Are you paying too much for design services?
How much is “too Much”
As with many things, the ideal design costs differ from person to person: one person’s project design budget for just one project may be another’s annual design budget!
The purpose of this post is not to qualify the different scales of spend across the industry but to focus on the relative value of what is delivered.
Spending “too much” isn’t about the final cost being too high; it’s about spending more on a project than you need.
There are reasons why people may pay too much for design, and these can include but are not limited to, inexperience, habit, the abdication of responsibility, Misplaced expectations, and Expensive designers.
How much should design costs total?
The cost of design is not fixed, so you can pay very little or a hell of a lot for the same level of design.
The variables can include the designer’s experience, the agency’s size, location, type of work, or even the type of contract you have with the designer. Almost always, it will be a unique mixture of all these factors.
If you are comparing designers, then you must make sure that you are at least comparing like with like and not comparing a single newly graduated freelancer who works from home with a seasoned professional who works in a large city-based agency.
If you do, one will almost be more expensive than the other if cost is the only measure available.
Ways to Avoid Overpaying
There is a misconception that design costs directly relate to the quality of work you receive.
It is worth ensuring you prioritise what is important and use that as your guide.
- Prioritise What Matters: The cheapest design option may not always be the most cost-effective. Prioritise what’s essential to your project’s success and let that guide your decisions.
- Research Is Key: Research the designers you’re considering. The quality of design is closely linked to the designer’s skills and experience. A little research, such as reviewing credentials and case studies, can go a long way.
- Tailor to Your Needs: Find a designer whose skills align with your project requirements. If you need consistent, straightforward designs quickly, you don’t necessarily require an overly creative designer. Tailor your choice to your specific needs.
- Focus on Value: Value is subjective and personal. Determine what you value most in a designer and let that guide your selection process.
- Set a Budget: While budget constraints are a reality, they shouldn’t be the sole factor in your decision-making process. Prioritize value over cost, and the results will speak for themselves.
Let’s look at these in more detail:
Research is key
Knowing that the quality of design you will get is directly linked to the experience and skills of the designer working on it, it is well worth doing a little research first.
Research doesn’t have to be complex and longwinded; it can just be a few simple questions or a request to see their credentials or case studies.
If they don’t have these or allay your concerns, you can always press a little further and talk directly to the designer and get a feel for how it would be like to work with them.
- Quality Assurance: Design is a craft that becomes refined with experience. The more seasoned a designer is, the more likely they are to produce high-quality work. Research helps you identify a designer with a proven track record, reducing the risk of subpar design work.
- Credentials and Case Studies: Research doesn’t have to be a laborious process. It can be as simple as asking a few pertinent questions or requesting to see a designer’s credentials and case studies. These documents provide insights into their past work, showcasing their skills, style, and the diversity of projects they’ve handled.
- Direct Interaction: In cases where credentials and case studies may not suffice to allay your concerns, don’t hesitate to take it a step further. Engage in direct conversation with the designer. This allows you to get a feel for their personality, communication style, and how it would be to collaborate with them. Building a rapport and understanding their approach can be immensely valuable in your decision-making process.
Find the right designer for you
When it comes to managing design costs, finding the ideal designer is key.
- Prioritise Your Needs: If your priority is getting your design project right the first time and being 100% confident in your marketing, seek a designer who possesses the precise skills and experience you demand.
- Matching Creativity to Your Project: Not every project requires cutting-edge creativity. If you’re looking for a designer to efficiently handle simple designs for straightforward projects, you might not need a designer who constantly strives to innovate.
- Striking the Balance: An overly creative designer may not align with your project’s requirements, and it’s essential to find a designer whose expertise lies in art-working. They will be better suited to your needs, ensuring that your budget is spent wisely while delivering the quality you desire.
Look for value
The concept of value in design is highly subjective and deeply personal. It’s not solely about the cost but rather what you consider important and meaningful in your design project.
Here’s how to navigate this subjective aspect:
- Subjectivity of Value: Value, in the context of design, is open to interpretation. What one person values in design may differ significantly from another’s perspective. It could be about aesthetics, functionality, or even the emotional impact of a design.
- Personal Priorities: Instead of relying on a standardised or arbitrary measure of value, consider your personal priorities. What do you value most in your design project? Is it a bold and innovative design that stands out, or perhaps a more straightforward, functional approach? Identifying your priorities is the first step.
- The Right Match: Once you’ve determined what you value, seek a designer whose approach aligns with those values. If a designer’s portfolio and style resonate with what you consider valuable, they are likely the best fit for your project.
- Confidence in Your Choice: Trust in your values can significantly boost your confidence in your choice of designer. It ensures that the designer’s work reflects what you hold dear in design, making it a more satisfying and successful collaboration.
Set a budget
We all operate in the real world; whether we like it or not, there is always a budget.
The budget you have will play its part, but again, it shouldn’t be the first factor.
As a rule, you should prioritise value over cost, and you will always be happier with your choice of designer. The right designer will help you get the most out of any budget, and not vice versa.
