Advice on the House: Mastering the Reverse Brief

Updated: May 3, 2021

It wasn't long after starting Hatrik House that we learnt the importance of a good reverse brief. It's a creative gear that sits somewhere between the first client email and the first meeting, designed to clarify details and help both parties get onto the same page.

The House flexes this tool at the earliest possible stages. We believe you shouldn't be shy when it comes to asking questions and getting down to the nitty gritty. It's a chance to clarify details before you are head deep in a project that is meant for the agency up the street. Come one, come all - both agencies and freelancers should arm themselves with these simple tools to kick all projects off on the right foot. 👠

Step 1: Understand the Product

Before we get into the detail, here's something we've prepared earlier... Download Reverse Brief Here.

Consider this like the stalking before a first date, cross-check all platforms, go for a deep scroll and gather as much information as you can about the product and it's beholder. Also take this time to prepare a list of questions tailored to the (potential) client's enquiry. Some of our favourites:

  1. Do you have an established marketing budget?

  2. Is your product launching to market, is it in production or just merely a fleeting business idea that you wanted to put on paper and here we are?

  3. Do you have current branding guidelines or a product prototype you can share with us? (NDA incoming!)

We've done the heavy lifting for you, use our House Reverse Brief and tailor the questions to the enquiry, ask in detail and don't be shy to put your foot in it. A good working relationship is a transparent one.

Step 2: Analyse the Client Needs

Okay, so the client's replied at 11:46pm with four pages of answers in response to your reverse brief. Great. 🤨 First and foremost you have the opportunity to jump ship - ask yourself:

  1. Do you have capacity for this project?

  2. Is the product or brand aligned with your own values?

  3. Do you get the sense it's just an idea phase without the potential for a paying job?

If you're excited by the idea and think you can make a creative dent in the market, now would be the time to analyse the answers and define a scope of work for yourself. How involved do you want to be? Is it full-time around the clock (reply to an email at 11:48pm) type stuff? Or is it simply a consultation package directing the ideas man/woman in the right direction? Often you will get a sense of how involved you want to be from the start, trust your gut instinct and stand your ground while defining your scope.

Step 3: Outline Your Approach (Options, Options, Options)

When you're defining your scope of work, keep the reverse brief answers open in a neighbouring tab. Address each point made and make an effort to respond to the exact needs before adding in the nice-to-have services they don't even know exists.

For example: Melanie has a skincare product she wishes to launch to market in the next 12 months, she has come to you for 'branding' and sees herself as the next #glossier of the moisturiser world. She signs off with: 'would love to know your pricing and services, Regards, Founder and CEO.'

Melanie has just walked into a buffet breakfast of services and has an appetite for big ideas. You're about to serve her a three course creative meal, with a side of PR. Coming. Right. Up.

Step 4: Money Talk

Money talk is hard, really hard. It takes time and experience to become confident in charging the right price and some strong negotiating powers to hit the sweet spot. Every project and client is different so it would be unhelpful to create a blanket rule to apply, however here's a checklist to boost your confidence:

  1. Don't send one quote. Create multiple options for the client based on the services they asked for. This is where your reverse brief is a saving grace.

  2. Use exact wording from their response, at least appear as if you haven't Ctl C'd your way into their inbox.

  3. Sprinkle the quote with added extras that make their dreams go 'wow'. and while you're at it, ruffle their founder feathers with a few mock ups to accompany the price tag you just put on your work. People love window shopping and if it strikes a cord behind the glass, they're most likely to swipe the card in store.


Hatrik House ❤️


Further questions or if you are in fact the Melanie in paragraph 4, continue the conversation here.

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