How to Communicate with Clients: Building Relationships that Last | Will Bryant | Skillshare

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How to Communicate with Clients: Building Relationships that Last

teacher avatar Will Bryant, Artist and Designer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Why Relationships Matter


    • 3.

      How to Communicate: Email


    • 4.

      How to Communicate: Phone


    • 5.

      Presenting Your Work Online


    • 6.

      Presenting Your Work to Clients


    • 7.

      Talking About Money


    • 8.

      Pricing Models


    • 9.

      Final Thoughts


    • 10.

      What's Next?


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About This Class

Want the secret to a lasting creative career? It’s all about building strong client relationships.

Learn how designer Will Bryant built a client list that includes Nike, Red Bull, and Nick Jr in this new class tackling everything from landing your first client to broaching difficult conversations. No matter who your client is, when it comes to getting rehired, your relationship matters as much as the work. Learn how to:

  • Communicate effectively through email and phone
  • Set expectations up front to keep projects on track
  • Use visual presentations to help your work shine
  • Talk about money — and get paid more

Each lesson is jam-packed with techniques Will uses every day, from real emails he used to land a client to presentations you can adapt for your own needs. After taking this class, you’ll have an arsenal of tools to ensure your clients love working with you, so you can focus less on chasing your next client and more on creating your best work yet.

Meet Your Teacher

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Will Bryant

Artist and Designer


I'm an artist and designer based in Austin, TX. I previously taught graphic design courses at Portland State University and currently waste too much time on the internet.

Here's the bio from my website:

His work weaves together humor with commerce, fun, and positivity. In his sculptural installations, photographic still lives, and commercial illustration projects, there is always a sense of exuberance at play with a colorful palette.

His work has been plastered across advertising campaigns, t-shirts, record sleeves, posters, magazines, furniture, snowboards, underwear, and also exhibited internationally. His clients include Nike, Red Bull, Adidas, Nick Jr, Delta, and Coca Cola, among others.

