48 posts categorized "Account Management"

How to Mitigate Major Project Errors, Pt. 1 of 3

Crass Style Sheet

Refreshed by your first eight hours of sleep in what feels like a decade, you stroll into your office, only to be stopped cold by the message light blinking on your voicemail.

It's your client, with a three-minute description of how their new shopping cart system—which you'd been slaving over for months, and finally deployed late last night—has been balking while trying to process credit card purchases. For hours. To the tune of many thousands of dollars lost in sales.

How will you resolve this issue, and how are you going to communicate a plan of action to your client?

Where we most often fail in the client management process is when, after all that work, errors still slip through—and we can't formally explain to our clients how we'll resolve them to their benefit.

Depending on the scale of your client's business, an error in project implementation could have a major fiscal impact—not to mention the drag on your long-term customer experience. Errors like the ones I noted above happen more often than we would care to admit. Most web designers understand the value of testing protocols, debugging code, and stabilizing a build in order to deploy a website or web app. But it's how we manage the errors that slip through while testing, printing, or fulfilling your design work that forges project success. Dealing with project errors in a professional manner is what defines the longevity of designer-client relationships.

Here's a quick primer on how to maintain your professionalism and protect the integrity of your client relationships when resolving these kinds of major project errors.

Continue reading "How to Mitigate Major Project Errors, Pt. 1 of 3" »

Unsolving the Business Problem

Point B to Point A

To get to point B, first you need to figure out how you arrived at point A.

Take the following example: You've been asked to lead a half-year marketing project for an international cruise line. They're launching a new luxury cruise liner that serves the Caribbean via Miami. Your new client wants you to help her sell out a full season on the new boat. They have a ton of ideas to share with you on how they can accomplish their goals.

Sitting down for your first meeting—an information-gathering session at corporate headquarters—your responsibility is to determine the scope of the campaign and help brainstorm tactics. After the meeting, you'll write a creative brief and prepare to kick off the project with your design team.

After a few minutes of small talk, your client starts to rattle off the details. Three new ports of call. An Olympic-sized swimming pool on the top deck. A new five-star dining menu with a first-rate wine list. Right away, the design ideas start flowing fast and furious in your mind. In the margin of your notebook, you start a few initial sketches that you just know will sell out all the luxury berths through the entire winter season. Suddenly, you blurt out: "Send the travel agents coconuts!"

Not five minutes had elapsed in your information-gathering session, and you've gone right to work. Such scenarios, where you have a clear vision of design solutions to marry up with a stated marketing goal, often seem serendipitous. But the habit of engaging in design ideation before having a thorough understanding of your client's business context is a bad one that should be broken. I'm not denying the value of intuition in the design process, but rather seeking that we employ our intuition after we have created a strategy by which to focus it.

Which leads to the crux of this scenario. A critical skill for any client-facing designer is the ability to scape away at the surface of a marketing problem to thoroughly understand its business context. Marketing is not business. Marketing is an activity that supports doing business. If you don't have a business context for a marketing project—i.e, understanding what business decisions led to engaging a designer's services to participate in sales and marketing activity—then talking strategy and marketing tactics can be somewhat ungrounded.

So, when situations such as these emerge during a client engagement, I immediately try to "unsolve the business problem." This is the act of shifting a client's conversational focus from the stated marketing problem to the underlying system of business conditions that led to its formation. By understanding the system of challenges in which your client's stated problem stands, you can better serve your client in forging a more strategic, better-designed result.

What follows are eight critical questions you can ask your clients—and glean insight into the business context around their marketing problems.

Continue reading "Unsolving the Business Problem" »

Always Try to Diversify


A long time ago, I worked at a firm that had a major telecommunications client. Over 50% of our monthly billings were derived from creating logos and names for new product launches, helping to brainstorm print ads and direct mailers, and otherwise serving as a creative sounding board. There was no retainer agreement, only projects that were opened with a rough time estimate and hourly rate.

It was creative nirvana. You could spend as little or as much time as you wanted on a project, as long as you had a range of thinking in your comps. Our clients trusted us, and we trusted them.

My wife and I had been discussing moving to Seattle for some time, and the final decision to make the move was very difficult -- mainly because this firm was such a great place to work. I gave my notice, my wife and I packed up our place and hopped in our car for a month-long cross-country jaunt. One morning in Chicago, while staying at a family member's place, I saw in the paper that my client's company had misstated earnings across all of their financial statements and was going to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Client goes poof, at least in the short- to mid-term. My former job vanished as well; they never rehired for the position. There's no way our clients in marketing or my boss could have ever known that would happen... and the client never recovered.

