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The Briefing

5 May 2007

Articles, Freelancing

The Briefing
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Briefing is a communication instrument between the designer and the client in form of key questions to know their needs at the time of designing any product by order. It will save you time, money and misfortunes.

To give the Briefing is the first this you should do, even before the estimate… If you don’t know your client’s needs, how are you going to calculate the time you’ll spend working?

You can do it in a more or less formal way; many freelance designers talk in plural and try to make people think they are a big company with dozens of employees… to try to look serious is ok, but there’s no need to lie, being a freelance designer also has some advantages.

I talk to clients in an informal way, after all, personal relations are the ones that move the world… and that has many advantages if you know how to use them.

Once you’re done with the Briefing and everything is negotiated, I recommend that both of you sign, that’ll work like a contract.

Ok, this is what every single designer manual will say… but we are Newbies (and we are proud of it :P ) and freelancers, and our clients aren’t huge companies with millions of dollars to make market research, they are generally people with just a few methods of research and too little time to spend it in lots of formularies.

Your job isn’t just designing what you are asked and do it well, but also to help the client exteriorize its needs… here’s the real art, you have to find the balance between quickness and precision. It’s useless the bore the client with an endless list of questions, but you can’t start with the design if you don’t have any idea of their needs; keep that in mind.

I’ll show you now the most common questions; you have to choose which ones are the more appropriate for every project and client. There are no rules, just common sense.

Welcome to the world of freelance designers, flexibility… every day’s bread… so "Be water my friend".

Company’s profile and goals

Ask for a general and sincere description of the company we are going to design for:

  • What does the company do?
  • For how long has it been working?
  • How many employees does it have?
  • What’s its sector of the market?

It’s also important to know the company’s goals; after all we’re hired to get to those goals, some examples:

  • Generate sales?
  • Generate incomes by publicity?
  • Gain subscribers?
  • Get to know their clients?
  • Get a visible presence on the internet?

The product

Considering products in the ample sense of the word, the company can be the product itself:

  • Which ones are the main benefits of the product?
  • What makes this product unique?
  • Why would the audience be interested in this product?
  • Which qualities are wanted to stand our and which ones aren’t?


Another important point is the competition; it’s always difficult to establish goals from nothing so taking like an example other businesses can be very beneficial:

  • Which ones are the main competitors?
  • Which position has our client about their competitors?
  • What position aspires to occupy?


To whom it goes directed our message? We have to know our audience; for that we can ask:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Salary
  • Occupation
  • Localization

Communication objectives

Here we’ll recollect information about the visual aspect and the emotional answer that our client wants to provoke in its audience.

  • Visual aspect: elegant or entertaining, modern or classic, formal or informal… ask for some examples of designs that their customers may like.
  • Feelings to generate in the audience: excitation or calm, security or risk, curiosity or desire…

Production process

Raise a date for the original concepts, for revisions, the final design… also add a reasonable time margin in case unexpected things come up.

It’s good to clarify that the completion of the dates doesn’t depend exclusively on you, and to make them know they are an active part of the process. Imagine that every time you send an email they take a week to answer it, that way you’ll never fulfill the dates no matter how hard you work.

Ask if there are any special circumstances that can delay the process, for example parties or important events.

It’s also good to ask things like:

  • Who will provide the text or photos in case you need them?
  • How many concepts do you offer to choose the final design?
  • Number of final designs and formats in which you will work?
  • Media to which is destined: printing, web, DVD…


Maybe what you were waiting for. It’s the worst part… how do I know how much I need to charge?

I recommend to establish a price per hour (for example 30US$/h) y calculate the number of hours you’ll spend with this work (for example 10 hours… so I’ll charge 300US$).

Don’t follow what others tell you, they might charge 9000US$ for just 1 logo… and they probably deserve it, the thing is if you have a client who can pay that amount.

It’s always good to show to the client that you are a flexible person, and that the estimate will vary depending on things like the number of initial sketches, of revisions, delivery date… if you are not sure, ask freely their budget and negotiate from there; consider the possibility that the client and you may not get to an arrangement… you don’t have to force the situation.

