I wouldn’t have lost as much money if I had a Kill Fee clause in my proposal. Trust me, I do now.
You don’t have to learn this painful lesson the hard way if you follow my advice. In this article, I will help you write comprehensive graphic design proposals, that will protect both you and your client.
I’ve been freelancing for over 15 years, and all of my experience has gone into my Proposal format. Half the battle of being a successful freelancer is being a smart business person.
Protect your Ass as well as the Client Relationship
Tip #1. Address Pain Points & Business Goals
In order to properly determine how you will approach the Website or Logo design, you need to ask the client directly what the areas of their business they think are weak, what fears keep them up at night?… Research ways they can remedy these issues and offer your advise on how you will approach the creative challenge. Reduce their pain and quell their fears with actionable advise they can use.
What Fears Keep them up at Night?
Build Trust . Once you have shown them you understand their Branding needs, and that you are experienced in serving them, you’ll build trust. They will remember you. You’ve made it ALL about them and not the budget and you’ll be more likely to land the work. They are more likely to hire you than the next guy, because they see you as someone that ‘get’s it. Put in some effort upfront, and put more cash in your bank account.
Tip #2. Define Scope of Work & Deliverables
Learn how to define the Project Scope, so you do not get in over your head on the work you’ll put into the project. If there are multiple deliverables, clearly outline each one. Break down the effort that will be required for every step of the process.
Break down the Total effort required
You need to account for every phase of the project to protect your ass. Also include a Change Order provision if and when the client wants to add anything to the agreed on scope of work. This is training the client to respect your time. If you choose to ‘do a little extra’ for them, at least you’ll receive bonus points for going over and above the call of duty.
- Meetings and communication
- Assimilation of the Creative Discovery
- Researching competitors
- Sketching out concepts
- Digitizing the best sketches
- Designing the Logo or Website & Presenting
- Executing client revisions
- Creating alternate formats and sizes of the Logo once approved
- Print coordination, Press checks, etc.
- Just to name a few…
Rookie Mistake: Showing too many Concepts
Agree to present no more than 3 concepts for Logo Proposals, and 2 design approaches if this is for a website. Presenting too many damn ideas to a client is a recipe for disaster. Don’t let your Ego get in the way of getting the work done.
Tip #3. Include Value Proposition
Learn how to present your offerings in terms of Value to the client so you can garner higher fees on each of your logo projects. Value propositions are not easy to write, but if you can speak about your expertise and what you bring to the table at a high level, you’ll be more likely to be taken more seriously when they are deciding which consultant is the best fit for them.
But be aware of Jargon Monoxide poisoning, the kiss of death for any proposal. Your value proposition needs to solve their problems, address their pain points, and be written the way people speak. It will be more effective.
Your Value Proposition needs to Reduce their Pain
Tip #4. Require a 50% Deposit in your Design Proposals
Always request a deposit before beginning your project. You and your client are committing to this work together, so it makes sense to require a deposit prior to diving into the work. Define your Payment Terms clearly and include a deposit invoice with your proposal. Payment Terms of 50/50 is standard. But you can also offer the choice of 3 payments, if that is more comfortable for your client.
Tip #5. Setting your Creative Fees
Learn how to set an hourly rate that is in line with your experience. Set your fees based on the VALUE it brings your client.
As your engagements get larger and larger, you can require less and less detail about your fee calculations. It’s a sign of confidence not to reveal how you calculate your prices or your hourly rate. Simply drop in a single number at the bottom of the list of work you will be preforming for the project. It works, trust me.
Pro Tip: DO NOT REVEAL Your Hourly Rate!
Tip #6. Revision Policy & T&M Fees
Learn how to Define the amount of time you’ll actually spend on the logo work – limit client revisions to 3 for each deliverable you send them. VERY important to keep costs in check. This way if you decide to make a 4th ‘quickie’ edit, you’ll be seen as doing them a favor. Bam!! Instant Rockstar status!
Don’t forget to Include a T&M Clause…
T&M is an acronym meaning ‘Time & Materials’. Learn how to protect your ass when the client revisions exceed the allotted number. This will discourage clients from asking to make too many changes. It encourages decisiveness on their part, and moves the project toward a faster completion.
Below is sample terminology:
Revision Policy & T&M fees: “Approvals are needed at certain milestones throughout the life of the project. If the number of substantial client edits exceed 3 revisions, the total estimated hours allotted for each task will increase. This additional time needs to be captured and billed at a $85/hr T&M flat rate (Time & Materials). Typically most design projects do not require more than 3 revisions to finalize. Note: Clients will be notified well in advance before incurring additional fees on open projects. ”
Tip #7. Include a Pre-Signed Signature page
Your proposal is useless unless it is signed. Pre-sign your agreement so once the client signs it will be a fully executed legal document. Get it signed so you protect your ass if something goes sideways. Delivering a signed proposal makes it EASY for them to get the party started. Have the client send you a digital copy of the executed signature page and keep it in the project records for future referral.
Tip #8. Set Rights to the Work
Give the client full rights to the work you perform for them, they are contracting you to do it so they should own it. The only caveat is for you to include a ‘Right to Promotion’ of the work so you can include it in your portfolio.
Include ‘Right to Promotion’ terms
Below is sample terminology:
Right to Promotion Terms: “Designer hereby assigns to Client all rights, title and interest in the work produced under this Agreement, except that Author retains display rights in the work, i.e., for use in portfolios, exhibitions and other self-promotion channels.”
Tip #9. Client Expectation Management
Always Under-Promise and Over-deliver. Always communicate fully and often. Even bad news.. And of course NEVER miss deadlines. Set deadlines out far enough to BEAT them so you look like a rockstar. Blowing deadlines is the worst thing you can do in business. Don’t make excuses, make time.
ALWAYS ALWAYS Under-Promise and Over-deliver.
If the client has caused the delays by not providing feedback or copy, etc. Help manage their expectations by communicating the timeline BEFORE they miss a deadline to keep the project on track. And when you have a milestone to meet, strive to deliver EARLY. You’ll never recover from a broken promise made to a client if you blow a deadline.
Tip #10. Include the all important Kill Fee Clause!
This is the clause that was missing from my previous proposals that cost me a $6000 project. I now include one in all of my proposals. I researched the basic standards on the AIGA website and other resources to craft a very fair clause to protect me if a client decides to kill a project after it has started.
In the Kill Fee Clause I’ve included verbiage that allows the CONSULTANT (you) to end a project and STILL GET PAID for your efforts. If a client is indecisive, and doesn’t know what they want, you have the right to end the project if it’s not a good fit. You cannot create an infinite number of designs. That’s INSANE.
It breaks out like this: After 3 rounds of creative is delivered, and the client shows no sign of selecting an idea to finalize, the designer has a right to end the project, and will retain the 50% deposit money. BAM!
AND the client does not have any rights to use the designs you’ve submitted. This is fair, and now I include this in every proposal I submit.
PROTECT YOUR ASS PEOPLE!! If you don’t, no one else will…
A Kill Fee Clause will save your Ass. Every time.
BONUS TIP: Up-sell Your Expertise
Learn how to set yourself up for more work with this client. You need to think about cultivating the client relationship. If you want to continue to work with this client (sometimes you are HAPPY the pain is over), remind them of your many creative skills, the many disciplines you cover. You are there for them.
Q: Do they Need a Stationery System? Q: Do they Need a New Website to show off their sweet new Logo? You get the idea. This helps turn a random ‘one-off’ logo project into an ongoing client with repeat business and recurring revenue.
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