try to position the tone and style around the brand’s voice, mission and/or values. 
 
Thinking about the overall goal, try to distill it down to one sentence, or even a few words if possible. If this is presenting itself as a challenge, try using the Golden Circle approach to simplify your message to its core elements. From there, both teams will be able to focus on the best way to communicate it with your audience. 
 
6. How Are We Communicating Your Message?
Let’s get into the specifics now. What channels are you using to push your message? On a screen in a conference hall is a far different screen than your phone playing on Instagram. By narrowing down where your message will be placed, the creative team can design it to cater directly to your audience.
 
7. What Are The Deliverable Details?
Now it’s time to dive into the details. This is where you document exactly what needs to be developed, what mandatory elements are needed, what size the final product needs to be, how it will be produced, who’s responsible for completing a phase and who is it being passed onto. 
 
Let’s get a laundry list of what MUST appear on your piece. Things like logos, selling lines, legal copy, phone numbers, web address, etc. You can also help us out by identifying any possible legal pitfalls or regulatory issues. Do you have a branding guide? What are your corporate colours and fonts? Does it need to be bilingual?
 
This is also your chance to have some fun and join us in the creative process. Please share with us the idea you have in the back of your head, let’s call it a ‘bad ad’ or a ‘jumping off’ point. We know you have an idea of how you see things ending up, it’s time to share. Pull out the crayons and get started. If you have samples of images, brands, ads, apps, websites, or anything else that inspires, this is the time to share it. By knowing what styles, UX’s, tones, etc. that you like, the creative team and focus in on delivering your vision.
 
Don’t be afraid to get really into it here, the more details on the final deliverables, the more focused the creative team can be thus saving you revision costs in the long run.
 
8. How Is Success Measured?
Before the creative team goes nuts building the next great app, do we have tangible metrics to track that will determine growth and success? Do the current analytics account for multiple campaigns and outbound sales activities so this project can be isolated and measured on its own? 
 
Establishing metrics in advance for reporting data helps facilitate stronger client-agency relationships in the long run. It builds trust upon everyone delivering their tasks, and allows for insight into problem areas as they arise. Just make sure there are agreed-upon metrics so everyone knows whether goals have been reached.
 
9. What Are The Timelines?
Let’s face it, some projects are far simpler than others and some are multi-agency, multi-disciplinary complex projects that require a lot of detailed specs. Understanding where this project falls within the marketing mix, content calendar or marketing strategy can help outline the appropriate timeline for completion. 
 
Timelines are the backbone of your project and should be laid out plainly in the creative brief. Try to focus on time windows and then narrow them down to specific days after working with your creative team to fit your project into the production schedule if possible. Ultimately, each deliverable needs to have a due date, as well as a sign-off date. These timelines let the teams know what needs to be done to hit the deadline and how things may be delayed if something is not completed for the next phase.
 
Remember, if every job is a priority, then none of them are a priority. 
 
10. What Is The Budget?
Let’s talk money. What is your budget? We can tailor the job to your budget? Does your budget include hosting, media buys, delivery, and/or printing and production costs? Have you factored in translation costs, audio production, stock image/video purchases, transportation, location fees, licensing, permits, etc.?
 
In most cases, you’re working with a set budget based on the complexity of the project – a 15 second motion graphic ad for Facebook has a smaller budget than a live action 30 second on-location spot that includes digital and print ads to accompany it – this needs to be included in the brief and part of the discussion with the agency team. They will want to know where the flex points are to see if new ideas or techniques could be applied. 
 
If the agency’s quote is above your budget, talk it over with them. Quite often we’re willing to tailor a job based upon budget and needs. Through this dialogue, we can figure out realistic expectations and deliverables before jumping into the project and discovering that the budget has been burned two-thirds of the way through. 
 
Final Thought
Taking the time at the start of the project to think through these 10 tips, and reviewing the brief your agency sent, you’ll be able to build a creative brief that is not only thorough but effective and focused. Now armed with your creative brief, you and your agency team can build the right project for your business. 
 
