Let me know if you heard this one; ‘I don’t know what I want’, Or my personal favourite ‘You have free reign to do what you want’. Then you go out, put in the time and work to produce your masterpiece for it to be criticised because it didn’t quite ‘hit the mark’.

Well…here is where a great brief comes in. If you can provide your client a brief that will help answer all your relevant and also irrelevant questions, then you will have no issues in hitting that mark the first time around, leaving room for refinement.

Here is how you do it:


  • Research your client look them up if they already exist.
  • Email them or even better, meet them, have a coffee and a chat to get to know them.


  • Be Outrageous
  • Be Creative
  • Be Challenging.


  • What emotion are they selling?
  • What animal do they see themselves as?
  • Is there a company they idealise?

The list can go on and can be as out there as you want it to be. It’s these questions that will assisting you in understanding your client


When you submit your brief to the client, make it easy for them to fill in.

  • Have open and closed questions.
    A Closed example would be: Would you like this font? Yes or No
    An Open example is: How does this font make you feel?
  • Give the client some choices
    To help narrow the process down you can provide the client with some choices to choose from, this will allow you to identify their likes and dislikes.
  • Provide Examples
    There are two things you can do here. You can provide examples for the client to choose from or sometimes have the client provide examples of what they like, perhaps a website, logo, colour scheme or font.


Lastly, make sure you communicate your findings and brief results with the client. Doing this will ensure you and the client not only share the same vision but will also help you clarify anything you were unsure of.

Please feel free to use these tips as a guide, to help you in creating your own client briefs.

Remember, all clients are different, so this is where researching skill comes into play.

One bonus tip for the road


  • Put the common questions in the front  for example, Name, Business Size, Requirements, Demographic etc. and the add the open and close questions after, so that it can be customised according to your client




I’m sure you’ve heard the term ‘Why buy the cow, when you can have the milk for free’. I feel that you should know there are a lot of clients out there that feel this way about your design skills.

This topic is about you offering your design services for free. The question you should ask yourself is, do you believe your time and expertise is worth giving away? I can say the answer is probably no, so why do it? Mostly it’s the idea of doing a kindness will open up avenues to something greater and in fairness, if you do it right; it could quite possibly be the case.

So let’s see your options. There are a few opportunities of unpaid work that come up in our lives as designers.

Examples such as:

Contest, Spec Work and Crowd Sourcing

Who doesn’t like the idea of winning, I say no one. Sites like 99 Designs, Fiverr or any competition site that might ask you to design say a (movie poster or album cover). Be weary of these. Because firstly know that you are not the only one applying and as great as a designer you maybe, the client that is requesting the design most likely doesn’t know what they want. So the client looks to these sites for options and will generally pick something that they are emotionally attached to. Most likely there was no research or strategy conducted in making the right decision.

The other issues with working on these projects are your time. Your time should be valuable; working on project like these, you’re not able to gauge for time spent. Sometimes working on these projects can take up hours or days of your time. The client that requests free work don’t care that you spent a day doing their logo, even if you do win the competition know that this client is probably going to eat up more of your time requesting refinements to your design.

Some reasons as to why you shouldn’t work for free:

  • You are likely to get no return for your time and effort
  • The client doesn’t value your work
  • The client hasn’t given enough information and won’t be providing any input
  • Your design will be chosen on a whim (Emotionally based)
  • It positions you poorly
  • You get little to no respect
  • You pigeon hole yourself as providing free or cheap work
  • You get taken advantage of
  • You get no recognition
  • Family and Friends

This would have to be one of the most common amongst all designers. The Family or Friend that asks you to design an invite for a birthday party, or a brand/logo/identity for their new business or even take photos at one of their events. Understandably these people are close to you, but just like clients looking for free work, some of them don’t value your time and are sometimes the harshest critics of your work.

It’s always your call on if you want to help that person out, but always know that your time is your business and that business should have a value. In order to work for the close acquaintances ensure you set some ground rules:

  1. Working in your time
  2. If you are after some sort of compensation or credit let them know upfront
  3. You set the deadline
  4. The client will understand and respect you more as a professional.


