I had an interesting experience a while back that really has caused me to reflect on certain priorities I place regarding my logo design business, specifically in the area of logo designing budgets and quotes.
I have been there, and done that. I started out as a freelancer logo designer charging around £250 for logos thinking that was the dogs bollox, then realising I would need to do at least six of these a month just to pay the bills, mortgage, keep my dogs etc. Completely unsustainable, unless of course you are not sharing your earnings with the Inland Revenue: in which case you can charge less than someone who is a registered tax payer, or you're churning out soulless logo after soulless logo, (both examples are another story for another day).
Over time I realised I could justifiably raise my prices as my own profile and quality of logo designs, in my portfolio, grew and grew.
There are plenty of examples where one company or another have supposedly been charged gazillions of £££'s for a logo leaving the whole socialmediasphere agog. We all know, and like to think, that we could have done a better job, or an equally crap job, for whatever is substantially less than gazillions of £££'s.
In my own little world I just sit and ponder these moments, and like to pretend I'm that agency boss who's scored a crazy ass amount of money for a few months work. I like to wonder about how I was able to justify such a huge mount of money as well as wondering how on earth the client saw past such greed and treachery.
It's actually pretty easy to find a way to supposedly 'justify' any amount of money when it comes to something as important and as unquantifiable as the value of a logo and brand identity design.
It's pretty shocking how much logo design pricing can vary from one designer/agency to another, but this is mostly to do with each project being unique in so many ways, not to mention so many ways to achieve an end result. Sometimes it feels to me these 'others' base their astronomical fees on nothing other than how much coffee will be consumed in the anticipated process, and execution, of the latest client windfall (especially at Starbucks prices).
One day, out of the blue, I was approached by a national airline to redesign their existing brand logo.
Like really, what the fuckety fuck? This never happens to me. How on earth has a national airline considered my modest portfolio worthy of a hire?
During the discussions I was told that money was not an object, hardly surprising really, or so you might think. They desperately needed to redesign the existing airline logo due to various mergers and fleet acquisitions. The existing logo was 'meh', and the new logo needed to be 'ohhhh la la'.
Goes without saying I was still shocked and awed at the possibility of creating an airline logo. I mean man, you realise how many places the logo will be used, seen and flown to around the world? Not to mention the dazzling update to my portfolio, and the heaps of praise and adulation I would surely receive.
The initial brief didn't cover the whole brand identity: the immediate task was to redesign the airline logo, then the rest of the company's identity would be updated in accordance with the logo's style and aesthetics. Not the best way to roll out a new brand logo, but they were insistent that this was the way it would happen.
I came up with a proposal, that as best as I could, explained and meticulously detailed the work needed to research and develop this national airline's new logo design, which covered (not a full list): studying competing and non-competing airlines; researching the country's culture; familiarising myself with the airport layout, the terminals, trucks, uniforms, check-in desks, signage; studying all the blueprints for all the different models of plane (different sizes and proportion of tails and fuselage, meaning that the placement of the logo needs to work as consistently as possible across all the fleet, regardless of how small or big the plane, and ensuring the logo looks epic up close and from 100's of feet away), as well as studying the rising trend in other airline logo and brand identity redesigns, of which there are many.
I tried to work out how much time this would all take, and came up with what I knew to be a stupidly low quote, but it would also be the biggest quote I would have ever presented. Kinda weird really.
I didn't want to be greedy, neither did I want to undersell my experience, skill and general professionalism.
I battled with myself over the budget, it was the hardest thing to come up with and send over. I was confident that I had, in super detail, explained and justified the cost, but I was ultimately in unknown territory.
I quoted £25k which I knew was chicken feed for an airline, and I was convinced they, upon seeing the quote, would be rolling about on the floor, laughing at their good fortune. I was OK with that, but I did wonder if I should have quoted at least double that, because even £50k seemed a steal given the scope and general prestigiousness of the job.
Regardless, this would be a lottery win. Massive job, challenging in every way, and let us not forget the exposure this would bring a humble self-employed logo designer working from his spare bedroom in a sleepy seaside town.
I mean my God, an airline logo in your portfolio!
I sent the proposal and patiently waited for a response. One day, two days, three days and nothing. After a week of no response, and a unmistakable feeling in my gut, I flicked over a quick email.
Crash and Burn
My gut typically gets it right: apparently my quote was far too high for them.
