Tips For Designers

4 Reasons To Use Mockups In Your Creative Process

If you’ve perused any Behance profile or graphic design blog, you’ve encountered the exciting tool called the “mockup.”  They range from billboard signs to coffee cups to every iPhone generation. But even though they are easy to be seen, not all designers utilize them and are missing out on some amazing benefits of using mockups.

They are ideal to use down the homestretch of your creative process for these four reasons:

1. Allows you to troubleshoot. 

This is before you present final files to your clients. It’s common to become so immersed in your design that you lose sight of its functionality in a real-world setting. Plugging your designs into mockups can help you troubleshoot issues with your designs. You might realize when using a billboard mockup that a line of text is proportionally off. Or the logo you designed doesn’t translate well to greyscale. I’ve seen many “logofolios” that are busting at the seams with logos on a plain white background, stretched across the width of my screen. But in actuality, very few of the logos are truly functional. The use of a mockup can help gain proper perspective on your designs.

2. Helps clients visualize designs. 

I often forget that the people I work with aren’t always as visually-driven as I am. I can explain an idea for a design and perfectly see it form in my mind, but that doesn’t mean they’re seeing it the same way. Using a mockup is ideal for allowing the client to see your designs functioning without actually physically producing anything. And if you have a client that insists on pursuing a certain path that won’t work, a mockup is great to show them why it wouldn’t make sense or isn’t plausible.

3. Increases professionalism. 

Like stated in the previous point, not everyone can look at a design and visualize it in action. Using mockups in your portfolio and your website allows your work to shine and show people what you’re truly capable of. Mockups let you expand projects without the expense, such as showcasing an entire ad campaign without ever paying a cent for prints and billboards and the works. Using mockups to flesh out your work increases your value and your quality.

4. Gives the opportunity to upsell. 

Mockups are fantastic for showing clients where you can take a project. If you’ve designed a logo, spend a little extra time to create a business card design and mock it up. Then pitch an expanded project scope to a client. Seeing your designs in action is an easier sell than asking your clients to imagine what you can do. I suggest doing this for additional designs that would take minimal time, in case they opt not to expand the project.

Whether you do digital or print design, there are mockups available for whatever you need, and are a fantastic addition to your creative process. To find some, you can check out my store here, places like Creative Market, or a specific Google search for whatever your mockup needs are!

Tips For Designers

The Homework of Finding Clients

I used to think the days of cold pizza and warm root beer were behind me. I had been ready to burn any college-lined notebook in a blaze of glory. I thought I was done Googling answers for everything. I was sadly, sadly mistaken.

Turns out, just because school is over doesn’t mean the homework stops.

In my journey of freelancing, I’ve learned a designer’s job doesn’t begin with sketching, but rather with homework and research. My clients are the bread and butter of my business, so it would be sloppy of me to take them on blindly. So if you’ve ever been curious how deep a designer goes into research, here’s the top four things I look at when scoping out a potential client:

Their Validity:

I get a lot of messages from people who appear to think they’ve founded the next Apple. As much as I would love to believe they’re Steve Jobs reincarnated, I’ve learned it’s best to do a little digging before hanging my hat on their dreams. The first stop I take is LinkedIn.
(Tip: If you want to land a quality designer, ensure your LinkedIn presence is professional and appealing.)
Unless you’ve never had the joy of connecting to WiFi, you no doubt know that LinkedIn is the professional’s Facebook. I usually don’t feel secure if a client is not found on it, because it speaks to their level of investment in their company. While there’s always a rare case, the lack of a LinkedIn profile gives me great levels of doubt.
My second stop is always a Google search. If someone has had bad press, or terrible reviews, it’s hard to hide it from the all-seeing Google gods. I like knowing as much as possible about a potential client before even initially responding, so a few minutes looking into their company or even whatever personal information is available helps me begin to determine if we’d be a good fit.

Their Mission:

Sometimes I get an email that gives a wonderfully detailed outline of what someone is looking for. Sometimes I get five words. I treat both with the same homework. A very important aspect I look at is the client’s WHY. If they’re asking for a logo, I want to know WHY they’re asking. Do they already have one but it looks outdated? Are they a single mom who’s decided to take her basement business to the next level? Are they unhappy with their current designer and need a fresh take?
If I’ve learned one thing from freelancing, it’s that no two projects are the same.
So I spend time trying to find out the why, usually through a website or social media presence.

