ADVICE / 34
today’s question: “what was your first freelance job and what did you learn?”
technically my first graphic design job was designing the drink promotion tent cards at the restaurant i worked at in high school. but the one i count was designing a line of stationery cards for a new brand. i think i found it on craigslist. the ad asked for an illustrator with a print background. i sent my portfolio PDF showing the range of my illustration skills and my resume. the owner responded she liked my style and asked to meet me. we met at a bar, had some wine and she told me what she wanted her stationery line to be. it was right up my alley and we clicked really well. i knew what was required of me as a designer, but on the business side i had no clue what I was doing. i charged her $500 for 5 designs, each getting two rounds for revisions. i cringe when i think about how much work went into the designs. you live and you learn right?
what i would do differently today:
• charge $600 per card with two revisions for each design. if you’re new start out charging hourly. you will still be learning to manage your self and working with clients.
• add another $1,000 for all the email correspondence, managing the print vendors, deadlines, and all of our in person meetings.
• save my taxi and supply receipts to write those off as a business expense when i do my taxes.
• our contract would include what would happen if the idea is killed once the work has begun. is there a kill fee? do i get paid for a percentage of my fee? or paid for the hours? my client had changed her mind after two rounds on one of the cards to a new idea and i hadn’t brought that up in our contract. all that work down the drain and i had to start all over again.
• contract would say that if the client wanted more revisions after the two rounds i would charge my hourly rate to finish the project.
• contract would included rights and usage of the artwork. those designs i did now live on a ton of other products. my designs were also manipulated into other patterns and layouts and look really bad (in my opinion). it’s unfortunate because it could’ve been a great piece for my portfolio but now i don’t even want to show anyone. i could always redo it for myself but i guess i’m a little bitter about how the final product came to life.
• contract would say how long the client owns the rights to them. is it a year? 3 years (i’ve learned that 3 is an industry standard for product. it hits a season, goes on sale, maybe moves to outlet), or forever? depending on how long they want to have the rights another fee would be included. more years = more money.
• contract would say how many products each design can live on.
• require approval on ALL products my designs go on before they are put into production.
i still remember that day vividly. i was sitting in the FIDM college study lounge and there was a girl sitting next to me who was really outgoing. she just started showing me her sketches from a little boy’s clothing line she was designing. i liked her energy and thought her clothes were actually pretty good looking. she asked what my major was in school and i told her i was studying graphic design. her eyes lit up. she told me that she was pretty serious about developing this line for real (that was her school project at the time) and that she needed a logo asap. i decided that even though i had never designed a logo for a company, i was going to take the challenge. this was my FIRST paying client!
she asked me to design business cards, clothing labels and a logo. i charged $300. which at the time made me think i was richy rich. i couldn’t wait to call mom ‘n dad and tell them how baller status i was. turns out, like katie, i learned very quickly that $300 was quite low for the amount of work that went into that project. but it’s all good, i definitely needed the experience and i will never forget how excited i was that day.
what i learned from the experience:
• depending on your experience with design, and how large the company is, this number will vary. but one thing i can tell you is that logos are worth more than $100. a logo can transform a company! think about when you are driving down the road and see a restaurant with nice signage…or when you are wandering the grocery aisles and see a package that catches your eye. logos are a serious aspect to a company. over time i was increasing my rates till i felt comfortable with a number. i wish i could give you solid numbers, but honestly each logo i do has a different price tag. if you are just starting out, i would say $500 is a good price.
• totally agree about the 2 rounds in the contract (and an hourly rate beyond that). this is one of the most important things to do so you don’t end up doing 30 rounds and wanting to scratch your eyeballs out. people are very indecisive. giving them clear guidelines helps them get their thoughts sorted out in a more organized fashion.
• when designing logos, do your first rounds in black and white. i know you might be excited to introduce color right away but people WILL choose a design based on the color they are drawn to. you want to work out the structure of the logo before you start diving into color. it’s worth the wait, trust.
• save your files on hard drives! i had a computer crash and now i sadly don’t have those files to look back on. and when you save them, be very organized. get a system in place that works for you. i usually name my files (name of company)_(date)_(logo)_(version).ai – you want to be able to easily search for these later!
• don’t send logo options to your clients that you don’t love. they WILL pick them on occasion, and you will have to try to talk them into the other options you actually like. edit down to only what you would want them to pick. it’s better to send 3 solid options than 6 decent ones.
do you remember your first paid gig? do you have any cool stories to share about what you learned?