How I won design work with RIBA

'Who you know' can break the mould

For freelance designers like me, high-profile organisations and big-name companies are reachable as clients only by working through a creative agency or recruiter. But who you know, on top of what you know, can really make a difference if, as a freelancer, you want your portfolio of work to contain an established brand or an 'A-list' organisation.

Step up where rivals stumble

For me, the 'who you know' was Aubrey Kurlansky of Aubrey Kurlansky Design. Thanks to a spot of networking, I found Aubrey and started collaborating with his graphic design studio which, at the time, was less than thrilled with development work done on the studio's behalf. This was concerning to him because the studio's client was the prestigious RIBA - the Royal Institute of British Architects, which had engaged Aubrey for his print design and branding services.

Be measured but sell, sell, sell

I moved to assure him that the interactive part of the RIBA project, which the developer was working on, could still be delivered inside the original deadline if I was to come in on the project. I pledged that me and my company, Sakr Design, replacing the existing developer would ensure no more nasty surprises for him, his design studio or the end-client. I also promised that all communications about the project to RIBA would be taken over seamlessly and with professionalism.

The project ***image1***

After some consideration from him, Aubrey invited me to work on the interactive project! He still wasn't happy with the developers he was using and my pitch paid off. As I have some background in architecture, I found both the client and the project interesting, as it was designing an interactive DVD for RIBA's ‘Presidents' Medals Student Awards,’ pictured.

Working freelance

We set about agreeing everything we wanted to do in the collaboration before actually starting the work. For my part, I wrote the design brief where I explained what would be done and how; in what timeline, the costs and payment schedule. I also helped him with the design of the DVD packaging, specifically by making it user-friendly and by choosing the right functionality. Although I hopefully provided overall support on the project, freelancers with niche skills should be comfortable to show themselves as specialists first, and generalists second, as I strived to do.

Happy endings make you more popular

We developed the product, as envisioned. More importantly, we delivered it within RIBA's original deadline, saving my blushes as well. The institute was very happy with the result, and they started following us instantly as 'Friends' on Facebook! Their payment for the project was received promptly and without hiccup. We did send them a reminder about a week before the payment due date, as freelancers have been advised.

Put faces to names

This design project for a high-profile outfit in my sector would have not come about if I had not been actively meeting people in person. As a freelancer, your abilities to listen and respond to the needs of a potential client, deal-maker or subcontractor are heightened if you meet the party face-to-face.

Keep a close eye on delivery

Once engaged on the project, I made sure that I showed that I was a specialist, and aimed at excelling in those areas which I was brought in for. As I did in this project, freelancers should also earn the trust of the engaging party, whether it be a sub-contractor, agency or end-client. Most crucially, ensure throughout your freelance placement that the client feels that you understand their needs, and be seen to be responding to those needs, whether they were part of the original brief or whether they evolved as the project progressed.

Freelance Alliance member Sasha Kader is a freelance designer and digital specialist, and is the managing director of Sakr Design Limited.



2nd June 2010

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