Queue the despair and confusion. What did I do wrong? Had I been too greedy? Should I have just gone for a £5k quote to score one of the biggest jobs in my career, and reap the rewards from the exposure?
The reality is, even with all this self doubt, constant evaluating of the what if's, who really knows if the result been any different if I had quoted less, or even more.
I did find it slightly strange a national airline would go with a self-employed logo designer, rather than a multi disciplinary agency given the sheer scope of the project. The thing is: I wouldn't have taken it on if I didn't honestly feel I could deliver, so I did have complete faith that I could, and would have, delivered a winning new logo for this airline.
As well as my quote being too pricey, they said they had indeed gone with a 'branding' agency for the complete package. So they had been busy in the week I was waiting for just a simple acknowledgment to my proposal.
Too many unknowns
I don't have all the details, who really knows what went on behind the scenes once they got my proposal. Maybe they came to a realisation they ought not to trust this to a guy from a sleepy seaside town, who knows if this design agency actually exists, and if they quoted less or more than my humble £25k.
One positive from all this was feeling greatly humbled to have been even considered in the first place, even if it did get my hopes up to an unmeasurably high level only to be deftly massacred shortly thereafter.
I still wonder if had I quoted less would I have got the gig? If so, would they have been pain-in-the-ass clients? Maybe.
Principles Can Suck
The one unmistakable fact, practically impossible to to argue against, is that sometimes, sticking to your principles can be a tough old decision. I wanted to do my little bit for the logo design community by not selling my soul to the lowest bidder. I wanted to set a reasonable price, but whoever you ask they'll probably say I quoted not nearly enough, and others will say I was just crazy ass stupid to let this one get away…
Sometimes you need to swallow a cheap pill for your own greater good, and not the greater good of an industry that really couldn't give a crap about your own attempts to be a principled hero to a community that is as competitive as they come.
I still don't know if I did the right thing, or not. I certainly do feel somewhat proud that I priced it at a very reasonable price, but I also quite foolish and stupid for failing to read between the lines, and not secure what would have been the largest job in my career. But hey, I do live to quote for another day.
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.
Just a few words on how I manage deposits and payment for the logo projects that have a budget of £2000 and over. For most projects I ask for full payment up front for most overseas clients and between 50% to 75% deposit for UK clients. However, when you get a job with a much higher budget, asking for full payment up front is a little cheeky to say the least.
If you are used to asking and getting a high deposit, say around 75% or even getting full payment, asking this on a £3000 is just not fair to the client. Equally for the designer, a project like this will require much more upfront work, research and commitment and to not get a fair deposit should things go South half way though is also unfair.
So a little give and take plus some haggling is usually in order.
How I work it
I'll use a recent project as a perfect example of how both the client and I were able to agree satisfactory terms on deposit and final balance.
When the job came in I was very pleased that a client would first of all, voluntarily indicate a budget of £3000 for a logo design, some icons and basic guidelines. This is not the first time, but each time a client puts up over £1000 it makes me feel really hopeful about the industry as a whole. There are clearly many potential clients out there who do fully appreciate the value of hiring a good designer.
In this case the client was overseas so I was hesitant to send them a proposal indicating full payment up front, especially for a project I would not be starting immediately. The first thing I did was to send them an initial email just outlining my usual procedure. Stating that in most cases for non UK clients, full payment is required.
I made a point of explaining that I knew asking for £3000 up front was probably a little unfair. Whilst at the same time explaining why I generally have to ask for such a high deposits.
I ended it by asking them their thoughts on the subject.
Asking them their views is important. You never know, they may be ore than happy to pay the complete fee up front, this has happened to me, so one never knows. Even if they are not prepared to do so, it shows you are appreciative of their situation and are open to suggestions.
The email back
Initially the email back was not favourable for me. The terms were unacceptable. No risk for them and all risk for me. It was close to bring 25% deposit and full payment on completion. For a project that would span 2 months, this was a huge risk with a client I did not know.
I counter offered, but my offer was fixed and I would not deviate.
My counter offer
My solution is based on a 3 step payment plan. First of all I get 50% deposit up front. This is a fair and reasonable amount. If a month in something happens and the client walks, I am covered. I based this on 2 months work, so half of the fee for 1 months work.
I then ask for a further 25% once we are half way through the project. So this is like a good will gesture form the client, they are seeing progress, hopefully, and it's a form of acceptance that the project is still very much on. Plus we all need money to pay rent, bills and other monthly outgoings, so this helps cover you into your 2nd month.