See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hi. I'm Will Bryant, artist and designer based in Austin, Texas. My work weaves together commerce, humor, and positivity. Some of my favorite projects are less about a specific medium and more of the relationship and the dynamic between me and the client or me and the collaborator. When those go well, that relationship is strong, that's what leads to the most interesting work. I became a designer mostly because I took a Photoshop class in high school, and I was really into Olimar, which is not something you see a lot or experience a lot anymore. It's basically a square file that is associated with an in MP3, but the packaging behind those things was really exciting to me. The same type and image communicate the sound that was inside this album. I went to undergraduate school in Mississippi. I was enjoying all of my classes,but was also reaching out to churches and bands and started doing client work and it's something that is not necessarily covered in school a lot of the times. In this class, we're going to learn about client relationships and how to better your interactions with clients and communicating effectively and then we'll also look at examples from my own experience in email correspondence to presentation decks and how I would approach clients in the past. We're also going to talk about money which was scary and frightening. We will talk about budgeting certain things and how to have those conversations with clients. Building your client relationships is a skill, just like your design work and it's something you have to foster over time and you'll get better and your practices will evolve and change maybe how you approach things over time. But it's something that you have to continually work out. 2. Why Relationships Matter: When I think about my own career and all the projects that I've been fortunate to work on, I feel like there's only a few degrees separation from at least one person involved in all of those projects. It's not like they all hang out at the same bar and are buddies, but the industry is that small, like each project can be that influential and lead to something else. It seems that friends that I've worked with have referred me for something. They might have worked with this person a year ago and then here it is a year later for South by Southwest, I'm working with this client on a mural because my friend did a photo campaign with him. It's just a smaller community that is engaged in, a referral is going to happen. So, as you continue to grow in your career and you start checking off this list of this big company that you've worked for and this big company, like things snowball and that recognition comes with, "Oh, this person has worked with people that I recognize on a national and global level." That's going to lead to more work. If you're a huge pain to work with and don't communicate well then, that might slow down that snowball effect. An example in my own career working, I was fortunate enough to do the title sequence for Nick Junior summer campaign, and I didn't animate it, but I got to create all the assets and art direction for this campaign. It was super cool. I was blown away. My daughter got to see on screen graphics from Nick Junior, and all of these skills and communication approaches that I've developed over the years, helped me land that job again the following summer. So, not only was the work appropriate because stylistically, my stuff feels very summery and exuberant and playful and fun, but then they enjoyed working with me so much that I was able to do it again. So, how do you find clients? Well, first, you have to have the work that should be based on your interest and things that you respond to and want to have a commentary on with the world. So, the work will help dictate where that goes often, and if it's good enough, people start to recognize it, but there's also times where you should reach out to people that you really admire are into. So, the work can come from your own ability to contact and approach someone, to them finding you based on where you're putting your work on the Internet, or if you're doing mailers, however you're presenting your work. Then also from peers and people that are also in the industry with you, like referrals happen all the time between friends that you've met at conferences or just being involved in your local organizations. So when you're first starting out and you're young in your career, you might want to reach out to the people that are a little bit smaller and more local. As you get more work and more comfortable in your practice, then it makes a little more sense to start trying for those bigger fish like a big global client, big brand. But early on, it's hard to get those projects until you've had the experience. So when I first started, I did some flyers for my church back home in Texarkana, Texas that were very bad. I also had a friend's band that they were a little bit older than me and were really making waves in the indie music scene at that time. From doing some merch for them led to me doing merch for The Polyphonic Spree, which was pretty big band at that time. That was the first big client that I got to do stuff for and it was because I had done work for friends and thus leading to the snowball effect. So, how would clients find your work? The Internet. Sadly, that's just the best way at this point, but it's also not sad because it's free to some regard and doesn't require a whole lot of effort but is way bigger now than it was when I started. A lot of clients find work through Instagram, I keep a Tumblr, I also keep my website updated, which serves more as a case study for projects. There's a general overview, but then you can also dig through into finding details about a project. But then, social media from Twitter to Instagram is more of daily updates and behind the scenes in process and travel, more of a lens into the personal perspective that I have regarding my work. So, networking in art and design community wherever you are starts by you putting in the effort in approaching those events and showing up and being involved. You stick around later and help pick up chairs or something and then that's how you suddenly meet somebody that helps you find your way. As far as organizations, AIGA is a national one that has a lot of chapters throughout the country. But then, depending on what city you're in, there are also other things. Maybe it's related to a university and