David Airey is an independent graphic designer working with companies of all sizes since 2005.

Handling the client approach

Football strategy

It’s important to have some kind of filter system in place for the stream of work enquiries I receive. Why? Because not every potential client is one I’m well suited to, and where that’s the case, both parties obviously want to minimise the time spent finding out.

Here are a few pieces of info I use to streamline the client approach.

Frequently asked questions

My FAQ page is the first place I want potential clients to visit. The answers give a general overview of what to expect when working with me.

Questionnaire

The next step is to send my questionnaire. The answers help form the basis of a brief, and also give a picture of what deliverables are needed. I’ll followup with a few more questions tailored to the company I’m dealing with. Then I prepare a quote.

Terms and conditions

When a quote is sent, I’ll accompany it with a link to my terms and conditions. This page helps potential clients understand how the working relationship will pan-out, should they decide to hire me.

How I handle things isn’t perfect, but it’ll hopefully be of some use to you.

Illustration courtesy of Thinkstock

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30 comments about “Handling the client approach”

  1. This was extremely helpful, especially the links to your boilerplate language for terms and conditions. I’ve been fine tuning and updating mine, and this has helped me focus on the essentials. Big thanks, David. –JB

  2. Hey David, it’s good to see that you give potential clients the opportunity to read what it’s like to work with you and the how you handle your projects with past clients.

    Even though you have your FAQs section, do most of your new clients read that page before they send you an inquiry or do they still ask you questions in which you have to point them to the page?

  3. Glad to help, JB. Jamie, sometimes it seems like the majority of potential clients skip my FAQs before getting in touch, so unless they confirm they’ve read it, I always ask.

  4. A very good word indeed David. Preciate it big time!

  5. David,
    The questionnaire is an excellent idea, a “weed-out” tool so to speak. I do that for my client sites, but have never done it for our site.

    Where we rely on conversations to determine fit, I use a client orientation brochure that I physically hand the client to read, and it serves as an FAQ… but also begins to communicate our culture.

    Ideally, we all want to communicate with clarity: “What’s it like to do business with me?”

    I do appreciate your T&C. Nice and concise, I get so discouraged with a long T&C, such as supplied by aiga.org — and I would like to have our T&C on my site. Mind if I adapt it?

  6. Hi David,

    .. I like your approach, especially the way you ‘filter’ potential clients on your FAQ-page! By showing a general price range for brand identity projects, the ‘too-little-bugdet’ clients won’t spend precious time (on both sides).

    I have tried to accomplish the same ‘effect’ in my request-form, where I ask to fill in a budget. Showing my lowest price range scares most prospects away with a smaller budget (or none at all).

    My Logo Questionnaire and Terms and Conditions can be found on my corporate site (in Dutch), a necessity when freelancing! Thanks for sharing, I found it an interesting Article! Cheers & Ciao ..

  7. David, your terms state that “The client shall be entitled to full ownership of all artwork created during the project upon full payment of the agreed fee”

    Does this mean that they also own any sketches or concepts that they didn’t like?

  8. Feel free, Brian.

    Jan, that’s a method I used a few years back (showing a drop-down list of price categories in the questionnaire). I’m sure it saved a lot of time.

    Matt, I normally keep sketches to myself, particularly during the course of a project, but if after the work is complete a client wants to use them as a memento, that’s absolutely fine by me.

  9. S does that mean the client owns rejected concepts, meaning that you couldn’t use them for another client in the future?

  10. I wouldn’t want to use rejected ideas for another client. All options should be created solely for the design brief in hand.

  11. Thanks David, that’s what I thought you’d say :)

    Btw, your FAQ is very informative. A great starting point for any potential client.

  12. Very helpful, thanks David. Just one question. You mention in your T&Cs about transferring ownership and reproduction rights to the client on full payment. Does this leave the client with full copyright ownership entitling them to alter or edit logo designs as they see fit also? Just wondering if you’ve ever had the situation whereby one of your designs is at a later date changed slightly (for the worse) which might reflect badly on yourself?

  13. David, I do the questionnaire and T&C, but reading yours I found some really good points that I missed. Thanks for posting so everyone can see and so I can remember to make some changes of my own. And an FAQ is something I might want to consider in the future as well. Cheers

  14. I’m a new branding and Identity designer based out of the midwest, and this helps to clear out some questions I had. I’ve thought about adding a FAQ page to my site, because it can cover a lot of the questions that I receive at the beginning of the process; saving time. I’ve been a fan of your blog, but this is my first post. Thanks alot David!

  15. That’s a very concise and organized way of handling leads. By giving the client an idea of what they are in for, you give them the opportunity to “vote themselves off the island” if they aren’t for you.

    Well done.

  16. Thanks David,

    Appreciate the clear and concise article. FAQ’s works well as a gatekeeper.

    Daniel

  17. Ross, if clients really want to change my designs, that’s up to them, but I don’t see why they’d want to spend money only to do it themselves. There have been times when a client ended-up driving the design process, but I quickly learned from experience.

    Thanks for commenting (everyone else). Glad to be of some help.