The 3rd step is the remaining 25% on project completion. Only once this is paid will I release all the digital files and sign over all rights to the client. If the client does a runner, then I have secured 75% of the budget, which is better than nothing.
Once I submitted the above offer, I was prepared to walk away from the project if this offer was turned down. I would not accept any variation of this, even a 40% upfront 20% half way in and 20% on completion.
I will not take 40/60 or 50/50. But I will take 50/25/25.
For me, this is a very fair solution, so if a client has a problem with this solution I just say 'I'm sorry, but this is how it will be or not at all'.
It is very important to stick to your guns with this. A client who has approached you for a sizable project is clearly keen on you and the work you have done. If they really want to work with you, they should have no problem accepting the above terms, unless they have cash flow problems in which case it's better for you that they don't. :)
I intend to use the 50/25/25 for most projects over £1500. If you land a project that will take more than 2 months, then you need to factor in the additional months.
So for example.
If I landed a £7500 project, and I estimated it would take 4 months. I would likely do something with a 4 way split, so basically ensuring monthly payments. Which again, is a fair enough thing to ask given how bills and things work. So it might be something like 40/20/10/10 or thereabouts. This is not to say turn down a hefty deposit if the client is prepared to pay it, but if not, this ratio is fair for both parties.
It's front loaded so that the initial risk, booking the project in, securing it and getting started is taken away.
2nd month payment nowhere to be seen?
If the client has problems paying the 2nd or 3rd month invoice, then you must stop all work and wait for it to be paid. There is no point doing the above if you then just backtrack on it. Either the client has genuine cash flow problems and just needs some time to get it cleared, or they are simply playing silly buggers with you.
Distant Project start date?
This is one other thing to consider that may affect the above. You may be super busy and your next clear slot is 6 - 8 weeks away although fortunately for you, the client is in no rush and happy to wait.
The trick here is to still get a deposit but in a way that is fair. Asking for a high deposit when you are not going to be even starting the project for 2 months is totally unfair. However, you still need to secure the project so that you can rely on it being there, as during this time you will no doubt have to turn other work away.
Being in the position of assuming a job will be there a month from now, turning down other work then only to find that the client has abandoned it or gone elsewhere is a real pain to say the least. You can never guarantee a client will hang around unless you get some money from them.
In these cases I ask for a small securing/holding deposit, usually a around £100 for projects under £1500 and around £200 for projects over. This is a fair sum to ask to secure the project so that the client feels commitment from you and also themselves committed to the project.
Once the start date draws closer, then you can revert to the 50/20/20 system above, just depends on the overall budget left and estimated time needed to complete it.
This all works for me and if you have similar circumstances, it should be of use to you also. Even if it's a local client, for a larger project like the above I would base it on the same 50/25/25.
It's only the sub £1500 - £1000 where I feel it's fair to front load a high deposit or even full payment.
Never be afraid to ask or hint at full payment first, as I said above, you never know how flush the client may be. It's worth sizing them up, talk to them on the phone, get a feel for their general behaviour. You may be able to suss out what is fair and what isn't.
I have had no problems with overseas clients prepared to pay £1500 up front so don't be afraid to ask. The client can only say no. I also know of clients who were prepared to pay a 75% on a £2500 project, so they are out there.
There are a lot of very reasonable and fair clients.
Pretty sure we have all experienced this at least once in our careers, some more than others. Last year I was unfortunate to get sunk three times, and it really affected my confidence more than anything else.
There was a fourth attempt but this time I tried a technique that initially, I didn't feel too good about enforcing, but it worked.
There are a number of situations that you can be faced with, all with differing variables, so I don't think there is a one size fits all solution, and often there is just not a solution at all. However, if you are faced with a situation similar to mine, you may want to try this at home.
A little background
Not going to name names as it was sorted out in the end, but I will explain the general scenario for you. A nice logo project for someone who needed a new identity for a reasonably substantial company. I had got a small deposit, so I didn't feel overly concerned about getting the full payment when invoiced.
Needless to say, the invoice was ignored. It was ignored a handful of times and my patience finally got the better of me. This was about 4 months down the line. I knew in this time the client had implemented the logo and had been up and running as a business.
So this was a perfect time to try this plan.
It's not actually that Bad Ass, but it sounded good in the title.
