WHY GO THE EXTRA MILE? WHY NOT CHARGE EXTRA?
I recently took on a new project for a client via Upwork — the online freelance website. The project was to create a simple, electronic pdf brochure of “a few pages” using content from the client’s website. I was awarded the project, and sent high resolution images that had been used on the website.
This was new counseling business. It would function as a home exclusively for women to continue their therapy and recovery in a safe place while learning a broad range of real life skills that they will face in a future post recovery. Besides the images, they did not have a logo to speak of. Just the name of the practice, treatment and the images.
How do you create a great looking marketing piece for a company that doesn’t have a logo — particularly when this is the introductory marketing piece? This is something some clients will understand and they will have a logo that another designer already created, or they will hire me to design not only the brochure, but the logo as well. Other times, clients don’t give the logo much thought, and perhaps get a bit ahead of themselves.
My philosophy has always been to present the best possible solution I can to a client. I want to blow them away with a great looking piece, and I want them to be proud of it, but I also need to satisfy myself. Every piece of artwork I create for another client — no matter how small the project may be — it is an opportunity to create for myself as much as for the client. Translation — If I have not satisfied myself with the look, feel, and presentation of a particular project, how can I expect you, the client to be pleased with the result. This is something central to how I approach each project. If your designer doesn’t work in this manner perhaps he/she should consider a career change (and you may want to hire a different graphic designer (hint, hint)!
Some bean counters, other graphic designers — they might look at this scenario and think, “…oh this is an excellent way for me to make more money….” My first thought; “how can I work within the client’s parameters? I don’t want to go back to them right from the start with a problem. They don’t want to hear about problems — they are coming to me looking for a solution!”
The answer I come up with in this scenario is to just design the darn logo! Blow them away with an amazing piece, throw in the logo. My dad the accountant is cringing as he reads this, but this is the only way I can proceed on a project. It has happened to me a few times, and I am sure it will happen again, and I will likely do the same thing. It’s not because I am a nice guy — although I am. It’s not because I am feeling especially philanthropic — although at times I do. This is the answer because this will make the design sing! Period!
WHY NOT CHARGE FOR IT?
The afore mentioned “Dad” and likely many others would probably tell me I should charge for it. They might be right. However, I always take a broader look at a client then just a one-off project.
While it is true that there are no guarantees in life, it has been my experience that if you go the extra mile, and give the client more then he/she is asking for, they are likely to return to you time and again for more business.
Case in point — almost every client I have in the Filament Designs family are long standing customers that remain with me for years (decades in some cases). I don’t think it’s just my winning personality and sunny disposition.
I believe that at some point, they have all experienced the care I have for the craft — and in some cases, just taking the extra time and extra steps to make their brochure, or landing page, or invitation, or whatever I am working on for them — look amazing. Sometimes they didn’t ask for it, but they know it when they see the finished product.
Great design — and going those extra few steps — shouldn’t be about the money. I don’t want to be the “Montgomery Burns” of Graphic Design! Great design comes from the extra steps your designer takes to make sure the end result is a true gem — something you, the client are proud of. And if you are, chances are your designer is proud of it too!
Save Time and Improve the Quality of Your Project Management Exponentially
I know what you must be thinking as you read that headline. “Come on, André… how dense do you think I am? I know how to send you text!”
It’s true. Sending me text is super simple. Just type it up, and voila -- text sent to me. Piece of cake.
But as a designer who has received text for countless projects over the past 20 years, there is “right way” to provide the materials needed to get the best possible results.
While there are no “wrong” ways for content to reach a designer, there is a most efficient way. A way where you can help me get your project done faster, more complete, accurate and that can save you money and save you lots of frustration!
The Wrong Ways
Smoke signals, semifore, carrier pigeon, morse code and duck calls all serve(d) a purpose, but all fit in the “Wrong Way” category. So lets move on to what works the best.
Snail Mail — Stop laughing. I had to include this because I have received content this way in the not so distant past. But lets just admit that this is not a preferred method.
Dictation — This is the 21st century and unless one has been comatose for the past 50 years, stenographers are very retired and I sure don’t know any shorthand. Let’s go ahead and dismiss this as well.
Fax — The fax machine was a perfectly valid tool to send text quickly in the early 1990’s but in today’s world of email and sending files back and forth with such ease, the fax machine is more than likely heading to a museum near you sooner rather than later. On a rare occasion it may yet be useful, but less and less.
E-Mail — We are now getting a little better, but pasting loose content inside the body of an email is typically not the best way to send your materials. Things can shift and get screwy during transmission. But sending text via email is part of the puzzle… keep reading!