oftentimes, those are free and you can show up, and attend public lectures, workshops, what have you, whatever event is being thrown. It just takes a little bit of digging around to find. So, now that we found clients, how do you engage with them? I have some rules of engagement that I tend to follow for myself and that's being approachable and pleasant to work with, whether that's tossing in some funny sign off, send an e-mail to trying to get things in early, and then being able to take feedback, and then I also have to be able to articulate and defend my own work. Projects don't always go the way you want them to and that can be fine, it can be frustrating. It can actually end up being better, because sometimes you're working with people that know a lot more than you and they're going to push you into more interesting territory. Now, being able to discern what that scenario is, is just going to take experience, but the willingness to push and be approachable and take that criticism and feedback is really crucial to the project and to your career. Sometimes, maybe you've gotten enough experience and you're really confident in this direction on a project, you need to be able to articulate that to the client and try to defend your decision like you think this is best. This is the best solution for this scenario and being able to communicate that comes down to experience, and language, and tone, and knowing how to address an individual and a company. So, the most important thing to remember is that transparency and honesty is key. 3. How to Communicate: Email: In this next lesson, we're going to talk about actual email structure and approaching clients and some of the methods that I used that have worked for me or how I've structured things in regards to communicating and sending an email. I use email all the time. There are plenty of products where I don't even get on the phone and in all correspondence is done through email. So the importance of writing a coherent email and being able to communicate these things and being intentional and how your word choice, the pacing, organization are extremely important. So, what does a good email actually look like? How do you avoid confusion with a client? I think it starts with hierarchy, whether that's through bullet points or numbers or having digestible chunks versus one big wall of text. That presentation helps, it makes it easier to read. Organizing this information is similar to a design problem you're having to solve. If you've include an attachment, drop a note in the email saying that there is an attachment because that happens all the time to where you don't mention there's an attachment and the person just didn't think to look, depending on their mail application, it didn't show up. So, being very direct and clear are the basic easy things, but it takes time to do. Now we're going to look at a specific email example in which this is taken from a client exchange, they approached me wanting a bunch of different budget approaches. I've addressed, "Hi, Bob." Gone through, dropped a little funny note of, "It's me again, with another delayed email reply, happens all the time." But then you can see just from the structure of it, things are bold, things are numbered. Here's a description underneath the title and then the budget is called out underneath. But it's all concise. There's a lot going on in this email and I needed to deliver it in a single email, so there was a ton of thought put into what is the most clear way to convey all this. This is the path that I chose and it works out. That it's digestible, but then provides ample amount of detail about each item. This email took an embarrassingly amount of time and I can't recall specifically, but at least an hour. Mostly because I was trying to come up with funny titles for everything. So that's the other part of my practice, there always needs to be a joke. So, if you don't do jokes then it might take you a little less time. So one of the reasons that I did spend so much time on trying to come up with this is that I will reuse it over and over again in different scenarios. So, I'm trying to lay the groundwork on it this one time in which I've come up with a structure that is both very direct, but also personable and funny. Although it takes a lot of time upfront, it might save time in the future. Also, I'm slightly crazy. So depending on the client, it can be entirely up to you to set those expectations of how you were going to communicate. I can think of certain scenarios with an agency and they do things a certain way and that's just the nature of being a freelancer and that project will be dictated. But there are other scenarios where it's entirely up to you and if you want everything to be done by email, make that known. Or if you do want to have phone check ins to go over an email, you can set up that schedule. Text messaging happens. It does happen on big projects, like if you develop that relationship that you're close enough to someone working on an agency project, it can be a means of communicating. I would steer from it just because the business, pleasure, that line, you don't want to get into, and it's a little bit less professional. So maybe you use a tool like slack to set up how most of your communications could go. I often tell people to do one thing and do another. It's the nature of being a teaching position I think. So not every time will I say, "This is how things should be." I try to be very accommodating almost to a fault, like a personality trait situation, but in an email I might mention that I'm up for continuing things by email or if we need to take a call, we'll schedule something, so that works with everyone's schedule. So next, I want to talk about some email's correspondents scenarios that you might encounter. One would be a cold call. Say, there's a cool brand that you like, you think your work is appropriate with them and you want to email them. So you track down a very broad email address, info@cool So you send this email saying, "Hey, I'm a big fan, I'm interested in what you're doing, I think my work is very appropriate, here's some attached examples." It's organized, it's friendly, it's short, send. How long do you wait until you follow up? So that point in which there's a lot of silence is scary, but you don't want to follow up in a few hours, the next day, like, "Hey, what's up? I sent you an email." I would wait at least a week. That seems like an appropriate time because it could have gone into a spam