Counting on the fact that the client was using the new logo in day to day use, I wrote a reasonably diplomatic letter stating that if the invoice was not settled withing 7 days, I would take steps to either re-sell the logo design or re-use it in it's entirety for a new client project I had coming up.
I was simply counting on the fact that the client would hopefully not feel too good about seeing their unique identity being sold off a number of times to other clients, or re-used for another major company.
It's quite amazing how one can get attached to something like a logo, and only then realise the importance it has.
After a few emails of huffing and puffing by the client, the unpaid invoice was paid in full.
It won't work every time
This is by now means a sure fire method, but I think in cases such as this, where the client has used and is using the unpaid logo in day to day use, a motivation to pay is not out of reach.
This method is not really devious or unreasonable. It's just playing with the cards you have been dealt and recovering as best you can from a unfair situation.
Don't put all your trust in a contract
As I have written in other posts, I have a much tighter system in place now. I still don't have a contract, personally don't believe in them. A contract would not have helped me in the above situation. I require full payment or a 75% deposit for first time clients. Full payment upfront usually for all overseas clients as this is a tricky one to get bad-ass legal on.
For a current identity project I am working on, that has a high budget of around £3000, we have negotiated a staggered deposit arrangement. 50% up front, a further 25% mid way and the final 25% on completion.
The more you can get upfront, the less you will worry about collecting the final invoice, and that level of peace of mind is priceless during a lengthy project.
Recently a client, with whom I have been in discussions with on a new logo design project, asked me why my pricing information was so vague. This is hopefully explains my reasoning for not showing specific prices.
This article explains this apparent vagueness and also expands on my previous post Indepth look at my freelance logo design process.
This is my own personal opinion, so the following is in no way a 'my way is the best way'.
I'm just naturally vague
I am purposefully vague on pricing for one specific reason. Over time, I have adopted a simple process of working to a specified client budget. I don't offer fixed logo price packages or special low cost bundle deals. I touch on some of the problems that I feel fixed rate packages can create in Looking to hire a logo designer. It's an easy route to take, makes it clear for all concerned, but this route creates longer term problems.
Personally, lumping each and every new logo design project into a fixed price category dilutes the whole point of logo design being unique and tailor made. By suggesting all logo designs can be lumped into a fixed price bracket, is saying that you spend the same amount of time and resources designing each and every logo. Inaccurate.
This is not how logo and identity design works, by offering fixed rate packages you are helping the client view logo design as simple as 1, 2, 3. It's the perception of this 'package pricing' that creates the problems that as designers, we are trying to avoid. We constantly strive to impress upon people, clients and other professionals how challenging and involved design can be, yet we fall down at the first hurdle. We strive to provide an exact and convenient pricing process, but it's actually laziness. We can be our own worst enemies in this regard.
Convenience sells, sure. But I would argue we are not in 'the convenience business'. Nothing wrong in making things as seamless as possible, where possible, but accept that certain aspects of how we promote and market our self, says a lot about who we are, and our priorities. Namely, package deal pricing infers, at least to me, an in and out mentality. Boom, boom, boom. 'We want to be so streamlined, we will sacrifice the details of the very process we should be advocating. That we can't even be arsed to talk to you at the inception of a logo design to discuss what budget requirements are best for you.' This approach lacks uniqueness and more importantly, reduces the one-on-one client interaction our very profession dictates we should be good at, communication, both visual and verbal.
I purposefully retain this air of mystery over my pricing, exactly for the reason I couldn't be specific even if I wanted to.
This way, I encourage interaction, where I can then proceed to talk in detail about what I can offer each client. Entering into a dialogue that you would not get by ordering online that 'Premium Logo Package' through your credit card.
I know this process will see some clients hot footing it out of my website, for the very convenience of a package deal found on another logo designers website. But I'm OK with that.
The simple and short answer to this question posed by my client is this. The more money you invest, the more thorough a designer can be. Why? Because a fair chunk of the logo design process is based around sketching, idea formulation and research. None of which are 5 minute affairs.
Not to mention any additional costs incurred with a meaty project, traveling costs, meetings, purchase of fonts and materials.
It's also not my responsibility to gauge how much a client should invest in a logo or brand identity design, although I will of course help them in coming to a decision that works for them.
