A Contractual Designer also known as a Freelancer is a Graphic Designer who works for several different clients on projects that can be from 1 week up to 1 year. They sometimes work at their client’s place of business, but mostly these Designers work from a home office.

I use the word Contractual Designer instead of Freelancer, because it seem to ring well in the ears of some business persons in Jamaica. I once went to a Business Conference, and introduced myself as a Freelancer, and the instructor looked at me as if she smelt something, then said, “Freelancer sounds amateurish”. To my surprise other business persons present agreed with her. I was taken aback by that, knowing how widely used the term is internationally especially in Design.

In order to work with a Designer one must first:

Choose A Designer

  • The Edna Manley College produces a slew of Designers every year. ( Some have even opted to stay in Ja.) Learning the ins and outs of what makes a design is essential, I would think,  and the base from which to build a successful piece.
  • There are also intuitive Designers who have learnt outside of the formal classroom what it takes to be a good Designer.
  • Look at samples of the Designers work.
    The more recent the better. Look at their style, how colour is used and how images are placed. If you are looking for a Designer to work on your Newsletter, and they have no sample to show you, then browse through their Brochures, or Mailers. This is because the basic concept is similar, choosing good font for headlines, legible body copy, and aesthetically pleasing image(s).

So you’ve chosen a  Designer….

LaptopMeet with them and start the work

  • Technology has made it super easy to work with Contractual Designers, virtually through Skype, email, or instant chat or the ever-present mobile phone (or landline if you still have it). I have a few clients outside of the corporate area that I have never met face to face, we’ve only spoken on the phone and all other communications happen via email. There is always the traditional sit down face to face meeting which some do prefer.
  • During this first meeting your designer will and should take notes. However, a comprehensive written Creative Brief, should be given to the Designer. To ensure that you convey what you need and the Designer has a step by step blueprint to refer to while working.
  • At this phase, cost should be discussed and a deposit made and due date(s) set. The designer will in turn give you a timeline for the first draft, for you to peruse, make choices and suggest edits. [See The Design Process Below] If a contract is written up for the designer to sign, give them some time to review it, and make queries accordingly or even changes.( I’ll talk about this another time.) 
  • Now, I am all in favour for an original/custom tailored design for each and every client. ( I can’t help it my name is unique). This way when your product or service is mounted high say on a billboard, it’s wholly and fully yours, and it doesn’t look like your competitors or a carbon copy of something from overseas.
  • I am adamant about this because there are numerous templates available and some of them have been regurgitated so often, they have weakened the oesophagus of the industry.

What about Images?

  • If you have your own images, with all the rights to use them, then by all means give them to the designer. He or she will let you know if resolution/quality is good enough to use. You can also request Photography services from your designer, most do know how to take good photos (previously EMC students had to do photography). If they are unable to – then hire a Photographer or use stock images.
  • Once again, be careful with your choice of stock images, you don’t want your competitor laughing at you because you are using an image they used 5 years ago!
  • Please, please, please, pay for images, do not under any circumstance say to your designer, “Just look for an image on google”. #WRONG – It’s also illegal and unethical. Images on google are not free to use commercially. I have seen time and time again friends photos being used on the internet and in press to advertise some big event coming up – or even their videos have been hi-jacked and used and they were never contacted or paid for its use.

 The Design Process

This is really simple:

  1. Designer >>> Designs layout >>> sends to Client
  2. Client >>>> Reviews, makes a choice and or edits/changes >>> sends back to Designer
  3. Designer >>>> makes edits or changes >>>> sends to Client
  4. Client >>>> reviews (may have more edits, then step 2 would be repeated) and approves
  5. Designer >>>> makes edits if necessary >>>> prepares high resolution files to send to client or third-party entity to produce, print or upload depending on the job.

That’s it, very simple right?
However it sometimes gets complicated if
– the brief is changed mid stream
– the time is exceeded by the designer or client
– excessive changes, corrections, incorrect information, and additions
– a break down or a lack of proper communication.

A job may be at final Art (the approved state), ready to go out only to have it put on hold because someone says ‘they don’t like it’. As a client if you have a support team that you work with or you have a focus group to review things, then they should see it at the initial layout stage and make edits and corrections then. Not when it’s about to go out the door. Do not allow ‘friends’ to dictate your design outcome, they may not fit the target market you are trying to reach, you may end up with something that does not appeal to your market.

ThumbPay your Contractual Designer

Need I say more? A Contractual Designer is a small business and as such should be treated as a ‘supplier’. If you purchase supplies for your business there is usually a quick turnaround time for payment. Please note that your Designer, used their time, electricity, their machine, programs, their internet, and above all their expertise to get your job done, the least you can do is pay on time. Seven days or fortnightly is within reason ( although, upon-delivery would work best) some Designers said they don’t mind the 30-day wait period coming from Corporate entities – because that’s how ‘payroll’ is done anyway. However stringing your Designer along for 2 months 3 months or even 5 months is unconscionable, especially if they gave you a quick turnaround time.

All in all working with a Contractual Designer should be a stress-free process. As a Client make sure to choose wisely, communicate with you designer often, do your checks and balances when reviewing the work and reward your Designer for their excellent work by paying promptly!

– Creatively Yours