This piece of writing is for people who wish to post a job listing for a design job or contact a designer directly regarding a freelance assignment. I want to convey how to prepare a draft of such a job offer in a way that will benefit both a potential designer and the client.
1. Saving time
While browsing through Upwork recently I noticed that job descriptions consist mostly of one or two vague sentences - usually just a statement saying what is required and maybe a preferred colour if I’m lucky. I saved one of these sentences and would like to analyse it to help clients and designers make better products together.
‘Need new logo for existing site as part of rebranding. Budget £50’
OK, so what does this tell me as a designer who should be interested in taking on this assignment? Honestly, not a lot. This sentence is the equivalent of going into a supermarket and telling a sales assistant you need something for dinner. The obvious follow-up question is: What do you want for dinner? Being even slightly specific helps a lot.
I read somewhere that we as designers should be understanding and patient when we encounter a request similar to the one above. I agree, but only to some extent. The argument was that CEO’s, company owners, and businessmen and women in general don’t have time to think about details - they have the money and they want the job done ASAP. The problem is that there is no such thing as ASAP if the designer doesn’t know what they’re supposed to do. The client’s wasting more time by not spending the minimum amount of time to figure out what they want in the first place. If you have a quick think about how to approach the issue, you can expedite the process considerably.
2. Get a piece of paper
So, you need a logo. First, think about brands that you like and list things you like about them. It doesn’t have to be sophisticated. Be straightforward. Now think about your business. Who are you as a business? How would you like people to see you? Are you young and trendy, serious and toned down, expensive and exclusive? What customers do you hope to attract? Or, if you already have a customer base, how would you like to expand or change it?
Another helpful approach is preparing a mood board. This is an arrangement of images, materials, pieces of text, and other media intended to evoke or project a particular style or concept (thank you Google). You can create one in Pinterest, Google Docs, or in Word if that’s your media of choice.
At this point you might be thinking - wait, is this really necessary? Truth be told, it’s extremely helpful for designers and other creatives to get a glimpse of what fascinates you and makes you tick. Also you might not realise it yet, but it helps you as well. Ideas floating in your head don’t have any form until you actually put them on ‘paper’. Not only can you come back to them at any time and use them as reference, they are an inspiration and guideline for your designer who can use them to understand your requirements. Instead of wasting time asking infinite questions, they can jump right into the work and get the creative juices flowing.
Say you’ve run your own restaurant for some time now and you’ve noticed that your menus look really outdated. You’d like them changed to keep up with current trends. You don’t really know where to start, but I think you already know that writing a post like: ‘I want my restaurant menus changed’ won’t really work. So let me give you an example of what a good short message could look like:
I own my own small Greek restaurant and I would like my menu to be updated. My current menu is a 11x17’’ double sided sheet. You can find a picture of it in the file attached.
I would like it to correspond with the current visuals of the restaurant, and I would like it to include some fun illustrations to make it more engaging and memorable. /Insert restaurant website address to show the designer how does the restaurant looks/
I really like the style similar to this here /insert link/, and here /insert link/ but I’m open to propositions.
How much will that cost me and what is the deadline?
It may sounds obvious, but telling me exactly what you want is really important. Just by giving this small amount of information you’re helping me narrow down a few concepts.
3. A bit of history
Tell me your story, I’m interested in it, really! People often forget or don’t even realise how important this information is and how influential it might be when we designers create our designs. Did you know that René Lacoste, the founder of Lacoste, was nicknamed "the Crocodile" - hence the logo design? Or that Mitsubishi literally means three diamonds and the design concept comes from combining images from founder Yataro Iwasaki’s and his first employee’s family crests? Now you know, and hopefully now you can get a few ideas for how your personal or business history might be a factor in creating something original.
The designer will ask you these sorts of historical questions if there is a need for it, but it’s good to think about this concept by yourself first. Dig a little, think about something fun or intriguing that relates to you or your project - maybe an anecdote, situation, nickname. Memorable designs are memorable because they are different - they tell a story that people can relate to in some way, or because the imagery is so fascinating you want to learn more about it and then you start digging and boom! you’re hooked! Bacardi’s logo is a bat and yet you don’t drink bat blood. It’s a bat because fruit bats lived in the rafters of the first Bacardi distillery.
4. Designers should get paid the same as everyone else.
I was recently asked if I know someone who does websites because Mr. McMister paid £50 to someone in Dubai six months ago and is still waiting for his site. Who’s familiar with the phrase ‘you get what you paid for’? When you’re going to work, how much are you being paid per hour? £9, £10, £30? Let’s say you earn £9 per hour, £81 a day. It takes me around 20 hours (two and a half days) to create a logo from scratch. If I’m paid a fair hourly rate in line with the above, the commonly suggested sum of £50 for the day (before taxes) is problematic to say the least.
No one likes to work for free, and when we actually have to for whatever reason we don’t really give it our 100%. It’s because we’re rushing and we don’t feel appreciated, it’s like your boss asking you to stay overtime to finish your assignment. You’re not very happy about it because you’re not going to be paid for it.
It can be difficult to talk about pricing, but it’s important to understand the logic behind it. There is time, effort and human power put into it, and all of these have a value. If you’re not sure how much should you pay for a project, consult a designer or visit a design forum and ask. Also, be aware that if the pay is fair you will attract more people, and amongst them will be designers who can deliver great concepts. Unfortunately, they won’t be inclined to participate if the compensation is too low.
5. Yarrr, tis some fine booty!
I want to talk a bit about copyrights and source files, and why we designers don’t like to give them away.
Copyright is the exclusive right to control reproduction and commercial exploitation of your creative work. By giving it away we give the permission to use the images indefinitely in any given form that the new owner wishes it to be displayed in.
While that might sound great at first, there is a massive problem when it comes to source files. People don’t understand that the source file contains secrets of our craft, and moreover allows the new owner to manipulate the content freely without consulting the original creator, which often results in design monstrosities.
Copyrights and source files are not initially granted to you, the client. You’re only paying for the final work unless otherwise stated in the contract.
To quote Sheila Patterson:
‘The best analogy I can think of is going out to dinner. Me and the hubby love the Cheesecake Factory. But when we pay $20 for our medium-rare Kobe burger with Cheddar, all we get is that one meal for that one visit. Can you believe it?
The price doesn’t include the chef coming out, giving us his recipe, utensils, and ingredients to take home, as well as a tutorial.
What a rip off.’
There are also other factors that people often forget about, like font usage. Let’s say I’ve got the rights to use a font I bought from another designer/company for private and commercial use. I paid £200 for it and used it in your project. By giving you the source files you don’t get the right to use that font so you still have to pay the original owner for the rights to use it. You can however change it for a free one, but yet again we’re coming back to the design monstrosity. I used this font with a specific idea in mind - by changing it you're doing yourself a disservice. This goes not only for the font, it applies to all paid content I used in the project since it’s illegal to use this without purchasing the rights first. Doing so might cost you more than you initially anticipated.
Anyway, thanks for reading this little article. Hopefully I shed some light on the subject of preparing a basic freelance job description. There is much more to cover but I think this is a good start.