If I do a logo for £300, the time I can realistically spend in looking at options, research of the company, sketching and actual logo creation will be quite restricted to say a company that put up £2500. The latter meaning I can spend a decent amount of time really 'getting' the company, getting into their and their customers heads, which for the most part is essential to creating a strong, unique and appropriate identity.
For example, the Keyboard kahuna logo was budgeted at over £1000 and took around 2 months to complete, off and on. If you look at the logo process post it will give you an idea of where and how we got to the final design. Now, had Thomas put up £300, then the design would have suffered terribly, the earlier sketches showing some of the initials thoughts and directions. Because I was not pushed so much for time, I could focus on 'getting' the company. Something has to be said with endless tinkering and proud obsession of details.
Same with my most recent project, the rebrand of Foehn & Hirsch. They put up a healthy budget and we started actually late last year. As Keyboard Kahuna, it has been on and off, but the result was that we were able to fine tune the ideas and direction over time. Had I had to watch the clock, then I know the final design would not have been any where near as appropriate and well received as the final design has been.
A rebrand deserves special consideration when pricing up, there is so much more to take into account and so much more risk is involved. An inappropriate rebrand could kill or seriously hinder any reputation of both designer and client, rebrand wisely.
Let me further justify this
So in answer to my clients question, there is a definitive correlation between the price you invest and what you get in return.
It's not that I 'just dial down my creativity' or 'can't be arsed' for a lower paying client budget, it's just based on a realistic use of time. As it is, I always put far more time into every project than what I am being paid for, but that's my choice and my perfectionist nature.
My rates are therefore not random neither are they based on me trying to milk as much as I can from each client. I don't see a wealthy businessman and rub my hands in anticipation of relieving him of £3000 for a logo that will serve as a website header for his son's personal goldfish website.
I will stress that when needed, I will suggest to a client that their initial proposed budget is way more than they need for the job in hand. I have even suggested on a few occasions that their existing logo was more than adequate, a redesign was not necessary in my opinion. Thus doing myself out of a nice little earner. You can see proof of this in my testimonials if you doubt my integrity. :)
The ideal scenario
The ideal scenario is a healthy budget and no real urgent need to complete in a few weeks, let alone days. Time and time again, the best idea has evolved over time. Often my first ideas are the final ideas, but what takes time is evolving the visual details to a point where the logo works effectively.
I will always do my best to create a visually pleasing logo, regardless of the budget, the difference is in the details and overall suitability. If it's to represent a possible product, a brand, a large company, then the budget needs to allow for that.
Here's one, here's the other
My client wanted to see a specific example of both a high and low budget logo design. An example of a cheap and cheerful logo for £200 is Starpuff, and an example of a carefully researched and soundly implemented rebrand for considerably more dosh is Foehn & Hirsch.
Starpuff is a nice enough logo, but more 'skin deep' than 'deep personality'.
What is important to you?
If the product, or new business is super important to you, if it will form the basis for your own standard of living, then in an ideal scenario, invest wisely in an identity designer. If it means nothing to you and its just a hobby or for kicks, then makes sense you will not need to break the bank.
Given the logo or identity IS the face and visual personality of the company, it would then make sense that one gives it the attention to detail it deserves.
I could actually go on and on about justifying prices and budget, but will stop there. For now.
This post touches on a subject that pops up more then several times every week. A number of logo design quote requests I receive, usually end up with the client asking how much they should allocate for their budget.
For this article, I am assuming we are talking about typical freelancers, working from home. I am also basing this article on designers that don't have fixed rate logo design packages. For obvious reasons, this is a less tricky route to take, but I personally feel fixed rate logo designs can cause some clients to get confused with prices. I am often asked why I can charge over £1000 for a logo design when they have seen a designer doing fixed rate logo designs for £300. (This I will tackle in my next post.)
Who's call is it?
This is my opinion of course, it is based on my own thoughts and reasons. You may agree or disagree.
Simply, I believe that the client should make the overall decision as to the budget for any kind of logo and identity work they require.
It is not for the designer to determine the importance of the clients business. A designer cannot reasonably and accurately make that call. Unless significant consulting in both finances and business plan have been undertaken. Numerous factors dictate that the client is the only one who should determine the value they place and invest on any kind of identity and advertising work.
How important is the business to them, how critical is it that the business takes off with the right visual message. How crucial is it to the client that people take their brand and identity seriously? How much are they prepared to invest in catapulting their identity forwards? Do they really understand the importance of a solid logo and brand identity?
