Locking In The Deal; While It’s Still Hot

business hand shakeIf you’ve been a freelancer for more than a year or two, the term “consultation” has a personal meaning to you. It means time you’re going to spend with a potential client for free to learn their needs and also your 15 minutes of fame to explain why you’re the best designer they’ll ever meet.

During these initial meetings, you the designer and your prospective client do a little bit of a dance. They initially believe you are good at what you do, but when you finally sit down at that coffee shop to show them your work, you still have to truly impress them. You’re going to say some industry terms to sound a bit techie and sophisticated like “your brand this,” or “corporate identity,” or “responsive web designs.” Things you know they may have heard or Googled but have to idea what they truly mean; though they know they want it.

Once you’re done with your presentation, and answered questions, you’re left with a bit of a pause and silence. This is where you need to be ready to pounce on sealing the deal. During your conversations though, there are a few things you’ll want to pick up on to gauge how you’ll want to seal the deal.

Body Language. This doesn’t necessarily take a psychology degree for you to use, but it is a good thing to keep a focus on. Pay attention to how they are sitting while you’re explaining your graphic process. Do they lean in, do they lock eyes with you while you’re talking. Are they fidgeting with their fingers or hands? These kinds of tells will give you some insight to what they’re actually thinking about.

Design Knowledge. How much of what you do are they already familiar with? Get them to talk about what they want first before you lean in on what you know and do. Its ok here because if you’ve made it this far in meeting with them, they already feel confident enough that you are who your reputation says. So spend a few minutes listening to what they say they’ve done in the past, or what they’d like to have done. This will help you understand the language level you need to be at. You’ll know if you can speak in more “tech-talk” or more in layman’s terms so that you’re not flying way over their heads.

Previous Experiences. Had this person or agency worked with a previous designer; and if so how was that experience. It ended for a reason which is why they’re speaking to you, so find out why. More times it may be a bad client/designer relationship that deteriorated over time. Was that time frame months, weeks, years? Is this potential client needy or expect projects done yesterday? Or do they need a lot of hand holding and persuasion to provide answers and content?

Budget Keywords. This one will pretty much tell you where on your pricing sheet they’ll fall. There are three factors to consider with any design project and that’s quality, price, and time. The client can choose only two out of those three, and you have to direct them there. I usually talk about price a little after I’ve made points to establish a base that myself and my team know what we’re talking about and are good at what we do. See the triangle below:

Project Pyramid

Be Prepared to Sign Today. Have all your necessary documents with you when you have your meetings. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scheduled meetings thinking it would be casual and mostly informational that turn into “Do you take credit cards?” Our own content and copy writer Yvonne, signed a client while at the hospital visiting a family friend. Always have copies of your most up to date contract, brochures, media kits, business cards, and some form of payment acceptance and receipt system. If your meeting goes well, you’ll want to try to close the deal by the time their coffee cup is on their last sip. And we all know that last sip is the best. Chances are you’ll wow them and inspire them that you’re going to take their business to the next level. That feeling fizzles out with each passing day after your initial meeting, and it’s even harder to recreate that “chemistry” you had from the first meeting.

Really think about these things and see where you may have used some of these techniques before. For me, its something I love to teach to my team members of Design Theory to make them even more confident in themselves and the level of service we provide as a whole. Do you have some other tips you’d like to add? Please share in the comments below.

(featured image credit: 123RF Stock Photos Copyright (c)

Designers: Jack Of All Trades, Master of None?

Web design wordsThis topic is one that I must say is a bit close to home. Maybe its a bit of therapy to say some things out loud, and maybe its a cry for help. Either way, it’s something I felt I should bring up to get you (our readers) to comment on. When I got into the web design or design industry, I had taken no prior classes, courses, lessons, drawing, nada. My background was in IT. Break just about any device and I could fix it. Now when I decided to walk into the design field, I jumped all in. Pestered my friends to let me use their computers to try out Photoshop. Bought really old versions of Macromedia desktop publishing software. I tried to get my hands on all the tools I would need to be a success.

After attaining all the things I needed, I really got involved in learning. However the more I learned the more I learned I had a lot to learn. So then I started to learn less new things, and develop skills in the things I knew or wanted to be better at. And that’s when the problems started. I became pretty good in creating wireframes and websites, basic business logos, flash animations, and more. However when opportunities came to me for more complex jobs, I shied away from them.  Sure I would take some but most I wouldn’t because I knew I’d be getting in over my head. What I should have done was take all that as a sign to become a master at one thing at a time.

When you’re a solo-preneur in this industry, you almost don’t have a choice but to try to learn and do everything yourself. My advice is to learn a trade at a time. Get to be great at design, then move to web. When you’ve conquered those then move to mobile. But being “ok” in all of those and more will end up hindering you on seeing big picture and acquiring bigger clients. I mean that’s the goal isn’t it? To get bigger contracts that allow you to continue to do what you love. Now if you don’t have time to learn more, hire someone who already does know more than you. In fact surround yourself with people who know a heck of a lot more than you. It helps you stay humble, but also makes you aspire to be a greater designer.

