What do you think…
Have we officially moved beyond that stage of online business evolution where you could get away with crappy design if you had incredibly useful or engaging content?
For the most part I’d say that’s a resounding “Yes”! Our worldly online travels are becoming more and more aesthetically pleasing by the day.
Sure, there are exceptions — there are still business owners successfully generating revenue online with outdated or cluttered looking websites, most often with a well established audience and brand authority to pick up the slack.
But if you’re in the early stages of building your audience and business through content marketing, then you just can’t afford to overlook the importance of design.
I’m always on the lookout for tips to get the best possible result and smoothest collaboration process working with exceptional designers on behalf of our clients, so I reached out to Molly Prior, owner at Pixel & Oak, for some insider info!
Use the guidance she shared below to help plan out your design needs and then get that information across to your freelance designer in the most effective way.
Molly Prior – Owner, Designer at Pixel & Oak
1. Share the Pixel & Oak story with us. What prompted you to start your own design business? What was your background beforehand?
To put it simply: I love creating. Design has always been a major part of my life, and I realized very quickly that I wanted to pursue it professionally. So, when I was a teenager, I began to practice using design software and teaching myself how to code.
I didn’t consider starting my own business until I was in college. I actually decided to pursue a degree in Internet Marketing (to enhance my skillset with a marketing education), and my initial goal was to work for an advertising agency or to design in-house.
However, this goal changed when I interned for two entrepreneurs before graduating. I loved working with them and getting a behind the scenes look into owning a small business. Their hard work and dedication to their businesses was so inspiring, and I became intrigued with the idea of working for myself and breaking free from the traditional career mold.
But, since life happens (hello student loans!), starting my own business immediately after graduation was not a viable option for me. So, I ended up working in a full-time marketing and design position for an outdoor apparel brand. After about four years of honing my skills and preparing for my career transition, I was finally ready to quit my 8-5 and pour all my effort into starting my own business. Thus, Pixel & Oak was born!
2. What tips would you share with a business owner or virtual assistant who wants to reach out to an in-demand designer, and provide them with the most helpful and clear project brief they possibly can?
When approaching a designer for the first time, start the conversation with a concise outline of your project. Personally, I prefer inquiries that are proactive, which typically include the following information upfront:
- Brand Details
- Tagline / Mission Statement
- Product / Services
- Target Market
- Ideal Project Timeline
- Project Description
- Project Goals
- Project Budget
This may seem like a lot of information to provide initially, but it will help the designer decide if your project is a good fit and if it works with their schedule (this is especially important for in-demand designers). From there, you can work together to hash out the rest of the details.
3. For someone who has an online launch or product creation phase coming up soon, what tips would you share for planning out the design elements and having it all flow seamlessly?
Have a content strategy in place first.
This is essential to have before the design process begins. A great design is strategic – it is crafted specifically for your content with your target market in mind. While the content doesn’t have to be final, it should communicate a clear message and vision.
Content strategy isn’t just about copy. It includes images, too!
You can research images beforehand, or ask your designer for help choosing them. Like your copy, your images should appropriately portray your vision.
4. How do graphic design retainers work? What kind of design work might this be a good option for?
A design retainer is an agreement between a designer and client, where the designer provides a flat fee for work or time during a specific time period (ex: x amount of hours for $x per month).
Retainers are beneficial for both parties because:
- The designer receives a predictable, consistent income from the client.
- The client is guaranteed a certain amount of work (often at a discounted price) from the designer. It is, however, up to the client to provide enough work to “use up” the retainer.
Retainers are useful for on-going projects, like:
- Website Maintenance
- Blog Management
- Social Media Graphics
- Product Design
If you’re looking to set up a retainer with a designer, try establishing a relationship with them first through individual projects. This will allow you to see how well you work with each other before committing long term.
5. What tips would you share with business owners who’d like to work with both a professional designer and a virtual assistant in the creation of design elements for their online presence and products.
Stay true to your brand.
This is why having a brand board so important. A brand board is a collection of visual elements used to convey a brand’s values and personality. It includes elements like your logo, color palette, fonts, etc.
When you have a designer or virtual assistant create graphics for your business, send them your brand board so they have a guide to follow. This will ensure you maintain a cohesive visual identity.
6. The new Pixel & Oak site has just launched! How did you go about the planning process and design decisions working on your own site?
My new site has been a long time coming, and I’m so happy to have finally launched! One of the funniest (and frustrating) parts of being a designer is designing for myself. I realize that may sound strange, but designing for others is so much easier for me. I am my own worst critic.
I spent a lot of time in Asana (my favorite tool ever) during the entire process. I went from designing and writing copy for 4 pages to 15+, and that was a huge leap for me (and that doesn’t even include my new blog)!
So to keep everything organized, I created a main project in Asana with a task and individual sub-tasks for each page and design element. That way, I didn’t forget a page or element of a page (like seo, link checking, troubleshooting, etc). Staying organized was especially important because I was working on my new site on top of my client work, and I didn’t want anything slip through the cracks.
All in all, I’m very proud of my new site, and I hope you all like it, too! My next project involves my free resource library, so be on the lookout.
Are you a virtual assistant, creative freelancer or online business owner? Sign up here on Pixel & Oak to get notified when Molly’s free design resource library launches soon!
If you’d like to find out if Molly is available for custom design work, either for your own business or that of your client’s, you can check out her range of services and get in touch right here.