If you would like a sample of our thorough creative brief here is a copy of Method’s that you can use as a starting point (here is our additional website brief to compliment the main brief). Now go out there and create something beautiful.
 
 
 
Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from an experienced creative professional? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and work through your branding, marketing, or creative materials to find where you need some work, and offer our suggestions.
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Design, Startup
Nothing kills the good feeling of deploying a great looking product to your audience than receiving a bill far higher than you had anticipated. Sure, there were some revisions but the back and fourth for those final little changes didn’t seem like it took too much time. If you’re not mindful of it, revision costs can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Most studios, agencies and freelancers bill by the hour – every little colour change, type movement, image swap – is logged on a timesheet, and those little tweaks can add up fast. It doesn’t have to be this way, here are some tactics to help keep your revision costs in check, and also streamline communication with your creative team.
 
General practice is to provide a couple rounds of revisions – two to three – included in a quote, with anything beyond those being billed on the clock. A good account manager or freelancer will alert you when the clock starts ticking, however it’s never a bad idea to ask. A revision round is considered any change made to a file and is generally present in the file name of any creative work being sent for review (PDF’s, JPGs, PNGs, etc…) with a filename looking similar to this, sample_card_v4 (or sometimes r3). So when you see ‘4’ showing up, the clock is probably running. A good practice when working with a new studio, agency or freelancer is to understand how their billing time works; by the minute, quarter, half or full hour and when the clock starts ticking, like when a file is opened for example.
 
Looking for tactics to keep your company’s revision costs down? Here are five tips to help you and your team avoid extra rounds of revisions.
 
1. Define project goals
Although this article is about how to keep revisions under control, like most things in life, setting a project up for success at the very start always proves to be invaluable when it comes time for changes. Before any research is conducted or concepts explored, the major stakeholders of the creative project need to clearly and specifically define what the expectations are. 
 
For example, if a new brand is required, what are the expectations around it? What is a logo to you and your team? Is it an icon? A shape? A word mark? A combination? What does that logo stand for? What is its mission? And these are just the start of the questions on the business side of a brand, there’s a whole other world of questions around your customers and audience, but we’ll get to that in the next point.
 

Solution:
The major stakeholders need to conduct internal research on what the project goals are, who they are serving, who will be involved in the approvals process (so they can help define the goals) and who will be the single point of contact between the company and the creative team. Knowing who is responsible for what, and who everything will funnel through can catch errors sooner and save valuable time over the course of the project.
 
2. Start with the brief
The brief is really where everything comes together in advance of project kickoff. It’s your opportunity to capture everything that you require from the creative team. A good creative brief will not only ask what pieces are required – Five sizes of google ads, Facebook and Instagram ready videos, business cards, and letterhead, etc – but will also explore your customer and audience personas. This is your opportunity to take the creative team on a deep dive into your request. Creative briefs should be detailed enough to give the team a clear focus on what is required while leaving them with enough leeway to do what they do best – design incredible pieces for your company. To see what should be included in a brief, here is a copy of Method’s that you can use as a starting point (here is our additional website brief to compliment the main brief).
 
Solution: Don’t be afraid of the details. Take the opportunity to provide visual samples (or links) to designs and work that inspires you and influenced this project. Describe the user experience you’re aiming to achieve and show some other companies that have achieved this. Before you submit the brief, be sure to get buy-in from all the stakeholders involved as this will ensure that the project it completely clear on your end helping minimize revisions in the long run. 
 
3. Assign one point of contact to communicate with the creative team
Studios and agencies have built their client facing department – account managers – around the proven practice of having one manager overseeing an account; being the sole point of contact between the bustling bodies of the studio and the client. This process not only eliminates broken telephone between creative departments but puts accountability for all communications through one funnel. The same practice should be applied on the client side. Consider this; there are four stakeholders on a web design project all wanting to communicate with the design team. Throughout a day, four different emails are sent, saying four different things. This not only takes time to untangle the requests, it often increases the margin of error and ultimately the number of revisions.
 
