19 Feb Creating a credentials document for designers
Designers, you know what it takes for you to do your job well. You know the hours you put in that the client never sees – or pays for.
You do it for the love of the craft. For the sheer joy you get creating something from nothing. You should take your skill and self worth more seriously and share that with your clients in a comprehensive credentials document.
With a solid credentials document you can outline the value you bring to each project before the pushing of the first pixels. Maybe then you can feel confident charging what you’re worth.
The new designer is a collaborator, communicator, technological thinker, project manager, print buyer and more.
A great place to start is with a solid credentials document that communicates to your clients the true benefits of working with you.
Credential documents or proposal documents are daunting if you’re a one person band. Working out where to start is often the hardest part. So below I’ve outlined a decent structure that has worked for me many times – also for a few agencies too.
The long and short of it
A credentials document is not a pitch document. A pitch document should be something short and sweet and something you’ll often present in person.
Your credentials document is something you can attached to quotes and proposals and often writing it can help you create your pitch documents.
This is by no means the only way to create a credentials document. I encourage other agencies to weigh in and share what they have learned from experience too.
The structure of a credentials document
Articulating your unique selling point in a concise way will help you connect with like minded clients. And like minded clients are the best clients to work for.
Your value proposition is your place to speak up about what you believe in and hope that it resonates with your client.
Be honest, authentic and a little bit salesy.
No one wants to work with a client who doesn’t believe in the same things they do. It only creates friction at every stage of the relationship ending in a result where no one walks away happy.
Clients want to know how you do what you do so they can understand how to work with you. If you have a unique process for tackling projects then guide them through it.
An example is:
Briefing – A moment to sit down with the client and listen to their insights, thoughts and professional opinions. You can ask lots of questions – stupid and smart. The objective is to gain a strong understanding of the brief, the wider landscape and the desired result.
The team – Who will work on this project? Will you need to bring in writers, illustrators, developers? This is the time to build your team and begin structuring a project timeline so that efficiencies are built into the project.
Rebriefing – Often this is a great way to hone your understanding of the brief. Read the original brief, combine it with all your insights, shorten it, then present it back to your client. This will ensure you haven’t missed anything important.
Research – This is your chance to go deep on demographics, trends, competitors and more. Immerse yourself in the subject matter and the customer. The more time you spend at this stage the better equipped you’ll be when it comes time to present your ideas.
Ideas – At this stage you’ll have a sound understanding of the clients value proposition and be generating ideas on how you can communicate it. Stress test those ideas, let them sit for a while then kill the ones that don’t meet the budget or the timeline.
Pixels – Now’s the time to push some pixels. Create your key visuals put it all together in a robust presentation format (more on that on in a later post) and practice the sell.
Campaign – After all the back and forth and pats on the back it’s time to make it a reality. Build the campaign one piece at a time and according to a predetermined action plan.
Quality assurance – You can’t afford to have a campaign go out with a mistake. So here’s the stage where you thoroughly triple check everything over before hitting the print button.
Execute – This is where you hand over all high quality files in an organised packaged. Run a final check and pat backs.
Follow up – Stay in touch. Make sure there are no issues. You have just sent one of your children out into the world. There’s no harm in following up and checking everything is ok.
This is your opportunity to share your relevant experience with your client.
Clients want to work with people that understand the problems they are facing. Build a suite of short case studies that you can cherry pick to include here. Remember, you only need to pick the stories that are relevant though.
You can include a nice logo library of your client list and even better if you have a few client testimonials.
Who are you really? Take a moment to share all the finer details. The ABN, the address, the contact details.
Follow up with a complete run down of the team who’ll be working on the job. You can include your direct design team, writers, illustrators, printers, photographers, developers and even client service people.
If you have a employment philosophy or workplace standard you can include it here. Maybe you’re one of the growing number of designers who’ve adopted the ‘social contract’. If so, share it.
Can you do the job you say you can do? Do you have an ‘always up’ internet policy? Do you have the right computers for the job?
While a client will expect you to have the necessary tools there is no harm in going the extra mile.
Mention your backup system, environmental credentials, on-site photography studio or anything else that adds value to your service offering.
The project doesn’t end when you hand over the final files. It’s always great to follow up so you can learn to make improvements in the future.
Set a meeting up to find out how the work was received, whether the campaign was successful and if there were any procedural recommendations for the future.
Risk and compliance
Risk and compliance is one of the most important aspects of your design studio. Ensuring the safety of client data and your own, is increasingly important these days.
You should have a plan for software failure, data failure, fire, flood or worse. This is necessary so that you can continue to provide services in the event of something bad happening.
Are you providing a quote or rate card? You can put this here.
The final step is to include a project timeline that meets the brief deadline. This is important if your document forms part of a proposal or quote.
The other benefit of doing this shows how much time and effort goes in to ensure project success.
Knowing you have your credentials finalised can be a relaxing thought.
You’ll always need to tailor it for individual proposals and you’ll come to know it through and through – Because of this you can confidently adjust your spiel on the fly.
My final thoughts is that you should remember to add your own personal brand to your credentials. Stand out from the crowd. When used as part of your wider brand collateral and marketing, they can make all the difference in how professional and valuable your business is seen.