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No matter which way you find a designer the first few steps will involve interaction between you and the designer to determine what your needs are. Whether this is done on-line, over the phone, or during a face-to-face meeting depends on what you are comfortable with and how close you live to the designer. In most cases it is totally up to you if you wish to meet in person. If your life is completely crazy and even thinking about rearranging your schedule to meet with someone gives you a migraine ... well, chances are the designer can relate. The entire process can be done remotely without affecting the quality of design.
Where should you meet?
If you do choose to meet in person your designer might be able to suggest a good location. Many of my first meetings with potential clients have happened in coffee shops - whatever public location offers a comfortable environment and is the most convenient for both parties. I always bring my portfolio to show a prospective client some physical examples of past work I have done and a notepad to take notes about what their particular design needs are. I suggest not meeting in your own home, even if that is where your office is located - a neutral location is best for the comfort of both you and your designer.
What should you bring to the first meeting?
This first meeting is your opportunity to bring physical samples to show the designer (or mention online samples of things you like) and might wish to emulate. If you have published books you might also want to bring copies of these for the designer to see or possibly even for them to borrow and read. This will give them an opportunity to familiarize themselves with your writing style and try to match it as closely as possible in their designs for you. The more they know about you, your writing style, your personality and your readers - the better their designs for you will be.
What if you don't meet in person?
If you can't meet with your designer in person they will likely either send you e-mails full of questions to get to know you and your needs or possibly a form for you to download, fill out and return. I have also had FaceBook or Skype chats with potential clients that can work just as well as a face-to-face meeting.
What happens next?
After the designer knows more about you, your readers and what your immediate design needs are they will usually provide you with at least an estimated price of what the design will cost. Some designers will roll the costs of stock photos or illustrations into their pricing and others will let you know that photo costs will be in addition and only purchased upon your approval. (Note: The second option sounds more complicated, but is actually how I prefer to work so that I can keep the price as low as possible and increase awareness of the costs involved for me to fulfill the project as well.)
One you have gone over the estimate provided by your designer you have the opportunity to accept it, ask questions, attempt negotiation, or let the designer know if it is simply not within your budget at this time. The designer will not start working until they know you have reached an agreement on pricing. On larger projects, such as web site design, the designer may ask you to pay in installments. One payment at the beginning of the project and others after certain stages of the project have been reached. This is usually due to both the fact that the costs involved in these projects are higher and that these projects also take more time to complete. Spacing out the payments is to help both parties manage the costs and encourages fast responses and the meeting of deadlines!
Once an agreement has been accepted the designer will begin work on your project. Tune in next month for more on what the next steps in the process will likely entail, and what your role will be.
If anyone has questions about this post, or ones they wish me to tackle in next month's post please comment below.
Suzanne Wesley has been a member of ACFW since November of 2009. She considers herself still very much a student to the craft of fiction writing, plunking away on her stories in only her spare time. She makes her actual living supporting other writers and businesses large and small by creating marketing materials from her home office. She has been a professional graphic designer and copy writer for over 15 years. Visit www.suzannewesley.com to see samples of her work.