Solution: To avoid the phenomenon of ’too many cooks in the kitchen’, establish a single point of contact to speak with the creative team. This individual will be tasked with sorting out questions and opinions internally before connecting passing them on for execution. Sometimes it’s necessary to have a few people involved. In these cases employing the use of project management software like Asana or Airtable which will ensure that everything is logged and minimize miscommunication internally.
 
4. Consolidate rounds of revisions
Receiving the first version of any design project is exciting! It’s the first time you get to interact with your vision and really see what your creative team is capable of, and how well your team was able to communicate requirements. While you might be tempted to share immediate feedback (praise is always appreciated) it is inevitable that you’ll have additional ideas in a few hours, after sleeping on it and especially when other stakeholders get involved. Rapid fire revisions are not a good use of time, and pretty much instantly eat up your revision rounds. 
 
Solution: Book a meeting of all stakeholders to review, discuss and consolidate all revisions. Sometimes a project needs to be shared internally (even with the board) for a week or so to properly collect everyone’s feedback. This is also a situation where project management software can help keep track of requests. The added benefit of consolidating feedback is that the creative team will know the timeline of when to expect the revisions and can schedule them into the workflow keeping your project humming along on time.
 
5. Ensure feedback is specific and exact
When the time comes to send feedback and revisions to the creative team, specific requests that avoid vague or buzz terms ensure a clearer understanding of what you’re looking for. Nothing is worse than requests like, “make it cooler’, or “there’s something here that isn’t working”. Feedback containing really subjective terms such as ‘cool’, ‘modern’, ‘techy’, ‘relaxed’, etc… are catnip for extra rounds of revisions as the creative team is left to decipher just what ‘cool’ really is. The reason is that everyone has a different interpretation of what ‘cool’ means, and looks like. 
 
Solution: Don’t be afraid of the details. Avoid subjective terms altogether. Similar to the briefing stage, this is another chance to go into more detail by using visual references to explain what ‘cool’ is to you and your team. Having visual references allows the creative team to focus in on what your expectations are, without being mind readers. Don’t worry about limiting designers by getting too specific, we actually love it – it allows us to focus our energy and produce the right solution faster because we’re not guessing or lost down the wrong road. 
 
At the end of the day, we all want to see a successful project completion, and that includes presenting a final bill that is within the agreed upon quote. Following the tips above you’ll be able to contain overage costs and keep everything on a smooth timeline. The added bonus is that your creative team will love you! While we love billing for every little change, the reality is that doing 25 rounds of revisions is not helping anyone and is only demoralizing both teams. Happy teams produce great work and in the end builds a strong relationship that should serve you well into the future.
 
This blog is dedicated to my Marketing Director fiancée, who has dealt with more than her share of runaway revisions over the years. Since she has put these principals in place her team has seen great success on projects spanning the print and digital design universe.



Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from an experienced creative professional? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and work through your branding, marketing, or creative materials to find where you need some work, and offer our suggestions.
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Design
We’ve all had that client. The one with a huge, last minute, complicated project and then try to play the role of ‘worst client ever’. They do things like neglecting to answer their phone or email, love to change their minds about details in the brief, all the while demanding that you do the impossible in a matter of minutes. Of course, they forgot to mention they expect you to do these things free of charge.
 
Clients like these are ubiquitous in the world of freelancing. Most freelancers will work with at least one crazy client at some point in their career. They’re the fun vampires, sucking the joy and creativity out of a job that can leave you wondering why you didn’t go to law school or go work in a bank.
 
However, to keep the lights on, you need to listen and work with your clients. Here are some tips to keep projects on track, and some sanity in your mind.
 
1. You Are Clear About Out-of-Scope Work
There’s an easy way you can mitigate the problems caused by bad communication in a project. One of the most frequent complaints have to do with time. Designers rightfully take issue with their clients expecting them to be time wizards, completing an impossible amount of work in the space of a day, or hours that they don’t want to pay for the extra time.
 
So, what do you do? In your project contract (there should always be a contract between you and the client), include a clause which breaks down your expected compensation in the event of a rush job or any overtime work. Better yet, include a line on your rate card highlighting rush job pricing, this way there is no ambiguity on what the price is for rush jobs.
 
