Blog: ways of working We write about our professional experiences and observations and welcome a discursive dialogue on design matters with external collaborators to explore future ways of working culturally, technologically and philosophically.
We are beginners in this game called “The Freelance Industry”, or at least this is my case. No matter how many years a person has been working as a freelancer, one can always learn something new. That’s the beauty of life. In my case, I am still being ripped off and learning how to explain well my ideas as sometimes the proposition might get rejected because of the way I explain it to the clients. That’s the beauty of being a freelance beginner, I guess.
From “Not being paid and then see my work on the BBC” to becoming a “Personal design teacher” for my client, today, I will talk about my latest cliché story. A successful but tough experience of me proposing ideas and asking what I deserve to my client.
How did I get the job?
I was meeting a new friend who invited me for a dinner with her dad (first time I met him). “Dad” asked me what do I do for a living so I replied I was studying Graphic & Media Design. Afterwards, I promoted myself by “soft” debating and explaining him what graphic design can be. (Free tip: If you want to get a job, this conversation works every time I’ve tried it, so fellows, you know what to do) In that conversation, I managed to make him understand that a graphic designer can do branding, a concept which was far beyond his initial idea. After that, “Dad”, told me he was starting a new drink business, and what does he needs? Come on everybody, shout all together with me: A LOGO! Easy. I can do it. (Don’t panic yet, he proposed to pay me)
Proposing ideas the client didn’t ask for
The name of this particular company was really dynamic. I was having more ideas for the label design (something I wasn’t meant to be doing) than for a logo. Sometimes, there are other design elements that will make the brand more effective than just a logo, I learned this thanks to the experience of another DPS student working for Mind Studio.
As I learned in DPS, presentations are KEY. If you have a bigger idea but the client hasn’t asked for it, propose it, what can you loose? That is why I proposed my idea for the drink labels. “Dad” loved it and he bought it. Sometimes, a well designed presentation with an interactive design and a good narrative of the story is more likely to be accepted than a good concept not well explained…The power of storytelling.
What I did not predict was the amount of “extras” the project will have. The value of extra work, extra time, extra costs, etc. are very important to consider when settling down the price. We, designers, must have these “toppings” in mind before starting a project. The contract of a freelancer is much flexible than a company, agency or studio. In a company for instance, the client takes it "or you leave it". A designer in a company can actually be there from the first draft to the smallest detail of the final outcome. One of the problems a freelancer may have (I believe) is that the client will try to pay throughout the project as little as possible. In my case, it was really hard to improve some design elements as I did not discussed this from the very beginning.
Firstly, in terms of typography, he didn’t know what was a license. Although the one I wanted was not expensive at all, it took me 2 weeks to explain him why he may have to consider buying it. I even posted the issue on Instagram so typographers and other creatives could help me to make him comprehend. How did I solve the problem? By stoping the video-calls and making a clear presentation. I am a visual person, I could communicate much better visually what I couldn’t say in French (not my first language). He understood and he bought it.
Secondly, in terms of packaging, I wanted to use different papers or different techniques to show the price differences visually. When I asked him what paper he was going to use he told me “the normal one”. Oh darling, come here and let me tell you the huge list of “normal” existing papers there are. Sometimes the designer won't have voice on some design decisions (which is something that kills me). In this case, I cannot go to the production factories so I cannot really control what paper, glass, colours or techniques he will use in the end.
Asking for more money
Finally, the issue with the “extras”. As the project was all the time getting extended, I realised that I was doing way more than what I initially discussed with him. After talking with some people, I decided to email him saying: “[...] I would like to talk to you about how I feel. The time and hours I have spent on this project are starting to get more complicated than what I initially discussed with you. Maybe I did not understand the brief correctly but if you don’t find it inappropriate, I would like to reconsider the financial side of the project.[...]”
Well, he denied it. For me it was a shock, I had the courage of asking for what I thought I deserved and he rejected it. I decided to carry on with the project anyways. After a couple of days, I received an email from him apologising and offering me 1000€ more. From 0 to 1000… there are some numbers in between, isn’t it? Ask for what you believe you deserve (no matter how much experience you have) as the client won't do it for you. The client is not a designer, they barely understand its value. Explained it to the client, politely and the client will understand and respect your job.
So far, I am very happy with this project as I am making mistakes and learning from them! This experience has helped me to see there are some things you cannot control but some other ones that you can actually help the client to improve. This blog helped me to see the project with different eyes, and helped me to keep going and use this project as an opportunity to improve. Also, hopefully this story with “Dad” will help other students to have in mind some tips such as requesting what they deserve, as the client won’t do it for themselves. We can always learn something new and improve from each other, right?