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Business Questions

I think I said I don’t enjoy using Speak Up to get feedback, but I’m starting to enjoy it now. Mainly because of the great feedback. I also know how important the business aspect of design is to everybody. So, what I would like to know this time is this: if you could get advice on business from principals of established (big and small) graphic design firms what would you like to know: Advice on client relationships? Spec work? Hiring/Firing staff? Pro-bono, yes or no? Working from your bedroom or an office.?

Please post any and all business related questions.

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON Mar.14.2003 BY Armin
armin’s comment is:

Not one single question?

So you are all millionaires swimming in jobs that require little to no effort and win you tons of awards?

I'm sure somebody has a question... don't be shy now...

On Mar.14.2003 at 04:51 PM
anthony’s comment is:

I'd be interested in the best way to foster maintanence agreements and retainer work, and good ways of justifying changes to work you have already done. Maybe I am just bad at what I do, but (and this really applies to the web mostly) it seems like things built to be "extensible" and "scaleable" always become screwed up at some point, client contacts move to new companies, new people fill positions with new ideas and ask what the justification for an approach was, and often "because it was a requirement from your predicesor at the time" does not seem to cut it, and I end up talking out of my ass.

On Mar.14.2003 at 04:52 PM
anthony’s comment is:

Advice on the review process, what practices work best.

On Mar.14.2003 at 04:53 PM
anthony’s comment is:

ah, bidding jobs and the proposal process. We spend WAY to much time writing proposals and bidding jobs, revising to lower bids, back and forth, laying out what will be done, before we even have the job, what are best practice/good soluions, both technically and theoretically.

And as far as the review process goes, I am interested about how other people have clients review printed design these days. When I used to do it more we sould send it/coriour it somewhere, but anymore the budget does not allow and clients end up reviewing online or by PDF whith I hate. It is not right to review printed material only on line, or trust that the PDF looks the same, and I always have issues with Freehand and making PDFs... anyway...

On Mar.14.2003 at 05:06 PM
Kirsten’s comment is:

>ah, bidding jobs and the proposal process

ahhh. more about that!

I'm would love to hear more about the basic stuff since I am new to the business end. Like contracts, preventing scope creep, and even tips on pulling content from the client that promises to have to you by Monday.

On Mar.14.2003 at 06:32 PM
Matt Wright’s comment is:

I got a question as graduation comes onto the horizon...

A classmate of mine already has his portfolio together. He has sent his resume out to some places he thought of getting a job at and follows up with a call no later than 2 weeks after. Most often companies are telling him they are not hiring, but are allowing him to come in and show his work anyway for some feedback on his portfolio.

Is this a common thing? Would anyone suggest doing that?

On Mar.14.2003 at 06:56 PM
anthony’s comment is:

>Is this a common thing? Would anyone suggest doing that?

I graduated about 4 or 5 yrs ago, and I did that (and have done it for others). I thought it was a valuable experience. Of course it depends on how open, and into it, the person critiqueing you is, but it is always good to get feedback on your work, student work esp., take studio tours, get real life views, and make connections with people for networking. Some of those connections can become very valueble, and that can often be the most benificial thing about it.

On Mar.14.2003 at 09:11 PM
arturo’s comment is:

�How they manage to keep their creative people pumped and motivated?, �Do they evaluate the scope of a project to do it, or every job is accepted?, �How they help the client to envision the end results of a project, so the client could perceive the value of it?, �How they meassure the results of a project?

On Mar.14.2003 at 10:15 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Oddly enough, I made a list of this exact kind of question last year when I started on my own. I'd be very interested to know what the seasoned pros do about some or any of the following:

-- How much control do you feel you have over what types of projects come in?

-- How regularly do you turn down work,and what criteria go into the decision?

-- Do you itemize your estimates (design, photo, travel, coding, production, etc) and if so, how much detail do you go into? Do you include hourly rates (or other fees) for work "beyond the agreed-upon scope" of a project, and if so, have you ever added in these rates?

-- Do you require a deposit to begin work?

-- What self-promotional materials do you produce? How do you distribute them (especially to non-clients)? Do you update your website?

-- What are the benefits of being in the AIGA?