It may seem an obvious pitch, but the frequency of which I am asked how much the client should spend or invest is considerably high. It only takes a few words with the client usually to clear the situation, but I am sure many less experienced designers end up feeling pressured to make that call. If the less experienced designer is not totally aware of this, they could easily end up undervaluing the project.
The client will probably need a guiding hand as to what is an appropriate financial range, which can only be done once a adequate brief has been absorbed. But the ultimate decision should be left to the client.
Last minute logo design
It's quite often the case that the logo design has been left to the very last minute, which is the worse possible situation. This usually means finances have been spent on web site development and other advertising costs. I think the assumption here is that the logo can be knocked out quickly and cheaply. Indeed, I know this to be the case, as I am the one often explaining to the client that their assumptions are quite incorrect.
The much used saying, 'you get what you pay for' is so very true.
Guide the client
The next time a client asks you what their budget should be, you need to guide the client down the right path. Explain that it's not for a designer to make that decision. You don't know anything about the business as this point, the clients financial situation, their knowledge or understanding of the value of a solid logo. Obtaining a solid brief will help determine the time needed, and you can use this to discuss with the client what realistic fee is.
You can help them look at the process involved and make a reasonable suggestion on time and costs. But make it clear you are guiding them only, it is their money, their business, their decision as to how much of their money they should put up.
This can be tricky for a designer if they are not experienced in negotiating fee's or feel insecure about their own worth as a designer.
Saying all that, there are a number of times when I see a new logo quote request, where the client has confidently allocated a realistic and sometimes generous budget. Relish the moment.
On occasion, the budget offered has exceeded what I would have initially quoted for, based on the information on the brief. On these occasions, try not to be greedy. Consistency is important. On these occasions I will explain that the budget is generous. I explain my appreciation to them for valuing the logo design process.
I then go on to explain that given the brief, the chances are the project could be done for less that the budget put up. That the client can expect a reduced invoice if the project is indeed completed in reasonable time and without any unexpected delays or or surprises. This helps instill trust and can help with your overall reputation further down the line.
There is a fine line between being greedy and undervaluing yourself.
In this post, I will highlight my methods and reasons for dealing with new clients, budget issues and the often tricky 'how much will the logo cost me?' scenario. It is something I have been asked a number of times on Twitter, and from my own experience, it is a frequent occurrence.
This is how I work, and this may not be for everyone. All I do know it works for me, and it's something I am constantly tweaking and revising. I am not saying, 'this is how it must be', because we all work differently. But given the fact it works, I feel the need to share that with you. Feel free to criticize, agree or whatever.
For the purposes of clarifying the basics, please head over to my online quote form, and familiarize yourself with what I have written on this page. It does seem a lot of text, but it's all necessary if you are to be armed with the relevant information to help your client. By reading it, you will also see first hand how I deal with the 'first contact'.
This is usually when a potential new client approaches you either directly or via your website, asking about a new logo project. Typically, it will start, 'How much will it cost?' or any number of variations thereof... 'what do you charge for logo design?', 'I'm starting a new company and need a logo to do this and that, how much will it cost?', "I only have £100, can you design a logo for that?" And so it goes on.
Feeling the pressure yet?
Immediately the onus is placed on you to then provide an almost instant, firm answer without knowing anything about the client or the business.
Time and time again, I hear of designers feeling pressurized at this early stage by the client, almost overwhelmed with uncertainty. It can be made worse if you are desperate for work, or keen to not loose this one client etc. It can be a shock to the system, you begin to doubt your own rates, you almost feel obliged to offer a discount even though you know nothing about them. Possibly you don't want to scare them off with a adversely high first quote, so you purposefully undermine your own morals, by coming in at a stupidly low quote.
Throw it back
I have discovered, from painful and repeated failures, that the best and most productive way is to place the onus back on the client. This can be done quickly, smoothly and fairly.
For me, it comes down to what they are prepared to pay or better yet, invest in their valuable business identity. It's not for me to come up with some random price.
Whats your budget?
Ask the client what budget they have for marketing, advertising and such like. Not in so many words, but you are hinting that if they have not even thought about it, then they need to do so.
This is important, put the onus back on the client.
You wouldn't approach an architect with 'how much to design me a house?', and based on those few words, expect the architect to come up with a firm price. You would expect to have to provide the architect with information, house styles, size, ideas, thoughts, price ranges before getting anywhere near knowing the cost. It's pretty much the same idea for a logo or brand identity project.
