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The Vector Button Complex

A friend of mine was starting a business a few years ago and had hand drawn a logo he wanted me to “vectorize” quick. Given our candid relationship, I responded with, “It’s not like I just have a big button on my keyboard that says VECTOR on it!” He laughed hysterically and then realized the complexity of his request.

All to often, we as artists run in to clients who have this “easy” button complex. If only it were that simple, right? In a world where everything is seen through a scroll and filtered with the click of a button, it has opened the gates into the professional world for amateurs. Why would someone pay a professional when they can do it themselves?

I have over a decade’s worth of experience in Adobe and I admit, I am STILL learning these programs. They are very complex, yet the Internet has allowed so many of us to become self-taught. What makes a professional worth paying is not found in the “vectorization” of a hand-drawn image, but in the ability and know-how to push back and offer The Process which will ultimately help your client grow their bottom-line.

Remember that your creativity and business sense is what you ultimately sell—this is what makes you a professional. I will walk you through the 5 P’s of my process in hopes that one or all of them will be useful to you:

 

Projections: Is this a job I want to take on? How much time will this process take me? Can I meet their deadline?

  1. Is this a job I want to take on?

It is important for you to know upfront if the project is even worth taking on. When I first started my design business, I found myself taking on every job at a VERY cheap rate just to keep my head above water. I have since learned to “sniff out” the clients who tend to not know what they want at all and rely on you to fix that problem. Hint: If they nit-pick or gawk at your proposed price from the beginning, see that as a red flag and kindly let it go. This type of client will never be completely happy and will take up all of your time. I’ve found that the best clients have given me creative leeway as long as I fit within their budget. It is important to enjoy your client and the project at hand.

        2. How much time will this process take me?

            With experience comes time-management. After a few years under my belt I began to realize the amount of time it took me to design a logo vs. a full brand package with an online presence. If you don’t know how much time it will take you, estimate the number of hours then double that to come up with your base price. A client is always happy to pay less in the end, rather than be over budget.

3. Can I meet their deadline?

            If they have an unrealistic deadline, it is okay to push back with a more reasonable one. Like I said earlier, more often than not, your client will have no idea how much time is involved in a project. If they want you for the job, they will finagle the deadline on their end to accommodate.

 

Profit: How much money do I want to pay my business and myself at the end?

Sometimes as artists, we are just happy to break even. There have been SO many jobs that I have taken on that have ultimately cost me money and lead to burn out! Calculate the time you will have in to researching and understanding your clients business, sketching, polishing graphics and presenting finals. Oh, and don’t forget about drive time and press checks if needed! Remember that your time and creativity is what you are selling. Your clients come to you, because they have an understanding of the value you can offer their bottom line. So believe in your worth and price yourself accordingly. Take time to calculate the salary you want to pay yourself and what your business needs to be successful. I’ll admit, this is my area of weakness. A friend of mine recently gave me some great advice, “Price yourself too low and you will attract the “bargain” client, price yourself a bit higher than market and you will attract the “designer” client who values a good brand and appreciates that in what you offer.

 

Packaging: Offer a package that protects your time as an artist and gives your client a fair share of excellent options to choose from.

Set a limit for yourself that will help you deliver on the expectation of your client. For example, you can offer your client 3-4 completely unique logo concepts (I always present polished vector graphics with a color and a black and white option) that they can choose from or mix together. If none of the original concepts are working than set a price for another round up to a certain amount. Collect your fees upfront to protect yourself from a client who just walks away completely after the first round. You want your client to be 100% satisfied, but sometimes after a project has progressed to a 2nd or 3rd round, it may not be a good fit.

 

Presentation: Always be professional with the presentation of your work! Take in feedback and be quick with a turnaround.

A pencil sketch will not make the cut. It is hard for a company to see their brand identity through a pencil sketch. Plus, it may come across as lazy through the eyes of the person writing you a check. I always start with pencil sketches to generate some of my own ideas. Then I move to online sourcing for colors and graphics that are appealing through websites like Pinterest, Creative Market, istockphoto and Google. When I present to my client I take the best of the best of all of my ideas and sketches and “vectorize” them. There’s that easy button again! I present a color option and black and white option. If they are wanting a full brand package, I present style sheets that layout a color palette, logo alternatives, inspiration sources, fonts and patterns. If you are able to present in person, take the time to print your artwork on a nice photo paper and mount them to visual boards. Also, create handouts for your clients so they have a take-away and something in-hand to flip through and ponder. If you are presenting through email, make it professional by creating a PDF binder with a cover sheet and title page. Also, utilize the real estate with each concept page to explain to your client why that particular concept will sell to their target audience.

 

Product: Once you commit to a project you HAVE to follow through on your end to deliver on or before the deadlines set forth. Make your product perfect!

Unfortunately, I have had my fair share of frustrated clients who have come to me after working with other designers who were quick to take their deposit, yet WAY TOO SLOW on delivery. This will break your business. If you are the type of person who needs a lot of time to think something through, then please allow yourself that time in your original proposal. The worst thing you can do is promise an unrealistic turnaround that will lead to a disappointed and frustrated client.

On the flip side, I have been called, “a steam engine” before, meaning that when I have a task I am a steady mover with quick turnarounds. So I am on the opposite end of trying to meet client deadlines, with the client taking too long to get me feedback. So protect yourself from their lack of response by clausing that deadlines are subject to move if turnarounds and approvals are not met by the client in a timely manner.

 

Where’s that “easy” button again? There is so much that goes in to creating a recognizable brand that will stand the test of time and deliver dollars to the bottom line. If you are just starting out as a designer, the best way to test your level of skill is to practice the 5 P’s with the client being yourself. You may be impressed with what you create for your own business’s identity.

 

Feel free to share your process and helpful hints in the comments below!

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