A run down on how I work, or more to the point, the way I tend to work most often.
If you're a first time client of mine, I'll want to keep financial and time risk small for myself I'm afraid, and so I'll need a purchase order with full and contactable company details once we've agreed an estimated price. Its rare that I'll adjust an estimate higher unless we've agreed that this is a possibilty. If a job is going to take more than an hour, then usually I'll want to take payment in stages, stage 1 might be a sketch or layout, for which I'll charge that time after sending you this first stage and I'll expect payment before moving on to a second, more 'worked up' stage. After the second stage, depending on circumstances I may want payment before proceeding to produce a final version with any final amends. Some jobs have more stages, it just depends on the amount of work involved. I will need settlement for the entire job before I provide final artwork. I can't supply un-watermarked files until I've been paid for each stage. This way, you get exactly what you pay for, and I don't have to worry about chasing you for payment. ie if you stop me after stage 2, I can send you the files up to and including stage 2 providing you've paid in full for them.
For repeat clients, who are perhaps on the 5th job or more and we've started to bond and exchange life stories and discuss philosophy and art, I'll generally invoice at the end of each month for the time spent on any particular task and give details of such tasks for your examination.
This is how it should go. Sometimes however time dictates that it doesn't always flow so nicely, and sometimes its straight from Brief to Deliver. But generally, we'll do some discussion via email and on the phone, and work out the best way to do it. I work with all sorts of small and medium sized companies and individuals, I don't visit unless its essential due to photographic or presentation requirements.
If the job is Illustration, I'll generally try and trickle feed a style before I go hell-for-leather and finish the whole thing.
If the job is Flash, I'll send a plan of how the whole thing should work, and before I do anything, I'll make sure you agree that this is what you want. I'm not a flash programmer as such, I'm a designer working in flash, its not the same thing as any programmer will tell you (thats if you can get a reply from one as they're all far too busy on large projects for the next 8 months at least).
If its a large Website, I work alongside either Simon Collyer for ASP and Kinsley Ransom for PHP, and if they aren't available, then I probably won't take on the job unless its something fairly simple and under 20 pages or so. I don't really do a lot of websites, but I've done a few when it suited my style and particular skills set.
If its Email marketing, then usually these are fairly simple but often need some tailored copywriting, which I can help with too or ask another good chap I know called Peter Thody. I'll usually provide a flat non-HTML visual first, then once approved, I'll work up a final HTML coded version.
Finally, budgets, and use of Royalty Free material (of which I obviously sell via iStockphoto). None of us specifically want to use an image which is used by your business competitor, but this is always the danger with Royalty Free and spending $10 on an image which has sold multiple times (sometimes 1000+ times). On the other hand, these days, not many companies are spending large amounts of money just to take a photo of a 'business handshake' or a 'corporate team line up', and so I take each situation as it comes, if RF stock is appropriate, I don't have a problem if you don't and we both accept the risks, but perhaps, for some UK businesses, I might advise that using American business shots of people with perfect teeth and summer tans might just be stretching reality a little too far. Sometimes honesty is the better policy.