It's easy to be optimistic about what you can control in your designer/client relationship. You can make your clients happy and keep the bucks rolling in. But you can't control their business decisions beyond what you design and the observed impact of your designs in the world.

You can inform them and provide insight. You can educate them regarding what their options are strategically and tactically. You can even be Chief Design Officer and sit at the big polished mahogany table powering up your big presentation on how you'll optimize their customer experience and rethink their brand and make amazing new products that will bring in billions.

But you aren't the CEO. You aren't the Chairman of the Board. You control your domain, and unless you're the honcho who's dealing with the shareholders and making the tough decisions on critical business issues, you're SOL.

This is why you need to diversify.

And it isn't just about money. There are many sound reasons to pursue a more diverse client base, starting now...

Continue reading "Always Try to Diversify" »

Four Common-Sense Clauses for Design Contracts

Greek Bill Rates

It's incredible how a single sentence in your contract can throw a total wrench into an otherwise simple mid-project negotiation.

I'm no contracts lawyer, but after living through a good number of stumbles, I've started to mandate a few critical contract terms in my client agreements. If you're looking to be professional and be clear about IP ownership in the midst of a mid- to long-term design engagement, you should see if you include these kinds of terms in your standard design contract.*

Continue reading "Four Common-Sense Clauses for Design Contracts" »

The Eight Archetypes of Account Managers

Calling Card

Hello, fine friend. I adore you.

While I am in the midst of brainstorming the campaign, you are having Conversation #34 with the client about how they need to pony up the big bucks for the media buy. Or when I'm having a stakeholder interview with the ornery CEO, you are dutifully distilling our conversation into intelligent soundbites that easily weave into the user experience brief.

Can I imagine life without my trusty partner in (non)crime, the account manager?

Well, yeah. It would suck a whole lot more.

After working with a range of account managers across all sorts of industries, I've started to discern the roles that undergird the business side of our beloved design industry. And much like the various archetypes of art directors you may have met during your own journey through the designopolis, you may have enjoyed the company of these fine account management types that make our work more liveable:

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Want a Little Client Feedback?

I Heart Feedback

Whenever I receive client feedback, I think of stress tests for climbing ropes.

In a stress test, you tie a weight to the end of a rope, secure the other end of the rope, and drop it off a tall building. Then you see how far the weight can fall -- and how much force the rope can withstand -- before it snaps.

However, a rope doesn't just reach a instant breaking point. These ropes are designed to stretch and then bounce. The amount of flexion or "give" that the rope contains is a measure of its resilience.

A seasoned designer has a deep reservoir of resilience. This leads to a higher tolerance for change and ambiguity, as well as a certain level of professionalism around negotiating client feedback. At a certain point, you discover patterns in people's reactions and begin to anticipate them. This is a learned skill over a few hundred design projects. And through repeated stress -- not strain -- your tolerance increases.

But even with great designers, things like poorly considered client feedback can cause your design work to suffer. With that in mind, here are a few examples of how to triage client feedback to preserve a designer's resilience.

Continue reading "Want a Little Client Feedback?" »

Starting a Disloyalty Program

Speak to the Cursor

I received my dividend check in the mail today from REI -- just as I was retiring my rock climbing harness. Talk about fortuitous circumstances. Right place, right time, right amount of free money to make the trip downtown worthwhile. It's like they knew exactly what I needed.

Then I walked into the store. There must have been hundreds upon hundreds of people just like me. The place was packed full of outdoorsy and not-so-granola types with their arms full of all those little things they'd been waiting until now to purchase. I almost balked at the very long line to check out, but it moved quickly. The woman at the checkout, Raven, thanked me for coming in and for being patient.

This scene was today. March 7, 2009. And it was only made possible because they'd sent me a check and held a sale.

When I got home, I read through the REI year-end report. Their earnings dropped from over $40 million dollars in 2007 to a bit over $14 million in 2008. That kind of shortfall is insane.

There are a large number of publicly-traded and private companies that are boldly suffering in the midst of structuring their businesses on extremely volatile business assumptions and premises. We're being told day after day and shown just how bad things really are. Perhaps your company or design firm has needed to lay off employees to gird themselves for potential failure.