PDF File — Not a bad option, but often times it can be difficult to extract content from a pdf. When text comes into the new document i’m working with to produce your project, the formatting can be messy and that leads to lots of extra time to clean everything up. What worked for one document, may not be effective for a different document. There are different sizes, colors and fonts that may be used. So… all that formatting won’t work on the new file the same way it did the first time you may have used it.
It’s Not Just A Word Document but THE word Document
I would not recommend using MS Word to design your brochure, but when it comes to sending the copy that will appear in your brochure — this is the gold standard.
While, using MS Word may be the right way to send your content to me, there are still details to consider. If all you are doing is typing your copy out, performing a spell check and then sending it off to me, you’re in for more than you bargained for, because that kind of casual simplicity is going to cause you massive delays as the project moves closer and closer to production.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENS WITH YOUR TEXT
When you send in your text, and call it ‘final’ I am left with the impression that you have carefully edited the content with your business partners or staff. I am further assuming it has all the punctuation required, the language is correct. It is communicating to prospective customers precisely what you want to say when it is printed.
You take the time to choose a font, bold headlines and select specific colors. If all of that helps you sobeit, but when I take your copy and paste it into my InDesign file, all of your formatting disappears. The bolds, italics, colors, fonts — it all comes into my file as black Times Roman 12 point type.
Based on the approved design we have initially created together, I will change the font, update the leading and positioning of the text within the page. From this point, I go back to your word file and look for the bolds, and italics you put into your document and bring them back into the InDesign file. I select colors as prescribed by the design, and when completed, I send through the primary draft with all of your ‘live” copy in place.
The ‘Red’ Pen
Sounds pretty simple, right? You now have your ‘final’ copy in position, in the right font based on the design and everything is just as you…
“…Oh wait… I don’t like the way that sentence reads. Let me print this out.” You reach for your red pen to make some changes.
“Hmmmm, I think if I re-word this sentence… oh darn... now the rest of the paragraph doesn’t make sense.”
“OK, that’s better. Glad I was able to re-write that paragraph, but now, gee… I’m not keen on that headline. I think I have to think about re-writning that.”
Sounds all to familiar. Before you know it, you have made changes to the 3 headlines, 2 sub-headlines and made substantial changes to two-thirds of the text in your brochure. So, you send me an email with a new Word document.
“…it will be easier if you just use this new file because I made lots of changes…”
Take a moment now and read the last section about what really happens with the text you send to me!
Depending on the project, the changes you made after I sent you the first draft just cost us as much as 2, 3, 4 hours or more. All of the formatting that was done originally is now gone. It has to all be done from scratch.
I think we can agree that this is not the optimal use of time.
I have had projects that began as simple as one-sided posters or 100 word eblasts go through as many as 17 or 18 sets of revisions. Indecision can often be the culprit. Consulting too many people — all of who have their own ideas — can also create problems. This leads to a your frustration, as well as great difficulty for me to effectively and efficiently do my job. And a project that could have — should have — been completed in a day or two, now bleeds into a week or more. The client has incurred additional cost for the additional time spent, and lost his/her own sanity in the process. That’s not a good day at the office!
Streamlining The Process
I do not wear a cape. I DO NOT have a magic wand. The computer is an effective tool that helps speed up the process, however, it is just a tool. Formatting your copy — be it 6 pages or 60 pages — is not as simple as copy/paste. But it can be done with less of the back and forth copy changes that cause delays and all of that begins with you!
Read and re-read
Once you write your copy and spell check it, you should understand that this is just the beginning. You should print it, read it, and re-read it. It is guaranteed you will notice where you missed punctuation and you will find numerous places where you will re-write whole sections. This is your time to shine. You can quietly make the changes you want and say what needs to be said the way you want without interference from anyone.
I highly recommend that you have at least two other people read your content after you have what you believe is your final draft. This means 6 eye balls have viewed your document.
Fresh eyes are going to see your words in a new way. They will be able to look at your copy critically. These readers are also going to read your copy the way potential customers will read it. They can make suggestions that will further help polish your content.
Don’t Kill Yourself Formatting
Once you have edited your copy and have had others review it, don’t go crazy with colors and picking “the font you like best” on your word file. Remember — all of the formatting you do in Word disintegrates the moment I place it into my InDesign file. Save the time. What you can and should do is bold and italicize what you need or want. I can see that in the Word file and will transfer that into the finished document.
If you are working with a Board of Directors, Committee or small team, be sure that everyone has seen and approves the content before sending to me. If just one person who wanted to sign off on the text didn’t see it, we could end up doing a lot of work only to have it all end up in the trash. Include the team as needed.