Make it very clear to them what they’re asking for and how difficult it is to accomplish, when they want you to redo the web page layout of the site to a two-column layout from a three-column layout, for example. If you’d rather not be stuck doing revision after revision, include a set number that you’ll allow each client to have.
 
Be specific about the project’s deliverables and outcomes, and protect yourself by having solid terms and conditions agreed to in the event of out-of-scope work arises. When the guidelines and parameters for what you will and won’t do are set in stone, it does wonders for your peace of mind.
 
2. Your Quote Contains A Contract
If your quotes don’t currently contain a contract, don’t take on another job without one. You can find free quote and contract templates all over the Web that cover a wide scope of freelancing needs. Here’s a good starting point from LawDepot that you can use for free.
 
The best solution, however, is to simply consult with a contract attorney and let them draft your company’s business contracts. If you’re intimidated at the thought of going to a lawyer, don’t be. I promise you, it’s not nearly as scary (or expensive) as being faced with a mountain of revisions from a client who isn’t legally obligated to pay you for your extra hard work. You can find great lawyers that know small business by searching Click Lawyer.
 
3. You Win The Presentation
Give the client what they’re asking for (for the most part). You’d be surprised by how much clients will allow you to get away with creatively, as long as you’re able to sell and rationalize it to them. The key is how you present your work and your ideas.
 
A mediocre idea that is presented well can outperform a great idea that’s presented poorly. So naturally, a great idea that’s presented well is the winning combination. Spend a few minutes to get inside your client’s head. Talk to them, listen carefully, figure out exactly how you need to package your ideas so that they will choose the option that’s best for their needs.
 
Do your research and present your case clearly. Support your design decisions with data. You could, for example, use usability research results to back up your choices. Yes, this takes a bit of extra effort, but it’s almost always worth it.
 
4. Your Portfolio Represents Your Business
You want to make sure that every single piece of work in your portfolio is tailored to the needs of your ideal client. This helps to make sure that you work with client’s who best match your work, acting as a sort of filter against clients that you might not be the best idea.
 
If you’re trying to attract small businesses or startup companies as opposed to Fortune 500 companies, build a portfolio that is attractive and focused on the needs and wants of these businesses. If you work well with a high-end client, you’ll need to adjust your portfolio so caters to this market. If you don’t have any work that represents the market you’re looking to attract, then take the time to create some fun spec work that showcases your ability to work within that market.
 
5. You are an Educator
Another important hat for designers to wear is that of the educator. We’ve all heard of the clueless design client who has no idea how to download an email attachment, much less understand the ins and outs of what’s required to complete their project.
 
I’ve found that having patience with people and taking care to explain in detail what is expected from them has helped me avoid quite a few catastrophes in the past.
 
If you struggle with being able to communicate difficult concepts to your clients, consider making overview presentations and inviting your client to join you for a lunch and learn. This not only helps build trust between the two of you, but it allows the client to have a no-pressure atmosphere to ask questions without distractions to learn about the creative process, your role as a designer and their role as the client. This is also a great opportunity to teach them about the importance of the brief and how the two of you can work together to define the scope before jumping into a new project.
 
Being able to communicate clearly can help defuse a situation that might otherwise get out of hand and end in frustration for both you and the client.
 
6. You are the Underdog
Here’s a personal antidote from my days as an in-house designer. I’m one of those people who can produce a large amount of quality work in a relatively short amount of time. Because of this tendency, I’ve found that freelancing suits me far better than in-house work.
 
Why?
 
Firstly, it allows me to have near complete control of my own time. I’m no longer chained to a desk, droning away with lame busy work that has nothing to do with anything creative – or more accurately, looking busy to burn the hours when there’s nothing to do.
 
Secondly, and more importantly, it allows me to keep my speed and creative process a carefully-guarded secret.
 
When you produce a lot of work in a short amount of time, you tend to assume you’ll be rewarded handsomely for it. Unfortunately, most people figure out pretty quickly that that’s almost never what actually happens. Most likely, you’ll just be loaded down with more work. Once people find out how fast you are, they’ll get spoiled and will start expecting the same level of output from you in the future.
 
