One of the most notable differences between successful and unsuccessful designers has little to do with the quality of their final product. Of course, creative work must be “good,” but a clumsy creative process often leads to a negative experience for the client. The half-baked process, its presentation to the client, and their negative experience could then greatly reduce the chance that clients re-hire you or hand you referrals. I would go as far as to say that this negative experience will actually affect the way a customer perceives the overall value of your work.
I have been asked by novice entrepreneurs, “How I can create a positive experience for the customer?” I reply that fruitful projects need a clear and repeatable process. A clear process helps reassure the customer that the quality of your past work is highly repeatable.
Have you ever written a persuasive essay? The process I created for website projects works much in the same way. Persuasive essays typically have an introduction, three main points with supporting content, and a conclusion. The first step in writing a persuasive essay is writing a thesis statement. The thesis statement is the anchor of your essay, and informs the reader of your subject, your stance towards the subject, and your supporting evidence for having that particular opinion. Your three main claims from your thesis and your expanded supporting evidence make up the (typically three) body paragraphs. Sometimes it is easiest to write the introduction and conclusion after the three body paragraphs. In the introduction I make sure to first inform the reader what I am trying to do, and then later remind the reader of my initial intention in my conclusion
The Four D’s
Like a persuasive essay and its narrative, argumentative structure, my website project includes phases of execution. I call these four phases “The Four D’s”. It stands for Discovery, Design, Development, and Deliverables. My four phases of website creation are linear, even if there is a bit of overlap between them.
Deadlines and Payment
After I have laid out a clear creative process, I can then make a fairly accurate estimate of how many hours the project will require, and if I need to hire people to assist. These are some of the initial questions I ask myself: How much will I have to spend if I hire people? Can I finish the project efficiently to meet the client’s goals? Does the overall payment turn enough of a profit to fulfill my minimum hourly rate? The list goes on. From here I create a proposal based on judgments from past client meetings.
If the client agrees to the proposal, I promptly send a contract requiring an initial deposit of 25% to 50% the total fee. I will then accept the remaining fees over the course of the production process. I generally divide fees into three payments. Though depending on the schedule and conditions, I have taken up to six payments on contracted work. Typically I try to set up one payment per month.
In the contract, milestones are defined to outline the phases of completion in the process (deadlines). I will normally require a payment prior to beginning the labor. The remaining payments are expected after my phases: Discovery, Design, Development, and Deliverables. Upon handing over the deliverables and completion of the contract, I usually send a bill for the last payment as a “net 30.” A net 30 means that the final payment must be received within 30 days. Expect the client to take their time on the last payment and maybe even be a bit late. You may consider setting up penalties for late payments in the original contract.
Need an example?
The following is an example schedule outline from a recent project. Feel free to use it as a reference and make adaptations. I have omitted some items due to non-disclosure agreements. Omitted items include actual costs, and which team members will be assigned to each item. My example can be found on my site.
I hope you have found something helpful in this post. Feel free to comment or ask questions below. Would you like to see a YouTube version of this content? I appreciate any type of feedback.