Why Hiring a Designer Seems Expensive
Everyone has a different perspective of what “expensive” means, which is why pricing can be such a tricky task for many designers, and why some people think that hiring a designer is just too expensive and not worthwhile.
Flourish Wildly exists to serve small and local businesses, as well as conscious businesses worldwide. We serve people we care about, and people who are making a difference, and we want our services to be accessible and affordable to the businesses that need us. This is why I’ve decided to give a bit of insight into what goes into determining the pricing of projects, and hopefully help those of you who think that design is too expensive to better understand why we designers price things the way we do.
Here is a breakdown of the five variables that determine most designer’s prices:
Cost of Business
As a business owner, when pricing my projects, I have to consider how much money I need to live and to keep my business running. At the beginning of each year, I take into account how much I need to make, and how much it cost to run my business, and how many projects that I can manage per month and per year. This gives me a rough estimate of what I need to charge per project just to stay in business and pay my bills.
Here’s a few things I take into account:
Life: You know how it goes, I’ve gotta be able to pay rent, buy groceries, gas, and buy my mom a birthday gift every year. These are just the necessities in life.
Business Expenses: Adobe CC subscription which includes all of my design software, assistants and/or employees, tools such as my laptop and iPad which occasionally breakdown and need to be replaced, website hosting, online services that provide a smoother client experience (because your experience working with me is important to me!), lots and lots of pens, papers, printed materials, paints, sticky notes, and of course, continued education. Each year I like to take an online course and/or go to a design conference so that I continue learning, growing, and being the best designer that I can be.
Taxes: The biggest expense I have as a business owner is paying my own taxes each year. Roughly 20-30% of revenue goes into a separate account for taxes, so when you pay me $2,000 for a project, not all of that is going right into my pocket (in fact, most of it is going back into my business)!
Skill & Experience
With each project, each conference, and each client interaction, a designer is growing their skills and bringing new knowledge to their next project and their next client.
Good designers study communication, the marketplace, problem-solving, current and fading trends, what makes a design timeless, and so, so much more. We read everything, we listen to everything, we meet other designers and have mentors and weekly or monthly meetings, we go to conferences and take online courses. We’re always trying to understand what’s changing and why, so that we can keep up.
You’re an expert in your field, and designers are experts in design – this, of course, must affect pricing. This is also a big part of the reason why you might find quite a range of prices when considering what designer to hire. Someone who has been designing for 20 years is likely going to charge a lot more than someone just out of college, or a few years in. Or, someone who’s an expert at a very specific style of design may (and should) charge a lot more than someone who isn’t very familiar with that same style but is trying to learn.
Time & Demand
Providing a high-quality client experience, and of course, designing, takes time. At the root of it, designing is problem-solving. For example, a re-brand might solve the problem of always getting the wrong kind of people in your doors by clearly communicating what you do and who you’re for, and attracting those kinds of people instead. Because design solves problems, it can take some time to get it to the right – it’s not exactly a straight-forward process.
Good designs evolve from idea to idea to idea to final design. We’re constantly considering the problem and the design and going back to the drawing board until we’ve found the best solution. There’s no shortcuts to designing something good and worthwhile.
Designers must consider how much time is needed for each project, how much time they have, and how much their time is worth, which also affects the pricing. If a designer is in high-demand and highly sought after, or has a specific style that no one else can do nearly as well, they’re going to charge more for their time, as they are a limited commodity in-demand, and therefore, their time and designs are worth a lot more.
Size of Client & Value of the Project
Global corporations, local start-up businesses, and non-profit’s, for example, have a large variation of reach, impact, size, and revenue, which can affect a designer’s prices.
Consider the value of a project. If a business is investing in their branding, they’re investing in the future of their business and their businesses growth. A brand is used across all mediums for years to come, helps businesses stand-out, attract better and more clients, and therefore make more money. A logo, therefore, is worth a lot more to a business than say a seasonal poster.
If a client requests a poster advertising their new product line, or an internal poster for their upcoming holiday party, the value of each project to the client is much different, as one poster will bring them new clients and revenue, and the other will not. This affects what the designer charges for each poster, even though they’ll likely take the same amount of skill, materials, and time to design.
When you hear of cheap design services, think about why the services are so cheap. There are some places online where you can buy a logo for $100 or less, but these logos are designed quickly and without any real purpose, intentionality, or strategy behind them. These cheap designs may end up communicating the wrong things, attract the wrong people, or even completely turn-off your dream clients.
Good design adds value to your business and is worth the investment. Can you really afford to be the business that gets lost in the shadows of a more attractive business or product?
Lastly, each designer considers what the industry standard is for designers as a whole, based on location, experience, what their competitors are charging, and more. While it’s not an end-all-be-all, it’s another thing we consider when determining prices.