Do you remember the first time you asked to have something designed and produced in one week, and were shocked to learn it took much longer? You might think ‘I only need a little business card, or a simple brochure.’ It shouldn’t take that long? Right? Well…
Experience is the best teacher
If it’s one thing I’ve learned from doing custom design work for the past 20 years it’s this: how ever long I think it will take me, multiply by 3 and I might be close. I couldn’t have been more pleased to learn from two professional project managers with over 50 years combined experience, who told me my hands-on experience is right on target. In the project management world they call this “effort” vs. “duration,” which translates into, it always takes longer than you think.
Realistic time tables for promotional materials
Good design takes time, but it shouldn’t take forever. A RUSH job always costs more, and tends to lead to mistakes and oversights, which makes it really expensive. Time does, indeed, save money when it comes to design and production.
Here’s a realistic time schedule for some typical design projects, including 2 rounds of proofs, design changes, printing and delivery, but NOT including shipping or copy writing. If you need to hire a freelance copy writer add a minimum of 1-3 weeks onto the timeline below.
• Advertisements: 1 week
• Banners: 2-4 weeks
• Brochures: 4-6 weeks
• Calligraphy: 7 working days per 100 names for envelopes
• Interpretive Panels: 4-8 weeks
• Invitations: 4-6 weeks
• Logos: 6 weeks
• Newsletters: 4-6 weeks
• Power Point Slides: 1-2 weeks
• Programs: 3-4 weeks
• Sales Catalogues: 4-6 weeks for design plus 1-2 weeks for photography
• Sales Sheets: 3-4 weeks
• Stationery (letterhead, notecards, envelopes): 2-3 weeks
• Trade Show Signage: 4-6 weeks
• Training Manuals: 10 days if photocopied / up to 3 weeks if printed
• Web Banners: 2-3 weeks
• WordPress Website: 4-16 weeks depending upon the size and complexity
Why does it take so long?
Assuming your project can begin right away, project planning, proposals and invoicing for a project can take a 1-3 days. Add to that approvals, meeting times, travel, sick days, personal crises, vacation days, equipment failure, professional sports play-offs, Mercury going retrograde, you name it! The minute you commit to a project the anti-productivity gods think it’s ‘game on.’
Another time disrupter is holidays; especially the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. If they fall in the middle of the week add at least one more week to the project because most people’s minds are thinking about preparing for, or recovering from the fete— two days before and at least one day afterward.
Project planning advise
Begin at the end. Whether you need a business card or a full blown website, first determine when you absolutely must have your finished piece in-hand. Then, work backwards from that date and compare it to the bulleted list above. If your end date is not a reality, change your end date, or be prepared to pay at least twice the normal rate for RUSH charges due to overtime and added staff needed to fulfill your request.
Best wishes for getting all your projects completed on time and on budget.