Lately, we’ve seen a lot of designers who are interested in working with a developer, but are totally overwhelmed and not sure where to begin. They know it’s something they want to do, but getting started is a totally new thing to tackle.
We’ll admit, it can definitely be overwhelming the first couple times as you’re getting the hang of things, but we hope that this week’s episode and action steps will help prepare you to outsource development for the first time! We’ll walk you through everything from what to do before your first collaboration to onboarding to client support after the project is complete.
Before you start your first collaboration
To make things go as smoothly as possible, there are a few things we recommend doing before you even go into your first collaboration. This will make sure that the process is stress-free and gets completed on time without any issues.
Find the right person
First things first. It is super important to find a developer that will work well for you. Working with the right person can completely make or break a project.
When you’re looking for someone to work with, take a close look at their website. Do they focus on development or do they also offer design that could end up competing with you? Do they have portfolio projects that you’re impressed with and resonate with your style? Are they using premade themes or developing from scratch? What is their communication style like?
Rather than working with the first person you come across, take some time to compare and find the person who will be best for you and your clients.
Update your services
Next, it’s important that when you start working with a developer consistently, that your services page includes everything relating to their part of the project. This includes things like the timeline, total cost, and what all is included in the package.
Some designers list only their part of the project and say things like “Development not included”, but this is a problem for a couple reasons:
- A lot of clients aren’t going to know what “development” means or why it needs to cost extra
- Even if they do have an idea of what it means, they’ll already have your price and timeline in mind and won’t be a fan when you come back and let them know that the full project will actually be twice as expensive (or more)
Add to your intake form
Last, before you get started on your first collaboration, chat with the developer you’ll be working with and make sure your intake form includes everything they’ll need to give an accurate quote.
That way, you don’t have to go back and forth between them and the client and can get a quote right away.
Next, comes onboarding. This is the phase where someone has decided to work with you and you’re going through the steps needed to get them booked and ready to go. It’s definitely important that you have a good process with your developer to make sure everything goes smoothly on the client’s end.
Quoting: The more info, the better
When you’re working to give a final quote on the project, give your developer absolutely every piece of information you have.
Krista here! As a developer, I really like to see things like inspiration websites and information on the client’s goals so I have a better idea of what to expect, even though those aren’t things I’d necessarily ask on my intake form.
Send a proposal and keep your developer updated
Next, it’s time for the proposal! Work closely with your developer to make sure your proposal is spot on when it comes to the development side, including costs, timeline, and what’s included. Once it’s approved by both of you, send it over to your client.
It’s important to keep your developer updated as you’re waiting to hear back from your client so they know if they should fill that spot in their schedule or leave it open and prepare for the next steps.
Contract and Invoice
Once the proposal is accepted, it’s time for contracts and invoices!
The way this works totally depends on your preferences. If you want to white-label the development, meaning your client doesn’t know your developer exists, you’ll send a contract to your client and your developer will send one to you.
On the other hand, if your client knows that the developer is in the picture, you’ll send your client a contract and your developer will likely send one to both you and the client to keep themselves fully protected.
As for invoices, the easiest way to do things is generally for you, as the designer, to invoice the client and then pay the developer their portion. This keeps your client from having invoices coming in from all directions.
Nothing much will change when it comes to design. You have the freedom to design whatever you want, usually without having to check-in with your developer.
The one time you do want to check-in is right before you send the design off to your client. That way, your developer can make sure you didn’t design anything that wasn’t included in the original quote.
When designing, keep in mind that your developer can’t read your mind. Make sure your mockup shows things like hover effects, headings, blockquotes, and more.
After your design is completed and approved by your client, it’s time to pass everything off to your developer. This part of the process is the one that can be the most intimidating, as it’s important that everything is delivered correctly and on time.
You can expect your developer to need things like:
- The client’s content, including text and images
- Your mockups
- Brand elements
If your developer doesn’t include a checklist for you to go off of, make one for yourself the next time you’re doing a project on your own.
Now it’s time for your developer to do their job and for you to sit back and relax!
While most developers won’t need a whole lot of back-and-forth communication, it is important to be available for questions that will come up. If you didn’t indicate a hover effect or the way you want headings to look, you can expect questions. Your developer might even reach out if something in your design would have a negative effect on load time or overall visitor experience.
After development is complete, you can usually expect a round or two of revisions, depending on who you’re working with.
The most important thing to keep in mind here is that these don’t work like design revisions. You can’t expect to go in and change the way things look without being charged extra, as even a small change can sometimes require hours of extra work. With that being said, make sure your mockup is just right before you send it off!
Installation and Support
Finally, you’re all done and it’s time for the final installation and support!
This includes getting the design installed on your client’s live site and supporting them while they get used to everything for the first few weeks. Usually, this period can be nice and hands-off for you!
- With your next design project, whether it’s semi-custom and you’re not doing much coding or fully custom and you’re going to power through, organize everything as if you were going to work with a developer.
- Take note of the files, timeline, and anything you decide on the fly while setting up the site that a developer would need to know.
- Then, turn that into a checklist that you can use when you work with a developer for the first time!