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  • Questions about Pitching to New Client

    This is short notice, but in about 8 hours, I meet with a potential new client about refreshing their branding (business card and possibly logo and ad poster). I spent around five hours developing logo variations and a business card concept that I think he'll really go for, but I started questioning whether or not it's a good idea to make all this to show him in the first meeting before we've agreed to any work being developed. He admitted to not being creative or graphically capable, he's eager to see what I can do, and I'm certain he'll appreciate having some visuals, but does it give off the wrong signal to have developed multiple graphics before the first meeting? I originally planned on sketching some ideas to show him, but since it's rather simplistic design work, it seemed sensible to flesh it out digitally, and it's not as though I would demand to be paid for this if he backed out, which I doubt would happen. Thoughts?

  • #2
    Too soon. I think it sends the wrong message. Show him work you've done for other clients and talk about how your designs solved their problems. Then ask him what his issues are and repeat them back to him so he feels like you've heard him. Then at the next meeting show him your solutions and explain how they address his issues. It shows you are listening and responding to him. It's presumptuous to show him solutions before he's had a chance to talk in depth about his issues. It invites rejection.

    Plus, I think it may come off as a little desperate. Let him think that you are trying to determine if his business is a good match for you. It's not just about whether he will hire you, but whether you think he is a good match as a client. You trade away your position of power by producing work without a contract. This may come back to haunt you further down the road.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Mojo View Post
      Too soon. I think it sends the wrong message. Plus, I think it may come off as a little desperate.
      Thank you, Mojo. I've sent him my online portfolio, and to be frank, while I have talent, I don't have a great deal of logo design success stories to provide him. Perhaps I could meet in the middle and, instead, show him some sketches on a notepad to get the ideas stirring?

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      • #4
        Your job is to listen, not presume. You have no idea what direction the client wants to go and bringing preconceived notions to the table would smack of unprofessionalism. It would most likely be a deal killer.

        Sure, doing some sketches during the meeting is a possibility, but be sure your client sees you listening, not doodling, and that you don't get stuck on your already preconceived notions. The client may want and need something totally different than you think.

        Your first meeting is to hammer out what the client wants, what you bring to the table, and for you to get enough details to provide a quote for your services. Don't be spending too much time and effort on work you do not have.

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        • #5
          It's been my experience that when clients see rough sketches, they are typically unable to envision a sketch becoming a finished product. They also see it as unfinished and seem to feel an urge to want to start tossing out dozens of really bad suggestions on how to finish it. In other words, I rarely ever show sketches to anyone but long-established clients where the working relationship is better established.

          Sometimes on five-figure jobs and up, it's worth gambling on making a presentation pitch with some unpaid work done up front in an effort to get the job, but even that's only when some kind of creative brief has been obtained. Since that doesn't seem to be the situation here, as PrintDriver said, your job in the first meeting is to listen carefully to what the client needs are, then ask questions to clarify any ambiguities. Intelligent questions also give the potential client confidence that you're smart, care and can do a good job. And realistically, that's all you can do in eight hours, and any client that expects more than that before you've even had an initial meeting is a client you don't want.

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          • #6
            I wouldn't show sketches. You're demonstrating your propensity to give away your work for free, without any sort of contract or agreement to terms. It's a bad precedent and it makes it more likely in the future that he will want other things free, or without a contract, or produced immediately on demand.

            The larger problem is that the client thinks all he needs for marketing is a logo, and business card and a poster. And maybe that's true, but I would be more inclined to spend the time talking about to him about looking at marketing as an ongoing conversation between him and his customers. Talk about the importance of branding, repetition and consistent visual presentation. Talk about how that's achieved in brands with which he is familiar. Demonstrate your knowledge without giving away art.

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            • #7
              Thank you for the feedback, everyone. I may have misled by implying that it was our first meeting. While it was our first scheduled discussion, we had previously spoken in-person about his needs of getting a new business card and possibly redone logo and that I could begin development. So when I met with him the second time (a few days ago), I decided to have the design concepts accessible to show, if given what I perceived to be a proper opportunity (i.e. If he would provide little to no direction and be totally open to suggestions). First, I wanted to see what else he may have had in mind that I may not have been aware of.

              As predicted, he was open and eager for any ideas, with none of his own, so I showed him the designs on my phone. He was completely enthusiastic and on board, giving only positive critique. We also discussed pricing, which he agreed to. No contract has been signed, but it's not a big-money project, so I'm not concerned. He's getting a bargain, but I'm also not giving my services away. Moving forward, I just have to polish the designs I showed him and create some character illustrations for inclusion. He runs a vintage toys & collectibles shop, so the business card will simulate an action figure package, with the client being the figure. I'll be sure to post them on here soon.

              Originally posted by Mojo View Post
              The larger problem is that the client thinks all he needs for marketing is a logo, and business card and a poster. And maybe that's true, but I would be more inclined to spend the time talking about to him about looking at marketing as an ongoing conversation between him and his customers. Talk about the importance of branding, repetition and consistent visual presentation.
              Great point. I did somewhat discuss some issues like this about brand consistency and other potential marketing/branding ideas he might want to consider (partly to get myself more work, but also for the practical sake of his business).
              Last edited by Caleson; 08-22-2017, 11:36 PM.

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              • #8
                Like B mentioned, up front design before a contract is signed is usually reserved for winning a 5-figure job when the odds are in your favor. Doing work up front for ''a bargain'' is always dicey.

