As a designer, you probably spend a lot of time tweaking your externally-facing brand: your website, portfolio and social media all play a huge role in getting the word out about your business.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the touch points that the public sees because that’s what they’re judging you on. In a digital world where you don’t have the ability to meet in person, image is everything. If your brand looks like a hot mess, potential clients will probably pass you up for someone who looks like they have their shit together.
With all this focus on the external, it’s easy to put off the internal, client-facing stuff since it’s only seen by a handful of folks at any given time. But, what happens behind the scenes is potentially more important since this is what paying clients interact with. And remember, it’s always easier to keep your current clients than find new ones so providing them with a seamless experience should be at the top of your list.
When you’re working with clients, the obvious way to stand out is to provide fantastic customer service but beyond that, the next piece of the puzzle is having a streamlined process and beautifully designed documents that make them feel at ease.
I’ve been thinking a lot about documents and processes lately because I know all too well what it’s like when you launch a creative business. You’re so busy just getting a website live and booking out enough clients to keep it afloat that everything else that’s not as of-the-moment falls to the bottom of the to-do list.
Why is all this effort spent on the behind the scenes stuff so important?
Think of it this way: if a client books your most expensive package and then, over the course of the next few months receives documents and presentations that have a similar look and sense of order, they’ll feel at ease. In turn, you’ll come across as a total pro.
My goal with running a design studio has always been to let documents do the heavy lifting for me. I use a bundle of them to keep things running smoothly while cutting back on questions and confusion. Remember, you may be the first creative professional your clients have ever worked with — these documents are the tools that inform them of everything they need to know.
Here’s what I’ve implemented and the order I use my documents:
1. Media Kit — This document informs clients of packages and how we can work together. Read more about media kits here.
2. Estimate — Once we’ve discussed a client’s specific needs, they receive an official estimate.
3. Proposal — Once they’re ready to book in, they receive a proposal which includes the finalized estimate, timelines and a contract.
4. Invoice — The proposal is sent along with a deposit invoice.
5. Process Documents — Once the job begins, there are a series of numbered documents they receive throughout our time together including an overview of the steps we take to ensure a great outcome, a questionnaire and a Pinterest how-to.
6. Presentation — All design concepts are sent in a branded presentation template.
Having a bunch of documents on hand might seem a bit overwhelming at first but once you’ve used them a few times, the process starts to feel like second nature. You can even go a step further and have form emails typed up for each step of the process so you just attach the document and hit send. Automation means that you get your job done faster and your clients interact with a well-defined process that’s been proven to deliver fantastic results.
If all this talk of documents is making your head spin, don’t fret. I was once in your spot and only figured out what documents worked for my business through many years of trial and error. To make things trickier, every studio I worked at had a completely different process. Over time, I threw out things that didn’t work for me and added in new ideas based on chats with fellow creatives.
If documents aren’t your strong suit and you’d prefer to get back to work on the creative side of things, I feel you. Completely. In early 2016, I’m partnering up with my friend Paul Jarvis to launch an affordable, easy solution that will help you streamline the process of your creative business called Project Prescription. Knowledge is power and making the business side of things easier for creatives is something that I’m excited to share with you.
Remember, creating processes for your business is just as important as the work you do. Keep refining and keep thinking about what you can do to make your clients’ time with you as painless as possible. That ease will turn them into repeat customers.