There’s nothing worse than feeling behind in your work, especially when you’re juggling multiple client projects. Trying to keep up with 5 client timelines and deadlines at once can be stressful for a type-A designer, and being in a creative field where inspiration and ideas don’t always flow freely makes it even more difficult.
Last fall, after listening to me vent about stress, Jake threw out an idea. “What if you only took on one client at a time and cranked out their project in 2 weeks?” I responded by giving him an incredulous look and a laugh; he clearly had no idea how the design industry works. No one works with one client at a time, and if they do, they definitely don’t finish an entire brand, 4 collateral items, and a website in 10 workdays. That’s crazy!
But as the stressful work weeks carried on, Jake’s crazy idea started to sound more and more appealing. So I sat down and thought through the details, streamlining my process and generously estimating how much time each step of the process would take me. I started to see how it could work, and a couple months before the new year I announced my new 2-week design process.
I’ve had a lot of questions about this process from blog readers and design peers, so today I’m giving you a look into how I manage to design an entire brand and website in just 2 short weeks. I’m also sharing my thoughts and feedback on the process.
Download the checklist!
I created a free checklist to help you implement this 2 week client process.
An Outline of My 2-Week Process
Each time a potential client inquires about my services (usually through email), I respond with a friendly welcome, an invitation to set up a meeting over Skype or over the phone, and a link to my services page so they can review my process, package, pricing, and availability in the meantime.
For a look at why I include my pricing on my website and how I come up with my prices, read last week’s post: My No Fuss Formula for Pricing My Services
During our first meeting, I get to know the client, ask about what they’re looking for in the design of their brand and website, and answer any questions they might have.
If the potential client decides to move forward with the process, they reserve their 2-week time slot on my calendar through a signed contract and a 50% deposit. I then set up a project page for them on my website as well as a Google doc with their client “homework” - a series of questionnaires about their brand, their workflow, and their website. By sending their homework a day or two after booking, my clients have plenty of time to work through the it at their own pace and contact me if they have have any questions.
Learn more about setting up client project pages in this post: 1 Clever Way to Streamline Your Client Process
1 Week Before
I set up a meeting with my client 1 week out from the project start date to review the questionnaires together and make sure that we’re on the same page. The questionnaires cover their mission statement, ideal audience, long-term goals, etc., which gives me a holistic view of the business and allows me to provide them with a relevant, streamlined brand. This meeting also gives my clients time to ask me any last minute questions, and I go over the 2-week schedule with them so they know exactly what to expect from me on each day.
Days 1-4: Brand Design
I spend the first day of each 2-week project by pulling together an inspiration board as a visual starting point for the brand. I use images from my clients’ Pinterest board that they set up specifically for the project as part of their homework, and I also bring in some other images that fit well with the overall aesthetic of the new brand. I provide my client with 1 revision in this stage, and I finish the inspiration board in the early afternoon to give my client a couple hours to respond before the end of the day.
Are you interested in creating an inspiration board for your blog or business? I share a look at how I create them in this post: How to Create a Clean & Cohesive Inspiration Board
Then I get to work creating 3 distinct logo concepts. Because this step of the process takes me a little longer and feeling rushed interferes with creativity, I give myself two days to work on these concepts. I rely on the colors, patterns, and visuals of the inspiration board for direction and ideas, and I strive to provide my client with 3 different directions that we could go with their brand. I provide 2 revisions during this step.
After my client chooses their favorite out of the bunch, I spend Day 4 creating logo variations to give them variety within their brand. I also select typefaces, create icons, and pull in other brand elements like patterns and borders to create a full brand board, which allows my client to see everything at once.
I also shared a post on creating a brand style guide here: How to Create a Brand Style Guide
Days 5-6: Collateral
After the brand style board is complete, I use the new “system” that I’ve created for their brand and carry it over into 4 collateral items of my clients’ choosing. They can range from stationery (business cards, letterhead, thank you cards) to blog post templates and everything in between. I have my clients provide me with all of the information and photos for these pieces ahead of time to make it easier (and quicker) for me to design them, and I offer 1 revision.
Days 7-9: Website
Three days may seem like an extremely short amount of time to design an entire website, but because my client provides me with all of the text, photos, and pages in their homework ahead of time, it makes it very easy for me to go in and add it all into a Squarespace template. I spend Day 7 working on the layout, Day 8 customizing the template and adding design elements, and Day 9 making revisions and tweaks. I create the website in trial mode and add my client as an administrator once they’re happy with the final product. Then they can go in and upgrade their account, set up their billing information, and import their content from their old site if their transferring from a site like Wordpress.
