How to create a unique project questionnaire
When a potential client first contacts you wanting, ‘a logo’ it could mean a thousand different things.
- What if what they really want is a complete branding package?
- What if their budget is just a few hundred dollars and it’d be a complete waste of your time?
Rather than go back-and-forth for what can be days or sometimes weeks with a potential client I use questionnaires.
This allows you to take control of your work process, stop wasting time with tire kickers, and get the project and client started off on the right foot. While this post is specifically for logo questionnaires, the knowledge applies to any type of creative project.
At Never North we believe you should customize the experience your client has with you. Tailoring it to create the exact business you want is part of the process. You will have bad clients, but rather than complain about them we look honestly at our own processes and see where we can prevent it from happening again.
Making your own questionnaires, written in your own words for the clients you want is one of the best ways to do this.
Using Questionnaires with clients helps me do four things:
Understand what they want and provide tailored options.
First, the client may not know their exact needs or they may tell you they just want a logo when they really mean they want a complete logo and branding package. This gives you the opportunity to understand what they are looking for and potentially up sell them into something bigger.
I take the information in the questionnaire and create 3 packages for them to choose from so they can pick the right option for their budget and circumstances with a clear set of expectations for each one.
Weed out Bad Clients
When you create a questionnaire you should create questions that makes both sense to you and your creative process and your dream clients. For every bad client you have, there was a hole in your process that let them in. So if something happens come back to your process and see how you can prevent it from happening again.
You can weed out price shoppers, micromanaging clients, clients that don’t know what they want or are too specific about what they want (ie: want you to be a technician rather than an expert providing a solution).
By getting this information from potential clients along with their budget, you can weed out price shoppers. A price shopper isn’t likely to fill out a 3-page questionnaire just to understand the price. Someone that wants to work with specifically you, will jump through the hoops required to have you work on their project.
Generally, I do not post prices publicly, however, I provide a starting cost to weed out clients looking for the bargain basement before they even e-mail me. This saves me time from having to deal with someone who wants a $200 logo whipped up in 24 hours. They can see the price and leave my website without taking any of my time.
Find the Perfect Clients
You may want to target extreme sports companies, non-profits, or Silicon Valley start-ups. Me? I want to work with entrepreneurs who to be the best in their niche and stand out in a sea of sameness.
Clients who understand that being #1 can bring in 10x the results of being #2. They won’t accept anything less and are willing to do the unconventional and take risks. That’s who I want to work with. For you, it will be something completely different and that’s fine. You develop your questionnaire to attract the exact type of client and project you’re looking for.
My questionnaire is longer than usual because I want to weed out clients who aren’t willing to do the work or put effort in their business.
I create brands by working closely with the entrepreneur or company to understand their audience and their business. Many times, I bring them into my creative process to brainstorm with me. If they aren’t willing to put forth the time and effort required to provide the necessary ingredients so you can do your job well, then they likely aren’t a client worth having.
My questionnaire helps me vett clients who align with my values and the work I love to do and gives me the information I need to produce a home run. So while this blog post is about questionnaires for logos, the concept applies to any kind of project.
Sell designs or concepts to clients
How many times have we heard something like, “I don’t like green, make it red instead” or some other random piece of creative direction from a client that is way off base. We may know that red isn’t the right choice for the audience, but the client may not. They think the brand is for them and it’s up to us to educate them. By using questionnaires we can gather information and data from the client themselves to later use to sell the design to them.
For example, let’s say you are designing a logo for a company that makes environmentally friendly surfboards made of recycled materials or something. Green is the color of recycling and for this project you believe this is the best color scheme for the logo. During your logo presentation you can present research to back the decision of ‘green’ based on their answers in your questionnaire so that they don’t even have a chance to say, “I don’t like green.” They can’t argue with the answers they gave you to do your job! If they do, they are likely not the right client to have.
Imagine taking the best client you’ve worked with and only working with that caliber of client from this day forward. That’s what getting this process right means!
All that being said, don’t be discouraged if you get it wrong or it blows up in your face. It took me years of tweaking stuff to get it right and I still mess up sometimes. It happens. Just congratulate yourself for learning what doesn’t work, adjust, and keep moving forward. Eventually, you’ll have the experience to sniff bad clients and bad situations out in the future.
What kind of answers and clients do you want to get
When I first started using questionnaires I would get really generic answers that didn’t really help me create anything of value. For example, I’ve worked with a lot of travel bloggers and many of them would give me really lame answers like: “we’re a travel blog that helps people travel by giving them inspiring stories,” “to inspire people to push limits and boundaries,” or “we connect travelers to travelers.”
Ummm… What does that even mean?
Sounds like everyone else out there. It’s not unique and doesn’t give me anything specific to grab onto so I can create. Many entrepreneurs make this mistake of not getting specific, but rather than complain about them, let’s educate them.
