Freelance Project


I may be taking on a new freelance project which diverges a bit from the type of Industrial Design I’m used to. I’ll be meeting with a potential client later in the month to discuss a branding solution for their small business. I’ll also be responsible for a variety of packaging designs and a mobile retail unit for them to take to events. I’d really like to create a timeline and manage a schedule that keeps everyone happy. I’ve seen my peers tangle themselves into sticky situations; and considering this is my first freelance project where I’d be the sole designer, I’d really like to hear from community about preferred practices that range from the first conversation to managing the project, to how how it gets to the finish line. I know this is vague and every design profession has it’s differences but anything helps.

In order of priority IMHO;

#1 define the scope of work with a concise contract (ours is an executable page in all our proposals, eliminates a step of back and forth if the client agrees to the proposal as-is) - then in any instance of scope-creep, inform the client ASAP requiring approval to move ahead,
#2 manage the client’s expectations from day 1,
#3 provide worst-case timelines & cost estimates,
#4 bring in help if anything starts to creep beyond your expertise,
#5 beware the lollipop of mediocrity, lick it once and you’ll suck forever.


^^^^ Here here!

And if I may,

#6 do a Scotty and over-deliver. If your contract states 3-4 concepts for the packaging, deliver 5-8.

That list is great!

I hope you don’t mind ellaborating…How do you go about creating this clarity and managing expectations?

I don’t recommend this. If contract is 3-4, do 3-4, just make them awesome. Doing more than quoted means that they will expect more than quoted on everything, and you aren’t running a business.


I never put limits on creativity. I also factor that in with the quote.

I also, disagree with IAB and strongly agree with rkuchinsky.

If the contract is 3-4, do 3-4. From my experiences of doing freelance work, the client will usually always try to get more than what they paid for. This is the case in terms of the number of designs, number of revisions, hours, email exchanges, meetings, etc. As a designer you will want to always put your best and over-deliver, but rather than on quantity, just put your best foot forward in what was agreed on. ALSO, remember that the client is always right. As a designer you will disagree with some of their requests, if you do Strongly disagree on something, remember to always first do what they asked and then provide an alternate option. NEVER EVER only show the alternate option, they will most definitely push back and ask to see their original request which = more work, same pay.

The most important thing is to set the right exepections and contract from Day 1 as Generatewhatsnext has said in points 1 and 2. Set the number of revisions allowed, whether it will be paid hourly or by project. Also I would recommend that you received at least half the payment before the project starts and receiving the rest once you deliver. Unfortunately there are a lot of cases where clients will never pay, this is to keep you safe from the bad apples.

I see jabs point more. I wouldn’t plan to do 4-5, but if I have a couple of extra solid concepts that I believe in, I’m going to show them. I would do 3-4 that satisfy the brief and then throw one in that shows what it could be if you ignored the brief/client direction and just did the right thing.

if im asked to deliver 3-4 i will work on 12 and refine them down to 3 and 4, the chances that the first 5 i do are the one that nailed it a not always a guarantee for me… so i will take the top 3-4 to presentation level but keep 5 and six ready and on standy buy to show.

Now from the other side of the fence, if i am paying you for 3-4 and you deliver 6 and the budget didn’t change then i am gonna say you over charged me… or that you didn’t spend enough time on the 3-4. If you show me 3 or four finals and then pull out another two that aren’t as polished and say these are some additional thoughts that push the boundaries a bit that you felt like they may have legs… my attitude will be different.

Great feedback guys. Generatewhatsnext I appreciate your checklist and it seems like a great foundation to adapt to my own workflow. Mixing what I’m seeing from the community with what works for me, I think what I may do is plan on delivering the 3 concepts with a few backups I may or may not present if I see any hesitation or concern from the client. It’s guaranteed I’ll consider “what if” scenarios as I’m working on the project, so if I see potential in one of these I might just present it as an alternative to what the brief outlines.