folder or bounced back or something. So a week, it sounds nice, but there's a chance you might not hear back from them, and that has happened to me where I've put together a deck for a brand who's like I'm a huge fan, I'm total nerd, but I think these things align, who knows what happened? I try not to think about it so I don't lose sleep because it hurts my feelings, but it is what it is. So another scenario that we're going to talk about is between two individuals. You and the owner of this auto body shop decided they're going to re-brand and get real cool looking. You've already had some emails going back and forth, you're on board, you've negotiated all the details, you've established of when, "I send you something, you let me know that you received it and then we will have a week's time to follow up." So, you've sent this first round deck over, presenting options, explorations for this project, but it goes past a week or maybe he didn't, he or she did not respond saying they received it, I think that's a time where you can follow up a lot sooner than you thought because you want to make sure that they've received this deck and that you're going to stick to the timeline that you've established from the get-go. So, a third scenario that we'll talk about is involves an agency in a big client. So, the agency is the liaison doing the creative for this big brand. So, there's a lot of people involved. A lot of communication filtering through all these buffer zones. It's a big project, there's bigger things at stake, who knows what you'll encounter? You might get hurry up and wait scenario of like, "We need this," but then you do it and then they're like, "Hold on, we're still figuring some stuff out." To, "Are you available?" Like "Yes, I'm available, I'm so excited to work on this", and then you never hear anything ever again. You can read a lot into it, you could follow up and ask questions, you might hear back. Just know that this is a normal scenario that a lot of people encounter just because there's so many pieces of the puzzle involved in this scenario. Oftentimes it's not you, it's the budget was cut, the project was canceled, the project was delayed. Sometimes they come back to life in a few months or weeks, sometimes they don't. It's just something to be aware of and know that it's normal and weird that you just have to deal with it. We just talked about when communication was slow or absent. So on the other end of the spectrum, what happens when the client is responding pretty frequently? Or for example, say it's the first email about a project and it's a dream project that you're genuinely excited about. I've found that it works in my favor to enthusiastically respond very quickly. Like that impresses people, that enthusiasm is contagious and that project can take off and often leads to a very effective means of communication throughout the course of the project. So, they know that I'm excited that they're more excited and it just makes things go better. So, showing off that quick email response is a trait that a lot of people have responded positively to. But then there are other times where I might not respond initially if it's later in the project, things are going well, there's been some back and forth, I've already sent some things, but knowing that based on my schedule, I have other projects that need to attend to. So, the email app I use will allow me to schedule when something is sent. So maybe it goes after 5:00 PM, that buys me a little bit more time to work on these other things. Then also the client might not know that I did this really, really fast and take advantage of me because I can't always do that depending on my schedule because I have no boss telling me what to do, I have to figure out these things on my own. So, it's important to put a value on my time and try to help pace myself. It goes back to managing expectations. 4. How to Communicate: Phone: So, sometimes I've written a bad email, and how do I know that it's bad? The client comes back more confused, there's more questions, and I'm very forward in addressing that. I'm like, "Maybe I didn't address this thing.", or "Sorry, that things were lost in the translation. What I'm really trying to say.", or maybe it's like, "I'm too tired and haven't eaten anything." So, email is not the way, maybe I should A, get something to eat, then B, pick up the phone and call them, and just like, "Okay. I realized that this was getting too complicated. Here's what I'm trying to say." Having that discernment to decide which is the best form of communication is something that you will over time figure out what scenario works best. So, in regards to using a phone as a source of communication, it's more old school, there are going to be scenarios where you have to be on the phone like just the nature of it. Specifically thinking of agency where it will be a ton of people on the call, and it's just necessary so that everyone's looped in. Sometimes, that phone call doesn't feel very necessary but you have to endure that. So, maybe there's an opportunity for you to use that phone call for something that you want to get across in the project, and maybe that's your personality or I can't think of something else, but using that moment to make it yours. So, thatis beneficial. Then other times that I think of using the phone is when correspondence is getting muddy and you're getting very abstract or very detailed, and it's hard to write that email, just like write it out, that seems like a time that it's just a lot quicker if like, "Hey, can you hop on the phone? This will only take five, 10 minutes. Can we talk through this thing?" or, "I have a question about something that they asked about the file." Detailed stuff, maybe it's technical, maybe it's conceptual, or it's just an abstract idea. It seems like it might just be easier to make a quick phone call versus trying to write out a lengthy email. If you're initiating a client call, it's something that you need to be prepared for and you're going to take the lead, going with confidence and an agenda, maybe you have notes, maybe you have it all on your computer, but you have the materials that you need to lead someone through a phone call so that it's productive, and it shows you that you're expecting and valuing someone else's time. On the other end, maybe you've been asked to take this phone call, you need to be prepared to take notes, maybe you have the reference material or the PDF that the client has sent over that is