6 Business Documents We Can’t Live Without

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When you’re launching a new business focused on creative services, it’s easy to get caught up in what you’re presenting to the world — after all, potential clients are basing much of their decision on whether they should hire you or not on the quality of your portfolio. They’re also skimming your About page to see if there’s a common ground with what you offer and what they want. And, if you have testimonials and a list of past clients, they’re most likely glancing over those, too to make sure you’re reputable.

While all of this public-facing information is incredibly important, the behind the scenes, often boring admin tasks are equally so. Before launching We Are Branch, I made sure that I had all the documents in place that I would potentially need from my first contact with a client through the project’s delivery.

Today, we’re going to talk about the role each individual document plays in the process. Each of these documents works together as part of a system to make sure our process runs smoothly from start to finish.

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1. Price List: If a client inquires about a particular service, we start by forwarding them our price list which lists entry level rates and descriptions of packages so that they have a ballpark figure of what to expect. This saves us time from having to repeatedly modify the same form emails and looks a lot more professional.

2. Process Sheet: Since our branding services are our most popular AND they require the most steps to complete, we provide clients interested in these packages with a PDF listing all the steps so that they have a better idea of what to expect. Branding doesn’t just magically happen; it takes weeks of learning and research on both our parts to come up with the best possible solution. A lot of clients have never worked with a designer before so this reassures them that each step is not only necessary but will also help them achieve the best results for their business.

3. Project Estimate: When a client follows up to our price list email and is interested in working with us, this is the time where we get the conversation started and request more detailed information about their project scope while also discussing time frames. Based on the details, we put together an estimate sheet which lists descriptions of the services they’ve requested as well as the total investment it will take to complete.

4. Proposal and Contract: Once a client agrees to our estimate, we make it official and forward them a proposal. The proposal is by far the most detailed of our documents and features the scope of work we discussed in the estimate, a work plan that lists milestones broken down by week and finally, the contract which both parties must sign before work can begin.

5. Invoice: All of our projects require a 50% deposit to begin and to be placed in our queue, the client must pay the first invoice. Our invoice lists all the basics: The date it was issued, our contact information, the client’s contact information, the payment terms, the invoice number, the job description, the rate for the project and the total due (which is always clearly called out at the bottom of the invoice).

6. Client Questionnaire: Finally, a questionnaire provides clients with a clear understanding of which information we find most valuable when we’re working together. Because a lot of our clients are more visual, we include two sample studies from past clients which outline their responses and the moodboards that followed (moodboards are completed in the next step of the process so it helps them to start thinking ahead).

Yes, this is a lot of documents to have on hand! But, having a clear process in place before you agree to do any work will make your life a whole lot easier. And having records of which document you’ve sent out and when will make the whole process less confusing. We have all of our documents and the steps of our process listed in Google Drive and each time a step is completed, we record it.

Talking documents gets a bit dull and heavy so we’ll end it here — do you have any specific questions about these documents that we didn’t cover?

4 thoughts on “6 Business Documents We Can’t Live Without

  1. This is great! Are you able to post your price list and process sheet so other creatives can see an example? Thank you & congrats on your new venture!

    1. Michelle: At this time, our price list is private, just because it’s baseline rates and not necessarily an accurate representation of what a job will actually cost but as time goes on, we may change this policy. And the process one is also tricky because each freelancer and studio has a very particular method for doing things — but we see how this would be helpful to see, formatting-wise. Down the road, we’re considering offering templates to make these forms easier for other creatives to customize and use themselves.

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