Art Of: Honing your Process
With every new client, the initial discussions are really important to set up structure and expectations. A lot of times the client will jump in immediately talking about visuals when you haven’t even talked about the business problem yet. It’s ok. It’s not their fault. They just don’t think that way. It’s your job to back up and provide the structure, guiding them step by step, asking the questions you need answered in order to get the big picture first. This can be hard because I know personally I’m wired to think of visuals first too. I learned though that if you don’t start with the design problem, they will reserve the right to art direct you the whole way. If you define that problem first, you can go back to it and say “you know, I don’t think this really solves the problem you defined in the brief. Let’s talk about why you think this is the best solution and I’ve got some other ideas too.”
On my new site, I have a “process” page that breaks down how I work into bite sized pieces. It’s pretty generic, but it explains it in layman’s terms, so that a client can understand that there is structure to the way I work and that in order to yield the best results, we have to do these in order.
Here’s some examples of some of my favorite freelance designers/ boutique agencies and their process pages:
Small shop really proves they’ve been around for 10 years by the details they put into their services page. It’s both a process and services page built in one. While there’s a lot of information there, it’s still easy to follow.
I found her a year or so ago and really admired her work. Her process page served as the inspiration for my own.
I LOVE their work and I love their website. Instead of listing out an actually step by step process, they craft a nice little summary. It’s more personal I think if you’re not interested in the structured step by step method.
After I had a solid process page, I next took it one step further and broke down every step that is carried out under those phases. Just recently I heard a great tip from Jessica Hische at the Creative Freelancer Conference that she breaks down her estimates in phases. This was just as much for me as it was for my potential clients to see how much work and planning goes into projects before I start sketching.
I highly suggest you outline your process on paper and pin it up next to your computer so that you can reference it at all times. It’s definitely saved me while on a call with new clients who are moving too fast.