Tips For Businesses

5 Tips For Giving Great Feedback

This might be a surprise, but a design project is not one-sided. Even when you hire a solo designer, it is still a team effort. You, the client, are on the same team as your designer, so to make sure everyone is happy and effective, you need to be a good team member. Your role in the team is initially informative: you provide the designer with all the material and knowledge they need to fulfill the scope of the project. But once they hit the ground running with the designs, you step into a very important role: the critic. A good designer will seek your feedback often to make sure they maintain the right course and neither time or money is wasted on wrong directions.

Offering feedback can be very intimidating, and giving poor feedback can be very hindering to a designer. Below you’ll find five tips that will help you become a great critic and an outstanding team member!

1. Be specific.

This is the first thing learned in any creative class. Saying “I like it,” or “I don’t like it,” is a waste of time, because it gives the artist nothing to work with. We need to understand the WHY, so get down to the nitty-gritty details. Instead of saying, “I don’t like it,” say “The color orange is too bold for my taste, I’d like to see other color options.” Even just saying, “I like it,” isn’t as helpful as you might think. While we appreciate the kudos, it doesn’t help us understand how you interact with the work, which is a designer’s constant goal. So instead, say “The colors make the important information stand out, and readability is always at the top of our priorities.

2. Be honest.

Many a project has been sabotaged because someone withheld their true feelings. Here’s an insider tip: Designers have thick skins. It’s a job requirement! Our livelihood is built on satisfying strangers, so we’ve learned how to take it. When asked for your opinion, don’t hold back, because it will just lead to both of us being unhappy, and a lot of time and money will be wasted.

3. Look once, look twice.

When you get the emails with the designs you’ve been anxiously waiting for, before opening it, grab a pen and paper or open up a Word document. When you first lay eyes on the designs, jot down your initial thoughts and reactions. Remember, be specific and honest! Walk away for a while, then return again and jot down your thoughts and opinions on your second interaction with the designs. The first look often is biased, influenced by your expectations, emotions, even how the designer worded their email. It’s still insightful, but not necessarily a clear vision. Returning for a second look allows the shock or newness to wear off and you can see things that might not have been evident the first time.

4. Do research.

A good designer will often ask for samples of related work or styles you like or don’t like at the start of a project. But as the project develops, continuing to identify elements in other designs that strike a chord with you can give your designer a clearer path.

5. Be open.

An important part of feedback is allowing your designer to explain choices they made. There should always be solid reasons behind their designs, and sometimes those reasons must trump your opinion, especially in regard to production or distribution. So be open to your designer’s choices and suggestions!

These tips should help your communication with your designer thrive, and result in happiness for both of you!

Tips For Designers

Pricing Talks: The Elephant in the Room (Part 1)

Money! Have I got your attention?

For a lot of people, that word is always followed by an exclamation point, because money makes them so happy. For designers, it’s followed by an exclamation point, a dot dot dot, and about six crying emojis and the one that looks like he’s about to explode. So, if you’re a fellow designer, consider this post a sympathizing pat on the back and a calming voice saying, “Chin up, buddy. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” And if you’re a client on the hunt for a designer, take this as a backstage pass to the circus of a freelancer’s life. Talking about money doesn’t have to be scary or stressful, so let’s delve into the world of pricing and maybe come out of it breathing a sigh of relief.

Many clients experience frustration because while scouring the Internet for designers, they realize almost none of them have their prices on their website. It may feel like a glaring oversight, or the foundation for a scam. But there’s a reason why it’s not common, and that reason is a huge part why talking design prices is such a daunting task.

No two projects are the same. Therefore, no two projects should be priced the same.

This is important for both designer and client to understand. A designer can feel pressure to find the secret formula of pricing all their projects ahead of time. A client can be puzzled why one designer will charge them $100 for a logo, and another will quote $6,000.

The first step is a point of controversy in the design world, but I think it’s the ideal way to bring about stress-free price talks, and to always be fairly compensated for your work.

1.Charge an hourly rate. 

Many clients balk at the idea of an hourly rate. They like knowing what the price is upfront, and find it hard to justify paying a designer a rather large hourly rate.

Don’t let this mentality deter you. The most important thing is being upfront. I tell my clients that their project should take around x amount of hours, but it could be more depending on xyz factors. This way, there aren’t any ugly surprise around the price of the project.

Finding the formula for your hourly rate is quite simple. Calculate how much money you need to make a month, as well as how many hours you spend designing, and divide those to find out your operating costs. Then increase that price to result in a profit margin that reflects your talent and experience. Research what your

competitors are charging and make sure your hourly rate fits in the range.