As a result, we need to be honest with ourselves and our clients. We should be telling our clients what we can do to help them beyond fulfilling stopgap, immediate needs. It's time to stop being reactive and start being proactive through the downturn.

How can you start being proactive?

You're going to need to be a little disloyal when it comes to "business as usual" thinking around design business. You're going to have to spend less time worrying about business as usual and more time being present with your clients as people.

A lot of what I'll be talking about in this post is fairly self-evident. But in the midst of so much sturm und drang, it's worthwhile to remind ourselves of some of the fundamental ideas about working relationships that undergird our profession from a business perspective.

Continue reading "Starting a Disloyalty Program" »

Not Good Proposals. Great Proposals.

Sign Here

With titanic battles happening nowadays over new business, it's crucial that you craft great proposals to win life-sustaining projects.

Not good. Great.

In the past, I've worked at agencies where proposal writing consisted of creating a laundry list: one final logo in the necessary formats, two rounds of client revisions, and so on. That worked fine when the money was flowing. Nowadays, the cost of entry is higher. Clients look at the deliverables, the price, and then start to haggle without mercy. Maybe that worked a few years ago. Not so much now. If you're bidding on a serious project for a new client, you need something a bit more... thorough. Be prepared to ante up with a great proposal.

Here's what to keep in mind when you write it.

Continue reading "Not Good Proposals. Great Proposals." »

Don't Hit the Deck: Mitigating Risk in Your Design Contracts

Risk Over Time

While rock climbing this morning, I just couldn't get off the ground. The route, a 5.11- called something like "Slippery Nose of Death", started off with a smooth first-sized hold that resisted my varied attempts at sticking to the wall. That is, until I'd figured out a way to force my left foot onto a tiny toehold, prop my right foot against the faux rock face with a smear that could only keep me aloft for 3 sec -- whoops, there I am again: back where I started.

I'd like to try the route again, but I can't straighten my hands. Yet.

What do I love about rock climbing? It's physical problem solving. Pre-thinking each climb will only get you so far up the mountain. You need to fumble through climb after climb until you've internalized each move.

Over years of practice, muscle memory will guide you through a sort of flow that can feel (almost) effortless. Truly great climbers have an elegance and grace to their movements on the rock that belies thousands of hours spent staggering up different swaths of rock -- often in gnarly settings that would induce abject fear.

And then there are those who climb without ropes.

Call them daredevils or fools, but free climbers -- who are treated with awe in rock climbing magazines and equally fawned over and pilloried by the mainstream press -- are considered the true elites. Risking their lives with every ascent, they're pegging the tough routes at Yosemite while their lives literally hanging by a fingernail.

I can't imagine taking a risk of such magnitude. I need a harness and a rope securely fastened to an anchor, as well as a belay partner who is attentively watching and listening for any signs that I might need assistance. My belay partner is the guy or gal who's watching out for my well-being, making sure I don't "hit the deck," a.k.a. pancake out on the ground beneath our climb du jour. If I fall, they catch me through the system we've constructed to keep us safe.

Have you ever "hit the deck"? Maybe not as a rock climber. But you've experienced something similar -- like when a client tries to pull out of your signed contract after you've done the majority of the agreed-upon work.

Continue reading "Don't Hit the Deck: Mitigating Risk in Your Design Contracts" »

Three Iron-Clad Rules for Documenting Client Feedback


1. Put it in writing. Then send it to all parties to approve.

Take the time to document your meeting's action items and critical feedback elements. If you don't, you're going to forget details and nuances. And when consideration of those details is lacking in the next round, you're going to burn time and money in missed changes, confused requirements, and wonky client conversations where you waste valuable time righting the furniture.

2. Make sure they're unconditionally saying it.

If a client can't give you confident direction and just wants you to "work it out in the next round of creative," strive to turn the situation into a direction instead of a implication. This must be in writing and agreed upon by all parties. Don't just say, "Client dislikes green color, wants us to explore other options." Tack on the end of that sentence a discrete way to focus and narrow the comment's implications. Otherwise, you'll be doing endless rounds of creative tweaks that get you only inches closer to your project goals.

3. Be clear about where you're at in the project process.

You need to come to a common understanding of what you agreed to do out of every single meeting, and how it contributes to your overall project result as part of your agreed schedule and timeline. Put this in writing after each round of feedback and approval. Be clear about how their input is contributing to the final goal, and what value you're going to add with the next round of changes to reach that goal.