just the general scope of the project. Try to be situated in a comfortable space in which you can take a phone call in either scenario. There are a lot of different ways to communicate with clients and every client is going to be different. Every scenario is going to be different. So, it's important to match your tone with the client. So, there will be times where maybe it's not best to force a joke. I try to be very self-aware of my tone or the sense of humor that I'm trying to inject, and I gauge that based on how that seems it goes across for the client, because there will be times where I ended up texting with this person later while we're checking in with stuff. It went that well and we're sending emojis, and jokes back and forth, and pulling pop culture references. To other scenarios, it's just strictly email, it's professional, sometimes there's like a little bit of humor but it's just very cordial and it stays at that, which is fine. So, it's just a matter of being self-aware of those different types of scenarios and trying to figure out, gauging, I guess, how much of your personality comes through and when it does, and sometimes it doesn't go well, and sometimes it goes great, but making an effort is the important part. 5. Presenting Your Work Online: So, now we're going to talk about how to present your work and that communication isn't just necessarily in e-mail and correspondence in that tone but how that comes across in your portfolio, in your website, or any kind of material that you might send out. Whether that's promotion material or a curated portfolio that you might send to a potential client. But first we're going to look at my website and how I organize my work. You can see that there's a range of things going on on the home page. Where I'm at in my career I've chosen to keep both fine art and commercial work together. This is something I've toiled over for hours, days, years of like where this is at for me but I feel like at this point both of them are stronger together than they are separate. It's kind of the path that I've chosen. But quickly going through here I have different categories that filter through work and then, so I have art direction, apparel, custom loading, action that happens in between. There's animated gifs. These are all thumbnails that go into larger projects. So, this makes it a little bit easier for someone that can come through and if they're looking for a particular example in reference to my work they can find that easier. But the difference between this versus social media, my Tumblr, which is the blog that I use or Instagram is that I'm curating that experience. For example, if we click through on this Poler Stuff jacket, you see more imagery than you might just through Instagram. It's together. I have a customized background treatment that ties into the project. There's pacing, you're getting detail, you're getting lifestyle and then information about that project is in a hover state below. So, these are all small details that help to dictate that experience in regards to a project. So, one of the advantages of approaching a portfolio like this versus just here your 15 best images. There's not much more to the project which is fine and depending on where you're at in your career. That's what's necessary and will get you work. But I'm using my website differently because of another point I'll bring up about having a portfolio somewhere else but for this sake I am controlling the viewers experience and wanting them from the home page can get a quick overview of the tone and what to expect in the types of projects I do. But if they click through they're going to see like this main hero image of this mural and detail shots and everything is intentionally selected and juxtaposed based on what I think would look best to one another. So, you're getting the detail of the brush and how the color overlays from this mural. But then seeing the overview and some of the environment and other accents throughout the space. Some projects won't call for this. Like if it's mostly flat color illustration stuff, that doesn't necessarily mean you have to make it seem more official than it is. But I'm making choices depending on the project and what best services showing that work. So, one of the biggest things I can say about a portfolio site, you can take a little bit more risk in a social media stream, your Instagram feed, whatever, and showing a lot of a range of things. But with a portfolio site you only want to show the things that you want to be doing. If you've designed a brochure for some company that you're not pumped about and you hated being in InDesign, don't broadcast that you're going to do page layout or brochure design if you don't want to do that. You could still potentially get work for that in a certain time in your career where you're like I just need this job to do it for the money which is necessary and happens all the time. But I wouldn't advertise that broadly and letting people know. Otherwise then you're going to end up always doing that thing. You want to set it up where it's easier for you to say no to something than it is to be this is the only type of work that you get. So, in regard to your website, there are so many ways to go about it. There are existing platforms that professionals are using throughout the industry that exist and they aren't necessarily fully custom sites. They're customizable but they're not starting new every time, they're using existing tools that are out there and they're great. I use WordPress. I did have someone code it for me. I came up with the design but it was developed by someone else. But that's not necessary. You need to make it as simple and as straightforward as possible. Now, if you're more of a Web development type person and it makes sense to make it this crazy wacky experience and you're kind of using the Internet as a medium, that's a different scenario. The takeaway from this is, the work does not need to compete with the website and the website doesn't need to compete with the work. The work is the thing you're trying to showcase. So, make decisions based on that. What is best for the work. If the site is super clunky and hard to navigate that's going to take away from someone experiencing the work. Don't let the website get in the way. Just elevate your work. 6. Presenting Your Work to Clients: There will be certain scenarios where you need to create a unique curated portfolio for a client. The example I'm going to show, is for a brand