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.
There is, in every industry, the unavoidable anally sore fact that what you do to earn a living, will be cheapened by anyone given half the chance. There will be the "I only have £75, can you do a great logo for that?" and the many variations on that theme.
Work swaps, freebies, favours, friends and family, guilt trips, you name it, some potential clients will try it on. It's how we are wired when we don't fully understand someone elses area of expertise.
We allow our naivety to be an excuse in these situations.
Don't you just push a button and press print?
But hey you, Design Person!
But that doesn't mean that 'us', or yes 'you', the designer are guilt free. Far from it. We can shove our knecks so far down the collective sand pits that we fail to see that we are in fact failing the very people we are cursing for asking for that free logo. We curse them till the purple cows come home for taking the proverbial piss.
How dare they ask for a job skill swapsies session. Do they have no bumbling idea of how much time my bit would take over theirs? Why don't they know? Why?
So 'they', really have no idea of what you charge, how good you are pound for pound, dollar for dollar.They just see you, one amongst many.
Simply put. We clearly did not do a good enough job of marketing and branding our own worth on our website or through appropriate social media channels. We have not associated ourselves with quality and professional work with the 'cost and value factor'.
We have not aligned our skill set with the financial aspect. We haven't associated any value to what we do in the market place. Ok, sure. You may have a handy memorised price list, but that's not very helpful.
Is it not down to you, me, them, all the collective Designers on this fragile planet to make sure that we foresee and prepare for any and all likely piss taking requests by providing the most basic of information?
You need to start showing things called numbers alongside your glorious portfolio.
It's all very well having an award winning portfolio, if you don't give any idea whatsoever about how that award winning portfolio equates to some loose change.
No wonder people try it on. No prices or ball park quote figures, what the hell are people to expect? Well, it seems no prices means you do it for free. Not a wild leap to make. Give them, the non designer folks some idea of the value you place on your own work and don't hide it out of sight. Don't be arrogant, but be confident.
If the amount of these naive requests drop, then you know that you are starting to market yourself correctly. You are not hiding the very details that would make said previous trickster think twice about trying it on.
This is the first step to increasing your overall perceived value. Once this gets a grip, then you keep that momentum going. By doing this you are also doing all other designers a favour, by helping raise the overall perceived awareness of value rather than bitching about another free logo request.
Yes, I am Preaching
I have not always done this myself. I got so fed up with the amount of ridiculous requests, that I thought it was actually my responsibly to put right.
- First step was the online quote form.
- Second step was outlining some basic price structures.
- Third step was then outlining details like timings/schedules and budget expectations.
Since this has evolved, the number of 'silly' requests and dropped dramatically. Saving me time and numerous pulsating stress headaches.
Plus the bonus that I am now associating my work, via my portfolio with a perceived value. And the added benefit of helping create a universally higher perceived value to all other logo designers.
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Logo & Brand Identity Design Studio, with 25 Years Experience.
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