The Road Less Driven

Hit the Brakes

"The most important thing is to be able to enjoy your life without being fooled by things."
--Shunryu Suzuki

This morning I was crossing the intersection of Denny and Broad, and the truck heading towards me wouldn't stop. It wasn't until my eyes met the driver's gaze that he hit the brakes. Otherwise, he would have mowed me down.

Catching my breath, I couldn't shake from my mind the following thought: He wasn't even there until he saw me.

Just as when I'm in a meeting, or talking with a friend, or driving myself to work, or reading my news feed on Facebook, my mind regularly wanders off on a tangent, taking my everyday awareness with it. It's like my head is just a balloon tethered to my body by a thin red ribbon. When this happens, I lose the ability to understand what people really mean when they want to communicate with me.

This is very problematic, since some of the most important traits of a designer -- and by extension, a human being -- are as follows: to listen, to accept, and to understand.

You listen attentively because you don't know all the answers. As we get older, we increasingly understand how little we have a capacity to know.

You accept what you are being told because it's another person's point of view, no matter whether you agree with it or not.

You understand the essential feelings that your clients need you to express at a fundamental human level. This happens on a plane beyond language, and we attempt to distill those feelings through our practice into tangible things. And we can never afford to be fooled by them. You are not your work.

Continue reading "The Road Less Driven" »

Creative Brief... Could You Be More Specific?

Half Truth

A few weeks ago, I wrote about clearly setting a mark with new clients. I see now, in hindsight, that I should have been even more specific.

The devil just isn't in the details. The devil is the detail.

The best creative briefs are narrow. Scarily so. They make clients sweat a bit under their collar, because we're pinning them to one extraordinarily specific business strategy. No wiggle room! 

And if the strategy turns out to be misinformed, you and the client will pay for it as the project plays out. Always. If you have a well-crafted brief with a very specific key insight, there's no going back without it costing the client, both in terms of money (change order) and time (the amount of labor necessary to reconcept work). If an assumed strategy changes mid-stream, they will always end up bearing increased risk. 

So let's keep the brief loose. A broadly written brief provides just enough space to let you keep working through the strategy in the creative without having to pay for it. After all, you just didn't hit it with the third round of concepts...

Now, that's the pessimist's view. I think that most clients don't consciously steer us towards strategic thinking in the creative work. They just want great creative that meets their business goals, and they look to us to help craft a brief that's going to fulfill those goals in a timely fashion. But it's a shared responsibility, not just ours or theirs. And these kinds of situations usually occur over and over again because the client, the designer, or both parties just don't know any better. And the briefs, lacking in specific detail, are what get you every time.

Here's a few hard-won tips that will help you increase specificity in your creative briefs, and reduce your overall project risk.

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Proper Client Care and Flossing

This Won't Hurt

Some things in life are always painful. Having your teeth cleaned, for example. There's nothing I hate more than being cantilevered back into a squeaky chair and having a dentist spend thirty minutes monkeying with my molars.

Designers often feel the same way about how the delicate dance required to keep clients happy. There was a great ad for Adobe CS2 many years back that showed a photograph of a conference room with the words "Torture Chamber" superimposed upon it in bold white gothic type. Some designers I've met would prefer the dentist's appointment as opposed to the creative concept presentation. But after a few years of being on the front lines in client meetings and dealings, I can tell you that seeing the dentist is way more painful.

Here's what I've gleaned from watching some great account managers at work. And my dentist.

Continue reading "Proper Client Care and Flossing" »

Give It Away Now: Why Some People Willingly Do Spec Work

Pitch That Pitch

Pitching new business. The late nights and weekends slogging through meagre research materials, looking to suss out that little kernel of insight that will inform speculative creative presented in big fancy meetings with a number of prospective clients that are judging everything from your hairstyle, to how you kerned the word "Spoon" in a funky soup ad, to your slight lisp that comes out whenever you get nervous.

We all love to hate it. Pitch and bitch, as the saying goes.

Or do we?

I think there is a ton of dialogue out there about why designers shouldn't do spec work or give away big strategic insights when pitching new business. You need a signed contract. Clients need to respect your process. Working without payment is not professional. We're selling services, not products. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

And yet there are plenty of people out there that are willing to do spec creative, deliver game-changing strategy willingly in the pitch, and take part in any number of other questionable activities necessary to land new business.

Just who are you, spec-friendly designer?

