10 Things You Should Never Ask a Freelance Designer

Successful communication between a designer and their client is definitely one of the most important ingredients for creating an effective and unique design and marketing solution that everyone can be proud of. It’s incredibly important that the client can understand the weird design jargon and know that the designers are doing their very best to create something that the client will be happy to pay for. In the end, the designer doesn’t want to put something out there that he or she can’t show off in a portfolio, so chances are they will be putting 100% effort into the project. However, freelance designers are still just humans who are running a business and won’t be able to be at your beck and call 24/7. It’s no secret that collaboration sometimes can be a difficult and frustrating process for both parties and so this weeks post is about attempting to demystify some reasons why the designer has said ‘no, that’s not possible’ or ‘no, we can’t use that colour/font’. This is 10 things you should never ask a freelance designer’. Believe me, we’re not trying to make your life difficult, we are simply trying to achieve the best possible outcome and sometimes, that involves saying ‘No’. I’m afraid, the client is not always right.

So, you’ve got a brief together for a snazzy new project that you need a designer for and you’ve received the contact details for a really great designer who’s come highly recommended. Great! You’ve had a look through their on-line portfolio and your confident the style is suitable and that they can deliver what you need. You think, ‘Great, they’re freelance so they’ll be really flexible!’. Wrong. Just because you hear the word freelance it doesn’t mean that this designer is sitting at home twiddling their thumbs waiting for this very job. Chances are, they have on-going work and will need to schedule new work in. Get in touch and see if they can fit the work in around your preferred deadlines. A freelancer is still a business, here are 10 things you should never ask a freelance designer:

1.Can I call you around 9pm once my kids have gone to bed?

Life would be so much easier if we could all be available 24 hours a day but that’s just not how life works. You wouldn’t call up your accountant or your builder at 9pm at night and expect to get through. Chances are, your designer is working in the normal 9-5 schedule that you are. It is still a business and as a business, office hours are important otherwise, as we all know,  you don’t get any down time and eventually your work suffers.

If you’ve got an urgent project and you are keen to get started as soon as possible, it can never hurt to ask whether the designer is available to put in some hours outside of normal office time to get the job done. A good designer will let you know whether what you want is achievable in that time and might be very pleased to oblige but try and arrange a phone call via email first so you can both arrange a time that suits. Calling out of the blue late at night might not be the best approach.

2.Can you knock something up really quick?

Designing for print, web or mobile are complicated processes that each have different considerations. How long something will take will vary greatly according to the project. For instance ‘whipping up a logo design’ (as some people like to put it) is impossible. Designing logos involves a great deal of research and a concept development stage and your designer might need a week or more to get you some draft concepts. A business card however (if you already have your logo) may only take a morning. Your designer will happily give you an idea of the time involved and will do his/her best to accommodate your time constraints but don’t assume that there can be a quick fix that will answer your brief. The more you loop in your designer on the deadlines the more likely they’ll be able to meet them with an exceptional piece of design. Don’t assume, ask.

3.Can you put it in Word so I can edit it?

This is one of the most frustrating questions a designer can hear. Your designer would have spent years learning their craft and a decent amount of money purchasing the specialist design software. If we could do it in Microsoft word, things would be a lot cheaper but a lot less wonderful. Of course most people aren’t going to automatically understand that you can’t do the things in word that you can do in Adobe illustrator but this is where good communication comes in handy, so ask your designer to explain without the jargon. To be able to edit the design you’ll need the same specialist software. Even if you do have the specialist software, without a designers eye you risk editing something that answers the brief perfectly into something hideous that definitely won’t do the job and might even damage your reputation. If edits are required down the line, I’m sure the designer will be happy to help. Don’t risk something you’ve paid good money for, turning into a dud.

4.Can you do a draft for free first so we can see if you’re right for the job?

Granted the word ‘free’ appears in ‘freelance’ but don’t ask your designer to work for free. You wouldn’t ask your builder to build 3 conservatories and then you’ll pick the one you want and pay for that one. If you have contacted that designer there must have been a reason and the reason was probably that you liked their work or someone had recommended them. If you’re not sure, ask them for more examples and testimonials, they’ll probably have loads. If you’re not happy to commit to giving them the entire project from start to finish negotiate an initial fee for some concepts designs, once your happy you can continue. Most designers will ask for a deposit prior to beginning, once you’ve agreed on the deliverables and time frame. Once you’ve paid the deposit you can be confident that your designer has allocated the required time for your project and is not going to take on any work that will interfere with yours. It’s also helpful to the designer to have the initial fee to cover working/living costs while the project is in motion.

