7. Project Management

Every freelance graphic design project, from the very simple to the very complex, has about 20 distinct steps, or “milestones.”

Here’s some eye-opening news: You can’t collect your deposit check, which means you can’t begin work on a client’s project, until you complete SIX of these milestones. If your sales presentations are consistently poor, your closing ratio is going to be disappointing. Which means you’re going to end up doing a lot of work — usually the first six steps over and over again — for FREE.

So…if you have arrived here without thoroughly reading and understanding The Sales Presentation Workshop, please read it now, then come back. I’ll wait.

Back already? Let’s continue…
The following 20-step outline follows a typical graphic design project from start to finish. Except for the obvious exceptions, the milestones are the same whether you are working on a print project or a website.

On the left I have listed the actions you need to take in order to successfully complete your project. The column on the right lists the forms that you should be using to keep your project on track.


Project Milestones
Form(s) to Use
1 Obtain company information and project goals from client. Client Profile

2 Rough out a Production Schedule. Production Schedule,
Project Flowchart

3 Are you going to need help? Now is the time to contact all subcontractors (i.e. Printer, Photographer, Copywriter, Programmer). Request For Bid

4 Work up pricing information. Price Estimate Worksheet, Price Quote

5 Finalize Production Schedule. Production Schedule, Project Flowchart

6 Meet with client to review project goals, present pricing, obtain a signed Agreement/Work Order AND pick up the deposit check. Production Schedule, Project Flowchart, Price Quote, General Working Agreement, Proposal Letter, Work Order, Invoice

7 Begin work on project! Work In Progress, Project Time Sheet

8 Meet with your subcontractors (Photographer, Copywriter, Programmer, etc.) to review the project. Production Schedule (copies for each)
Project Milestones
Form(s) to Use
9 Client meeting to present first roughs, ideas, preliminary copy. Change Order

10 Continue work on project. Project Status Report (to client as req’d), Project Time Sheet, Internal Work In Progress

11 Client meeting to approve work to date. Change Order

12 If required, supervise/art direct photo shoot or taping session. Model Release

13 Prepare mechanicals or digital files for printer. Proof Checklist

14 Client meeting to approve mechanicals and/or final proof. Proof Checklist, Change Order

15 Revisions/corrections if needed, otherwise obtain client approval signatures. Proof Checklist

16 Deliver mechanicals/digital files to printer. Printing Instructions

17 Client meeting to approve blueline and/or color proof. Change Order

18 Press approval. None

19 Billing. Project Expenses, Project Billing Worksheet, Invoice

20 Bookkeeping. Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Statement

I bet that clears up a lot of questions, doesn’t it? Professional freelancers only look like they’re winging it!

Armed with this outline and a good set of forms, you can manage several projects of varying complexity, all with different time lines, concurrently, and without confusion.

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