Gain clients and avoid stress with a solid design brief

tweet share share pin email

Every designer wants more clients. More clients usually equates to more income, so it is important to do your best and secure a project from each prospect who engages in your services. Yet securing these projects, and turning prospects into clients, should not depend on just a verbal agreement of terms. No matter your skill level or years in business, a designer or web developer should not enter into a project with a client without a contract. Equally important, however, is the process that takes place usually before the contract is issued: the creative brief.

The creative brief (also known as a design brief) is a series of questions to ask the prospect. It can help vet a prospect and ensure this is the type of prospect you are desiring to work with. A good creative brief can also help answer some questions you may have prior to issuing either a proposal or a contract, thus projecting a more professional image toward the designer. Here’s a few topics that may be listed on the creative brief:

What is the scope of your project?

This is a good time to find out exactly what the client is looking to have done. Questions should include size, color, CTA (call to action), timeframe, and whether this is for online or offline marketing.

What is your expected ROI for this project?

This question can help determine whether or not the ROI envisioned by the client is actually attainable, reasonable or unrealistic. For example, a client may decide in order for you to get paid, they have to achieve $x in one month from the web ad you create. Not only is this unrealistic, it is unprofessional to engage with a company and withhold payment unless “they win”.

☘ Bad luck with clients? Trade your worst clients for some of the best companies in the world. Real clients with real budgets are hiring freelancers like you. Click here to learn more.

For whom is this work is being created?

The target market or audience should always been top of mind when creating any marketing piece. If you are creating a brochure for a eldercare nursing home, for example, you would probably not opt to use a grunge font or background. Likewise, if you are creating a web design comp for a security company, you might opt for a chain-link fence or coloring that aligns with local law enforcement. Help your client realize that, yes, everyone could use his services/products — including children — but can everyone afford it? If the answer here is no — and it should be — this should help give your client a basis to start a character sketch for his perfect client.

What content, images, etc. are being provided by the client?

As you gather the information, each entry should have an initial line of either being provided by the client or by yourself. This details not only what the project will require, but who is accountable for it. This is important to determine up front, particularly when a payment schedule is set up with timelines for each phase completion. No surprises makes a happy client and a happy designer.

What uses/formats will the work be used for?

This is another critical component for both the quote and the contract. For example, the client may only have told you they needed a website redesign, yet in talking with the client at the kick-off meeting they tell you they need new printed marketing material as well. The more you find out before issuing a quote or contract, the more professional you look, and the more accurate your numbers will be.

You'll also enjoy this episode of our new podcast...

Who is marketing this created work?

It is a very good idea to work directly with the person who will be marketing this created collateral piece because he or she should know the prospects and/or target market intimately, and can therefore help guide you in the design process. It is also likely that, through colloboration, you both will discover another new target market to try and reach.

Who makes the final decisions and sign-off regarding this project?

This is perhaps the most critical portion of the creative brief. If your client is a school, you may have to obtain approval from a school board. If your client is a larger company, you may have to work through a layered approval process. It may take several weeks or months before your labors come to fruition, but do not let that deter you from pursuing that prospect.

Your turn to talk. What questions do you ask in your design brief?

These are a few suggestions of what you should include in your design brief. I would like to hear your thoughts, and in particular, what is included in your design brief that is working for you that was not covered in this conversation.

tweet share share pin email

Say Goodbye to Roller Coaster Income

Your income doesn't have to be a guessing game every month. Let 4 thriving solopreneurs show you how in our free guide.

Related video:
About Lisa Raymond

Leave a Comment



  1. I always present a designer brief, It only takes less than 5 minutes for my prospects to fill out. Without it, I do not give a quote unless the job is very simple. If they shy away from filling out the brief, then I know they were not serious about their business. My briefs are done in an online format so that they can quickly fill it out and hit send. If you have first time meetings or phone consultation afterward, it can assist in going over some of the questions that were not answered and clarifying them before giving a quote.

    • @behzad, Well said! Some designers may opt to not use a brief because “the job is too small”. What I’ve come to learn is, no job is too small for a brief. You made some great points, thanks for the comments! 🙂

    • @behzad, I wouldn’t say that clients that shy away from completing a brief means they are not serious about their business. What I’ve learned so far is that they have trouble expressing what they need and what they like or want. And this is precisely where the designer needs to come in and help clients with a well-thought out solution. Being highly visual about these things helps immensely. Plus it’s quite a gain to prevent these clients from renouncing your services.

  2. This is the ‘logistical’ part of the project scope which involves what many designers simply hate, administrative work. However, it couldn’t be any less stressed than the points entered in this article. Clients usually hate being asked a ton of questions but if you’re able to convince them and have them answer 90% if not all your queries, then you’re on the road to success.

    Understanding the client’s needs should be placed first and foremost. No point giving them all the bells and whistles, only in the end to let them tell you it’s not what they were looking for in the first place.

  3. it would be helpful if you could provide a list of questions too.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Pablo Lara H, Paul Lonsdale, interaction designer, soshableweb, PonsCreative and others. PonsCreative said: Gain clients and avoid stress with a solid design brief #webdesign #design […]

  2. […] Gains Clients & Avoid Stress with a Solid Design Brief We’ve talked about design briefs before; this article takes it a bit further. Have a read, freelancers! […]

  3. […] What is your story? Do you have an online shop or planning to launch one for yourself or one of your clients? What do you think about these […]


Need more clients?

Download our free guide:
25 Top Freelance Job Sites for Real Clients with Big Budgets