5 Clean Website Designs for Inspiration

Clean (clutter-free and simple) website designs are very popular and give your website a very professional look. Here are 5 examples of clean designs that we hope will really inspire you.

Scout Campbell Photography
Created by: Mark Dobmeier (Me)

Country Club Pet World
Created by: Mark Dobmeier (Me)

Coco’s Doggy Daycare
Created by: Mark Dobmeier (Me)

QSoft Consulting
Created by: Design Theory Team

Laser Med
Created by: Mark Dobmeier (Me)

Here are some common design features that you might find in the websites displayed above.

  • Clutter-free
  • Minimal design
  • Ample use of white space
  • Color schemes that use very few colors and are not heavily saturated
  • Clean edges and straight lines
  • Solid background colors (no textured/patterned backgrounds)
  • Typography that is well-composed
  • Powerful imagery

What are some examples of clean website designs that you’ve found?

Freelance Designer: How To Find Real Jobs

Cubicle JailSo you made the jump from a safe, warm, and cozy job to the freedom of freelancing. You’ve dreamt about it for so long, wondering how the sun feels during the day while you were locked away behind a fluorescent lit cubicle isles and rows from the nearest window. Well you’ve arrived; so now what? How are you going to pay your bills, grow your skills, and market your skills on a shoe-string budget? Keep reading…

One of the more important characteristics of a successful is maintaining a steady flow of work. That work may come from agencies, current, or new clients. To me, each creative will find their own way to attain their own work but below are a few tips to try:

Online Agencies: These are good because most of the risk is on them so long as you hold up your end of the bargain. If you’re great at creating logos, but really don’t like to get into haggling and negotiating prices, these places are for you. You can create a profile, list your skills, and post your rate per hour or project. Then wait for the emails to come in. You’ll want to do some market research though so that you’re not too high or too low that you price yourself out of work or respect.

Network Locally: This one may be a step out of your comfort zone. Yes we have social media now a days and we can hide behind our keyboards, smart phones, and laptops but live networking still is held in high regard. Find out when and where other business professionals are hanging out after hours; then be there with them. Bring your business cards, but don’t pass them out like free tickets. Instead try making conversation first. Ask individuals what they do and repeat it back to them along with points of view while including their name here and there to show that you are paying attention to them. Before you know it, they’ll ask you for your card and then you can tell them about how awesome you are at design and how much fun you have helping people grow their business and brand.

Sponsor a Community Event: Pro-bono may be a great way to start out especially if you’re skittish about how people may appreciate your work. It’s also great experience in dealing with customers. You’ll run into all kinds, and before long you’ll have favorites and you’ll have some you wish you never met. As a self-starter, your reputation is everything so doing a free design or website for a local church could win you a lot of “oooohhhs” and “ahhhhs” from the members who all work in the community. A few thank yous and nice words from some non-profit organizations that rub shoulders with city officials could propel you to great levels. So even though the money may not have been there, you’ll still have new material for your portfolio, highly visible clientele, and letters of recognition you can tout around like trophies.

Embrace Social Media: This one comes with a grain of salt. There are many outlets out there to use. Find two or three that you can really wrap your mind around and feel comfortable using – and use them! Post daily, post often, but keep in mind you’re looking to engage first. The selling of your skills will be evident enough in your bio. Use it to showcase new designs you created. Get people to rate or comment on your work or even offer opinions and feedback. Learn how to strike up good conversations that may provide some great insight to someone’s problem or project and that could land you a job right then and there or not long down the road since you sound like you know what you’re talking about.

Your Portfolio: Well after showing off and practicing your elevator speech, you must have a place for all these people to view your work and vet your skills.  Even if you don’t want to set up a full-out 50 page website that has all types of forms, sub pages, and FAQ’s with endless breadcrumbs, you should still have an online presence. I’ve seen some really nice designer websites that were nothing more than full-width graphics stacked, scrolling, or animated with just a contact page with a phone number and 3 line form. Be versatile though with your displays so that businesses of most industries can envision you doing their work and not think you’re just a niche designer. Unless however you want to be tied to a specific industry. Nothing wrong with that. Let me also mention blogging. A great way to provide great tips on your trade that not only shows insight, but proves you are the authority on that subject matter.

Well for those of you who’ve been doing this for some time, why not offer some tips to others in the comments below.


Submit: Confessions of a Designer

Ok we’re calling out for those funny times of your design careers that something may have come up, a situation, a mistake, anything that you’d like to confess. Could be anonymous if you like. Please send all of your stories (quick or long) to confess@jpdesigntheory.com


Confession booth design by Arik Levy