called Lazy Oaf out of London. There is an event occurring and they needed stuff rather quickly and didn't have the budget for me to create new things. So, I was showing existing stuff, mocked up that felt appropriate for the brand. So, you can just see that I have the design organized, everything will always show up on the left and the mock ups will be on the right. Below, I have what this project is, the round, and the date, and then, my name at the bottom. So, there's this consistent treatment that I've used throughout the entire deck. But again, you see the left has the design and then, the right has a mock up of how I'm seeing that implemented. Just kind of a suggestion, not a full thing. You can continue to go through here. There's consistency, that layout, layout helps for someone viewing this thing to then envision what it is that you're, I guess, putting your work into play within the project that they have. Again, these weren't things that I created specifically for this. They were curated because I thought it felt appropriate for the brand. Then, I have like a fun little sign off that I always use with a ripped off logo, a little touch of humor. In another scenario, it might not be using an existing work, but more of showing previous examples of work to pitch ideas of here's the sketch for a basic concept, but it might look like this thing that I previously did. I could see other people using that as an approach to where you're trying to introduce yourself to this company, in this brand, this project in presenting ideas but then showing a finalized product that is somehow related. It just helps the bran visualize what that could end up looking like. When you're approaching someone in the scenario of, I would like to work with you and we haven't worked but here's some things that seem appropriate, if they're a digital agency, you're not going to send a lot of print stuff. You would send more social media campaign things or web development, whatever seems appropriate, or vice versa. If it's an apparel company then, you can send files that seem appropriate, but you would choose things based on what that place does. That's what the whole point of a curated portfolio is. So, it's not your best work, it's the most appropriate work. In this next section, we're going to look at an actual client project where you get to see behind the scenes of the process. So, presenting your work isn't necessarily limited to your portfolio, but also throughout the process of a project. This is the first initial concept that I sent over based on the timeline that was given by the client. So, I've got a greeting, intro page, a little bit about Bzees Shoebox Illustration and Tagline. So, you can see that there's a detail of that pattern. Here's option two, this loopy layering, it's a little bit more abstract. This is option three, that's an energetic burst. Those were the first three initial concepts. We have like a final page just so they know that they're at the end of the presentation and that they're not missing any pages. In round two for Bzees, I explain, "In the pages that follow, you will find revisions refinement on the road map concept for Bzees Shoebox Illustration as well as a revised/refined 'Light Feels Right' lettering." That was the tagline. So, all of that feedback was based probably on a conversation through a phone call or email. Sometimes, that comes through as a marked up PDF where they'll take your actual presentation and make notes in it, and then, send it back. It can come back in a variety of different ways depending on what process the client uses. You can see that this road map has become a little bit more spiraling. They combined two concepts from the first round and made it one as far as the placement goes. Then, experimenting with different type options for the lettering. So, subtleties in those two options. They narrowed it down and then presented a couple of variations for that particular direction. Not always, but hopefully through the course of a project. You start out broad with more variety of concepts and then, as the process progresses, you become more focused. This is one of those examples that it does do that, where I had these different concepts that were a little bit looser to, now, the refinement is much more nuanced in particular and it's headed in the singular direction based on the client's feedback. So, for round three, it focuses more on the lettering. They're really happy with this map. It's filled in just a little bit more and it's connected to the lettering on the side panels of the box. But I focus more on this round on the lettering and giving different options. We're trying to figure out what the right and appropriate lettering is, and giving a range of options for the client. So, those are the options for that round. So, the importance of utilizing the same Tiplet per round is it's easier on you because you can plug in the new things, update what type all the notes that needs to be in there, changing the date, the round, all of those important details. But then, it's also easier on the client, too, because it's only elevating the work that is changing and not the template. So, there's not this, you're looking around, trying to figure out what it is anymore. You're getting familiar with how this work is presented over and over again as it changes and it's easier to document the process. Formatting presentation decks is an ongoing process, like just about everything else we've talked about in this course. You will continually to change and evolve depending on your interest level, how effective it is. Potentially, you get bored at what type face you're looking at all the time. Who knows? But knowing that you have these things and it's not concrete, and you can change that according to the project, according to your interests, whatever the case may be. But you have something to respond to and that's not the thing you are solely thinking about every time. You need to be making the work in communicating your ideas and hopefully, the template of a presentation deck is going to help you do that. So, there's no one right way to show your work. It's something you have to ask yourself and it will change, of course, by time. But, the main thing is that you're intentional about it. So, if you're thinking about how someone else is seeing this, then, I think you're doing it right. 