As many designers can confirm, it’s almost never the actual work that takes the most time. You’re a designer – you know what you’re doing and how to use your tools. The biggest time drain is usually getting the client to be on the same page as you are in terms of the idea.
 
As a Creative Director friend likes to say, “When a client asks how long it took to come up with the idea I like to say ten years and five minutes. Ten years to gain the experience to learn how to create quickly”. 
 
If you’re a freelancer, my crazy suggestion to you would be to slow down. Not “slacker” slow, but try not to let your clients in on your amazing superpowers. Impress your clients by under-promising and over-delivering.



Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from an experienced creative professional? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and work through your branding, marketing, or creative materials to find where you need some work, and offer our suggestions.

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Design, Startup
We’ve all dealt with difficult clients — every studio has them. You know the one, the client who frustrates you to no end, who seems to have no respect for your craft/business, monopolizes your time and makes continuous unreasonable demands.
 
Sometimes you might have more than one, and you probably spend your weekends in the studio putting out their fires. It’s the classic 80:20 principle; you spend 80% of your resources on 20% of your clients. Which makes the remaining clients seem like the greatest ever (and they usually are!).
 
 
Two things are important to understand before jumping in:
  1. If 20% of your clients take 80% of your time, your revenues will not keep up, and your resources will become depleted when they’re not focusing on the right clients who are keeping the lights on. This post isn’t for you; you need to focus on finding new clients!
     
  2. If the painful clients are also your top revenue drivers, the tips below should help you identify and manage them more effectively.
 
 
The, “I Don’t Know What I Want” Client
Characteristics: Says one thing on a call, something completely different in a meeting, and totally different over email. They’re all over the place!
Management: Get everything in writing at the start – like a detailed project brief – and reject any major change of scope after the fact if it is not negotiated, quoted and signed off before starting.


The, “I Thought This Was Included” Client
Characteristics: They insist on getting a little more out of the scope of work, but don’t want to pay an hourly cost. The scope is always expanding without compensation.
Management: Agree to any additional out of scope work, as long as it is billed by the hour. Even better is to quote the additions and take an additional retainer on it.
 
 
The, “I Need This Done Yesterday” Client
Characteristics: Our work looks simple, so it doesn’t take long. If they have the idea, the work is 90% complete.
Management: Don’t sugar coat it – if they expect the impossible it’s your job to educate them on the realities of the job.
 
 
The, “Everything Is An Emergency” Client
Characteristics: They believe that you don’t have any other clients, meetings or a life, so they deserve 100% of your time and attention.
Management: Similar to the, “I Need This Done Yesterday” Client, stand firm and establish clear timelines for the project that you both agree upon. Employing a project management system that has client updates (such as Asana or Monday) allows them to see where progress is without getting in your hair.
 
 
The, “I Don’t Care, Do What You Like” Client
Characteristics: Total hands-off approach – you’re the designer so make something ‘cool’.
Management: This is your chance to have some fun. Chances are you were hired by referral, or from your portfolio so they know what you can do and want something unique. However, that is not a license to go wild, establish your milestones and always get client approval at critical steps along the way so you’re not left with a beautiful product that you need to start over (and won’t be able to bill for).
 
 
The, “I Don’t Know What I Want, But It Isn’t This” Client
Characteristics: This client may not know what they want, but theyreallyknow what they don’t want. They’re evasive in meetings and send back one sentence briefs.
Management: This one is a major flag before starting anything. If it’s not a big account, consider finding another client as the potential for wasted time, headache and frustration is massive.
 
 
The, “Will This Cost Extra?” Client
Characteristics: Probably an accountant lol. The penny pinching, deal-making, client is looking at one thing only, the cost. They worry about every element in the quote and turn white when the discussion turns to hourly billed revisions that fall outside of the two rounds included in the quote.
Management: This is where your quoting and scoping abilities come out strong. Agree on the scope and quote before the retainer is paid (which you’re doing anyway, right?) and if they can’t pay for any additional revisions outside of the scope, then the project is finished at that point. As long as the understanding is established and written out in advance, you should be okay.
 
