When you start your journey as a designer, building your portfolio is exciting, but as you start to juggle clients, it can become a chore.
The real problem arises when you’re juggling too many clients, and they aren’t even your ideal clients. It’s all too easy to find yourself on the client work treadmill (maybe you even feel a little resentful because you’re undercharging) and NEVER having time to work on your business.
One of the first tasks to fall by the wayside when you’re busy is creating case studies and maybe you just haven’t had the kind of ideal client yet who would be a perfect fit for a case study.
Case Study vs Portfolio Piece
In case you’re wondering, a case study is so much more than a simple portfolio piece. Yes, it’s important to regularly take screenshots of finished projects and add them to your portfolio page or gallery.
But a case study goes a lot deeper than that. A well put-together case study is designed to position you as an expert who can deliver a strategic solution to a business problem, rather than someone who just creates well-designed websites or brands.
Not every portfolio piece needs to be a case study, but once you have two or three up your sleeve, not only are they often ‘deal clinchers’ that will actively cause clients to choose you over someone else, you can repurpose all of different parts of your case study into blog posts and social media assets.
Typically a case study includes:
- A Project Overview
- The Brief
- The Process
- The Solution
- The Impact
If creating a Case Study sounds like a lot of work, don’t worry. Much of the information you need to include can be captured as part of your normal process, as long as you plan it in advance.
1. Project Overview
Start your case study with a general summary.
Usually this section is very brief and includes the client name, links to the project deliverables ‘out in the wild’ if possible, plus a list of the tools used during the project. I’d also recommend including an eye-catching header or logo to catch the attention of your reader and entice them to continue reading.
2. The Brief
This is where you get to break down the client brief and introduce the problems that your clients were facing at the outset of the project, as well as outlining tangible goals.
If you did your client onboarding right, you will already have teased out the underlying issues that they were experiencing and be able to explain why they needed to hire you and why the timing of the project was crucial to their business.
Look at this example:
“Client A hired me to create an online coaching website for their personal training business”.
Now look at how it could read…
“Client A had received numerous requests from clients wanting to train at home and needed to transition urgently to an online teaching model in order to retain existing clients and attract new ones”.
Outlining the urgency or opportunity cost of a project is an excellent way of helping prospective clients recognise that they may be in the same situation and need to take action.
Note: Don’t forget to add any tangible goals, which may include things like website speed, improved SEO outcomes or specific user experience improvements.
3. The Process
Use the process section to walk through the workflow you used. This will illustrate how you get from problem to solution and allow prospective clients to understand your process and appreciate how much work is involved in planning and delivering a results-focused project.
You might include:
- Wireframes or sketches
- Images representing design details at mockup stage
- Time lapse videos of a specific design stage
4. The Solution
Here’s where you get to show off your finished project. It’s worth taking the time to mock up different screens when presenting websites and enable them to scroll down layouts or page through a slideshow.
Don’t rely on just linking to the final project (ie. the client’s website) because websites change over time and you don’t want to link out to an asset that no longer represents your standard of delivered work.
You might include:
- logo variations
- brand boards
- mocked up brand collateral like business cards or packaging
- a video tour of the finished project assets
It’s not all about the visuals however. Don’t forget to revisit those tangible goals from the brief and map them to the final solutions.
Make sure you also include any additional defining features which you created in addition to the brief. This often happens naturally during a project and it’s important to highlight where you have exceeded expectations.
5. The Impact
Adding an impact section is where you really get to stand out from the crowd. Hard numbers are always impressive. If you can provide measurable improvements or outcomes that you helped your client achieve, then other clients are going to want a piece of that action.
You might include:
- increased traffic
- increased email sign ups
- increased conversions
- increased revenue
- increased site speed
- increased page rank (SEO)
Obviously, in order to show increases, you need to make sure you record all of those benchmarks beforehand, so you’ll need to do a bit of planning at the outset of the project to make sure you have the data you need.
The Client Testimonial
One of the most important features of this section is capturing a client testimonial. If possible, try to collect both a written and video testimonial. It’s handy to have both in order to repurpose them across social media.
The best testimonials are structured. Send them a list of questions via a Google Form or better still, use a tool like VideoAsk to collect their spoken answers to your questions and then transcribe their answers.
If you sense they feel uncomfortable about recording a testimonial, then a more relaxed Zoom interview can work really well.
Making it easy for them to give you a testimonial will get you much better results.
What Can You Do With Your Finished Case Study?
A detailed case study is your new secret weapon. Here are a few ideas to help you squeeze the most value out of your juicy new case study.
- Combine captioned slides, visual elements and video to create a Video Case Study which you can embed on the case study page, share on social media or use for retargeting ads.
- When potential clients fill out your contact form, redirect them to a success page with a prominent link to your case study or embed the video version outlined above.
- During sales calls, walk your prospective client through the case study so that they can fully understand your workflow and appreciate the value of what you’re offering.
- Extract visuals, video snippets and copy to repurpose across your social media accounts.
A Case Study Checklist
The key to creating a killer case study is in the planning. Here’s a checklist to run through at every stage of your project.
Before the project begins:
- Take baseline measurements covering things like revenue, page speed, position in search results, click through rate, unique visitors per month, bounce rate and email sign ups.
During the project:
- Capture images of screenshots and wireframes
- Record time-lapse videos of certain design stages
- Create design tiles or mood boards to more fully explain the design process
After the project:
- Take screenshots or a even keep a copy of your case study finished website on your own server to make sure that you have a ‘perfect version’ to show off.
- Present your assets in a way that enables visitors to explore the project fully without having to leave your site.
- Take new baseline measurements to see whether you have achieved the agreed goals. Some results may be immediate (eg. site speed) but you may have to wait a few weeks or months to hit bigger goals. Check in with your client regularly to see how they are doing.
- Capture written and video testimonials from your happy client.
If you’d like to join an inspiring online community, you can find out more about Melissa’s online membership, The Marketing Fix, at www.themarketingfix.co.