Every job begins with some initial client input and discussion to determine the creative vision and overall scope of the project, usually done through a series of email correspondence. Once I have an idea of what the project will entail, I can put together an estimate of what it will cost and how long it will take to complete.
Since no two jobs are equal, I don’t have a one-size-fits-all price sheet. Rather, depending on the type of job, I will either charge an hourly rate (with estimated total hours) or a predetermined flat fee.
I assume that revisions by both parties will creep into the process as it develops, and I account for that in my initial estimate. Major client changes in the creative or specs once work has begun, however, will result in a greater time investment, thus a higher end cost. A revised estimate can be provided in such cases.
Once the client and I have reached an agreement on creative direction and price, I will send over a contract PDF, which needs to be printed out, signed, and mailed back to me before I can begin work. I didn’t used to require this sort of thing, but several bad experiences with delinquent clients have taught me to play it safe. Not to worry – it simply restates the terms both parties have already agreed to.
Time to begin!
I begin with ink-and-paper doodles, proceed through rough digital comps, and then to the ever-evolving final design. Throughout the process (and at the completion of each phase), I will present progress reports and images to the client for their input and approval. I make it a priority to maintain transparency throughout my design process so the client isn’t in the dark or end up unpleasantly surprised by the final product.
I also design with a “drill-down” mentality. While I always present multiple design directions in the initial concept phases of a project, each subsequent phase will narrow that field toward one final design. Some designers will take several concepts to completion, then allow the client to simply choose between them. I am against this approach – it results in the client paying for work they will never use, which is a waste of time and money. It also suggests that all designs are equal, subject only to the whim of the client, and that a designer is not a partner in the process.
While clients should certainly have input (and indeed the final say), a designer is someone trained in the art of communicating ideas in a visual medium and should not only contribute to the process but also guide it. Designers should show the client their best idea, explain why it’s the best – and only then show the other ideas.
Further rounds of revisions will occur as necessary until final client approval.
My billing practices are very simple: I work for free until the job is completed and has final client approval. I will then send the client an invoice, which must be paid in full before I will supply the final print- or web-ready files for use.
Should the client decide at any point during this process to cancel a project, they will be billed for the percentage of work done to that point, and working files will not be supplied.
Per my client contract, all bills (for both finished and cancelled work) must be paid within 30 days of invoice under penalty of law.