For a long time I have always felt that it's down to the client to state a budget from the get go for any logo and/or identity work. I don't believe it's for anyone else other than the client to place a value on their own success and worth.
Much like one may decide on how much to spend for a new home, new car or even new holiday we tend to go with the upper limit to what we can possibly afford; stretching ourselves because we feel we deserve it or for other self indulgent reasons.
When one is talking about a company/business or product that needs a new logo, and that this new whatever will hopefully be providing an individual or individuals with an income then it would be logical to assume that a solid investment in it's identity makes perfect sense. In the same way you can convince yourself that you deserve or need that pricier car, or more extravagant house so the very means to which you are hoping to pay for this may come from the success of your new company of which the identity DOES play a significant and meaningful role.
My own logo questionnaire-which you can download, use and amend as you see fit–clearly asks for the client to specify a budget that they feel is a reasonable investment. From what they quote I can tell a number of things such as how they view or feel about the perceived importance of a logo, how important this venture is to them as well as their appreciation of the work that often has to go into a logo/identity project.
This is not to say that a client that fronts the lowest possible budget is not always going to be someone that does not appreciate good creative work as they may sincerely be strapped for cash; this is something to look out for and reading between the lines is quite an important factor.
Generally you will get a good idea of who you may be working for and their expectations of their own success as well as their expectations from you. It's when there is a missmatch between these two expectations that problems can arise.
In general I have been impressed at how many clients don't need to be convinced that a higher budget is a wise move.
Over 75% of clients this year have quoted, without guidance, over the £1000 mark and often more closer to £2000. I say this not to boast but to clearly state that they are many clients out there more than prepared to front good money for a job well done. For every client wanting to pay as little as possible yet expect the world there are clients prepared to pay what is required to get the job done. That is my own personal experience.
Not every client is looking to shaft you.
Avoid Quoting Freely If Possible
On occasion the questionnaire is missing any indication of budget, yet they have clearly spent quote some time filling in the form in a detailed and methodical way. From experience this typically means that either they genuinely don't have an idea about reasonable costs, and so are looking for guidance, or they are asking me to specify a budget based on the information provided. Both are reasonable suggestions but pose subtle challenges that I would rather not get drawn into for the following reasons.
The first one relates to what I discussed in the opening paragraph that I feel it's down to the client to place a value in this rather than from someone else.
I don't think it's for me to put a value on the success of their venture; I believe this has to come from them.
Solid and thorough logo/identity design is generally based on having time, and the more time a designer/agency has to work the more detailed and thorough the results; as well as skill of course. It also specifies how long I can roughly spend on each part of the project, and importantly gives me an idea on how much importance the client is placing on the success of their identity.
A nice logo can be created relatively quickly but a more meaningful and appropriate logo can be achieved with time on hand. This time can be used to look at competing brands and companies to see how they brand themselves and to see what can be avoided or new avenues to explore, looking at many initial sketches and concepts so being able to worth thought ideas is the aim. In some cases the more you sketch and brainstorm the more interesting and unique ideas can develop ideas that would never have transpired with a few days doodling on a much lower budget.
A higher budget is indeed useful but not always required. It all depends on the clients needs and their desire to achieve a visual identity that really works for them on more than a superficial level. I could quote you £600, and I could quote you £4000 with the former giving you a smart logo but the latter giving you a solid and well researched identity based on many relevant and determining factors.
Pushed Into A Corner
I personally feel that if you are pushed into a corner whereby you are being asked to quote try and throw this question back to the client with some of the above justification.
When I do get a questionnaire that is missing a specified budget, and they have asked for me to quote then I will politely email back with an explanation similar to the above.
It's important that you stress that this isn't about getting as much as possible from the client; this I feel is often the reason many clients refrain from putting a price on the table. It can make them feel a little exposed and vulnerable if they are just seeking general replies from a number of designers. It's down to you to you to delicately reel them in with your prose and detailed replies with the aim of making them feel relaxed and confident to talk openly about finances.
As mentioned some clients genuinely have no concept of the value of design yet are looking for a designer that will work with them to achieve something awesome. They are likely happy to pay the going rate but this will depend on you walking them through the reasons why £1000 is more appropriate in their case than £300.
If you feel this client could be awesome to work with be prepared to justify your costs and method in order to woo them.
When The Budget Is Unreasonable
You may have a budget but what do you do if it's way off the reservation? An example might be that their needs look to be pretty significant, and time hungry, yet their budget is, well, based on a budget budget.
Don't assume the client is immediately taking the whatsit with you; it may just be that they need to be guided to a higher budget after having some things explained to them. I have, on a number of occasions, been able to guide a client who initially specified £600, and delicately raised them to around £1500.
Then there is the instance where they want the world but can't or will not pay for it. Then you have to make some decisions yourself based on your need for money as well as need to not undermine or cheapen your skill. There will be occasions where you choose to take a low paid job because it may benefit you in other ways but this will be a personal choice that you have to make. There is no real right or wrong.
Important to remember that this is my own personal way of working, and I am not stating this method as the right way. It's simply a way that I personally feel is right and works best for me.
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