It is exciting times for us Textiles and Surface Designers. Many surfaces are becoming printed and embellished. Clients who have previously produced a product without surface design or pattern are seeing the added value print can provide. This means that there is a vast number of new clients to work for, yay for freelance design opportunities!
Such clients may have never worked with a designer before so here is my advice on how to professionally handle these clients. If you handle their projects well they will come back to you time and again and my even refer you to more clients. So remember first and foremost CUSTOMER SERVICE! Sounds cheesy I know but who wants to work with a designer with an attitude.
1. Paper trail - Always keep all email communication with clients. You may need to got back to these to safe guard the clients and your own expectations.
2. Proposal - After the project briefing (in person or over the phone) write out a clear proposal for the client to sign off against. This should specify what work is to be created, deadlines and the estimate of cost. I also like to outline any challenges that i initially see with the project. For example some clients will want you to copy another design. WARNING, projects like this set you up to fail. I always encourage innovation and change and put that in writing. FYI i have lost clients from this, but i have never had to go to court over copyright. Also some patterns at the first glance look simple but are actually technically difficult. Honesty is the best policy. Being up for a challenge is good, but being in over your head is not a good idea.
3. Education - You are the design expert and are being paid to bring that service to the table. You will probably have to invest some time in educating your client about standard repeat sizes and color separation. Nonetheless your customer is the expert on their business they know their customer's taste and needs. You should be giving your recommendations, but the client has the last say. Freelance design is a service industry. No egos please.
4. Communication - Keep clients up to date with progress on the project. Some clients of mine like to talk daily others are less communicative. Communication is important though and i always shoot out emails with updates and new found information such as blog posts and color, print and pattern trends. Nothing fancy just "I saw this.... and it reminded me of something you said during our project briefing....." This goes a long way to showing your client you are engaged and care about their project.
5. Giving 110% - Although the freelance work i do is not for free, i always tend to go above and beyond. Giving options for scale, layout and color ways. I am happy to change things as many time as the client needs with a smile on my face, knowing that I am getting paid to be a designer.