4 Things I Learned To Include In Branding Proposals
FOUNDER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR
of Second Language Design
Learn More About Darcy.
Founder + Creative Director, Second Language Design
In 2013, I took my experience in marketing, design and Art Direction and founded a boutique creative agency in NYC that offers branding, print and web design services. Over the course the last four years, I have learned a lot about running a company, hiring a qualified team, interfacing with clients, and creating solid proposals that instill confidence on both sides. Below are the top four items that I learned to include in a branding proposal. I hope they save you from many headaches.
1. How Many Rounds of Creative Are Included (And What That Means)
I have worked on hundreds of logo and corporate identity design projects throughout the course of my 13-year career as a graphic designer, and not every client knows the meaning of what a round of changes entails. For us, we like to say that in round one we include X amount of versions for the client to choose from, and once they choose one (sometimes two) version(s) we will take their feedback and move into round two. We normally include two rounds of changes after round one. In the past, we forgot to explain this thoroughly one time, and a client thought that she would be able to make changes to each of the logos presented in round one. That means that instead of focusing all of our energy on the style, typography, colors, shape, etc. of a chosen logo, we were rushing to do that to several different ‘chosen’ looks at once. In most cases, a client is happy to tell you what their top one or two choices are, and it benefits both client and designer to focus on applying all feedback to one option. Otherwise, you may be spending four or five times the amount of time planned, and still end up with a confused client, since they may love all developed options.
2. Payment Schedule That Includes A Time Limit
In our hundreds of projects over the last four years at Second Language, we have worked with some large, global companies and some independent start-ups who have never worked with agencies before. We welcome all clients, but this makes it all the more important to detail what your payment expectations are in your proposal/contract before you begin. In our proposals, we typically ask for half of the total project fee (and a signed agreement) up front, then the remaining half upon final approvals and before we send all final assets. However, we later learned that sometimes the start-ups, or other clients, lose steam somewhere along the way and stop communicating on the project. In that case, we have planned on a certain amount of time spent, a certain amount of net revenue, and have reserved our freelance team for the work, so all parties are counting on wrapping up the project. What I learned is that a common thing freelancers do in their agreements is to include a line in the Payment Schedule section that says they will collect the final portion of the payment at the end of the project, “...or within X months of the project start date, whichever comes first.” For us that’s usually six months. This is something I never would have thought of until experiencing snafus along the way, and I hope it helps you ahead of time.
3. Legal Verbiage To Protect You In The State Where You Are Headquartered
You may be noticing a common theme, but as a small business and a team of freelancers we
sometimes run into issues getting paid. It’s something I hear all the time from others, and it’s
afflicted me a handful of times, as well. In short, it can be easy for a client to say “I don’t want to pay you,” and just not do it. In many cases there isn’t much legal action you can or would want to take (read: pay for). But, we found in recent years it’s good to include protective verbiage in your agreements in the case that you do need to enforce them. I operate in the state of New York, so our proposals include language that’s applicable to my state. You would have to talk to a lawyer to be advised on what, specifically, to say in your proposals, but I highly recommend it.
4. STYLE (AKA Make It Pop)
This last tip may seem like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised to know that we didn’t fully do it until this year! In past proposals, which I designed myself, I applied my company’s colors and fonts, sure, but I didn’t really make the look pop. I was later encouraged to “jazz it up” a bit more by a friend and client, of all people. And, boy was she right. I was generating a large branding, marketing, and web design proposal for an interior design firm, and my other client knew they’d like to see the full extent of our creativity in the proposal. After that, I applied more of our graphics and more color to make it a designer’s proposal. After all, that’s what they would be hiring us to do. I always err on the side of modern and clean, just so that the proposal (or whatever the deliverable may be) is easy for the audience to navigate and read. However, once I did this, ours went from basic and clean to clean and interesting. It was still easy-to-read, but it had that added interest to make our creative capabilities shine. In the end, that can be the difference between winning work and losing it.