Last November, Rowan Made went from and “I” to a “we” after bringing Phalen on as a contract designer. Since then, I’ve received a lot of questions from other designers about how we work together and what our partnership is like. So! I thought I’d answer those right here by giving you all a little behind the scenes peek.
When I first set out to hire a designer, I knew that I didn’t want a full-time employee, but somebody who was already freelancing on their own with time to spare. And that’s exactly where Phalen falls. She works at home and has her own business, but is able to jump on board as a contract designer whenever the Rowan Made schedule is too much for me to handle on my own.
This boils down to her leading anywhere from 1-3 projects at a time, which allows us to serve more clients at once rather than me stalling out at my own capacity.
Now, there’s a variety of ways that you can work with contract designers, but I’ve chosen to keep things as straightforward as possible. So for all branding projects that Phalen agrees to work on, our task delegation looks a little something like this:
— Bre: client communication, brand strategy creation, art direction
— Phalen: concept development, refinement, final file prep
This pre-defined split allows me to divide the overall project cost in two, where each of us gets paid a certain “task based” percentage. All of our clients pay flat fees based on whatever it is that they’re hiring us to do, so it didn’t make sense to mess around with hourly rates. Plus, this solution let’s us both know exactly how much we’re getting paid at the beginning of a project, which is nice. :)
To better explain HOW we work together, I thought it’d be easiest to walk you through the general flow of a collaborative project, step by step:
01. ONBOARDING: For projects that Phalen agrees to, I begin onboarding clients into our system just as I’ve always done through Asana. I actually wrote a post about this a few weeks back right here, just in case you’re curious.
02. BRAND STRATEGY: As mentioned above, I’ve chosen to handle brand strategy creation for each and every project that we take on here at Rowan Made. While it’s a great checkpoint for all of our clients, I also like to think of it as a creative brief for Phalen so that she can fully immerse herself into the brand before heading into concept development.
Once she’s done that, we have a super casual “check in” meeting over Slack where we chat about the project and what we each visualize for the brand. We’re both very efficient and generally agreeable about next steps, so it never takes more than 15-30 minutes of back and forth.
03. CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT: Once we’re feeling good about the general direction of a brand, Phalen begins concept development. Our timeline is always the same, so one week in, she’ll share her artboard through Dropbox and we’ll meet up again in Slack to discuss overall progress.
At this point, there is generally a clear winner on which concept is the strongest and we’ll chat about what’s working as well as where there’s room to grow or refine. Although I definitely take lead as an art director, I’m all about open + honest communication, and make sure that Phalen is very much a part of the decision making process every step of the way.
After our discussion, Phalen will take everything we’ve discussed, make changes, and input the final selects into a brand presentation template that I gave her (for consistency), which typically takes about a week.
04. PRESENTATION + REFINEMENT: Since I handle client communication, it’s my job to present concepts and guide feedback. And if any follow up meetings are needed for clarity, I’ll handle those as well. Luckily, a lot of this happens in Asana, so it’s extremely easy for Phalen to follow along and stay informed.
Once everything is settled, I’ll check in with Phalen on Slack to catch her up and go over next steps. She’ll then implement any changes and put together another presentation for the first round of refinement. And since we offer TWO rounds of refinement, we’ll simply repeat the whole process one more time if needed.
05. FINALIZE: Once everything has been finalized, Phalen will prep all of the final files and put together a branding package for our clients. And once the client has paid in full, I will forward along said package and tie up any loose ends.
Both Phalen and myself work at home, which means that systems have been integral in keeping things efficient. I know I’ve briefly mentioned a few above, but here’s a better overview of what we use:
01. SLACK: At its core, Slack is a platform that allows you to communicate with others. We make sure that we’re both logged in while working so that we can easily reach each other when needed.
The nice thing about Slack is that they let you set up different “channels,” so you can organize your conversations in a way that makes sense. We have one “general” channel for randomness, followed by channels for each individual project so that everything else can remain organized.
02. DROPBOX: Both Phalen and myself were already using Dropbox for file storage, so it was extremely easy for us to connect and share files. We pour all of our collaborative work into one shared folder (and subsequent sub-folders) so that everything is synced and accessible.
03. ASANA: All of our project management happens within Asana, which I’ve already written about right here and here. While Slack is great for internal chatter, Asana has been absolutely key for client communication. And since Phalen is marked as a team member, she can see everything and interact when needed.
I can’t begin to tell you how much time this saves. I don’t have to worry about copy and pasting or reiterating client conversations into another platform (like email or Slack), because it’s all in one place that Phalen has access to and can follow along. Win win.
So there you have it! An overview of how I’ve chosen to bring on and work with a contract designer. There’s obviously a lot of routes you can take, but this is simply the one that worked best for me. I’m sure things will change and refine over time, especially if any other designers are added on, but for now, this works. And for that, I’m grateful. :)