As a Freelance Designer fresh out of school, I didn't know what to expect when providing my services in the real world. Dealing with Clients was a mystery and trying to anticipate a specific outcome was a fantasy. Through experience, I learned to thoroughly explain, clarify, ask questions, take notes, the list goes on. And after undergoing some borderline disasters patched up with a little professionalism, I decided to write a Terms of Agreement. I did so to prevent history from repeating itself, that's why! What better way to introduce my process than laying out guidelines to prevent sticky situations. Now I know contracts look scary but they're necessary when running a business. In my contract, I mention additional draft fees, late fees, and inconvenience fees. I know this 'f' word seems foreboding, but there's good news. Although penalties are present, notice the bits of information that give you hints on how to avoid tacking on these extra costs. Let's go through them together so you can understand from a Designer's perspective.
Deposits and Payment Plans
When I first began freelancing, I blindly trusted that my Clients would pay upon completion of a project. But more often than not, they wouldn't even stick around to see the final product. My only solution was to require a nonrefundable deposit. A deposit is a percentage of an overall project cost paid in advance, demonstrating commitment to a project and credibility regarding payments. If a deposit is too much money for one payment, then payment plans are enacted during check points in the project.
Late Deposits and Payments
No deposit, no project. I cannot start a project without knowing that you are investing in me as I invest my time in your project. Late payments can lead to late fees. I understand life happens, but please make it a point to let me know what’s going on before your payment is due. I know when I can’t finish a project on time, I will let you know that I need a couple days to finish. I extend that privilege to you. But if you leave me in the dark, be prepared to pay a late fee.
If I didn’t charge for additional drafts, I would have projects that would last for months. When drafts are limited, you’re forced to make decisions and address major concerns earlier in the process. The fee is easy: if you want more options, then you have the opportunity to buy them.
I always say “the sketching phase is the most critical phase.” Here we can make drastic changes to the design in its earliest state: the sketch. Sketches are quickly drafted images that begin to visually structure the endless possibilities of an idea. If you’re an indecisive client, here’s some advice: pay for the extra drafts in this phase to save time and money.
Final proofing is where I present a nearly finished product to be edited sparingly (maybe we didn’t catch a typo or you wanted to increase the spacing by a pica). Any drastic changes would lead to an entirely new draft, so if you missed your opportunity in the sketching stage, be prepared to spend the big bucks in this phase.
Keep me in the loop. A Client-Designer relationship thrives on communication. As a Designer, I’m going to have questions to help me understand your vision and your message. As a Client, I’m sure you have edits and suggestions to help guide my design decisions. So imagine if I continued your project, nearing completion, only to find out that you want to go in a new direction. To prevent wasted time and additional draft fees, I put the project on pause until you get back to me.
As a Designer, we constantly juggle several projects at one time. Every so often a deadline changes (earlier deadlines are what scares us), but be mindful of your Designer’s calendar. Let us know at least a week in advance so that we can adjust our unforgiving schedule to comply with your new deadline. Short notice will result in an inconvenience fee.
When Clients are excited to work with me, I get excited. What doesn’t get me excited is when I’ve been briefed on one project, barely start designing, and then get disrupted with a new project from the same Client. I’m glad you have a reservoir of projects waiting for me and appreciate the business. However, I cannot have a build-up of incomplete projects forgotten or discarded. To ensure compensation for misplaced time, there will be an inconvenience fee. Deposits for interrupted projects are also nonrefundable.
Separation of Projects
Just because you gave me a signed terms of agreement, a signed contract (addressing issues such as copyrights, equity, publication, etc.), and a deposit for one project, does not mean you’re covered for another project. For every project, you will sign terms, sign contracts, and send a deposit because I need to protect myself if ever judicial action were to be taken. Yes, folks, this is serious stuff.
Well, you can just read my last blog post, “The Artist: Her Process, Her Craft.” That’s right. It all comes full circle. I told you, there’s methods to my madness!