Continue reading "Give It Away Now: Why Some People Willingly Do Spec Work" »

You Need a Mark to Miss

Please Try Again

Please read the following client email and see how it makes you feel:

After we sign the contract, can we just cut right to the concepts? Can I see something after the weekend? Won't we save some money if we cut a corner here or there? I mean, I don't really know what I want, but I'll know it when I see it. We should just have something to shoot at.

I made only a little of that paragraph up, and it was making me naueseous. When clients speak like this, there are so many alarm bells going off in your head it's hard to think of how to react.

Let's tear these oft-spoken sentences apart and see how we should respond.

Continue reading "You Need a Mark to Miss" »

"Design Product" Syndrome

Now Serving

When a new client calls you, and you ask how they'd like engage their services, the first thing out of their mouth isn't likely to be, "I want you to make my customers happier." It's going to be selling more products, burnishing their corporate image, making gains on the competition. They're want to buy a __________ from you to accomplish those goals.

This is where you need to determine if they're calling under the thrall of "Design Product" Syndrome, or D.P.S. for short. This is when a client believes they need a new Web site, or a new logo, or a new anything, really, that will magically transform their business. It will wash over their internal politics, their customer complaints, and the rumblings of the press and their investors with a bright, shiny, brand-new thingy that will put things in a further upward trend.

They don't need design services. They need design product. And really killer design work that fosters real change isn't product. It's understanding what kind of experience you're trying to wrap around your customers.

Large-scale engagements require heavy strategic input. If you're designing a large-scale Web site, creating a brand positioning framework, or embarking on a huge advertising campaign, you need to make sure that every step you take through the project leads to that pinnacle of all pinnacles, the actual design execution. But when that design execution is unveiled with much fanfare to your clients, if they are suffering from D.P.S., all of that groundwork flies out the window.

Classic D.P.S. symptomology usually carries a number of these behaviors:

At a fundamental level, they don't understand what they're asking for. My competition is doing it, so let's do it. Let's do some really hot Flash banner advertisements... even though just sending out a few postcards would get the same response numbers and brand lift.

They really couldn't tell you until they saw it. The red flag goes up here. They wanted a different direction for their ___________, but now that they've seen where you ended up, they're bursting with ideas as to how you can start from a different place. Meaning that you didn't have a crucial piece of strategic information before the creative presentation, either by poor research or by shifting client expectations that weren't shared. And they'll let you know it after they've seen the work. Then again...

They think they know how you make what they need, down to the nuts and bolts. They queried you on the nth detail of what specifically you'd provide, quantifying the deliverables or feature sets of your final build well before you've actually pinned the strategy down. You can't scope to this degree until you've completely nailed down your strategy. Cart before horse = unhappy horse, broken cart.

How do you cure D.P.S.? Sadly, it can take an extensive amount of effort to curb its effects, but the good news is that by taking part in a re-education program, you'll be doing the design profession a great service. I'll write about that in a separate post, because it'll take more than a few words.

But in the interim, here's what you do to protect yourself from D.P.S. in your projects.

Don't give away the really big ideas without understanding and stating their value. Unless your client is savvy in the ways of unfolding your business insights and channeling them into alternative projects, your deeper thinking about their needs will likely come to rest solely in the __________.

You need to provide sparkling clarity around every major point that you agree to.

You have to provide a range of costs instead of a single, hard number. Smart clients know that they have a business need and that you need some flexibility to craft the best solution. A range also makes it harder for a client to choose a designer on just the price tag. Value provided is more important than cost saved.

Assuming they have some measure of understanding of how designers work their black arts and creative mojo, most clients will need to respect your process, listen to your thinking and occasionally nod their heads in agreement, and wait with bated breath for the moment when you reveal the __________ they've contracted you to create. If they try to negotiate your process, it's a sure sign that they want to be in control, and the designer/client partnership needs to be more like a balanced scale.

In the end, all they paid you for was the __________. But what can't be filled in the blank is the magic that makes a design business thrive.

Designers Hate Estimating, Pt. 3 of 3

In Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 of this series, I shared some of the common variables that designers should take into account to reduce their "cone of uncertainty" when estimating a project.

In this final post, I want to talk about the things that designers often don't quantify when creating an estimate.

Factor: What the client needs, as opposed to what they articulate they need. The client wants a new logo, but that's not the business problem that comes out in your exploratory call or meeting. If you need to reframe the problem for them as part of the process, you need to consider it as a variable and secure more time and money to do that work. The way I couch this to clients is that designers aren't just problem solvers. They also have talents in helping clients to understand their problems, clearly define them, and then solve them. This is our strategic role beyond providing decorative assets.