-- What are the tangible benefits of winning competitions (other than recognition by one's peers)? Are some competitions more worthwhile (entry fees and time to enter versus promotional mileage gained)?

-- What are the competitions that you do enter, if any?

-- Do you generally work with the same printers, photographers, fabricators, and other venders/collaborators?

-- Do your interns design real pieces for clients?

-- How does your firm save money after taxes and overhead ( such as putting it in a money market account, funds, other investments)?

-- Does your company have a mission statement? A business plan?

-- What is your best business practice (ie, lowering assets at the end of the year, tracking fees against time spent, competitive pricing, tough negotiating, strong marketing, etc)?

Hope that helps. There's a whole other set of questions related to the creative side, which is for another day, perhaps.

On Mar.16.2003 at 07:23 PM
Tom’s comment is:

Did you start with no money, business/bank loan, investors?

Which non-design position did you fill first?

Finance, Sales, Office Manager, Receptionist, Writer, etc.

How is your fee structure established?

Do you have set fees for set project types?

If your fees vary according to clients� annual revenue, how do you find out about their revenue and how does that help set fees?

Being the principal, how much and to what degree do you still participate in the creative process. What percentage of your time are you able to devote to the "actual work"? If you are more of a figure head focused on promoting your firm, do you enjoy that and why?

What would you do different if you were starting over?

On Mar.16.2003 at 09:25 PM
armin’s comment is:

> I made a list of this exact kind of question last year when I started on my own.

You are a very curious man Sam.

On Mar.18.2003 at 08:46 AM
Sam’s comment is:

I had this ridiculous idea that I would make a questionnaire and send it to all the famous designers and get their advice on starting out on my own. There were also questions about sandwiches, movies, and dressing the part of entrepreneur. It was dorky indeed.

But now, with the Speak Up imprimateur, such a questionnaire might not sound so crazy, hm? I am now raising one eyebrow as I say "hm?"

On Mar.18.2003 at 09:58 AM
TOM’s comment is:

Also, how do you approach and set up a retainer situation? Are your retainer relationships good?

On Mar.18.2003 at 01:52 PM
Michael Carr’s comment is:

This is may be too nuts & bolts, but I'm researching various project tracking software and I'm curious about what processes others use to keep track of time and expenses.

A better (big picture) business issue that I often bring up with other creatives is how do we reconicle the need to create proposals based on project estimates (within set budgets), with the need to bill for actual costs, i.e., time and materials?

On Apr.23.2003 at 04:08 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> This is may be too nuts & bolts, but I'm researching various project tracking software and I'm curious about what processes others use to keep track of time and expenses.

My firm has tried a number of products. They all pretty much sucked. You might want to try a number of online project management sites. At the end, we made our own -- but we have the resource, unfortunately.

Your second point is an issue that I think all firms are going through right now. Boy how times have changed. Remember when we used to tell clients how much it should cost, rather than the other way around?

The simple answer is to take the job and budget, and try your best to deliver within the scope. And to keep from getting screwed, define the number of proofs and revisions at the beginning, and document every damn email, phone call, and meeting. Clients may bitch, but they will all appreciate the visibility and proactive approach. For our demanding clients, we send out weekly, sometimes bi-weekly status reports outlining project progress, actionable steps, and how much left is in the budget.

I heard a story once that Ken Carbone of Carbone/Smolan used to fax/send a simple revision bill along with every revised proof that went out. The revisions stopped after a few significant bills.

I know it may seems like nickle-and-diming the client to death, but remember -- they set up the rules when they defined and restricted the project in the first place. You're just being responsible to it.

On Apr.25.2003 at 07:36 PM
Valon’s comment is:

I know this post it's old now, but I thought to bring it back in hopes to get some feedback from experienced dynamites of the industry.

- Has anyone worked with a Sales Rep before? If so what are they like as far as salary/contract/payment goes. I've heard that the best ones don't require any sort of payment; they are so confident in their abilities that they make more on commission only.

- ...and how do you go about on hiring a good one.

I'm in the midst of expanding the studio a bit more and reaching out to a professional sales rep; I have no clue how to go about it.

On Feb.22.2005 at 07:00 PM