Their Size/Reach:

If you’ve spent any time on my blog, you probably know I’m not a fan of free work. It devalues the industry, and I believe the best creativity arrives amidst acknowledge respect. But there are MANY people in the world who disagree, which is why I often am asked to do work for no reward other than “exposure.” You can find many students who fall for that, and I used to be the same way. But if you get burned once or twice, you learn pretty quickly that exposure is almost never equal to cold, hard cash. But I am often willing to work at a reduced rate for certain clients, such as:
  • Non-profits with a cause I believe in
  • A project that I don’t have much experience in, but I want to gain more
  • A super-fun project that reaches a massive audience and gives me creative freedom and direction from a company that is proven to be successful and respects the skills I bring to the table

A lot of people think their project falls into that last one. I’ve learned that kind of client is the unicorn of the industry: as rare as they come. So more often than not, the promises of “exposure” and “unlimited future work” fall on seasoned ears, and I maintain my rates.

Their PR:

I’m very aware that my name and my business is attached to my work. So I’m very careful of the kind of clients I work with. I’ve turned down work if there’s anything risqué or unsavory involved, since that’s not the type of work I want to produce. I’ve turned down work if it goes against stances I believe in, because I have the freedom to choose what kind of work I invest into. I also evaluate a company’s public relations standards. If they have a lot of negative reviews, they go on Twitter rants, or they bash competitors, I don’t work with them.
This is a tip to fellow freelancers: Money isn’t equal to the headache that can come from being associated with a bad company.
I view my clients as partners, so I take time to ensure that I’m partnering with the right people. If you’ve received some helpful info, or you have any homework to add to this list, please share, comment, and like!


Tips For Businesses

3 Things Prices Tell About Your Designer (The Elephant in the Room, Part 2)

Last week, we covered the designer’s side of the price talks, which you can read here. Now, we’re going to dive into the other side.

Although money is a weighty topic between designers and clients, it can also be a tool in finding the right designer for your project. And no, I’m not saying just go with the cheapest! In fact, I strongly urge you to never go with the cheapest. If you’re on the hunt for a designer, always bear this in mind:

You get what you pay for.  

So many times, I encounter people who are dissatisfied with the results their designer delivered. And so often, they are paying meager dollars for them. It’s nice to think that no matter what you pay for a designer, they’ll always go above and beyond, delivering the most stellar designs they can imagine, blowing your expectations out of the water. But here in the real world, that rarely comes to pass. To avoid that scenario from unfolding, here are three things that prices can tell you about your designer.

1. How much they value themselves.

Believe it or not, most people don’t like making $4/hour, and designers shouldn’t be much different. Except there are many designers out there whose prices are so low that they’re lucky to bring that home in the end. When factoring in their time marketing, landing clients, maintaining their website, communicating with clients, honing their skills, keeping the books, networking, etc., you realize that the hours a designer actually spends designing needs to cover a lot of unpaid hours. A designer who charges low doesn’t value their time, and you shouldn’t expect them to value yours.

2. How much they value their clients.

It’s a simple equation: the more money you pay me, the more I value you. If you’re paying someone $50 to design a logo for the business you put your blood, sweat, and tears into, they value you and your business at $50. If that doesn’t sit well with you, that’s good. Design is an investment and you’ll get out what you put in. A good designer knows that and will price their services accordingly.

3. How much they value their work.

I’ve never been proud of a project that I only spent an hour on. And that’s not a testament to the speed at which I work, but rather the fact that great design takes time. I’ve encountered many people who think it’s ridiculous to charge anything more than $50 for a logo, because in their mind, a logo can be done in 45 minutes. You might get a logo, but it won’t be on par with a logo that someone invested 20 hours into. A good designer knows their process and won’t sacrifice the quality of their work just to land a job.

You can peruse Upwork or Freelancer and find bucket loads of designers that charge $5/hour, or promise a logo in a day for $35, or can build a website in two hours. Choosing designers in that pool is like playing the lottery. You might be the jackpot winner, but you’re nearly guaranteed to sink money into something that leaves you disappointed. Design is no different from the real world. You get what you pay for.