Other important questions:

  • Payment methods (banking transference, paypal, epassporte, western union…)
  • If some percentage will be paid in advance (recommended 30-50%), according to my experience, if he pays in advance it wont fail.
  • If there is some refund policy in case they don’t get the expected results; my suggestion is that you should offer it. If somebody contacts you it’s because thy like your work… if you try hard everything should be ok. In Sosfactory we just had to refund twice in 3 years.


You can offer limited reproduction rights (for example, for just one use) or unlimited (without restrictions).

In theory, if you sell the unlimited reproduction rights, you should charge a lot more… but going back to the freelance designer’s reality, this is very hard to do… if it’s a big company you should try it, if it’s a small one, fight to get a fair pay, but take into account their limitations.

If they ask for something very unfair, it might be better if you reject the job… what starts bad generally ends bad, you’ll just get to burn yourself. Just think there will be plenty of opportunities to show what you are worth.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 58 posts on SOSFactory Blog.

My name’s Sergio Ordoñez I´m illustrator, graphic and web designer. A selection of my work is included at SOSFactory. If you want to support this blog, please be an active member: tweet the posts, participate in the discussions and the exercises :)

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  • Sergio Ordonez

    Hola Adrián,

    el formulario lo tiene que rellenar quien puede rellenarlo, el cliente. Lo que si es verdad que muchos clientes salen corriendo cuando les pides que hagan los deberes.

    En mi caso el tí­tulo no vale para nada, si quieres ser asalariado entonces sí­ cuenta un poco más. Yo desconfiarí­a de una empresa que me contrate sólo por el tí­tulo, lo que realmente deberí­a contar es lo que sabes hacer.

    Saludos :)

  • Fernando

    Hola Sergio, lo del briefing si que es muy importante hecerlo, porque muchas veces he perdido el tiempo al no saber las necesidades de un cliente y rehacer un diseño. Y mientras más información tengamos será mejor.

    Lo que comentas que para ti el titulo no vale nada,discrepo ya que tengo entendido que llevaste la carrera de Psicologia, si no hubiese sido importante, hubieses aprendido por tu cuenta. La pregunta que me hago y a ver si lo tocas, es porque aún en muchos paises el diseño gráfico no es considerado una carrera universitaria. Sobre todo el internet, el diseño esta cada vez y se ira abarcando cada vez más, lo que a muchos nació como un hobbie, se puede llevar a nivel profesional, y no estar menos valorados que otras carreras.


  • Sergio Ordonez

    Hola Fernando, sobre lo del briefing totalmente de acuerdo.

    Sobre lo del tí­tulo, no hablarí­a de forma tan rotunda, hay carreras como Psicologí­a, Medicina o Derecho en las que es imprescindible un tí­tulo para ejercer. En otras como diseño gráfico depende de las aspiraciones laborales, si quieres trabajar como freelance no le veo mucha utilidad, la verdad.

    En muchas paí­ses es cierto que no llega a considerarse como carrera universitaria o se incluyen dentro de la carrera de comunicación audiovisual, ¿por qué? eso me pregunto yo :)

  • Diana

    Hola, Sergio, este artículo me ha sido muy útil y práctico, ya que lo apliqué con mi primer cliente :P he visto que otros diseñadores usan formas de diseño hechas en pdf, son cuestionarios, y no sé hasta qué punto es mejor hacer las preguntas directamente por email, o usar estas formas, me imagino que depende del tipo de cliente. Saludos.

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  • L3oX

    Muchas gracias hermano sigo pensando que eres el mejor no solo por tus dibujo si no por tu soliraridad con la poblacion de diseñadores que nos estamos creando gracias a tus ejemplos, aqui te coloco uno de mis trabajos antes de ver tus tecnicas de dibujo, ahorita estoy trabajando mas en mejorar mis dibujos con tus tecnicas, aqui te lo dejo:

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  • Katy

    Wow muchas gracias! Creo que aprendo mas de ti que de mis maestros :)

  • Jonathan

    Very useful your advises, thanks a lot!!