  18. Thank you once again David, this post is immensely helpful. It has answered a lot of queries that I had when it comes to setting up shop.

    There is however one question that has been troubling me, that I hope you can shed some light on. When I’m up and running with a business plan & website etc., be it that I’m new to the graphic design freelance world, how much should I charge clients for brand identity? Or, putting it another way (because I know it’s not as simple as that). What do you think is the best way to gauge how much to charge clients?

  19. I too found some helpful points in this post – thank you David!

  20. Jamie, you might find this helpful

    http://freelanceswitch.com/rates/

  21. David,

    This is a great reminder for anyone in the creative industry. It can be easy to jump on a project that seems like a great idea at first, but I have found that it is important to dig a little deeper to make sure that the client is a good fit and also that I can provide what they’re looking for.

    Providing these guidelines also helps set the tone for the future relationship. I have found that the initial meeting really helps distinguish whether the client needs an expert or just more of a ‘waiter’ – someone who will just provide what the client wants, without putting a whole lot of thought into the process.

    Great post – thank you!

  22. Thank you for sharing this with us!

    I bookmarked this blog post. This will really come in handy if I ever decide to work as a freelancer in the future.

  23. Jamie, the design pricing formula (and the comments beneath it) will hopefully shed a little light on the subject. When I was starting out I found it helpful to set myself an hourly fee, then multiply each project hour by that fee to give a very rough figure. I was new to the business side of design, though, and the benefits of setting a flat rate per project are much greater. I talk about it in chapter six (pricing design) of my book.

    Amy, with a bit of experience it can be quite easy to suss those potential clients who want a pixel pusher, and yep, that first meeting or chat goes a long way to helping.

    Jessica, if you ever do become self-employed, and if you think I can answer any questions, feel free to give me a shout.

  24. Thank you for responding David,

    I feel almost embarrassed that I didn’t find at least one of your ‘pricing guide’ blogs on your site before asking the question. I did have a good look around but not hard enough and it appears that your website runs deeper then I previously thought ;)

    It really is incredible what you have here David. Your site is just so resourceful and so personal… And to all the people that leave comments and willingly share their own knowledge and experience, I thank you all too. I hope to give something back when I’m up and running.

  25. Thanks for the article David, the terms and condition is a great point that many people miss out on especially when starting off.

  26. Thank you for the links, I find your blogs a great source of valuable information. I have been an avid reader right throughout my degree and even now as I work in the industry I am hooked!

  27. Hi David

    First of all I love your blog to bits and I realise this post has been quiet for some months now, but I have a little problem along the lines of this topic that I wondered if you or your readers might be able to give me some advice on. It goes like this:

    I am a graphic designer and have been working for a client for free (just about) for the last few months. There are various reasons for this, but mainly I knew they had no budget for design to begin with and it was just going to be a really fun project and good portfolio piece for me, and because I had the spare time I thought “why not?”. So basically I was working for free and they would just flick me a bit of cash here and there when they could, very casual. I think the main mistake I’ve made though is not providing a contract or T & C’s upfront for this work and now I’m worried it’s going to come back and bite me on the proverbial behind.

    I have now finished all of the initially agreed upon work and they have indicated that they would like my help with future work. I have since gotten my T & C’s written up and set up a bit of a process for myself when taking on new clients. I would like to present them with a contract for future work, however I am unsure how to do this without giving the impression that I have decided I can’t trust them for some reason. I am also worried about going from working for free to breaking it to them what my rate is – I also don’t think they get how many hours goes into a logo or a poster illustration.

    Any advice I can get on how to approach this with them would really be appreciated. Thanks!!

  28. @Jennifer:
    Don’t feel guilty for wanting to make a living as a graphic designer, and certainly don’t feel bad about laying down some ground rules. (That you hadn’t done that already is another conversation, but that’s OK.)
    Given the time line as you’ve described, now is the perfect time to establish the rules moving forward. You’ve already given them what you promised (crucial regardless of circumstance; always do what you tell the client you’ll deliver).
    If the client is worth their salt, so to speak, you can explain the situation in a courteous, friendly manner without guilt, and they will hopefully understand. May not like it, but should understand. If they want to continue taking advantage of the situation with you, it proves that they don’t value your skills, talent, education, etc.–all you’ve done to become a “professional”– and wouldn’t be worth your continued efforts anyway! Would they give THEIR services away? Not likely.
    You can be entirely nice about it with them, as past is past. But don’t let them guilt you into continuing the arrangement. If they can’t live with the new T&C’s, move on with the portfolio pieces. You’ve more than carried out your end of the deal, simply by being professional and delivering the goods as promised under the arrangement you agreed to. Kudos on that. (That’s a biggie with me.)
    I hope you find this helpful. Now get paid! –JB

  29. Hi Jennifer, this might’ve come too late, but I’m sure your client will understand your need to act professionally and to set some ground rules. If not, it’s a client not worth having. Like Jon said (thanks, Jon), you have completed the work you said you would, and you deserve to be paid what you’d charge other clients (moreso because you practically finished the work for free). Here are a few terms and conditions that might help.

  30. Oh, I just realised what post I was commenting on. Forget I mentioned those terms again. :)

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