Choosing a designer can seem like a daunting task. You need to know if you can trust this person with the reputation of your company, because what they produce will, in many cases, give a potential customer their first impression of your business.
What follows will aid your search, and help keep you on track during the initial stages of a working relationship. This article has been kindly written by guest author, Leslie Tane Hannus, owner of Leslie Tane Design.
A huge part of having your own business is recruiting new projects, and to that end I figure that in the past eleven years, I’ve probably been interviewed by over 1,000 clients, either in person or on the phone. These days I average 3–5 interviews a week, but I started out a lot more slowly. I’ve always been a fairly good interviewee, but I have definitely gotten better over time. Part of the reason is that I’m often asked the same questions, and I’ve had time to work up my answers. Want to see how you’d fare? Here are some of the questions I get asked most often, and a little bit of commentary:
1. Will you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I vividly remember the first time I was asked this, because my reply was a blank look. Needless to say, I didn’t get that job. This is an especially good question to practice, because ideally you want to sum yourself up in no more than two minutes. Your answer should be work related — no-one wants to hear about your piercings and favorite Aunt Maggie. This is your chance to brag a little, too. “I decided to pursue graphic design after a summer course at Harvard” sometimes makes my highlight list. If I’m talking to another graphic designer, I might mention the class I took with Milton Glaser.
(And you see how sneakily I’ve worked both of those into this blog entry?) If you see your interviewer’s eyes start to glaze over, cut yourself short. I’ve found that no-one is ever as interested in my stories as I am (except maybe my Mom, but she’s not hiring.)
2. How long have you been in business?
3. Do you have an office space, or are you home-based?
4. How many people work in your office?
5. What’s your specialty?
6. Have you worked on this kind of a project before?
Be honest. If you haven’t, but have done something you think is similar, say that too.
7. How much does it cost?
8. I know exactly what I want. Can I get a discount on your price, because you won’t have to do as much work?
Be very wary of this type of client. I used to offer a discount — it seems fair, doesn’t it? The client has done most of the work for me. But that’s not the way it usually pans out. Quite often, the idea won’t work for the medium, or it just won’t work. Then I’m doing all of the design work I usually do, for less money.
9. What are your payment terms?
10. How long is your turnaround time?
I usually over-estimate. If I take all the time I’ve said, fine. If I get it done earlier, I’m a hero. It’s always bad business practice to be late.
11. Who will I work with on this project? Who does the actual design work?
12. What’s included with my project?
13. What do I need to provide?
14. What if I’m not happy with the design?
Have an answer for this. “What do you mean? Of course you’ll be happy with the design!” is optimistic, but it’s better to have a plan in place for those rare times when the designer and the client just can’t get on the same page.
15. Who owns the design once it’s finished and paid for?
16. Do you have references?
17. What happens if you go out of business?
This is more relevant when it’s a web design project, which can last for the life of a site, than a print design one, which is finite.
18. Can you send me some samples?
19. Will you show me a few samples of your ideas for my project so I can get a feel for your work?
My answer is always no. David has a great entry about spec work in graphic design, and in short: don’t do it. You should be able to refer potential clients to your portfolio to get a feel for the type and quality of the work you do. If your portfolio feels thin, offer to do some pro bono work for a cause you believe in, or rework pieces you’ve done that that didn’t make the portfolio cut.
20. Why should I hire you for the job?
Practice this one, too. It’s very difficult to answer this without coming across as over-confident or seeming too self effacing. Sometimes I hit it just right. Other times I wish I could get a do-over.
About the author, Leslie Tane
Leslie Tane is the owner and creative director of Leslie Tane Design, based in Massachusetts, USA.
“We specialize in creative solutions for print design and web sites.”
For more articles like these and a contest or two, visit Leslie’s blog.
P.s. from David: A big thanks to Leslie for taking the time to write this guest article.