It’s easy to blame the client for being stupid or not putting enough effort into something. While sometimes that’s true, it’s better to look at your own process and ask, “How can I ask better questions that get me the answers I need?” or sometimes you’re just attracting the wrong kind of client and need to ask “How can I find higher quality leads so I can land better clients.”
So keep developing your questionnaire (and your process), change things up, and trying new things until you get the answers you need to help you brainstorm and create ideas.
Before you begin creating your questionnaire the first thing you should ask yourself is
- Who is your ideal client?
- What is your ideal project?
Not only will this help you understand how to target your website to attract those very clients, it will also help you understand what questions are important for you to ask and the information you need to create a that logo.
For example, if you are making a logo service for start-ups or entrepreneurs you’d have much different questions than let’s say someone making logos for weddings. If you use a generic questionnaire you found on the web it wouldn’t fit either of them well. You may not even understand the questions or why you need to ask them to the client.
It’s very important that you understand the importance of each question and why it matters to your process.
Don’t just copy a questionnaire you find on the interwebs, create your own based on your personal creative process and the stuff you need to create the best work possible. Of course, it’s okay to do research (like this blog post) and find some questions to start with, but modify and adjust it to make it work for you, the clients you want to attract, and your process.
Find the right questions to ask
Once you get clear on the type of specific logos you love to create, we’ll work to structure the questionnaire around your target audience and figure out the right questions to ask. The more specific you get with your niche, the more specific you can get with your questionnaire, which gives you a better response rate from potential clients.
They want someone who understand them, their specific needs, and wants. If your entire creative process is tailored to that specific niche, the client will feel like only you can understand them and they’ll be willing to pay a premium for that!
I’ll go through what I use, but remember use it as a starting point to develop your own personal flavor. This is what works for me and the niche I’m focusing on, so try something and iterate it until you find just the right balance for you.
Divide your questionaire up into sections
My logo and brand questionnaire is divided up into a few different sections. In each section, I’ve listed a few of the questions I use in each section and an example of the answer using Never North as the client. Depending on your logo niche some of these sections may not even apply. Take the ones that work for you and ditch the rest.
In this section you want to get the contact information for the client. It’s pretty straight-forward. It will contain things like:
- Business Name
Define what they do and what kind of products they make
The first thing you want to understand is the value of the business and the products it creates. You want to avoid any confusion about what the business actually does and take the time to hear how they describe their business in their own words. If you have a specific niche like wedding logos you’d want to make sure questions are tailored to them. Some questions from my questionnaire are:
- What is your business? Example: We make products for creative freelancers.
- Explain your business in one sentence? Example: We provide a support system for intermediate to advanced creative freelancers so they can level up and create a business on their terms.
- Your business in two words? Example: Freelance Community
- What is the reason your site or product exists? What is the void that you fill in people’s lives? Example: Never North exists because we felt that there was an information gap for intermediate to advanced creative freelancers online. Most information is geared towards beginners, is just so-so advice, or uses jargon. We wanted to create something with personality for those who are talented at what they do and already have a freelance business, but just haven’t got it right yet. Creatives are naturally disorganized and art school never taught them business skills so they ended up creating something that frustrated them rather than finding the freedom they originally signed up for. Most of the sites out there completely ignore this.
Define the meaning behind the brand and business
What’s the story behind the brand? You can tell a lot about a company by how they express their values and personality traits. Are they a little bit punk rock. Serious with a hint of fun. Super professional and bland? These questions should give you an underlying theme behind the logo and what kind of ‘personality’ the business has. Some questions that go into this section are:
- Is there a story behind the brand? Example: Yes. Never North was inspired by Jack Sparrow’s compass in the movie ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ that didn’t point North, instead it pointed to your one truest desire in that moment. We felt this represented how we felt about society. Society tells you to take the conventional path: go to school, graduate, get a job, buy a house, get married, save for retirement, have kids, and then you can go do that fun stuff you always dreamed of. We felt that life is worth living NOW and that we should never go North. We should go where we truly desire to go now instead.
- What do you or employees wear to work? Example: Whatever the fuck they want!
- If your business was a person who would it be and why? Example: Tony Stark. He builds cool shit, is an inventor, adventurer, crazy, is business minded, glamorous, witty, yet has his personal demons he struggles with. Just like all of us at Never North.
- List 5-10 adjectives that describe your brand. Example: punk rock (Not the style, but the philosophy behind it ie: the ability to be who you are, whatever that is), business casual, carefree, modern, unconventional, authentic, muted bold, transformative, and brave.
- Out of those adjectives which one is the single most important one to convey for your brand? Example: unconventional
How will the logo be used?