7. Talking About Money: Talking about money is hard, it's scary, it's challenging, it's constant. I feel like every project has to be talked about and figured out. It does get easier, but it's still a thing. It is for me anyways, and I think it is for a lot of people. But starting out especially is difficult because you're trying to figure out what to charge for any project. I think, the easiest place to start is figuring out an hourly rate that is equivalent to industry standards of people with similar experience. So whatever that is for you. You can ask around. I feel like if you know someone well enough, it's like, "I have no idea. I've never done this. How do I charge? What seems appropriate?" That hourly rate doesn't always work in every scenario, but at least that's something to bounce off of and knowing per project, it's just challenging to figure out what that number is and what it is worth to you. When I was a student, I first started out, I think the number that I use for an hourly rate was $25 an hour. Now that might have depended on what I knew at the time. It seemed like a lot of money to me then. The fact that I was getting paid to draw something was cool enough. Or the fact that someone wanted me to draw anything for them was cool enough. The fact that I would get paid was something on top of that. But from an industry standpoint, I don't know that I knew much. There's a few books out there that might feel dated, but they're at least a starting place to find that reference for you. Know that that's going to change over time, like most things that we've talked about. As you get more experience, your worth is going to be more. From a personal narrative standpoint, I had just finished school in end of 2008 going into 2009. In a few months after graduating, first huge client project came in for Nike, huge nerd about Nike. I was excited. I actually thought it was a prank email from a studio mate. Turns out it was real. I was amazed and was so excited to get going on this project. They wanted six shirts for a global line. I had no idea what to charge. I thought about what my rent was and was like, "If I could cover that, that's pretty awesome." I ended up doing six shirts for a price that I would later charge for one shirt. So the next time that Nike came back for us to do more shirts together, and instead of me presenting the budget, they asked me what's my budget. I just turned around and ask, "Well, what's your budget for it?" It was a lot more than I would have asked for. I was like, "Yeah, that's my budget too. That sounds great." So that's a strategy that you can implement, is just turning around and asked them. I'm not saying that in a way to take advantage of anyone, but talking about money is just such a strange, difficult topic. A lot of times, if it's a legit company or an individual, they have expectations and you're putting it on them to say this. Then maybe later in your career, you're at that situation where you have to gauge, is it worth it for you to do it for that versus you coming up with that budget on your own? Other things that you need to consider when coming up with a budget. So, maybe it's not this hourly rate that you're basing it on. But that's a factor that you use to determine what a flat rate would be. This is the ballpark number. Maybe it's a range, but this is the number you're trying to reach. This is what it's worth for me. But to get there, you need to think about what are the deliverables? Is that the number of illustrations or assets that you're creating for this project? How long will it take you to do each of those? That's an approximation. But that's one factor. Another is the timeline. Is this a two day turnaround that's super quick, that you could charge a little bit more for? Is it a week? Is it a month? Those are things that you internally have to think about. Is it worth it for you to do that? Then the other component is revisions. How many rounds do you offer to make edits and adjustments to things? Be very transparent about that upfront. Are you dictating that or the client? No, maybe you think about what is the number for additional rounds that you would charge. Include that in an estimate. Then the last thing is ownership and usage. Who is this for? How long is it going to be used? Is it a global thing? Is it a forever thing? Or is this company licensing this thing for just a year? That's more of a scenario that happens in illustration as you talk about usage. From graphic design standpoint, it comes up sometimes. But if it's a branding project, it's more of a scenario that they call work for hire, which means you're transferring your rights to this thing because it's basically their mark that represents them that you're being hired to create. The reason you put a ton of work upfront in a project whether figuring out the budget, the schedule, the parameters, those guidelines, deliverables, all those aspects of a project is so that if a project turns bad, hopefully, you have the structure to fall back on and help dictate what to do and how to respond. But it's also worth noting that sometimes you just have really bad projects. Maybe it's the individual, maybe it's you just weren't a right fit for that creative brief. That has happened, that's happened to me. But those are also really strong learning points in your career that you can take from and evolve and apply to future projects. 8. Pricing Models: So, one example of dictating the scenario is an apparel client approached me. I could sense that there wasn't a big budget, and they were just kind of asking how to work with me, basically. So, instead of just saying, "Here's the flat fee," or, "It's this much only," I came up with multiple scenarios in a very fun tongue in cheek kind of way describing these things. But then it's not just about numbers, it's about the process, inputting worth in that process. So, if I get less money, I get more creativity. If there's more money, they get more creative input. That's kind of how the balance happens throughout that scenario. So, let me read through some of these. So, the first option, straight up business. We get plenty of time to research, brainstorm, and come up with an entire collection that's cohesive, fun, and amazing. That budget would be $5,000. Option two, business casual. There's some back and forth on the creative direction but ultimately, I decide what goes into the collection of eight to 10. So, notice a few less pieces. I'll certainly take feedback in regards to designs, but I'd be working at my own pace, meaning when a big project comes in, or life happens, this gets pushed back and forth on