Have a listing of names (like on an invitation) or locations? Spell check is not going know if a proper name is spelled wrong! It is imperative that you provide this content spelled correctly. Neither I, nor spell check is going to know if the proper spelling is ‘Smith,’ or ‘Smyth.’
Using A Professional Copywriter
I highly recommend that if you want the best possible result, that you use a professional copywriter. They are the text experts! They can take your outline or thoughts and write your message clearly and will present you (and me) with completed content. As long as you communicated your preferences with the copywriter and signed off on what they have produced, you and I should have no need to edit a word, or add one exclamation point to your text.
The REAL Final Draft
While “perfection may be the poison of profitability,” the more you edit your text before sending it to me, the faster project(s) will get done. It really is that simple. The control is in your hands. Putting in the time NOW leads to far less anxiety (for both of us) later.
A client pays good money to have me design a brochure, invitation, poster, ad, or perhaps an annual report. Lots of hard earned dollars to make sure that a pro like me gets the job done the right way and helps to make you or your business look fantastic. Photos are sent to me to place into files, and I open them only to discover that they are “low resolution.” Well %@#&!!! Now I have to go back to the client and tell them the photo they sent is “no good.” I hate doing that because they get frustrated and annoyed. They don’t know why the photo is unusable.
“But it’s what they (the person in the photo) sent to me for you to use. So, it should be fine… right?”
“Can’t you just use it or fix it?”
“What do you mean ‘low resolution’? I don’t even know what that means.”
Perhaps you have thought this or said it in the past. Let’s take each question and answer it.
They Sent It To Me, So Its Fine…Right?
Just because he or she sent it to you and you sent it on to me doesn’t mean it will be appropriate or viable for use — especially if we are talking about a print project. A web or e-mail oriented project does not require the same resolution as a printing based project. Perhaps the person in the photo doesn’t understand what is needed? Maybe they were not aware that this was a printing project. There could be any number of reasons that someone may have just sent you a photo they have used many times in the past, or they took off of their own website thinking it was just fine.
The reality is that it isn’t just fine if it was taken from a website or Google. That may work on a web or e-mail project, but if we are putting ink to paper, the quality of a low resolution image will take a great design, all the time and money you put into it and make it look like an amateur put it together in MS Word.
Can’t you just Use It or Fix It?
The easy answer… sure. I can use it. But see above!!! Do you want to ruin a high-quality project with a blurry photo of your honoree, or keynote speaker for your event? How would that person feel when they see the result?
It can’t be ‘fixed.’ If I take a low resolution photo, and enlarge it to the size I need, that is when you get a blurry, pixelated result.
In printing terms — I can’t just add the pixels required by a wave of my magic mouse. Photoshop has its limits. The pixels have to be within the digital image to begin with.
What Does All Of This Techno High Resolution vs. Low Resolution Mean?
Let’s look at the example of an HDTV. The picture quality is what you see because there are enough pixels to provide you with that crystal clear image you enjoy so much. If you were to, say, cut the pixels by 75% imagine the kind of result you would encounter. It would look blurry and pixelated. The only ‘fix’ would be reducing the size of the TV screen by the same proportion. Now you have taken a 40 inch HDTV and made it a 10 inch HDTV. Anyone have a magnifying glass? From a printing position — well, it’s probably best to look at the example on the next page.
"It is not enough for art and design to be beautiful, functional, delivered on time, and on budget. I believe it has to help your business thrive!"
That is what I believe. It is a value I have always believed about the artwork I create for my clients. It is something that I took great pride in even as a young man working on school projects. I felt as though every project — no matter the size and scope — deserved the same love and passion from me; the same care of craftsmanship, and attention to detail.
When your business succeeds because the website we designed is beautiful, exactly what you wanted, but also easy for your customers to use then that is the measure of our success. When the fundraising gala you are hosting is sold out because the invitations we designed, printed, and mailed were not just striking and eye-catching — they made the night look like something that couldn't be missed! That helped your cause which means our small part in it helped too. When you launch a new product or service you need to make sure that the posters are amazing, the ads you are running in the paper, online and in your eblasts are all branded beautifully giving you credibility and professionalism. As your sales increase, we know that our effort played a role in your success — making it our success too!
This is why Filament Designs is here. There are no big projects and small projects. There are just the projects that matter the most — and those are your projects.
The designer you seek needs to be more than just a creative operator and more like a member of your inner team. Filament Designs should be the designer you seek for your next project.
Andre Garabedian is a graphic designer who has been actively working in the field for a quarter of a century. Taking the time to learn the design craft as well as production, André has the expertise and background to help you understand the ins and outs of your project to ensure that the highest possibly quality is delivered and expectations are exceeded.