If you’ve never worked with a creative professional before or need to request services from a graphic designer you likely have some questions.
As the saying goes, “you never get a second chance to make a great first impression.” So how you present yourself or business when you request services matters.
Thus it goes without saying there’s a right way or a wrong way to request services – that is if you want a designer to want to work with you.
Ideally the following information will provide some tips for the next time you may need to request any services from a creative professional.
Who we are…
First of all, let’s clear the air and clarify that we are business owners just like you. Working with a designer you are in a business relationship. We’re here to assist you with your visual messaging and marketing so that you can reach your audience and business goals. We’re creative partners who utilize aesthetic tools to communicate your message more effectively.
As a trusted advisor/consultant, a mutually beneficial outcome is extremely important. Projects should be win-win for both sides as we are both business owners creating value for each other.
Many creatives have a bad rap for being “flakes”. However, that works both ways cuz there are lots of flakey clients too. Those who are so disorganized, unprofessional and or fail to communicate and wonder why designers don’t want to work with them.
This is not some elitist artist attitude. It comes down to professional business practices.
Establishing a creative partnership
Have you ever worked with an attorney before? If so, you quickly learned that he/she is more likely to want to take on your case/partner with you by your level of your commitment. A tremendous amount of time and energy can go into building a case for you.
They have an intake process where you’ll need to provide relevant info and details pertaining to your case. This needs to be reviewed so they may determine the best strategy that will reach a successful outcome. Hiring an attorney may be a necessary investment. But they’re “in it to win it” and you should be too!
Working with a creative professional can be thought of in a similar vein – with a similar process. Ideally it should ideally be a mutually beneficial relationship.
Learn something about them first…
Attorneys, doctors, mechanics and the like may have areas of expertise they specialize in. Graphic designers can have different areas of expertise too.
You likely visit a business’s website before contacting them. Doing so allows you to learn more about the products/services they provide and if they’re relevant to your needs. Well, you should do the same with a creative. Take a few moments to visit their site to learn about the services they provide.
Most will have an about page on their website which will include a bio and other background info. This can include an array of info individual of the designer..
Next, take a few moments to look at their online portfolio. This helps to give you a visual reference of their design style and/or some inspiration of what’s possible.
Read some client testimonials – if they have them. Testimonials on a designer’s website can give you a sense of the clients they’ve partnered with and the outcomes.
FAQs – frequently asked questions:
Many designers will also have a FAQs – frequently asked questions page which gives a good overview of their policies and procedures. This can include payment terms, how the design process may unfold as well as your obligation to a project.
None of this takes much time (as we know how precious time is). But it offers you a great foundation prior to reaching out.
“When it comes to the business of creativity, there’s often a disconnect between what we know and what the client doesn’t know.”
We don’t know how much your project will cost till we get more info…
Imagine calling a mechanic and saying:
“hey, I need you to fix my car. How much will it cost?”
At that moment, he likely has no idea of the make and model of your car or the symptoms that may be plaguing your vehicle. Yet you want to know how much it will cost to fix-it without having an opportunity to look under the hood first? Well asking how much creative services may cost is much the same. We require more info!
Like mechanics, designers may have baseline pricing for certain services. However, each project is different and requires an individual assessment prior to providing any pricing details or an estimate. Again the mechanic reference. He may have set prices for say brakes – but there may be other underlying issues that need to be addressed. So he cannot give you a estimate till he knows what those may be. Like a doctor, he needs to “diagnose” before he can “prescribe”.
Sending an obscure inquiry that reads like this:
“hey, I need a new website. How much will it cost?”
Or worse yet, the blind post on Craigslist that says:
“I need a logo for my biz”
There’s no defining info about what you do or your business.
How vague is that?
Sadly the poor scenarios above are all too often the case.
what to include in your initial inquiry:
So let’s get down to how you should request services – and professionalism matters!
There’s a human on the other end of your inquiry, so please introduce yourself first.
Designers may each have their own set of initial questions – but most WILL require that you clearly define your project (no ambiguity.) At a minimum, include the following info:
- Name of your business or organization
- Where you are located (City, State)
- What you do/your industry
- Type of project you’re considering: logo, brochure, seo etc.
- Your url/website address (if you have a website)
Inquiry Example – BAD:
“I need a new logo for my business and need it done ASAP”
(This does not tell the designer squat! It has little or no info to go on. Nor does it consider whether or not the designer is even available)
Inquiry Example – GOOD:
I have a new business I’m about to embark on called ACME Widget Services. We are located in Golden, CO and create very custom purple widgets for the appliance industry. We are currently in need of a logo identity that properly defines our business. After reviewing the information on your website and some examples from your online portfolio we’d like to see if you may be available to assist us with our new identity. We do not currently have a website (something we may also like to discuss). How do you generally proceed with new projects?
(Notice the difference? This person gave a good overview of their project/business, and reflected professionalism. Most designers would be motivated to respond and likely want to work with them. First impressions are huge!
Mind you the same set of above criteria can apply to requests for website design, website maintenance and search optimization etc. Regardless, you should be prepared to provide more info than “I need a website” or “my site needs SEO”.
Accepting a new project/client – what I look for
The following are a few things I look for before accepting a new project or client:
• A shared sense of values
• Level of commitment to a project
• Ability to communicate in a timely manner
• Understanding that your are in a business relationship
• Whether there is a financial fit
To work with me, after an initial inquiry you can expect a Project Qualifying Questionnaire. This is a few is a few short questions – which may vary depending on the type of project – but need to be answered and returned for review. Upon assessment of the information provided, it generally will determine whether we will move forward with a new project consultation and/or if we are a good fit.
As for project pricing information, don’t expect that before all of the relevant project information has been gathered. Each project has different requirements and needs to be assessed accordingly.
Want that new project done ASAP?
Well that’s not always going to be an option. As many designers are a one-man shop, it can depend on their availability and which projects are currently in the queue ahead of you. Keep in mind that “urgency” comes with a much higher price tag!
“Mutual respect is the foundation of every solid relationship — and the best way to create mutual respect is to first show respect.”
Be professional and utilize business etiquette
If you’re sending an inquiry to a designer resulting from a Google search, understand that you are likely contacting a fellow business owner. We’re not your employee and you’re not our boss. (sorry, sometimes a little tough-luv is necessary). We have business hours and lives which means even if the Internet is open 24/7, we aren’t. Albeit our hours may not be bankers hours…
NO, we don’t work for free!
You would not walk into a car mechanic’s shop and expect him to fix your car for free. So don’t expect a designer to work on your project for free either. No further explanation needed.
Design services are an investment in your business
We know you can scour the planet for designers in a crowdsourcing site that may give you a short term solution. Knock yourself out on that one if you want to deal with different time-zones and language barriers. But your needs would likely be far better met by working with someone who is a creative strategic partner – establishing a professional relationship to assist you in reaching your goals rather than a “hired-gun”. Doing so you’d also be supporting a local business and contributing to a local economy as well.
Last of all, a little courtesy and mutual respect goes a long way. “Please” and “Thank-you” never hurts in your communications! Trust me, we notice 🙂
Written by Barbara Rogers of Future Primitive Graphics. Graphic Designer and Nature Inspired Art photographer visually enhancing client’s print and digital media. Creatively collaborating with those who genuinely want to make the world a better place.