Ask them what value they place on this new business of theirs. How much or how little are they then prepared to 'invest' in giving the business the turbo boost it needs to make a successful and meaningful impact.
The logo, the identity is the entry to their business. It sets the mood, it determines how people will react, how people will view and gauge this new business. There is no denying it, this is important stuff.
Don't allow yourself to be pressured into coming up with a meaningless and cheap quote. If the client is unwilling to name a budget, you need to try and walk then through the reasons why not doing so can be problematic for the end result. Or use the above 'architect' example as a close comparison.
You need at least a rough idea of their top limit.
The budget gives you some of the information you need to decide if the job is worth taking on. The other important aspect that goes with this is the 'brief', but I will cover that in another post. But I will say, if they provide a detailed brief, and it's clear a lot of work is involved, but they only state a budget of, lets say, £200, then you know you have your hands full. Either they are seriously trying it on, or they genuinely do not know the value of design. If the latter, you can help them at this point, by explaining the true value and importance of investing a fair and decent budget. You can do this by the online form.
Help and advise
As the designer, we obviously know how long time things take, the need for research etc and therefore the value of what we do is easily measurable. But never forget that for non designers, this is likely to be foreign turf. So don't allow yourself to rush off the deep end and assume every client is 'trying it on'. Its more than possible that given some help and advice, they will see that they will need to invest more than they had originally thought. Not everyone can know everything. Just like I have no idea the true worth of an architect. I have no doubt I would be astounded at the costs involved to hire a experienced architect, or to hire a city lawyer.
For this reason, I found that offering 'first contact' by telephone or Skype can really smooth things for some people. The form may just be a blur to them, or they need some upfront verbal advice first. This is worth considering. A verbal chat is more confident inspiring to a lot of people. The idea is that they read the information in the quote form first, before calling. So they are at least aware of the process and the various costs involved.
At this point, pointing out that a budget needs to be worked out becomes easier, it's not so unexpected and they are less likely to put you on the spot.
The online form
Incorporating an online form in my website, has been the single most important improvement of my work flow. This acts as a filter, it weeds out those that really have no desire to pay 'fair' prices, it informs people of the basic principles of logo and identity design. It helps put my prices into context.
It saves me time, and it saves me a shit load of stress.
The online quote form puts the onus of the logo design cost back onto the client. Not you.
The form gives information, it educates as well as guiding the client through the process, getting them to think of aspects of the logo and identity design that they may have had no idea of. If they can't be bothered to fill it in, then would you really want to work with a client who clearly does not take it seriously. Likewise, a client who fills in the form, spends time with the answers, and allocates a fair budget will allow you to feel comfortable taking the project on. You know that even at this early stage, the client is on your level, they seemingly understand or at least appreciate good design, and how much it costs.
And this all means you have not had to deal face to face with the 'how much does logo design cost?'. The form does the educating and raises awareness of the design process involved.
I have had clients admit to me, that prior to filling in the form, they were thinking of only spending say, £250, but once they read the form, had to stop and think about the questions, realised how low that initial sum was. Ultimately they came away happier and more confident about working with me, even though they ended up spending more money.
Its not fool proof
People will still try it on. I have various logo packages, as I try to cater for all budgets and needs where possible, but it's under my control, not the client. Occasionally, someone will fill in the form, clearly spending a long time over the answers, needing a full identity package, but knowingly choose the cheapest package I have, £165. On these occasions I send them back an email, politely explaining why there is a small problem. This gives them the option to re-think and re-consider.
It's important that you try and steer the subject of costs and budget back onto the client. It is a fair and reasonable expectation after all. It is their business, not yours.
Try not to be fobbed off with 'I just don't have the funds right now to invest in a logo design.' This really is not your problem. Their lack of funds should not become 'your' problem. If you allow yourself to be hoodwinked into taking on a cheap paying project that involves lots of work and research, you yourself are being screwed financially. This just leads to all sorts of problems further down the line.
Only the client can reasonably place a value on the business, the importance of a solid identity. The budget determines how committed they are to it, which ultimately determines how much time 'you' should be allocating in working with them. I usually end up working more hours than I quoted, but that's just me, I choose to do so.
