When I re-launched my business back in March, I wanted to seriously think about the way I worked and how I could serve my clients, my business and myself in the best possible way. I decided to create a specific and organised design process which I would use for all of my branding & website design clients (my main package).
There are lots of reasons why it is good to have an organised design process in any industry and here are a few:
You can organise your time more effectively
You can get a more accurate income prediction
Your clients know exactly what to expect from you and at what time
Your projects are less likely to run over and take too much time
You can arrange payments for certain times to avoid overdue invoices
Since putting the design process in place, it has changed quite a bit. Nothing is perfect straight away and it has taken me quite a few months to analyse the way I was working, see what was going wrong and making changes to guarantee it goes as smoothly as possible.
Below you can see the process I came up with in the beginning and how it looks now:
Initial Design Process
Content creation & Client Homework
Mood Board & Colour Palette Creation
Logo Creation, Branding Manual & Collateral Items
Website Creation & Launch
Current Design Process
Content Creation & Client Homework
Mood Board & Colour Palette Creation
Logo Creation & Branding Manual
Website Creation & Collateral Items
Website Finalisation & Launch Prep
At appropriate date for client within 2 weeks
So how did I go from one process to the other and how did I make the changes?
Creating Your Design Process
To start off, you need to create an initial process. To get started, I looked at the projects I had worked on in the past to see how long the work took, I wrote down every part of my process that needed to be included and I tried to figure out what time frame would work best for me and my clients
My process was split into four chunks: client homework (Pinterest mood board, design form and content creation), foundation design elements (brand mood board & colour palette), branding design (logo creation, branding manual & collateral items) and website design.
Then I came up with a four week process which dedicated one week to each chunk of the design. I thought was enough time for me to get the work done to the best of my ability, a good amount of time for clients to get involved without being too distracting and also allows me to work with two clients at a time, overlapping them by two weeks.
TIP Don’t worry about getting it perfect the first time around. Chances are you will have to work with a few clients before you realise what works and what doesn’t. Having a rough process in place is most important in the beginning and we can tweak as we go.
Testing It Out
As soon as I booked my first clients, I scheduled them in for four weeks and explicitly explained the way we were going to work together. The four week process has benefits for my clients as well in that their whole project is completed and launched within a month so they were all very ready to start working together.If you are starting up in business or going through a pivot and struggling to book clients, get in touch with people to see if they will test your new design process. You can even offer a bit of a discount (if you can afford it!) in return for extensive feedback.
TIP Sell the new process as a bonus for your client. An organised creative is the best kind and clients will appreciate that they know exactly what will be happening.
Noting What Doesn’t Work
As soon as I started, I realised that the first two weeks of the process were very light on the work side for me. The first week was all up to the client and the second week took a small amount of time. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world as the overlapping clients meant I was working on a light workload two weeks for one client and a heavy workload two weeks for another client.
On top of this, if clients didn’t manage to complete their homework in the first week, this often led to delays in all areas of the project as this was needed for every other week. As keeping control of the project was one of the main reasons I wanted a process in place, I knew this was something that wasn’t working and needed to change.
Finally, although the first two weeks were very light in work, the final two weeks became unmanageable to the point where I was working ridiculous hours and getting stressed. The spread of work could clearly be improved.
TIP Make notes of what does and doesn’t work for different clients. Unless you have a very specific niche of clients, you will be working with different types of people who work in different ways and your aim is to make the process work for everyone.
After working with each client, I send them a feedback form which included questions about the design process and which different parts worked or didn’t work. I found that keeping to the four week time limit was the main issue (something which I noted myself), and any other issues mainly came down to timekeeping.
TIP You want your feedback form to be detailed but you also don’t want to put people off filling it in. Use a mixture of text boxes and numerical ratings to keep it quick and easy to fill in.
Perfecting the Process
Based on my personal experience with the process and the feedback I received from clients, I decided to make some changes to the process to make it a bit smoother.
It became very clear that the timekeeping was the main issue as almost all of my projects were running over the four weeks. However, I didn’t want to change the time limit to anything longer as the four weeks worked best for me. This meant I had to change the actual process to fit in with the time limit.
As mentioned, one of the main issues was that client’s didn’t manage to complete the homework in Week One which pushed everything else back. I changed this so that all client homework needed to be completed before we got started with the project. Most of my projects were booked at least a month in advance so my clients had plenty of time to complete the work and I was clear what was expected before they booked in.
Clearing the first week meant I had that extra time to spare to spread the work more effectively. From working with a few clients, I knew how long I needed for each part and I could split the project in a way which gave me the right amount of time and was easier for me to manage.
The last point which didn’t fit in was launching in the final week of the process. This didn’t always work well for clients and sometimes they wanted to push the launch to a later date so they could get used to the new website and prepare their business for the rebrand. I decided to let them choose a date within two weeks of our end date to launch and then I can prepare the launch on that specific date.
These changes automatically made the process much more organised and effective and helped me run my business in a better way.
TIP The changes don’t have to all be done in one go. Make changes as you go along if you think it will help and your process and business will benefit.
Do It All Over Again
Once you have made some changes and perfected your process, you may think that you are finished and this is now your process for life. However, as your business and your talents grow, you may find that you can perfect the process even more or want to work in a slightly different way. Work through the same steps over and over again and always make space for improvements along the way.
TIP Aim to evaluate your process after every client so you are always evolving and improving
Do you have a process in place for your business and if not, what is stopping you? Let me know if this has helped you improve your systems and if there are any posts I can write about processes!
Join the Gatto Community
Sign up to the Gatto newsletter to get your hands on some fab freebies and to receive monthly updates and tips & tricks from DIY Design School.