5.Can you just get our logo from the website?

Short answer. No. There are many different file types and some will be suitable for web, some for print and then original artwork files that will be suitable for resizing. When you had your logo designed, you should have received a digital folder with all of these files included. This is what designers will normally ask for if your logo is being included in new artwork files. Ever see a flyer or a poster with a really blurry horrible logo? That’s what happens when you use a logo taken from your website and tried to increase the size. Again, if you’re not sure what your designer means, just ask! They know that not everyone understands the difference between a .png and an .ai file.

6.Hmm, not sure what I don’t like about it, can you just do another version?

A designer will have hopefully done buckets of research and gathered as much information from you to understand what you need perfectly. What you’ll be presented with is an extremely well thought out design that answers the brief and solves your problem. It wasn’t just shoved together in 5 minutes. Therefore knocking up another version that’s drastically different may not answer your brief at all. If you’re not convinced, ask them to explain the reasons behind some of the choices. Even if you specifically don’t like a particular colour or font for example, there may be a specific reason the designer has chosen them. For instance, you may want the main colour to be blue because it’s your favourite colour but the designer has chosen green because it will have much more appeal to the audience your aiming at. If there are things about it you don’t like for good reason then communicate them in a clear way, specifically letting the designer know what part/font/colour/illustration you want changed and how. Unfortunately designers aren’t mind readers so be as clear as you can.

7.We haven’t written the content yet so can you just design a template we can drop the text into?

You may have heard the phrase content is king. It definitely is and we can’t run through the design until we’ve walked through the content. Remember all that research I said your designer is doing before he or she even puts pen to paper? Well, that will include reading through all your content so that they can create a design that is appropriate to that content and the target audience. It’s also pretty difficult to work out the space and layout without knowing the word count. It’s always a good idea to have all your content ready, proofread and edited before starting the design, it makes things run smoothly and you’ll find that you’ll get exactly what you needed from the designer in a lot less time. It will probably also be cheaper for you because the designer won’t have to go back and re-design everything once you do have the content. (Which he/she will most definitely have to do).

8.Thanks for the flyer, we’ll need another one in a month but it’ll just need the date changing. You can do that right? All in the original price?

If designers allowed everyone to have unlimited revisions they would never finish a job, get paid or reel in any new work. Most designers will quote for a job stating a number of revisions included in the price, usually three. They’re not trying to short change you, it’s just a good method to get you to think hard and carefully about changes so that revisions don’t go on for ever and you end up missing your deadline. If you end up needing more revisions then negotiate. The idea is that the designer would have done their research and are working from a very clear brief, in which case you should get exactly what you need first time around.

9.I want what they’ve got, can you do that?

You’ve seen a logo you like for another business and think ‘I want that!’. First things first, good designers will never copy an existing design. It wouldn’t do their reputation any good and it certainly wouldn’t do your business any good. The purpose of developing a logo is to stand apart and establish your own identity. So why copy? Secondly (here comes the research again) your designer will work from a brief from you but will go off and research your industry, your target audience, your company ethos among other things, to create something appropriate and unique to you. That other company may have a snazzy logo but it just wouldn’t fit with what you’re all about. Concentrate on getting something unique to you that will communicate the right thing to your audience.

10.Thanks for the brochure, can you just do me a couple of versions in different sizes?

Your design is finished, you love it, you’ve signed off on the artwork and your designer’s getting the print ready files together for an A4 portrait brochure and about to send the invoice when you ask; can you just resize them to a couple of different sizes and we’re done? I’m afraid, it’s just not that simple. All the space, the font sizes and images have been lovingly crafted to fit the space perfectly in a way that’s visually appealing as well as legible and easy to follow. Simply resizing is just not an option and definitely isn’t a quick process. For instance, your A4 brochure has a specific font size that’s easily legible but to simply resize everything down to half the size will probably result in some text that’s too small for even the most eagle eyed readers. You also still need to squeeze all the content into half the size and still keep it legible. Not so straight forward. If you’re eventually going to need different formats it would be ideal to mention this at the beginning so your designer can consider this in the overall design. Of course, life isn’t always that convenient so if you do find out when the projects nearly over, try and give your designer as much notice as possible an expect some additional costs.

In conclusion…

To end up with a successful result and smiling faces all around both designers and their clients need to work collaboratively, with mutual respect, politeness and with clear and concise communication. It’s easy to get frustrated if you’re both speaking different languages but the process doesn’t need to end with both parties pulling their hair out. If both ask for clarification on things they don’t understand and deliver explanations and reasons calmly and clearly it would make things a lot rosier. Don’t you think?

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