There are plenty of businesses and agencies that are willing to let you work for some on hand experience. Lets face it in order to progress you need to show you have experience.

But make sure that in doing some free work that you don’t only gain experience points but you get something out of it too. Ensure that you are able to show off the work you have done by using it in your portfolio.

Use the internship opportunity to learn as much as you can about the industry and the different areas of design.

Pro Bono

This falls in the category of free work because, lest face it, it is. But there is nothing wrong with helping charitable organisations out or doing work pro bono. There are many advantages of doing this.

Reasons being:

  • Helping an organisation or community
  • Helping others
  • Your brand and or design will be visible
  • The client will value you and your work as a professional
  • Recognition

Now, if you decide to do this type of work, make no mistake: You should still follow your usual processes.

Treat it as it was a paid job, not just in the work you do but in the way you manage your time. Because if you don’t you will find that even clients that run charities will take advantage of your time.

So remember to:

  1. Set your parameters and list the scope of work: how many designs, rounds of revisions and estimated time.
  2. Create a contract or agreement: It’s still work in the end, and the contract stipulates rules and guidelines that the client should follow. The contract and also have in place agreements to provide a credit to your work, which will allow you recognition for your hard work.
  3. Get a client testimonial that you can put in your portfolio or your website.
  4. Follow-up and feedback: Ensure after the project is completed you follow-up and get feedback from the client receiving feedback will assist in growth and development as a designer and professional.

There are ways in which you can work for free, but make sure that you are also getting the most value out of it. Time is a valuable commodity and in the design work can be very precious.

In doing free work always remember to look for opportunities where you can gain the advantage.



With all the commoditised design sites out there like Fiverr or 99Designs, Wix, Weebly or Squarespace. Trying to operate a design business can be tough. It’s never about wether you can do the work these days, it’s more about how much is it going to cost!. But the reality is that all businesses are going to compete and so should you. There are ways you can overcome the struggle, ways you can stay ahead of the game. What is everyone offering? and What can you offer that everyone else hasn’t thought of yet?

When speaking with designers, clients/business owners, the common topic of conversation is currency. From the designers perspective “the client wont pay my rate”‘ from the client/business perspective; “For that price I can get multiple design options” or “This site is offering design for $XX”. Design is a competitive market now and as designers and independent business owners we have to think smart.

So why should a client hire you when they can pay $50 for a logo or other design work? You must have the answer to this question and be able to explain it to your prospect, or they will put you in the same box as those other services.

When the focus is on pricing, there is always someone willing to do it cheaper. Don’t dwell on the person that offered your client the cheaper rate. You need to keep on in search of the clients that will pay your rate. Some clients are happy to pay a premium rate for premium services. There is a correlation between the rate and the type of client you attract.

Clients who’re looking for cheap services and not focusing on the impact their brand or product will have on their business don’t understand the value of a good logo, branding or website or marketing. It shouldn’t be about if it just looks good and it should never be about the fact that designers can do it because they have the tools and the client doesn’t. Clients should understand that it’s not just a good design, but an investment in their business, something that will produce results for them.

A Client that understand good design will not question cost, and more acknowledge what work you have done for that is going to bring in for them in the near future. But to every good there is the bad client, the one that think’s it’s too expensive, argue or negotiate the invoice with you and love to manage the design thinking. You can never really guess who you are going to get when you sign up client, sometimes is just too late.

Know your pricing and stick to it. Understand the quality you are delivering, but doing a little research you can see what everyone is charging and also see the quality of work they are offering. This will help you determine the value of your work. Don’t make the mistake of going too low, because even though you’re lower than the next person, to a potential good client (willing to pay the higher rate), will also determined your design skills based on what you charge. Cheap is never a good thing, because cheap is a perception of low quality and cutting corners. It’s it also a short term frame of mind.


When a potential or existing client comes to you, they are asking for a logo, a brochure, a website or something else. You have to ask yourself, “What do they actually need”?

