Important production tip for freelance graphic designers.

DON’T ASSUME. We all know what that makes out of you and me.

One of the biggest differences between being a freelance graphic designer and a staff designer is that the freelancer doesn’t always have control over the vendor chosen to produce a particular job. I’m specifically referring to a printer. Many times I have to deal with a printer that either the client has contracted or one that the agency for whom I’m working for has chosen. And that’s all fine and dandy. My advice to all freelancers is to be aggressive, pro-active and insist that as the designer you get yourself involved with that vendor as early-on in the project as possible. Request that you talk directly with that vendor – most importantly with the production department and not just the sales representative – or if you’re working with an agency, work very closely with their production manager. All too often we’re requested to design and fulfill a project not really knowing all the exact production expectations. And that should never happen.

DON’T ASSUME that whatever you design can be produced. The chosen vendor may not have the capability. Or, the design is not within the budget that was quoted. By involving yourself early-on everyone wins. The freelancer doesn’t spend unnecessary (and potentially unbillable) hours re-designing or re-working a project to fit specifications they were not unaware of, plus the client receives exactly what they were expecting without any production delays or cost over-runs.

This may all sound simple and part of the natural design/project process, but trust me, it’s way too easy to assume it’s not necessary only to have a simple project turn into a freelancers nightmare.

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Fun with Photoshop

Here’s some quick advice – have some fun with your computer imaging software.

Being a “professional” graphic artist my software of choice is Adobe Photoshop but there are lower octane versions of software that can do many of the same things. A lot of this software is free and/or preloaded on your computer.

With all of the social networking going on and the ease of posting and sending images why not consider having a little fun. It’s easy to manipulate and combine images quickly and easily. Just remember – MAKE SURE YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO USE THE IMAGES or that they are within public domain. It’s real easy getting images to use, but that doesn’t mean you have a legal right to use them. Even posting for personal use can be considered copyright infringement.

Here are a few quick and fun things I’ve done for a varitey of reasons along with a couple “serious” imaging done for marketing purposes.

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The Power of a Promotion or Give-away.

Promotional give-aways is nothing new when it comes to attracting customers. This is true whether you’re a B2B enterprise trying to attract decision-makers to your booth at a trade show, a dentist trying to develop a patient referral program, an ice cream shop trying to bring more customers in through the doors, or a hardwood floor installer trying to get more calls for estimates.

Although the end purpose for all the above may vary, the promotion itself should all have some common parameters:

  1. Offer something relevant and/or worthy of your company brand. The dentist shouldn’t be offering a $2 kazoo, and the ice cream shop needn’t offer a flat screen TV.
  2. If you are a product oriented business, consider offering discounts – buy one get one free, free shipping etc. If you are a service oriented business consider offering discounted services, or free product with reduced service costs.
  3. Be creative. Memorable offers attract attention. Consider offering a choice of prizes. Not everyone wants a free stay in a hotel, or a flat screen TV. Maybe offer to donate to a food bank, or charity in the name of the winner.
  4. For trade show exhibitors, consider pre-show mailing (or emailing) that will require the recipient to bring something to you at the show in return for entrance into a give-away. Try to keep your list as focused as possible on true decision-makers and attendees.

The Purpose
The main purpose of a give-away is to increase traffic that will lead to sales. But it is not the only reason to consider this type of marketing. You must think long-term affects. For some, the sales process is a long one and it is vitally important to develop dialog and an on-going relationship. Promotions and give-aways also help to develop brand loyalty – which must not be underestimated.

How To Develop Relationships
Buying habits have drastically changed. Technology is now second nature to most. Every give-away should require collection of an email address. At worst, have a line for it on an in-store sign-up sheet. At best, drive entrants to your web site to fill out a form.

The best way to develop dialog/loyalty is to collect data (primarily emails) and FOLLOW-UP. If possible, try to personally follow-up. Send unexpected coupons, offers or advice. The entrant made an effort to contact you, make it worth their effort.

If you have a large customer base (retail for example) consider an SMS (messages sent to mobile devices) program. Statistically more and more consumers are receiving information relevant to them this way.

The Execution
Reach the most appropriate group you are trying to attract. In other words, the dentist doesn’t need to be buying billboards to promote a patient referral program – in-office posters, postcards and emails are fine – but the hardwood floor installer may want to consider it.

Relevancy. The purpose of all marketing is to attract the most qualified customers. Any promotion needs to keep this in mind. If the floor installer is giving away a trip to Mexico he may get lots of sign-ups, but they may not be serious-customer leads. Giving away a free floor install may be a better option.

Whatever medium is used to promote the give-away (ad, billboard, radio, mailings etc) they should all drive the entrants to your web site to sign-up. Consider a special page like http://www.floorinstaller.com/freefloor. The reason for this is simple. If someone is willing to go to your site they’re already interested in you. Send them directly to the page you want them to go to. If you send them to your home page they may not navigate to the page you ultimately want them at.

It goes without saying that you should utilize all your inbound marketing and social/new media channels as well. Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube etc to get the word out, in order to get potential sales coming in.

A good promotion will generate plenty of leads. But those leads are only good if diligent follow-up accompanies them. Without the follow-up, you may be wasting valuable time and funds. So, as with any good vertical marketing program, focus and discipline are the keys to success. 

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