While the logo should be versatile regardless, it’s important to know how and where it will be used the most. If the logo is going to be used digitally only then you may have more creative freedom than a corporate company who needs the logo to be on everything from a pencil to a favicon to a billboard and more. Some questions that go into this section are:
- Where will the logo being used most? Example: Online mostly but sometimes printed on stuff.
- What are all the places you anticipate using the logo? Example: fav icon, Business cards, digital products, website, t-shirt, some sort of promotional item maybe in the future, stickers, stainless steel keychain, etc.
Is this a redesign?
Are you starting from scratch or are you rebranding an existing logo. If you are redesigning an an existing logo, its important to know why they hate it and why they think they need something new. Their reasoning here can greatly affect your approach towards the new logo’s creation. If the existing logo has been in existence over a long period of time, it may impact how much you can change the design. You may be forced to use existing elements to ensure that the change is seamless and still recognizable. Some questions that go into this section are:
- If this is a redesign is there an important aspect of the logo that needs to be retained?
- How long has this logo been in existence?
- What aspects of your image need improvement? Why?
Know the customers
The most important thing to know is who you are designing for. You’re not designing for the client’s tastes, you’re designing for the customer base. It’s the customer not the client who will make or break a brand’s success so it’s important to know as much as you can about them so the logo will resonate with them. This is also important to have so you can use it to sell your design later when the client says some crap like, “I hate green.” You can point to the questionnaire and show them that their audience prefers green and green’s meaning is blah blah blah. As mentioned previously, this section helps me sell my concept and designs better. Some questions that go into this section are:
- What kind of things does your audience think or like about your business today? Example: From our e-mails we’ve found that they they carry it as a reminder that the life they dream of is possible, they like how transparent we are, the tone and copy really speaks to them, our memes, how detailed we are, and the passion and excitement we breathe.
- How would you like them to view your business in the future? Example: We’d like for them to think of us as the place to go when you want to actually have fun learning. To feel like they are right there in the trenches with us, looking over our shoulder as we work, being part of our culture, and community. The place they go to learn how to be the best while having fun doing it.
- Who are your competitors? Why are they better or worse than you? Example: Freelance Lift – They use technical jargon that makes my head hurt. We are fun, use real language, and say bad words sometimes. Millo.co – Articles are bland and all over the place. Site owner has a job and doesn’t full-time freelance so can’t completely relate to a full time freelancer. They don’t stand for anything specific. We stand for something and go really in-depth with our articles using our personal experiences. Double Your Freelancing – Great site with quality information and a good sales funnel, but lacks good design and user experience.
Creative Questions to get them outside the box!
Generally, these are not typical questions. They get them thinking in a different way, especially thinking about their business as a city or an animal. Each brand designer is different so think about the type of things you want to know about the business to help you in the process and try different things. How can you get them thinking outside the box? Some questions that go into this section are:
- If your business was an object, what would it be? Example: A laptop. Because you can take it anywhere giving you unlimited choice and is the main tool behind the type of creatives Never North is trying to attract.
- If your business was an animal what would it be? Example: A bird. Because birds can fly and represent freedom.
- If your business was a city what city would it be? Example: Austin, TX. Because they’re weird and don’t conform to the rest of Texas. They are in their own little world and proud of it. They’re also a creative hub and the city reflects the principles and values we resonate with—being environmentally and socially conscious.
So there you have it. Those are the sections that are important to a logo questionnaire. Use it as a basis to think about the things you need to ask for the specific type of projects you like to work on.
For a really long list of example questions you can check out this post on Letter Shoppe.
Other Tips for making great questionnaires.
Getting Great Answers
If you noticed next to each question in the examples above I provided a real-life example for Never North to demonstrate how I would the question to be answered. This helps me get the kind of answers I want and gives them an idea of what I’m looking for. I’ll usually provide an example for my own business Never North and a previous clients answers (with permission of course). This tip alone has helped me get higher quality answers. Please note for the purpose of this article, I did edit many of the answers down for length.
Get a Larger Pool of Answers
I used to only require one person in the company to fill out my questionnaire. However, I recently discovered that sending the questionnaire to everyone involved has given me more data to play with. I discovered this in a recent project where I made two logos for a clan and a clan system in a game I play. I surveyed the entire 50 member clan with just the creative questions. What I found was unique patterns where 44% said a lion represented them or in another case it was the “honey badger.” This accelerated my brainstorming process allowing me to find concepts faster and know where to focus my efforts.
Since then, I found it very beneficial to send the more fun creative questions to everyone in a company and leave the longer more detailed questions for the core decision makers to answer individually. This gives me more data to work with and provides insight to common themes within a company. I’d then give those answers more weight in my creative process helping me find direction faster.
If you join our e-mail list you can get a copy of the MindTrackers questionnaire I used in our subscriber vault (along with other great resources). Sign up here to get access.
What are some of the questions you ask in your questionnaires? Let us know in the comment section below.