                Glad it worked out for you.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by PrintDriver View Post
                  Like B mentioned, up front design before a contract is signed is usually reserved for winning a 5-figure job when the odds are in your favor. Doing work up front for ''a bargain'' is always dicey.
                  Thank you. I acted based on my read of his personality and the overall situation, but perhaps I need to establish more strict guidelines for design clients. So is there virtually no scenario in which you would not bother presenting a contract? For instance, if you estimate you'll make as little as a hundred, or two hundred bucks, would that necessitate a contract?

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                  • #10
                    Of course. A well-prepared contract provides for a lot more than a certain level of payment. In some ways, the protections of a contract become more important when the margins are slimmer.
                    I'd rather be killed than come to your party, but if you don't invite me, I'll kill myself.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Caleson View Post
                      As predicted, he was open and eager for any ideas, with none of his own, so I showed him the designs on my phone.
                      Well, you were there and, apparently, correctly read his expectations, so congratulations.

                      Honestly, though, making a logo presentation to a potential client by showing him sketches on a phone isn't an especially polished technique for a professional situation.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by B View Post
                        Honestly, though, making a logo presentation to a potential client by showing him sketches on a phone isn't an especially polished technique for a professional situation.
                        I agree. It was a very casual/informal situation, so I don't think it mattered. But I would more ideally show designs on my large-monitored laptop.

                        Regarding contracts, I understand that it's ideal to have one signed before agreeing to work, but on the other hand, could this type of professional formality intimidate some potential clients who then worry that the project will be too high budget or procedurally rigid? I suppose that reaction would be a enough of a sign to avoid the project altogether anyway.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Caleson View Post
                          Regarding contracts, I understand that it's ideal to have one signed before agreeing to work, but on the other hand, could this type of professional formality intimidate some potential clients who then worry that the project will be too high budget or procedurally rigid? I suppose that reaction would be a enough of a sign to avoid the project altogether anyway.
                          I'm among the first to say a freelance designer should always get a signed contract before beginning work. Admittedly, I don't always follow my own advice. I have a few long-time clients, some of whom have even given me unexpected bonuses. For these clients, I prefer a handshake agreement since we've built up mutual trust and respect. For new clients, a contract is always a prerequisite to starting work.

                          I generally avoid jobs under four figures; they're often more hassle than they're worth. Every now and again, though, I'll take on a lower-paying job for various personal reasons -- especially if it sounds fun and allows me the opportunity to do something I've wanted to do. It's a case-by-case situation, but sometimes the process of writing up a contract for an especially low-paying job takes up half the allocated time, so I just skip it. It's been a long time since I was burned, but I've developed a pretty good filter for identifying and avoiding problem clients over the years. That wasn't the case when I first started out.

                          As for contracts scaring off potential clients, yeah, in some situations, that could happen, I suppose. More often it's just the awkwardness of starting out a business relationship with the implication of mistrust that a contract might suggest to some. But there are ways to reassure clients that it's standard procedure and protects their interests as well — especially if you let them insert into the contract what they feel is important. As for rigidity in a contract, the contract can always be amended and signed by both parties. I always include a brief mention of an hourly rate that kicks in for work that exceeds the scope of the agreement.

                          Most experienced clients expect a contract and will insist on one to protect their interests. (A good contract not only clarifies expectations, it also protects both parties.) There are a few good, honest potential clients who are just a bit naive, who haven't worked with designers and who might be a little leery about signing a long contract full of legalese. Personally, I avoid using the term "contract" and use the word "agreement" instead -- it just sounds friendlier. I also keep things short, to the point and make every item fairly informal and easy to understand. Attorney's always want to toss in legal terms and tedious clauses to make the "agreement" bullet-proof. However, I'm less interested in a bullet-proof contract than I am in one that clearly spells out the expectations and considers the interests of both parties.

                          When deadbeats don't want to pay you, it's very difficult to force them to do so since they've typically made a lifestyle habit of oozing their way through life. Even getting a court judgment doesn't guarantee payment. As often as not, their finances are hidden, iffy and difficult to pin down for collection purposes. For small jobs, it's not even worth the effort and anxiety to try. Instead, it becomes a bad debt tax write-off, but even then the contract is important as evidence of justification for the write-off.

                          For any job, small or large, it's worth doing background research -- it's just as important as the contract. A few internet searches can turn up all kinds of past histories of people that will either give you confidence to move forward or to politely turn down the job. A couple of years ago, I got a call out of the blue from someone who offered me a nice-sized job. Ten minutes of internet research turned up evidence of his conviction on federal criminal charges and subsequent imprisonment for felony convictions. He had actually just been released on parole a couple of months earlier. On our next call, I mentioned it to him, and he agreed to pay me in full before starting the job. He turned out to be a great client.

                          So I guess my bottom line is that easy-to-understand and mutually beneficial contracts are always a good idea, but there reaches a point of diminishing returns where judgment calls and decisions about acceptable risks play a part too. The problem is, I suppose, the experience it takes to develop the instincts needed to determine when to move forward and when to walk away.

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                          • #14
                            Wow. Thanks for such a comprehensive response, B! I suppose I'll get a basic contract/agreement template ready that may or may not need any customization for each project. If you have direction on where to get a good template, I'd appreciate it.

                            This may merit its own thread, but another thing I've considered with this particular job seeing I could receive promotion as part of payment. For instance, where a toy package would say "Made in China," the business card could give me a small design credit, assuming the text wouldn't be too small to read. Or a small stack of my business cards could sit on his desk among other businesses' cards. With my graphics work often channeling retro/nostalgic themes, this would certainly relate to his customer base. Something to consider anyway.

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                            • #15
                              I would never ever consider adding my own advertising to a client's business card.

                              Comment

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