- Acknowledging Real-world Constraints: We all operate within real-world constraints, and budget limitations are a part of that reality. Whether we like it or not, there’s always a budget to consider when embarking on a design project.
- Balancing Cost and Value: While budget plays a role, it shouldn’t be the sole determinant of your decision. Instead, prioritise value over cost. The focus should be on achieving the best results for the investment you make.
- Value-Centric Approach: Following the rule of prioritising value over cost ensures that you’ll be content with your choice of designer. The right designer can help you maximise the impact of your budget, making it a wise investment rather than a limitation.
- Designer’s Role in Budget Management: A skilled designer understands the importance of working within budget constraints. They can help you make the most of your available resources, ensuring that your design project aligns with your goals without exceeding your financial boundaries.
Benefits of Paying Appropriate Design Costs
You should aim to balance value and cost, and the results will take care of themselves.
Benefits will include an improvement in the quality of work, efficiencies in budgets and schedules and better working relationships.
Quality of work
Designers will always produce their best work when working with clients who trust them and appreciate their skills and experience.
This trust works both ways, making the process more enjoyable for everyone involved. Better quality work will always see better results and a greater return on investment.
- Mutual Trust: Designers perform at their peak when they have the trust of their clients. When clients place their confidence in a designer’s skills and experience, it creates a symbiotic relationship of trust. This trust extends both ways: clients trust designers to deliver their best work, and designers trust that their clients appreciate their expertise.
- Enhancing the Process: Trust fosters a more enjoyable and effective collaborative process. When clients and designers trust each other, communication flows more smoothly, and decisions are made with confidence. This collaborative atmosphere makes the design process more enjoyable and lessens potential conflicts or misunderstandings.
- Superior Results: Trust between designers and clients invariably leads to better quality work. Designers are more likely to push creative boundaries and deliver their finest work when they know that their clients trust and respect their abilities. This results in designs that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also strategically aligned with the project’s goals.
- Enhanced ROI: Higher quality work isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s about delivering value. Better design leads to better results, ultimately translating into a greater return on investment (ROI) for clients. Quality design can captivate audiences, enhance brand perception, and drive desired actions.
As mentioned above in quality, when you get the right designer and value the work they create, there will always be efficiencies and savings, especially on the design costs.
- Efficiencies in Design: When you’ve selected a designer who aligns with your project’s goals and values, there’s a natural synergy in the creative process. The designer understands your vision and can execute it effectively. This leads to efficiencies in design, where ideas are translated into visual concepts with precision and swiftness.
- Getting It Right the First Time: Collaboration with the right designer ensures that the project is executed correctly from the outset. This eliminates the need for extensive revisions or corrections, saving both time and resources. When the initial design aligns with your expectations, the project progresses smoothly and efficiently.
- Cost Efficiency: Time savings also equate to cost efficiency. When projects are executed with speed and precision, the associated costs are kept in check. There are fewer billable hours spent on revisions or adjustments, ensuring that your budget is used wisely.
- Enhanced Productivity: Time savings go beyond the immediate project. They contribute to enhanced productivity for your team and business. With projects completed efficiently, you can redirect your resources to other critical tasks, ensuring that your overall operations run smoothly.
When design projects run smoothly and efficiently, and everyone loves the results, the whole process is far more enjoyable, and working relationships benefit all involved.
Better working relationships allow projects to be undertaken quicker and easier, encouraging greater ownership of responsibilities like brand guardianship and proofreading.
- Smooth and Enjoyable Processes: When design projects run smoothly and efficiently, the entire creative process becomes more enjoyable. Teams are more motivated, and clients are more satisfied. This positive atmosphere permeates through the project, making it a fulfilling endeavour for everyone involved.
- Strengthened Working Relationships: An enjoyable and successful project cultivates better working relationships. Trust is established, and collaboration becomes more harmonious. Designers, clients, and teams develop a deeper understanding of each other’s strengths and expectations.
- Efficient Project Execution: With strong working relationships, projects can be undertaken with greater speed and ease. Efficient communication and mutual trust allow for quicker decision-making and problem-solving. This encourages the ownership of responsibilities, such as brand guardianship and proofreading, as team members are more invested in the project’s success.
- Positive Brand Perception: An improved reputation isn’t limited to internal relationships; it also extends to your external image. When your design projects consistently yield excellent results, it reflects positively on your brand. Clients, partners, and audiences view your brand as one that values quality and efficiency.
Design Costs: Don’t Pay Too Much – in investigating this topic, we have considered how to qualify how much ‘too much’ is for you and your needs.
We have looked at what design should cost and how this can vary depending on several factors, from the designer’s experience to the size of their agency.
We have also prompted you to consider what value you put on design and how this should shape your notions of cost.
Be open to discussing your values with a designer and different ways of paying for your work, such as a design subscription or retainer style model, but always dependent on your specific needs.
My title at Toast is Brand Strategy, but what I do is a lot simpler – I help people solve problems. Sometimes I have to identify that problem, sometimes they know already and want me to just come up with the solution and help them apply it.