Essential Principles of Design

Keep Your Clients Happy

By Wesley E. Warren - Lead Developer
Co-Author Jessica Warren

If you follow the guidelines within this article, you should be able to greatly reduce billing and invoicing headaches that can come with the design business. All of these methods were developed over the course of working with clients for the last fifteen years. Hopefully you can apply some of these ideas to your future projects and it will help them run smooth, on time and on budget.

Design Expectations CartoonEssential Principles

The lessons I have learned can apply to almost any service based business, from a logo designer to a remodeling company. Anyone who provides a custom service like web design to a client can use these principles and techniques to make their business run smoothly. And if you are on the client end of the transaction, use this as a guide to ensure you receive exactly what you expect from your service provider.

Most problems with compensation arise from either miscommunication or unrealistic expectations. This is true for both the client and the service provider. The most critical aspect of a successful contract is that both parties are treated fairly and understand what they are paying for and what they are receiving.

No one wants to be taken advantage of, this is true for a client who, especially with web development work, often has little idea what is involved in delivering a solid product. As well as for designers and developers who often, when just starting out, end up quoting a job at a certain price, then end up having to do twice as much work as expected can easily end up working for less than minimum wage. These problems stem from miscommunication, false assumptions and misaligned expectations.

I am going to outline some basic ideas and principals that should eliminate the majority of these problems before they begin. This will save you endless pain and suffering when dealing with the financial aspect of the design and development industry.

Essential Principles:

A Number's Game:
It is easy to get proposals from 5 or 10 companies and there are thousands of companies all competing for the same business. Your first impression and the contract hinges on the quality and accuracy of your proposal. READ MORE...

Common Problems:
The most common issue that comes up when dealing with a client project is the difference between the concept of the job and what is actually delivered. Keep ongoing comminication through-out the entire development to help manage client expectations.

Globalization has created an even more competitive market place but outsourcing overseas will mean making some trade-offs.

Fast Cheap Good:
Rushing a project often means sacrificing quality and best practices. Clients may want fast, cheap and good, but in practice you can really only have two.

Unrealistic Deadlines:
Making unrealistic promises will always end poorly. Complex projects should always be broken down into sections.

Designing with Safeguards and Solutions:
If the client is not expecting to be billed for changes, the project can go on forever. To circumvent this, put together a revision schedule.

Payments, Policies and Deposits:
For larger projects establish a payment method and billing schedule. Have all clients read and sign a contingency policy before any work begins.

Wesley E. Warren, Lead Developer / CEO

design project management

About the author:

2012 marks my 20th year as a professional designer and business owner. I started my career in design while still in high school in 1987, I was an art student and a club owner in Detroit saw me drawing on napkins and asked me to make some fliers for a few upcoming concerts. Eventually I was designing all their local magazine ads as well as painting murals on the building.

This lead to similar work for more bands and clubs in Detroit, St. Louis and Columbus. I have designed countless record and CD covers, band posters, magazine ads, as well as numerous murals. In 1992 I officially started to freelance on a permanent basis, doing work for local businesses and creating little coupon books and magazines for campus stores in Columbus. By 1995 I had moved to St. Petersburg, Florida and had started three local magazines with my soon-to-be wife who was also an artist.

We started the magazines to build design clientele, luckily one of our early advertisers was a local ISP who gave us some server space as partial payment for ads. This was 1995 and the web was still essentially unknown and more of a novelty than the dominant media force it is today. Once the ISP saw the site we built, they had a steady flow of design work to send us.

By 2001 we had moved our company to Atlanta and had established a solid reputation in the industry. I have since worked with some of the largest companies in the world as well as some of the smallest. After 2003 our company had pretty much phased design work out and concentrated primarily on back end development, creating custom enterprise level business applications.

I give you this background information so you know that I speak from experience. I have been involved in every level of transaction in the design industry, from designing band fliers for beer, to six figure development contracts. I have learned the hard way what works and what doesn't work when dealing with billing clients. I started as a freelancer and ended up running a development firm with 15 employees and have overseen millions of dollars of development work. The last 5 years I was strictly handling business management, working on contracts and making sure projects were delivered on-time and to specification. Copyright 2012 All Rights Reserved.

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