I am not saying that any client with a small budget should be ignored, far from it. That's why I have set up numerous packages for this very reason. I choose to offer both fixed rate 'budget' packages for those that are financially limited, as well as the more involved' tiered budget pricing for the real meaty projects. Even here, I am setting the pace so to speak, it's on my turf, therefore, less nasty surprises.
The online quote form is really worth considering if you want to avoid this type of scenario. You are the designer, they are hiring you. Presumably they are coming to you because they like what you do, so that can only translate to one thing. They need to pay you.
Remember self worth, both financially and otherwise.
So, moving on from my last post I Need a Logo Designed for Free", on logo designers being asked to do 'free' logos, or in exchange for the never arriving skill swap for free fitted wardrobe units. Here is the next tier up or down, depending on your viewpoint.
"What are your rates, what do you charge for logo design?"
Seemingly harmless in itself and frankly on the surface a fair enough question. But lets open this up a little more.
I have stopped giving out hourly or fixed rates for logo projects,
Typically, I have moved on from offering up hourly rates or fixed rates when a potential client comes approaches me with the opening post question : "What are your rates, what do you charge for logo design?" The exception is for a budget logo package which ultimately is only suitable for website header graphics etc.
If you ask that question, if you are the client, dig a little deeper and actually stop to think about that what it is you are asking. You are asking a question that needs way more information before it can be 'accurately' answered.
In some cases this can put the designer in a pretty awkward position.
Cost, worth and budget
Ultimately, it comes down to how much the client is prepared to pay in relation to how important this project is for them, what their budget is.
It's not for me to set a price ceiling for a clients logo or brand identity project.
Heck, I know nothing about them. I don't even know at this point the name of their brand, let alone how much they should spend. Or more importantly, how serious and devoted they are to their own success. Do they understand that logo and brand identity design is a pretty complex and involved process? If not, we need to help, thats if they want the help of course.
To the client
You tell me how important this project is to you. You tell me how far this new identity of yours needs to penetrate. You tell me how many people it needs to touch. You tell me how many competitors you need to rise against. There will be many more questions, but we can make a start with some basics.
When you come to me and ask me what my costs are before I know even the slightest bit about you, you are asking me an impossible question.
- It's impossible if you want me to do the best job I possibly can for you.
- It's easy if you want me to do a cheap slap dash job.
And if it's the latter, I can tell you know, I will refuse and suggest you find some clip art. Well, that's a bit harsh, but I kinda mean it.
Only then can we make progress. Only then can we start working out figures before asking the client to commit.
The downside and what to do about it
Unfortunately, there are many clients who want a quick fix logo quote. The moment you say its not that simple, that they need to provide some informtion, you may not hear from them again. At this point it is up to you to decide if they are better off going elsewhere or if you feel they need a slight prod and a guiding hand.
Whenever I get 'that' question, I send them a nice email just outlining why it's not so easy to just come up with a default rate. I summarize why, and the reasons. I try to put their mind at ease when the 'budget' question is asked. I let them know Im not going to take them to the cleaners. I implicitly tell them that I will not use up their generous budget if I don't have to. They can help this by providing as much information as possible and answering all the questions on my initial quote form.
I will ask them again to fill in my online quote form which is a pretty easy bunch of questions for them to answer. (One client refused to fill in the form, and repeatedly asked me to just pluck a number from thin air.) Guess what I did.
You need to explain that if they are serious about the logo and identity then this WILL mean more investment. You can't get away from that one. The old well abused and used cliché, "you get what you pay for" has never been so true and so appropriate.
But even after I send this email, I will sometimes not hear from them again. But this is OK. This pretty much tells me that they were either after something for nothing, or just not happy to work at working with me.
You must want to work 'with' me
Thats important to consider, if they are not happy to work to work with you for their own best interests, do you really want the stress of having them as a client? If filling out a quote form that has a few brief related questions is too much, kinda paints a picture about the client, does it not?
It takes work from both sides to complete a successful logo and brand identity project. It 'just' doesn't happen without considerable input from the client and a big helping hand from the designer.
I know now that the clients that do stick with me through this initial process, are the ones that will be appreciative and understanding.
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The Logo Smith : Freelance Logo Designer, Brand Identity & Graphic Design Studio
Providing PR Services with The PR Room: Technology PR, Smart Home PR, Internet of Things PR and Lifestyle PR Agency.
25 Years Experience in: Logo & Brand Identity Design, Graphic Design, Advertising, Marketing, and Commercial Print.