 
The, “I Work On Weekends, You Should Too” Client
Characteristics: You’re receiving emails at 4:30am, daily. Meetings are asked for outside business hours, calls come in to review the work on Saturday morning.
Management: Don’t be afraid to say NO! If what they’re asking for is pulling you away from your life, or other clients, let them know that they cannot monopolize your time.
 
 
The, “My Cat Likes This Colour” Client
Characteristics: They have a habit of latching onto one small thing; colour, font, word and then use it to drive the project well outside of the plan or slam the breaks until the minor issue can meet their satisfaction.
Management: Don’t ask what their cat’s favourite colour is. Ask questions that lead them to discovering what they want to accomplish from this project. This is your chance to showcase your expertise by recommending options to achieve their goals.
 
 
The, “I Thought This Would Take Five Minutes” Client
Characteristics: They’re the greatest at everything and they can do your job much faster than you, they’re just too busy/important to do it themselves.
Management: Wow, they are way, way to detached from reality. You’ll need to become an educator here, taking less than five minutes to explain why their request won’t take five minutes, but more like five days. Then launch into your milestone and timeline planning, getting sign off on the timeline so you can hold them to it.
 
 
The “Design By Committee” Client
Characteristics: Usually found in large/enterprise level corporations. Your point of contact is just one of the many heads at the table, and might not even be a stakeholder in the project. Everything is done via committee, from colours, images down to line breaks and words. They usually get caught up in irrelevant issues while missing the big picture.
Management: Force agreement! Really, you’ll need to herd them towards decisions and approvals. Use your one point of contact as your ally, getting them on board with your work and plans so bringing everyone together is an easier process. If you don’t have one point of contact and have to work with the committee, do whatever you can to get them to decide on one point of contact. And as always, remind them you bill by the hour.
 
 
The, “I Love It, But We Need Something Completely Different” Client
Characteristics: Seems like a dream client, until the final product is delivered. Then they want you to go in a completely different direction (whether it’s their fault or not).
Management: Make it clear, right out of the gate, that additional costs WILL apply to major changes that fall outside of the scope of work, that you’ll happily quote on the change and that revisions will be billed by the hour.
 
 
With all clients, best practices are to get a detailed brief in writing, defined timeline with major milestones established, approved quote with two rounds of revisions included in the cost, understanding that additional revisions will be billed hourly and then client sign-off on all of the above. Then get your 50% retainer paid up front and kick off the project!
 
 
Lastly, with all the above problem clients, you have the option of saying ’no’, and/or terminating the relationship. No client is worth damage to your mental health, so take care of yourself and your clients will continue to see you deliver successful products.

Here are 6 tips for effectively dealing with client demands.


Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from an experienced creative professional? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and work through your branding, marketing, or creative materials to find where you need some work, and offer our suggestions.

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Design
In an era of consolidating type foundry’s, digital design and Google Fonts, we’re seeing eroding emphasis on the importance of type. More and more, design is taking a ‘good enough’ approach versus taking the time to craft graphical arts, and the first casualty is type. Now I’ll admit, type was never my favorite as a junior designer – it’s complex, there are hundreds of thousands of typefaces, it requires patience and skill to really typeset. As my career evolved, type became my favorite element, because it is hard, and choosing the right type for the right job helped elevate my art direction into new heights of style and quality. 

Type is where the viewer’s eyes immediately go to on a design. It is the information that they want to know and look to learn. With the wrong type, your message can be thrown off. Just like the lack of emotion, tone emphasis, intonation, etc… in text messages, the wrong type can send the wrong message in a design. 

For example:

The right type makes the message. 

With Google Fonts consolidating the selection of type, and designers choosing to stick with what is known versus experimenting with type, we might see a future where Lato, Roboto, Raleway and Oswald are the only typefaces we need. As creative leaders, let’s not let that happen, let’s remember why type matters and give it it’s time to shine in all of our work.



Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from an experienced creative professional? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and work through your branding, marketing, or creative materials to find where you need some work, and offer our suggestions.

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