Why is a process so important?
One of the greatest differentiators between financially successful designers and impoverished designers has very little to do with the quality of their work. Of course, creative work must be ‘good,’ but a clumsy creative process leads to a negative experience for the client. Said negative experience, will greatly reduce the chance that clients hire your again or give your referrals. I would go as far as to say that a negative experience will actually affect the way a customer perceives the value of your work.
I have been asked by newer creatives, how I can create a positive experience for the customer. I say that successful projects need a clear and repeatable process. A clear process assures the customer that the quality your past work is repeatable.
Have you ever wrote a persuasive essay? Persuasive essays generally have an introduction, three main points, and a conclusion. When writing an essay, I would first write out my thesis statement and my three main points. The thesis statement is the main point of your essay, and the three main points are points that reinforce the thesis. After the three main points have been written out, I would write the introduction, then a conclusion. Making sure to first inform the reader what I am trying to do, and then later remind the reader of my initial intention.
The Four D’s
The process I created for a website project works in much the same way as a persuasive essay except that instead of three main points, I have four phases. I call these four phases ‘The Four D’s:’ Discovery, Design, Development, and Deliverables. My four phases of website creation are sequential, even if there is a bit of overlap. Even if one jumps right into the development phase they have spent time on the first two, even if just mentally.
Money Money Money
After I have set up a clear creative process, I can then make a fairly accurate estimate of how many hours the project will take and if I need to hire people. These are some of the questions I ask myself. How much will I have to spend if I hire people? Can I finish the project fast enough for the client’s need? Can I make enough money for the project to be worth my minimum hourly rate? The list goes on. From here I create a proposal based on a combination of my past experience and meetings I’ve had with the client.
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 take the remaining fees over the course of the production process. I generally split up fees into three payments but have taken up to six payments on contracted work, depending on the schedule. Typically I try to set up one payment per month.
In the contract, milestones are stipulated to define clear phases of completion in the process (deadlines). Typically I get a payment prior to starting. The remaining payments are made after my phases: discovery, design, development, and deliverables. On completion of the job and handing over deliverables I usually send a bill for the last payment as a net 30. A net 30 means that the payment must be received in 30 days. Expect the client will 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. You can change whatever you want. 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.
- Consulting / Communication throughout the project (10hrs from Joe)
- Temporary Splash Page + launch (5 hrs)
- Recieve first payment
1st Month, Discovery:
- Customer Personals
- Identity Guide (include writing style and photographic style)
- Identify Technical Functionality (1hr)
- Recieve second payment
Second Month, Design:
- Mockup in illustrator
- Assets (deliver font files, animations, images, passwords/logins etc.)
- Audit Technical Functionality (1hr)
- Recieve third payment
Third Month, Development:
- Staging Site
- Email Setup for custom email domains (2 hrs)
- ECommerce functionality and products (10hrs) / Research which is better
Fourth Month, Deliverables:
- Launch site and debug (2hr)
- Hand over passwords (if applicable)
- Training (2hrs from Joe)
- Hosting Fees
- Technical Maintenance
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.