Do they need:

  • to look more professional or re-invent their current look;

  • to convince potential customer, clients or prospects;

  • to attract new people;

  • to have a larger presence in the market

Brief the client in detail to find out the deeper need and the results they’re trying to achieve. This is also helps you determine:

  • what services you can offer;

  • what additional products or designs the client might need or want;

  • what to charge the client; and

  • build a trusting relationship with the client as you have taken the time to understand what they actually want and need.


What do you offer that those services and most other designers don’t? Whether you’re designing a logo or providing print or website design, you’re not providing designs off an assembly line or acting as an order taker at a fast food joint. You’re a consultant; you’re an expert. So act like it! Get to know your client’s business. Do your research in that industry. Have a phone, video or in-person consultation and ask questions such as the following:

  1. Who is the company?
  2. What is their Mission?
  3. Do they have Values and if so what are they?
  4. What does your company/organisation do?
  5. What services or products do you offer?
  6. What is the objective of the design?
  7. Who are your target audience?
  8. How do you want them to feel when they interact with your brand? (i.e., safe and secure, edgy and excited, exclusive and cool, etc.)
  9. Who inspires you?
  10. Who are your competitors in this space?
  11. Are these long term or short term goals?
  12. What is your budget or expectation of cost? (There may or may not be a solution you can provide within their budget, but you’ll find out up front, which means you won’t waste time putting together a proposal and chasing work if it’s not possible.)

It may seem like the Spanish inquisition but if you’re not asking these types of questions, then how can you create a solution? Remember, design is a visual way to solve a problem. You have to understand the problem before you can provide a solution.

So, listen: clients only care about what the work you do for them will do for them! They want results and want return on investment. Help the client understand how your design choices relate to their audience and their goals. When you go to provide an estimate, don’t make it simple put some detail into it, show the client that you have thought about it. Use the answers they give you to from the questions you asked them in the initial consultation.

See below as a basic example:

{Task involved in meeting requirements} $XX
{Any additional out of expense charges} $XX
{Address Time (cost for Urgency} $XX
Total $XX



Some clients may like companies like Fiverr or 99Designs because they get a lot of designs or unlimited revisions, etc. They think it’s better to see more designs than fewer. This is an incorrect perception—that they’re getting more for their money, that quantity is more important than quality. The issue with these is that too many options lead to indecisiveness. Most clients that use these sites have to fill in a brief and usually these briefs are never really filled out completely, hence why there are some many options and variable designs. The Client is unsure of what they are after and just want to see multiple options until they are happy with something that looks nice.

There is no understanding of the target audience, the message, the objective or what the client is trying to achieve. Or the client just has no idea what they wanted and really doesn’t understand their own target audience. Use these terms and reasons as an example or if you have already had a client come to use after using these sites, use that as an example, I know I have!. This can actually make selling your design services easier.


Some clients who use these other services are satisfied—until:

  • they realised that file type is wrong, or not packaged correctly, is not the right size or suitable for print.
  • the logo needs to be scaled up or used in one colour. The logos were not vectors because they were designed in Photoshop and not Illustrator.
  • the client gets a cease-and-desist letter from or, even worse, sued for infringement by a company with a similar logo design but different name, or by a stock image company as a result of the designer illegally using a stock icon. That could mean a license wasn’t purchased, or that a license was purchased but the designer wasn’t allowed to use it in a logo design. In these cases, the logo ends up costing the client much more money than they initially spent on the logo design—plus, quite possibly, their reputation.
  • the client gets a site build but with no education on how to manage it.

These are only a few examples of real-life situations where the clients are left to fend for themselves, they have existing needs not being met or new ones to be addressed, problems to be solve. Use these as opportunities for you to provide better deliverables.

The key to being a good designer is common sense.

Know your Value?, Understand the Business, Always Quality not Quantity and Ensure Delivery at all times.

Ask questions, Listen and be professional, when these key points in mind your client will see what choosing you over commoditised design sites is a better investment. There is no guarantee that you will win, but that is just the difference between getting a client that wants a cheap and fast design as apposed to the client that wants thoughtful and quality design solutions. Stick to your guns and don’t drop your rate for anyone. Clients speak to each other; the most common way of business return for designers is through referrals. If you offer a client a lower rate than normal, chances are you would end up doing it for the referred client. Know your worth!