6 Things You Must Do When Branding a Client

There are so many things to think about when branding a client, and choosing among the best practices and processes to have in place can be confusing. Managing the client’s initial onboarding process and what they expect from you as a graphic designer can be tricky. And if you’re a freelancer, you ‘re your own CEO, accounting department, marketing director, and website developer – among many other roles, too. A full-time graphic designer faces many challenges every day. You can read my article “5 Common Problems All Graphic Designers Face,” to learn more about them.  In this article, however, I want to discuss six things I believe are essential for branding a client. 

CONTRACT

The client-designer contract is probably the least fun part of running your own freelance business.  It’s also the most important! Make sure you itemize everything you agree to deliver and how much the client should expect to pay. Most designers require 50 percent of their fee up front and the other 50 percent upon completion. Depending on who your client is, you can use other payment ratios or schedules, but no matter what, always make sure you don’t deliver everything until you’ve received your final payment! There are many great apps out there for invoicing, and you can use PayPal, FreshBooks or even Venmo to send a bill.

GETTING TO KNOW YOUR CLIENT

One of the first things I do when onboarding a client is to have them fill out a survey. I love to making initial discovery calls at the outset of a new client relationship – if they answer some of the survey questions thoughtfully beforehand, it really makes a big difference in your call. You want to get to know them and help them understand your vision for their brand you’ll create for them. Ask them questions like, “What three personality traits would you use to describe this brand?” Or, “Which colors and imagery do you want to avoid when it comes to the brand’s design and aesthetic?”

If you can hone things down and focus on what the client loves and cherishes most about their brand, you can deliver an exceptional product without killing yourself. To be clear – this is a crucial step in the process.  You want to make sure the client’s aesthetic is in line with what you can do if you want to  make sure you’re a good match for your client. 

Next, ask the client to start delivering assets to you (imagery, content, etc.) immediately to see what they’ve already collected. 

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS 

One of the biggest components of running a business is being able to manage your clients’ expectations. There are tools that can help you manage client expectations that you can use over and over. I always like to use a timeline to show the client what the process looks like and what the expected delivery date for each round. I also include feedback deadlines in the timeline to help the client be aware of their timing, too!  I usually start with their deadline and work my way backward to make sure everything fits. Whenever possible, I prefer to add an extra week to a client’s requested deadline, to have a cushion in case something goes wrong. It’s always better to deliver early rather than late. 

STYLE & COMPETITIVE RESEARCH

When I’m starting out with a new client, I always ask them to list their stop-three competitors. If they can’t identify any, I ask them to send me the names of three people or companies who have a brand or website they like. These visuals offer great insight into what draws clients in and what elements they like. I then like to do my own competitive research to determine which trends and unique elements the client’s competition is using to gain some inspiration.

BUDGET & TIME MANAGEMENT

This seems like an obvious one …. But it’s not always easy to determine how to manage your time.  When you’re branding a new client, there are many levels of intensity you can choose for the project. Be  very clear about stating what you think the client wants from this branding.  Sometimes clients just want a basic brand guide, a new logo, a website mock-up and some basic elements – but others may want an entire brand guide book that can take you many hours to put together. Make sure you assess how many hours each revision and round will take. It’s always more than you think!  

DELIVERING DELIVERABLES

Once your project is complete, it’s a good idea to package all your deliverables together for the closeout. I like to deliver everything via Dropbox or Google drive. I include all the raw logo files, icons, and the element brand guide (as a PDF), and any other assets that the client may need in the future. I also give new clients logo variations and some social media profile-sized logo versions, so they can be set up and ready to go in the near future.

Once you’ve delivered everything, it’s time to ask your client for a review. This will help you understand and acquire future business, and you can use it on your website as a testimonial (if it’s positive, of course).  Never let a client get away without feedback!

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Jacqueline Ball is author of “The Graphic Designers Guide to Branding Clients” and owns The Digital Design Co. She can be reached at Jacqueline@thedigitaldesignco.com

5 Common Problems All Graphic Designers Face

Oh, the joys of being in business on your own. Whether you’re a student or a seasoned designer, I’m sure you’ve run into some of the common problems described below. Drawing on my experience and those of others, I’ll shed some light on these everyday issues – and offer some solutions for each.

GETTING YOUR WORK OUT THERE

This is obviously an important part of the lead-generation process. While there are many ways you can showcase your work, I think it’s worth the investment to have your own  portfolio website. If you’re not big on web design, a Squarespace site is both user friendly and easy to begin at about $8 a month. If you prefer a site with a more of “branded” look, I recommend using WordPress. Make sure you define your “brand” as a designer with consistent rules to ensure your website/portfolio adheres to  those guidelines.  You can also display your completed projects on social media – I’m a huge fan of Instagram for designers! Check out Salted Ink’s work on the platform to see what a great Instagram account looks like. Pinterest is also great for designers, because it’s incredibly visual, and people frequently look at what users post on the app for design inspiration. Facebook is important, too, and you can use it to generate serious leads for your talents. The key to success is to always be certain who your target audience is, and to cater your messaging and work display toward them. 

Along with your website, it’s crucial that you always have business cards on you that make an impact! My favorite printer is MOO.COM, and it offers gorgeous card stock at affordable rates. Make sure your business card screams “WOW!”

CAN’T FIND WORK

This is obviously the biggest one. Just a few years ago, the economy was so bleak, I’m not sure how graphic designers could even afford to have their own business. It always seemed so hard to find the next job! 

