Advice Please: Freelance Magazine Design Question

Hello- I am new to freelance design and would love some advice on how to deal with a magazine design project. I will be designing a magazine for a client. Would I provide them with some kind of initial comp to determine the style and get approval? If there are any magazine designers reading this that are willing to share their process of dealing with the client, I would be so grateful! Thank you in advance!

You will need to ask them what they want. If the publisher wants to see preliminary comps (and I can’t imagine that they won’t), you’ll need to show them your ideas. This is something that you negotiate with them — just like any other job.

I’ve been the art director for two different magazines and have designed several others. Based on that experience, here are a few questions I’d ask in no particular order. This is off the top of my head, so I’m likely missing a few. Much will depend on the nature of the magazine.

  • Will you just design the initial design or will you put each issue together for them?
  • If not you, who will do it?
  • What is the demographic group the magazine is (or will be) aimed at?
  • How many pages per issue
  • Do they have examples of content? Have they really thought it through?
  • What is the ad-to-editorial ratio (this might be an approximation)
  • What kind of advertisers?
  • Will you be designing the ads?
  • Will you be modifying the ads sent in from advertisers? (Unless they’re prepared by an agency using your magazine’s rate card, they’ll be a random assortment of junk that will take many hours to fix for each issue.)
  • Does the magazine need a style guide? (Of course, it does, but they might not know it.)
  • Is this a new magazine or an established one?
  • If established, what is their current circulation and how is the magazine distributed? (If it’s through the mail using a bulk rate, there are postal regulations to consider.)
  • If already established, why are they looking for a new design? What do they dislike about their current design? Why?
  • What is their printing budget?
  • Who will interact with the printer?
  • What is their budget for your work
  • Is there a budget for photos?
  • Where will photos be obtained?
  • Is there a stock art/illustration/type budget?
  • Ask them for magazine examples of what they like
  • Is there a primary editor? Will this person be your point of contact?
  • Is there an art director?
  • Is the art director you?
  • Do they have a copy editor? Can you work directly with that copy editor?
  • Who will write the stories?
  • How will you get those stories?
  • What are their deadlines?
  • Do they have other concerns, ideas, preferences, etc.

More than likely, they’ll want to see three separate ideas, which would likely consist of covers and a few representative inside pages. The answers to what I’ve mentioned above (and whatever I’ve missed) will serve as the parameters in which your design will need to work.

If you’re working with a professional publisher, they’ll have all these answers and more. The job will go smoothly, and it will be a whole lot of fun.

If you’re not working with a professional publisher and working instead with an organization that’s publishing something on the side without professional writers, editors, photographers, etc., the whole thing will be a giant pain in the butt since you’ll be working with people who will have no idea what they’re doing. Things will drag on. Deadlines will be missed. Incompetence will rear its ugly head at every turn. In other words, it’ll be an unpredictable mess, so charge by the hour — at least for the first couple of issues.

The first couple of magazines will take twice as long to put together as subsequent issues, so make sure you factor that in when deciding on fees.


Thank you so much for your answer! This information is very helpful for me right now!

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