Day 10: File Sharing, Final Meeting, and Squarespace Tutorial
On the final day of the project, I upload all of the logo and collateral files to their project page, as well as guidelines for their brand fonts and colors. I Skype with the client and share my screen with them as I walk through the backend of their site and show them how to edit information, add blog posts, and change out photos. I also answer any last questions, and then the 2-week process officially comes to a close...
Client Launch Day
…until client launch day, when I celebrate my client’s new brand and website by sharing their new designs on my website. I think something as big as a new visual identity deserves to be celebrated, and not only do I enjoy sharing the designs with my audience, but I love driving traffic to my clients’ sites and showing off all of their hard work, too.
The Advantages of My 2-Week Process
I’ve been stunned by how much both I and my clients enjoy this 2-week process. Here’s a look at many of the advantages to designing for one client at a time in a 10-day window:
1. There’s a definite start and end date
Sticking to a timeline is one of the greatest struggles for both a designer and a client. By implementing this 2-week process, there’s a definite start and end date to the project and it helps both of us stay on track. My clients also know that at the end of their 10-day project, they’ll have a fully functioning brand and website that’s ready to go.
2. Client booking is a breeze
Before I started booking these 2-week projects, client booking was a gamble. I would try to estimate my time and book accordingly, but I struggled to come up with a good system. The 2-week process allows me to know which weeks I have available, which makes booking a breeze!
I also had a hard time turning down inquiries before this new system, which resulted in taking on too many clients at once. By booking clients in 2-week intervals, I have boundaries in place to prevent over-booking (which leads to less stress and a much happier work schedule!).
3. And in turn, income is more consistent
As a result of my new booking process, I’m able to know the exact days that I’ll be receiving final payments from my clients. While the 50% deposit could happen anytime, the second half is always due on the last Friday of the process. And for a freelancer, that consistent income helps me give myself a steady paycheck.
4. I can focus my energy into one client instead of spreading it out between multiple clients
This is one of the best advantages of this entire 2-week process! I had a hard time staying focused and creative when I spread my time across 5 different clients at once. I do my best work when I can zero in on one project at a time and can get lost in designing for a few hours. Being able to focus on one client for 10 whole days has resulted in productive workdays and designs I’m proud to showcase in my portfolio.
5. Clients feel important
Another challenge between designers and clients is consistent, prompt communication. My 2-week clients take priority during their project timeline, and their emails are always answered first. This makes them feel important and valued instead of feeling like just another number in my design queue.
One of the best pieces of feedback that I’ve received from each of my 2-week clients is that “every day feels like Christmas.” I email them every afternoon with a new draft, revision, or addition to their brand and website, and I’ve found that they check their inbox often to see if there have been any updates. I love their anticipation and excitement over it all, and it makes the process even more rewarding on my end!
6. My creativity is challenged (in a great way!)
Many designers are fearful of my process because of the pressure to come up with creative ideas in a short window of time. And to be honest, that was one of my biggest fears in starting this new system. Some days I feel inspired and the ideas just flow, but other days feel dry and creatively frustrating. I’ve been surprised by how a strict deadline has pushed my creativity and challenges me to stay productive, even on the days when I don’t feel like I’m “on.” I’ve learned to embrace the notion of “progress over perfection” and exercise a little more faith in my abilities, and I think I’ve grown as a designer because of it.
7. My blog audience and social media followers enjoy following along with the process, too
This 2-week system is also fun for my blog readers and social media followers to keep up with. I show them a sneak peek of the inspiration board within the first week of the project, and after another week or two they see the site launch. It builds anticipation with my audience and invites them in on the process, too!
The Keys to Making This Process Work
By giving my clients questionnaires and assignments months ahead of time, they’re able to work through it at their own pace and have everything ready to go by the time the 2-week timeframe starts. I’m available during that time to answer questions through email, phone conversations, or Skype and help them work through the details, but this ensures that everything is ready to go by the time I start on the design.
I’ve come up with a streamlined client process by designating certain tasks for certain days. The more and more I work through this 2-week process with each client, the more efficient my workflow becomes and the better I get at managing my time and staying on task.
At the outset of the project, I ask my clients to be available during their 2-week timeframe and respond to emails quickly. I also ask them to have the client homework done ahead of time to make the process run smoothly and help them get the most out of our time together.
Download the checklist!
I created a free checklist to help you implement this 2 week client process.
And there you have it! All my secrets for fitting an entire brand and website design into 2 weeks. Even if you aren't a designer, I hope this post encourages you to step outside of the box and create a system that works best for you. While it was challenging to go against the grain and do something that I hadn't seen anyone else in my industry doing, I couldn't be more pleased with the outcome. I'm unashamed to tell Jake that he was right on this one - his "crazy" idea was the solution to one of the biggest challenges I faced in my business!
How have you streamlined your client process? What are some of your biggest struggles you face in managing your clients?