Now that’s a question all freelance designers must be asking themselves pretty much everyday.

In my case, I’m not even a freelancer. I’m supposed to be an entrepreneur! I’m playing the roles of hiring manager, trainer, mentor, designer, finance manager, data entry operator, consultant, art director and some I am not even aware of. Phew!

After four months of ad hoc work and no processes and systems – and after innumerable discussions – last week, I decided to create some documents to help smooth out the design process.

I’ve managed to create a simple, preliminary PowerPoint document, which would help even a newbie to understand how a design engagement works at this particular design studio.

This would help anyone to understand how the design process works at this particular design studio. We could even hand it out to clients from them to understand “What the hell do these guys actually do!?” – should be a lifesaver when faced with a client who has no clue what to expect.

I have also created a template for receiving Creative Briefs from clients.

I scoured the web for sample creative briefs and creative briefs that have been used by advertising agencies. While I got the general drift of how they are usually composed, I realised that I’d need something completely new for this particular design studio because of the way work is done here and the type of organization this is. It’s going to help us decide – before we start work – what the client has in mind. While I don’t intend to use it as the sole tool for understanding the client, it will help us get started and we’ll be able to elaborate on the requirements once we at least know where the client is going! It’s a 10 page document with the cover – I’m wondering if the length with be intimidating to a client – it’s actually a four page thing, but I’ve increased the font size and given ample space for replies, hence it goes on to nine pages. It’s an interactive PDF form that a client can fill and return via e-mail.

The third thing on my agenda is the creation of a template for a proposal that is presented to a client – to be signed and approved.

Till date we’ve not used a single “formal” document, except the estimates, bills and invoices – everything related to money. Not a single document related to deliverables and the design itself. Clients have turned around – midway through the engagement and said “Oh! I no longer need that envelope designed, I’m sourcing them from someone else. Please remove the charge for the same from the total bill” AND “I’ve spoken to the boss, we’re great friends and he’s agreed to reduce the price of the design engagement even further” after the design team has been working on the project for over three months! I’m hoping to completely do away with such clients and situations – terrible for the morale of the team.

The fourth thing would be a check-list that will help the designer stay in sync with the other parts of the design engagements [ for example job number, supervisor assigned to the job, a quick list of deliverables, some mandatories to be kept in mind, etc. ].

This would be a quick reminder of what the project is about, without going through the entire creative brief and the formal proposal to the client. One sheet of A5 paper that summarizes the whole engagement – will help me understand where we’re going in terms of type of design engagements and type of clients.

These documents are going to help me work smarter and avoid wasting time on ambiguous client brief, they will also make me dispensable – as a Business/Creative Head. Which just brings me closer to my goal of setting up a design studio or a creative services business division and moving on. [ TEXT REMOVED ]

When I’m done refining and testing the above documents, will make them available for download – that should help me refine them further.

This post has been edited to make it more politically correct.