If you are self-employed, work for someone or involved in a ministry, you will know that graphic design is a much needed requirement in doing business. If you're not a professional designer yourself, you either dabble, have someone on staff, or subcontract the work to keep up to date in making what you do look professional and attractive. I mean why tear your hair out, right?!

I began working with Tasha subcontracting my services, and as we settled into a working groove with one another she received a request from a new client for a sample project of one hour of my time.

Now, Tasha and I both knew that nothing really happens in one hour. But her client just wanted to see what she'd 'get' and the best way to show her was to document how I worked that hour, and beyond, for her particular project.

This will also benefit you to understand, If anything, what goes into a creative assignment and why it might cost you a few hundred dollars or a small fortune. And I might add here, if you are someone who likes giving your designer 'a small fortune' my number is +61 275 352 104, please feel free to call me. Wink, wink.


You, to your designer: 'How long will it take?'

Designer: 'How long is a piece of string?'

Kidding. Well sort of.

If your creative has been kicking around for a few years they will have a good sense of how long it takes them to design for different projects. Please note that every designer will work at a different pace, and come with varying talents within their profession, so what I share below may differ to who you currently work with, give or take.

I've found, no matter if I'm knee-deep in graphic design or face first in an illustration project, I've a baseline of 4 hours that I would estimate for when giving a proposal to a prospective client. You'll see some good results at 4 hours. With well over 10 years under my belt creating the same sort of client projects, 4 hours seems to be a minimum to either complete a job or get some major traction.

The Job at Hand?

To Design/Format a Lead Magnet

'The client needs this "prettied up". She does not have a branding guide so you can use your creative genius.' was Tasha's instruction. Two colour swatches were given with a budget of an 1hr.

The Lead Magnet was this 13 page document. Pretty isn't it?

Let's Get Started

Time Entry : 19min

First up, I had to read the copy to...

  1. Know what I'm designing, from what the content is communicating and the way the author uses her voice in writing it, I'm looking for her particular 'flavour'. In this case, she really had fun getting her message across and had a fantastic sense of humor that I actually laughed out loud several times.

  2. In reading, images and patterns come to mind. So it's never a case of 'just' reading. In fact, when I had been asked to do the job my mind went into design mode hours before I even looked at the file.

It's also a worthy note that I had read another clients 30 page document the night before in preparation of her work and it took a complete hour to read! FYI - This is billable time.

Time Entry : 07min - total so far = 26min

  • This time was used to set up the art boards/pages of the document in Adobe illustrator. I decided early to utilize the page in landscape, noting the US and not NZ page sizes, there is a difference. ​ Why illustrator over Indesign? Designers preference, I tend to illustrate often and can simple do it on the spot with ease in this program rather than having to swap between them.

  • I knew roughly the way the layout would look, from those images that had come to me while reading the copy, so I added the guidelines in all the different ways I intended to use each page.​

  • I found and added the two business colour code's to my swatches then saved the file.

Time Entry : 06min - Total so far = 32min Font choices - I hated rushing it, but I did. I could 'see' big serf text (lettering with the curly bits) with sans serif (no curly bits) in my mind. I didn't take the time to look for more suitable font combinations (there would of been better choices) with the time constraint on me, so went ahead to test the fonts I'd chosen for sizing, style options, leading (spaces between the lines) for the Title, Headers, Quotes and Paragraphs.

Time Entry : 33min - Total so far = 65min

Layout - Having opened the original document I started to copy and past the copy (text) into my new layout to get a feel for how it would look, amending some guidelines to suit.

So at an hour, this is where we we're at...

Making it a little more 'presentable' for the client - this is what she 'got' for an hour of my time.

Not very interesting is it? Would you be impressed? Hmmmm.

Without the explanation of what it took to get here I wouldn't be very enamored either.

Rather than leave the project where it sat, I decided to continue and see it completed, without the assurance of if she'd pay me. I don't like seeing unfinished work.

Time Entry: 1.20min - Total so far = 2.25hr/min

  • I wanted to create a pattern for an accent, but it needed to be relevant to the document. Having read through the copy I knew there were symbols I could quickly make so I perused the original pages again to see if anything jumps out at me. I found what I was looking for in the clients logo and took a basic geometric shape and created this...

  • Then I designed the headings to stand out and began laying out the copy artistically, breaking everything into segments, to get a feel for how long the document would look section by section.

  • The last of the copy has been laid out with the title segments - 13 pages has grown into 19.

  • I'm playing with the ways I can use the colour pallet and the pattern accent to give the document design some depth.

Final Entry Time: 1:37hr - Total = 4:37hr/min

  • Finalised the layout.

  • Added page numbering.

  • Added the detailing of pattern accent to each of the solid coloured boxes making sure they were all the same opacity behind the text.

  • Checking the lineup between the guidelines, colour and text boxes.

  • Rereading the copy, comparing it with the original to make sure I emphasised the authors text in the correct ways, re-formatting to correct where needed.

  • Gave everything the last 'once over' and I was done.

I was now able to bask in it's prettiness. Now, if I had of been given some more time I would of been a little more creative with the layout, but this is the outcome with just chugging it out, it serves it's purpose.

At this point it now goes before the client. To which she said...

On an even happier note, the client was happy to pay me for the hours I worked on her project, including a further hour of revised changes - a win/win. I do not chug out creative work like this any more, this project was agreed to purely for the purpose to educate you, the reader.

And if you happen to know a designer or are one yourself, you'll know from your own experience that after the job is done, and you sit staring at it, more ideas come to you to make it every better! But experience has taught you, to leave it alone, step away from the computer.

Hope that was insightful and helps you understand, even a little bit, what goes on for your own amazing creative. Hug your designer today!

If you'd like to read more stories from behind the scenes, or want to take a peek into how I do business God's way, then consider signing up to hear from me on a semi-regular basis. There is a freebie. There should always be a freebies ;)

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To your business success



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​Hi, Tania here, Drawer Full of Giants CEO & Creative Director. We're a New Zealand company with the lofty goal of being the highly sought-after client attraction and retention consultancy you think of when it comes to building invaluable relationships in the marketplace. We do this through our rich supply of idea-generation, bespoke creativity, and personalised-to-your-business print products that pay luscious attention to detail. Get to know us more through our core values, meet the team, and be sure to sign up to be kept in the loop with our fun, inspiring behind the scenes monthly. See you inside!

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