Luckily, sites like Outsource.com and Upwork.com make it easy for freelance designers to pick up jobs and build a great clientele. You can also run targeted ads on social media to try to find interested customers. LinkedIn is an amazing social media channel, and there are always job posts for freelance designers there. I’ve also used the ZipRecruiter app to find decent-paying jobs occasionally. Make sure your resume looks AMAZING (we offer a beautiful template here) and prominently displays your top projects and website.

HOW TO PRICE A CLIENT

Not only is it hard finding clients, but then you have to propose a price for the project that makes sense to both you and the client! This is one of the biggest and most frequent challenges I hear designers talk about. The best way to think about it is to come up with a detailed, itemized list of what you’re going to do for them. For example, you can brand a client by doing a simple brand guide that includes a color palette, some imagery, two logo variations and a brand mark – or you can do an entire brand guide book!  The pricing for two options can be quite far apart. The former can run a client about $1,500, and the latter can cost about $3,000!  You can read my article on 6 Things You Must Do When Branding A Client by clicking the link.

The best way to think about pricing is to estimate how many hours of work you think it will take to complete the project. Then, add 3 extra hours for good measure and figure out what those hours and your labor are worth to you. If you’re a brand new designer, then $20/hr. is pretty good. If you’re a top designer with amazing brands under your belt, you can probably go as high as $100/hr. Of course, you also want to consider the value of the project. By which I mean, if you don’t have a lot in your portfolio yet, you may want to do the project a bit more affordably, so you can use it as a something to bolster resume.

EXPENSIVE TOOLS & ASSETS

We all know Adobe programs aren’t cheap! However, being able to use those programs via Adobe’s monthly subscription service means always having access to the most recent version of the software and staying up to date. You can’t do your job as a designer without these expenses. Luckily, as an independent contractor, you can pay for them from your business account and not your income. This is an important perk that you must not to miss out on! If you’re paying out your pocket for these expenses, you should keep a detailed log so you can write off those expenses each year. Also, when you first begin your business, you’ll have additional up-front costs. It’s important to look at those expenses as an investment in your business and yourself. If you can book one job to pay for some of these assets, then you’ll soon see they’re worth the investment. For example, think of a makeup artist who’s just starting her career. Without investing in expensive makeup and brushes, she wouldn’t be in a position to take on great clients. 

VENDOR RELATIONSHIPS

This is an interesting problem that’s common among almost all designers. For example, you could add a client who wants a website designed. If you don’t have a web designer on hand, you’ll likely miss out on potential additional business.

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Jacqueline Ball is author of “The Graphic Designers Guide to Branding Clients” and owns The Digital Design Co. She can be reached at Jacqueline@thedigitaldesignco.com

Top Ten Website Visuals Essential for Brand Likability

Lets be honest, there are a lot of ugly websites out there. If your website was designed in 2014 or earlier… you may be one of them and in need of an update. Because technology and design trends are evolving at such a rapid pace, you need to make sure your brand visuals are aligned with your goals. Curious as to what people judge your site most on?  Read below!

 

  • Logo: This is a big one. People almost immediately judge your brand based off of your logo. If your logo is old or grainy or doesn’t seem to inspire… consider a rebrand. I have seen so many awesome companies struggle with e-commerce sales because their branding is just off. People don’t trust you if your logo is not fantastic. It doesn’t have to be colorful and loud. In fact, sometimes the subtle one-word logos with an amazing font are the strongest. It’s important to have a professional take this on. It is so worth the money. You can always run a contest for a logo for cheap! Try designcontest.com for help with your logo.
  • Colors: every color has a feeling to it… you want to make sure these are invoking the feelings you want your customer to feel when associating with your brand!
  • Typeface: Who knew there was such a big difference between a serif, sans serif, hand written, or water color typeface. Well there is and its important to have a fresh modern feel with your typeface.   You want to have a balanced weight and there are so many different options out there it can be overwhelming. Visit dafont.com to browse tons of free fonts.
  • Responsive design: Does your website have a clear mobile design? It is just as attractive as the desktop? Make sure your responsive design is user friendly and beautiful to the eye.
  • Images: This is an obvious one but you wouldn’t believe how many brands have random images that don’t connect to their audience at all. Just because an image is cool doesn’t mean it belongs on your homepage. You need images that connect to your demographic. Make sure these are high quality and fit with your branding guidelines. Don’t have access to expensive stock images? Try pexels.com- they are free!
  • Infographics: strong infographics are the way to communicate with your customer visually. People have text blindness so if you can make your information visual it will stand out way more and be digested much faster. You can create your own infographics using canva.com!
  • Clear navigation: This would seem like a no brainer but many times people do not have clear navigation. The UX is all over the place and people get lost on your site. Guess what? When they get lost you lose out. They won’t come back.
  • Testimonials: These should be colorful and easy to read, and are essential for earning trust. Make sure they are prominent and bold and have at least one on your homepage.
  • Social Proof: Your social channels should also be displayed in a way so people can easily find you and follow you. You don’t need every channel to be set up, but have at least 3!
  • Brand elements: The brand elements of a site are what makes it feel homey and unique. This can be a custom designed flag, a color banner to divide the page breaks, unique social button design (see below), or just a fun icon to act as your navigation. The options are endless with these and you can have fun creating these. Just make sure these act as supports to your branding and don’t overpower it.
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Of course there are so many other important elements to your website and brand. I think video is the most important rich media for 2016. You can create videos on your own today using IMovie or even a template from www.animoto.com. We are our own content creators today. There are also tons of awesome companies out there with niche skills to help you develop content for your own site. Here are my top 5: 

Overall, you have to develop your content over time so it best fits your needs and your customers. If you have any questions or would like a free assessment of your site please feel free to contact me at Jacqueline@thedigitaldesignco.com.