It’s become evident to me that my retail year is split in to two very distinct segments. The first six months are heavy with custom design and stationery — for weddings, bachelorettes, birthdays, graduations and more. The final six months, however, are very heavy with my gift items: mugs (so many mugs!), notepads, totes, and the rest of the goods.
Every year, I vow to streamline my custom design process when I’m not as busy. But by the time I slow down on custom work, the holiday season picks up and we are living in mug-ville up in here.
SO. I’ve been carving out time in between orders to finally get my shit together.
First of all: The Process.
I’ve honed this process for 5 years and it still isn’t perfect. Nor will it ever be. I have learned a few things from from experience though:
1. Be very up front with my process and how I work. For the client to have a clear road map of how the process will go is so important.
2. Streamline my shit. I have a custom design handout that, ideally, I’d email all of my clients up front. Admittedly, I’m really bad about doing this so I’ve created a page on my website with information on how to hire me. Shoot potential clients the URL. Easy. I also have various custom design questionnaires to help me gather information about a particular client’s design vision. These have been invaluable as having the information all in one place beats having to scroll through a bunch of emails to find what you’re looking for.
3. Give a timeline. And stick to it. This is not only great for the client to know but helps me plan out my days/weeks. Because my work time is so limited, I always give a timeline that tends to be a little longer — this works well for me and my clients because if I am able to get it to them sooner, they are thrilled and I’m not killing myself trying to meet unrealistic deadlines for my life at this time.
Next up: Pricing.
At the risk of sounding cliche: every project is so different and therefore, the price is different. Discussing price up front is key for me. I do better (mentally) if I know I have given the client all of the information necessary to decide if they want to work with me.
And lastly: Offerings.
What I offer is not always clear and that’s my fault. I share my work often on social media but I still get many questions as to whether I can do this or that. A big goal in this streamlining process is to make very clear who I am and what it is I do.
I am a graphic designer who can great unique stationery that captures the essences of your rad event. If you’re a creative fun haver who needs something designed, email me. I think we’d make a great team.
That line is at the very tip-top my my Hire Me page for a reason. I’m not going to be a good fit for the serious, professional, business-y person in need of design — chances are we’d both end up unhappy if we worked together. Making sure my client and I are a good fit is key to loving my work.
In sum: Having processes and a workflow in place has saved me so much time overall. The initial investment of time is a lot, of course. But I’m glad I finally took the time to hash it all out.
I’m so curious to hear from other creatives, how do you handle custom work?