Introduction

It's a day of the week. Let's say a weekday. You're relaxing, enjoying a caffeinated beverage at the perfect either warm or cold temperature. Life is not terrible. Your computing device makes a sound. It's an email. It reads:

Hi Awesome Designer,

I found your Dribbble profile and I just love what you did in Project XYZ! I think you'd be the perfect designer for my upcoming project. Are you able to hop on a call sometime this week to discuss details?

Regards,
Future Client

Pretty exciting stuff, right? Of course! You might have just met a new client with whom you could develop a great business relationship. But before you complete that self high-five, consider that:

You might be receiving a generic solicitation (most probable, unless they specifically reference your work).

OR

You might not want to work with this client.

But today feels optimistic. Let's assume that they really are a great guy/gal with actual project potential. Here are three things that you'll want to be sure to receive before agreeing to do any work.

Attention: Contracts are not mentioned in this article. They're incredibly important. If you're interested, we will discuss them in other articles.

Budget

A client should have an idea of how much they're willing to spend for a project. This is a crucial step and can (and often does) make or break the project. There are many affordable designers out there, but if the client wants the quality of a seasoned professional it will often cost a bit more than perhaps they're anticipating.

Designers

Understand how much your work is actually worth. Do you also do front-end web development? Have you worked with a prestigious group of clients? If you bring additional skills to the table that can assist the client further than another designer, make sure to raise these points.

Keep in mind that you could have the best work history relationships with clients and a kickass portfolio to boot, but if you don't lay out the costs associated with your quoted fee, you might scare a client away before they have the chance to understand how much you'll actually be saving/earning them money.

A very effective technique that freelancers employ is the use of a Gantt Chart. Show, don't (just) tell. Showing the prospective client where his/her money will be spent is a great way to show your skill set and experience. Newer designers often don't grasp the business aspect of freelancing, and instead take the get-any-gig-you-can-get approach.

Clients

Do some research and see what designers are charging for the type of project you have, but keep in mind that many freelance designers rely on competitive pricing to ensure that they can continue to run their own business. While you might see a high price, what you don't see are the expenses and taxes that the designer has to pay.

Remember that, like any business relationship, you might need to negotiate the original quoted fee. See if the designer offers a discounted rate for a more relaxed timeline.


Timeline

Timelines (how long until you need the final product from the designer) are crucial to determine capacity for any given project. If the timeline is crunched (as they often are), you should be charging more. Seems obvious, but many overlook the time aspect when preparing a quote.

Designers

Apps like Cushion can help you measure your freelance availability, especially in between simultaneous projects. There certainly are clients that plan ahead and be sure to include discounted rates for clients who allow more time to be spent on the project. Just make sure to fill in this time with additional projects.

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Stay ahead of your busy schedule with applications like Cushion
Clients

Ideally, you know that you need a designer early on, but sometimes last minute requirements crop up. Either way, be sure to contact designers as soon as you think you'll need one. The earlier you get one - and thus, the more time you give them - the more likely they are to bring down the price a bit.

Clients who are more flexible with timing are given breaks on cost, but there are no guarantees. Don't count on huge discounts for a long timeline, but bring up the idea with the designer if his/her rate seems steep. It allows the designer to take on simultaneous posts without compromising quality and also allows for plenty of revision time.


Deliverables

Depending on the project, there can be many types of deliverables, from exported assets and stock photos to icon fonts and style guides. Be sure to understand the full scope of the project in order to be quote a fee and serve the client.

Designers

Be sure that your client understands your abilities. You don't want to present yourself as capable in an area in which you're not, or to misrepresent how long the work will take. If the project seems like it will take several months, be upfront about this and how much that will factor in to your fee.

Realize that plans might change down the road. Have an hourly rate for scope deemed to be out-of-scope and make sure that the client understands that extra deliverables will (in all likelihood) extend past the original deadline.

Clients

This one might be obvious, but be as specific as you can about what you actually need from the designer by the end of the project. So often, clients just have a rough idea of the work they need. But, in order for a designer to provide an accurate quote and budget time correctly, he/she needs to know what you require.

Make sure to itemize the list so the designer can easily see quantities/varieties of each item. For example, if you're looking to have an icon set created, be sure to state if you require variations (weight, style, size, etc.) of the icons.

Conclusion

These three items are essential to getting your project started in all of the right ways. Be sure to really discuss details with the client so that he/she is certain of what the project will costs, how long it will take and what it includes. For tips on finding your next client, check here.

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