Now, you’ve shared your rate and the hours estimate. You’re ecstatic that they agree to it and you sink those late-night hours into the project to deliver beautiful designs. But then a nightmare unfolds and you find out that your “perfect client” isn’t as forthcoming with the payment as you believed they would be. Sadly, you are not alone in your experience. Nearly any designer who’s dabbled in freelance has experienced the gut-wrenching realization that you just got burned.  

This happened to me fairly early on in my business. And I learned an expensive lesson:

2. Always work under contract and require a down payment. 

You might think taking someone to court over a little money is a daunting thing, but a contract is a wonderful way to weed out the honest clients from those who just want free work. A contract and down payment do three things:

a.) A contract outlines and clarifies the agreed upon aspects of the project. Be as thorough as possible, because emails and phone conversations can be loosely interpreted. My contract outlines the price, the deliverables, the distribution of rights, any deadlines, and a release in case things go sour. I send it over to the client and it has to be signed and returned before a minute of work is invested.

b.) Down payments ensure the client has access to money and values your time and skill. I’ll be honest, I’ve gotten too excited by the prospect of a cool project, or the promise of exposure, and have ended up doing some work for someone before they pay me. And even if it’s watermarked to high heavens, it does nothing to guarantee I’ll later be compensated for my time. So I’m still reminding myself that the most valuable clients are the ones that value me. Which leads to:

c.) Both a contract and down payment show that you know your worth. Plain and simple. Take yourself seriously and your clients will have to do the same. This is a very important aspect for someone who wants to take their business from a hobby to a steady source of income.

Hourly rates, contracts, and down payments are the perfect start to saying goodbye to stressful price talks. Now I can attest that it doesn’t prevent you from ever having to think twice about your prices, but it will eliminate the dark cloud that often looms over a frazzled designer’s head.

Next week, we’ll swing over to the client’s side of the pricing battle and talk about how a designer’s way of handling money can be a huge indicator of things to come!

Tips For Designers

Top 5 Skills Freelancers MUST Have

Everyone dreams of being their own boss, but taking the leap into freelancing is daunting at best. One question looms over the head of every aspiring freelancer: Will I be good at this? Your ability to design is obviously the biggest factor in your success, but there are other skills that are integral to being a happy, lucrative freelancer. So before quitting your day job, here’s a quick checklist for the top 5 skills needed to succeed at freelancing!

1. Communication

Many designers are more used to working in a dark corner, torching their eyes with the glowing light of a Macbook on their lap then they are to being in a crowded room full of business owners. Freelancing is built on the ability to obtain clients, and sadly they don’t just walk up to you and ask for work. You need to be proactive and network, which means brushing up on your communication skills. And once you land the client, you need to be able to clearly understand the project scope and articulate your thoughts and opinions of the designs you send to them.
A great way to learn how to network, talk to strangers, and speak your thoughts clearly, consider joining Toastmasters. They have local groups that regularly get together to practice public speaking in a constructive environment.

2. Drive

Although freelancing sounds like a dream job, there are going to be days or weeks where you feel like you’re screaming into the void. What keeps you going during these stormy times? It’s not the money, but rather the passion behind your craft. If you find designing boring, or you lose interest after 4 hours of work, chances are you’re not going to last in the freelancing world. A 9-5 job that allows you to forget your work once you clock out is probably better for your bank account and your sanity.

3. Dependability

Unlike regular jobs, the only accountability you have in freelancing is your client. That means you need to stay on top of things and deliver by your deadlines. It might even mean you need to learn how to establish deadlines so you don’t end up cramming 13 days of work into 24 hours. A good habit to get into is utilizing time management tools so you don’t overbook yourself. Trello is a solid choice, or even taking advantage of something simple like Google Calendars.

4. Efficiency

Whether you charge a flat rate or an hourly rate, producing work at a slow rate doesn’t help anyone. Either you’re going to be working far too many hours for what you’re getting paid, or you’re going to have angry clients who are upset that you take four times as long as someone else and they’re paying dearly for it. Now this isn’t to say you should do poor quality work. But being able to work efficiently becomes a prized skill that sets you above other designers, both in the freelance world and the agency world.
Some things that help streamline your work is time management tools, having an organized filing system on your computer, and learning shortcuts for Adobe programs (check out a useful chart here.)

5. Confidence

You’re not going to be a household name overnight. Heck, designers are rarely household names, no matter how incredible they are! So remaining confident in your skills despite the lack of recognition keeps the job from draining your passion. Most importantly, this doesn’t mean being satisfied with where you’re at, but rather pushing yourself to improve. Seeing the quality of your work grow is the most satisfying confidence boost you can receive. Having a Behance portfolio is a good way to receive constructive feedback, as well as plugging into a Reddit or Dribble community.
Improving these five skills can help make you a better designer and a happy person. What are some of skills you think are crucial to successful freelancing? I’d love to hear your thoughts and highly value shares! And if you like what you see here, check back next week for more tips, tricks, and inspiration.