its importance level. That budget is $2,500. Casual, option three. So, sometimes there's, I sit down and I just generate a lot of stuff, and we can find a spot for it. But then other times, it's really a challenge to come front when there's no strong conceptual backing on a project for me to riff off of. So, this scenario allowed me to be flexible on my end, and what would be delivered. This direction is like Hawaiian shirt Fridays. That's what option three is like. It's very casual. Then super casual, like pajama party casual. We designed a couple of pieces and figure out a price that works within the budget. Then hopefully, in the future, we can work together on one of the above scenarios. So, it's like who knows what that number is. It's just kind of putting out there. I'm interested. I like what this brand is doing. They also have good intentions behind the brand, and they donate part of their proceeds. So, there is these other incentives. They are like, "I want to do this, but what's the number that you have to work with?" Then explaining, "Hey, let's do this again in the future where you know how to fund for this thing and we can make it work." So, it really is just me showing interest and intent, and then laying out options that interests me and hopefully the client as well. So, I've mentioned numerous times that talking about money is tough and challenging, awkward. You can see in this example that I've also injected my personality into talking about these things so that is is kind of fun. This got a tremendous response from the client, and we are going to do some things together. But however much time I put into making this thing, this is again as a structure, a template that I can at least adjust for future projects. There's no place within the business of working that I don't put my personality, and that works for me, might not work for everyone, but know that you can address it in that way. Working for exposure and spec work are two things that are slightly related, and are two things that you might come across within your career that are related to budgets and money. So, they're both things you want to avoid. Exposure does come with certain projects, but that being the form of payment isn't great. Usually, those projects just don't turn out that well, you might not make something you're into and that's what you're associated with. But it's also just a lot of times as bigger brands, bigger companies taking advantage of younger people. Working with a low budget that is offset by exposure is a scenario that might be something you should pursue. Especially, say, there are people that you admire that are working on this but there is a spot for someone that's less experienced, and there is a small budget, that seems like something you could weigh out and see if that would be worth it. But when the only currency is exposure is the scenario that you should avoid. In another scenario, you have potentially working for a non-profit which you would be donating your creative services for something that you believe in. That's different than exposure. You might get exposure from it, but it's vastly different to me from a conceptual and moral standpoint because it's not someone taking advantage of you or your talent. It's you getting to contribute to something, and you're giving back but you also might gain exposure from that, whether that's a charity, or a non-profit, or a political figure, and you're helping with the campaign by creating something, that to me is different than just doing something for a big brand in a commercial aspect. So, there's been plenty of situations and projects I have worked for free, but it's been for something that I truly believe in and want to contribute to. But that's a personal decision that I've made for myself, for my career, for my work, and I've been intentional about it. So, regardless of what it is, think about it. Don't just immediately say yes because a big brand is associated with it or it seems really cool. Think about it whether that's 30 minutes a day, a week, however long you have. Consider what your decision is before you quickly respond. You might encounter a scenario in working with a client in which they're proposing you to do some work up front maybe for some compensation. If that goes well, then you can be awarded the project, which kind of gets in this area of it's similar to spec work. But if you're being compensated for that part of the project, it's not. I actually like this scenario. From personal experiences, consider it like the dating part of a relationship, and you're both trying it out. They're compensating you for your time, and you're getting to generate some work to see if it fits for the project. So, that part of the project has a budget, and if it goes well, or if it's the right aesthetic choice for this project on the clients end, then it moves forward into a different phase of the project. What you want to avoid is doing anything, handing it over, and if they like it, the client likes it, then they'll pay you. That's something that you don't do. That's just not fair. They shouldn't get the free assets or free work from you without there being some sort of compensation. That's what you have to address upfront to make sure that there are clear expectations. On the topic of spec work, there are a lot of gray areas and difficult conversations to be had about that. I've found to be very helpful, which will be in our resources page for this class. You can read on there, and it breaks it down pretty clearly on what that is. That's what I would refer to to learn more about it. So, you really have to get good at talking about money and budgets, and speaking up for yourself, because incidentally without intent, someone might walk over you in a scenario, and that's what you're trying to avoid. You want to cover your own basis, watch your own back so that you get better at talking about these things, so that the relationship is beneficial. 9. Final Thoughts: Your communication skills and client relationships are just as important as your design sensibilities, and I hope that this class has given you some confidence to further develop those skills moving forward in your career. Feel free to share any previous correspondence or presentation decks that you've been working on and you want feedback on. You can put those in the project gallery. I'd love to take a look and give you some feedback, or if you have any other questions, just let me know. Thanks so much. 10. What's Next?: way.