Upselling and cross-selling through personal branding: invoice edition
A subtle but yet effective way to communicate your business and an effortless opportunity to highlight your fields of expertise.
IMHO, invoices, proposals and other business documents are often neglected in terms of personal branding, which is why I spend quite some time researching and trying different things to add some personality to these kinds of, usually boring, documents. I also kept thinking about ways to show the range of creative services I offer, since 99% of the time proposals and invoices only include services the client wanted the offer or invoice for. This is — don’t get me wrong — reasonable but might not be the way it has to be or the way that is most beneficial for you or your client.
What I mean with beneficial is quite simply explained by how projects are usually handled: let’s say a client, we call them Jo, wants a visual identity for their brand. They might have seen your portfolio or, which is perhaps more often the case, they were given a recommendation by someone who knows your work. In most cases, Jo might already have an idea of the services they want from you. You are then asked to create a proposal for Jo’s project. This is the point, where things can, in my opinion, go two different ways — one being more beneficial for you and Jo, the other not so much. Jo might have considered ways to market their brand, eg. a new website, social media templates or GIPHY stickers, but they are not aware of you offering those services. Or perhaps they are not aware that GIPHY stickers could create awareness for their brand and you would be able to create them.
helping or hurting the brand
More and more brands tend to split up their creative needs and end up with five agencies creating brand assets and content. For some, this might be the best solution and, if coordinated well, is beneficial for the brand. But in some cases, especially regarding smaller brands or newcomers, this division might not make sense at all, since every independent creative brings their own ideas and aspects on how a brand should be communicated. A variety of different approaches can certainly help a brand and highlight certain aspects, other creatives might not have thought about — but it can also cause confusion and shatter the brand. Therefore, if you are a fullstack-designer and able to offer one-stop shop solutions for your clients, you might as well communicate this whenever possible — I would consider this as a subtle upselling or cross-selling strategy through personal branding.
the design process
So one major focus of designing my documents was to let ongoing and future clients know about the range of creative services I’m offering every time they receive an invoice. I clustered my creative services and different fields of expertise I am able to offer into different categories and included them in every document. This ought to be some sort of reminder — for current, but also for incoming clients who either are not yet aware that they wanted eg. an Instagram AR filter to go with their social media templates or a website for their new visual identity system, or who simply don’t know they could request them.
Another crucial aspect for designing my templates was efficiency: I was not willing to pay for some invoice-creation software, nor wanted to create them individually in InDesign (like many many designers still do). I also wanted my documents to be exportable to Excel or Numbers to keep track of client data like invoice numbers and sums at the end of a year. All of the above led to my decision to set up a simple form which I could easily (and on the fly) fill out for every project.
I created a base in InDesign and then moved to Acrobat, where I added form fields and then tested the template and categories numerous times. Comparable to revising a content analysis system, this was quite a painstaking process and I had to change categories a few times until they fit every creative service I wanted to highlight. I have come up with 8 different creative categories that suited my needs + project management and art direction, since I wanted clients to be aware that eg. designing a logo does not solely revolve around the main creative process.
I created checkboxes I can turn on and off for different recurring elements, such as how files will be delivered or production support — this simply saves me time since I would have to write most of them again and again in every document. Additionally, this section acts as a reminder of what could be delivered as well.
Due to COVID-19, but even before that, quite a few of my projects were executed remotely, so I’ve never met some of my clients in person. This is why I wanted to add both an analogue as well as a more personal aspect to the documents and decided to include my handwriting as a typeface. I personally love such small details in branding and have received quite some positive feedback for this aspect.
To conclude, I consider this strategy to be a subtle but yet effective way to communicate your business and a rather effortless opportunity to show your fields of expertise within even the smallest and sometimes ignored aspects.