Factor: How the client will behave through the course of a project, and if that will influence your work. Clients ask designers for references, but it's not always a bad thing to check up on your clients and/or closely observe how they interact with their peers or other vendors. This kind of gut check should govern what kind of buffer or multiplier you apply to your project fee, or whether you wish to engage with them at all. Sometimes you need to say no gracefully.

Factor: Not budgeting for potential failures through the design process. Why do we budget for exactly how long it will take? There should always be contingencies for at least one point of failure. Assume that at least one thing will go wrong, and be prepared for it in advance of it happening.

Factor: Not having an articulated business process that fits another designer. Let's say you're indisposed and you need to pass off your project to another designer. Many designers make the fatal mistake of estimating it to a person as opposed to a role. Don't just say, "It'll take me twenty hours to design this logo." Think about how long would it take any designer to design that logo. Leave room, should you get too busy or need to hire a freelancer, that the project can be covered without losing your shirt on the estimate. This may sound like heresy to some solo-flight designers, but this is what keeps large agencies alive.

Factor: You've never done a specific deliverable before. If a project is outside your realm of expertise, most designers usually assume they'll eat the cost of learning how to do it. This opens up risk from the client's perspective, and also gives them a point of negotiation to have you burn up hours meeting impossible goals. Do your due diligence and consult with one or two colleagues and ask them for advice on how to bid the project. Don't just give it away if you haven't done it before, or let the client know you can be taken advantage of because you're not an expert regarding this one type of deliverable. You should always continue to control the process of the project, follow your established design methods as they apply to the deliverable, and not allow the situation to become a power play.

Designers Hate Estimating, Pt. 2 of 3

Contingency Fee

In Pt. 1 of this series, I introduced Construx's "cone of uncertainty" and how to narrow the risk in your estimates by determining what unknown variables exist in your project scope.

Let's work through what these variables usually are, and how they can be brought in line in your estimate.

Define the Problem before You Estimate

In your estimate, what you need to demonstrate most is your understanding of the problem. Your approach to how it should be solved would follow, and should always be consistent. As a quick example, let's think through the variables that exist in creating a new logo for a local business.

Many years ago, I would estimate doing a logo by looking back through previous project to see how long it took for a project of a similar type, bash together an estimate based on how long they think it would take, multiply it by 1.3x to give some cushion for contingency, slot in some money for printing costs if they need to create any supporting materials as part of their bid, and send it off to the client.

Today, I focus more closely on what the client needs before I think about how I'm going to create it -- even if I've done a similar type of project for them before. And I charge my client for this extra time spent on the estimate as part of my overhead and creative fee, because they're getting more than just a cost for creating a logo.

Let me try to break it down here.

There's data from your prospective or current client, relating to specific needs out of the project (looking for brand lift, increase in perception, greater sales, etc.), as well as competitive analysis and market research.

There's qualitative information that your client provides in the way of what customers and staffers think about the old logo, which adds up to an impression of why they need a new one. These elements shape up into a business problem, which must then meet your process.

This information can usually be teased out in a single phone call, with some follow-up via email. I recommend making a set of questions you always ask in the exploratory call and keeping them by your phone in case you're surprised by an opportunity.

Have a Consistent Process for Creating the Solution

Within that same exploratory phone call, you should delineate what standard steps the client would take through the project, and what they are given with regard to rounds of review per each deliverable as part of the scope of work. Get that on the table from your very first conversation, so they're aware that they will follow your working process, not vice-versa.

It should go without saying that all of your rounds of review and costs for work outside the scope of the proposal must be in writing to protect your interests. I also recommend providing an hourly estimate of your work for a project, not a flat fee. There is always risk in accepting a flat fee, as it places the onus on you for understanding all the ways a project could go sideways and accounting for them.

There's qualitative information that you control in forming your estimate, such as what kind of creative approach you think you'd take -- but I'd recommend articulating that in your creative brief. I wouldn't recommend writing the brief before getting a signature and a portion of your fee, but I generally have a glimmer of an idea of what approach I'd likely take. This thinking can sometimes provide some color in the estimate, but should never be doled out for free and can sometime be shared anecdotally if the client is looking for a detail to tip the scale in their choice of a designer.

In Part 3 of this series, we'll explore some of the incidental details that many designers overlook when estimating a new project.