Pay Peanuts, Get Monkeys

Every designer has experienced this problem before: a potential client contacts you about making something for them. It sounds like a nice opportunity, quick work, good deal, right? Except that the client has, for whatever reason, big plans with a tiny budget. They’re offering “exposure” for your work. Exposure is for cameras and I’ve got that down just fine, thankyouverymuch.

Personally, I’ve stopped working for clients that don’t have a budget. Agreeing to work for them just shows that you’re willing to compromise for less than you’re worth and that you’ll allow people to take advantage of you. But are they really bad people? I’d sure like to hope not. The viewpoint of lowballing clients is skewed and based on low perceived value of design work. There are a handful of reasons why they think that a logo should only cost $50 and there’s a million more reasons why designers should be paid fairly. So sit back, Mr. “I-Only-Have-A-Couple-Bucks-to-Spend-on-this” client, this one’s for you.

I have a shoestring budget, but a great idea!

Consider a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign or a sponsorship like TechStars. There’s also Seedups, Y-Combinator, 500-Strong… If you’re serious about your business and have a great idea, there is funding out there for you. It can go to you or to someone else, but it’s out there of rate taking. Take it. Then you can pay your people what they’re worth and they’ll work better.

Design doesn’t add to my business, it’s just decoration.

Not so! Design is all about the experience. Let’s say you live in a tight-knit neighborhood where people hold barbecue parties on the weekends. You’re a bit of a penny-pincher, and while you can grill a mean burger with the best of them, your neighbor Jim has a greener lawn, a nicer house, and a big ol’ flat screen in the living room to watch the game. Guess who’s house we’re all going to be at this Saturday?

This is obviously a case of direct competition; if you have your market cornered and you’re happy with how your business is now and forever, you’re probably not thinking about design. But in any situation where you can be directly compared to your competition, good design can give you an edge.

A well-designed brand says to your customers that you take pride in your work and that you’re concerned about how you come off to others. In the same way that Jim’s nice lawn, nice house, and flat screen TV communicates that he cares about the comfort of his guests and about their experience, your brand needs to tell people that you care about their interactions with your company and you want then to be positive.

I have other stuff to do—function over form!

Your brand is your face. You need a face, because without a face, nobody knows who you are, and only associate you with a bloody, gaping mass of muscle and teeth where your face should be. Sorry, that got dark fast…

I could go to Fiverr and get one for less than what you charge!

You go do that.

Okay, FINE. How much does it have to cost? I don’t want this cutting into my budget!

Well that’s not an attitude that’s going to get you great creative work! Remember that money isn’t the only form of wealth in this world. Ideas, images, emotions, experiences, skills, and even material items are also forms of wealth. Alan Watts explained this very well one time, saying how silly it is that we all get depressed paying for groceries. Sure you don’t have that $30 anymore, but the real wealth is right there in your cart!

Your finished brand is just as much a form of wealth as the money you pay for it, and there is direct correlation between value paid and value received, as with all things in life. Would you pay $50 for a used car? Not if you reasonably expect to get out of the parking lot… Would you trust a $100 computer for all of your working files? No! (learned that one the hard way…) Your brand is wealth, which can apprecaite by careful application of your brand according to the guides and standards set out by your designer. That wealth can be transferred into social value, which in turn ends up as business, which gets you monetary wealth. Your designer is giving you something that’s worth far more than you’re paying for it.

Finally, your logo is going to cost more than $50 because $50 would almost buy an hour of my time in Illustrator. You don’t want someone working for you who is less than fully invested. You don’t want anybody working on your brand for less than top dollar. I first heard a saying when I was working retail for $7.40 an hour that really resonated with me: “Minimum wage, minimum interest.” This applies to you, no matter who you are or what you do; you don’t get quality for cheap, and if you only offer chump change, you’re only going to get chumps working for you. That’s the rule of employment! As my friend Dr. Polar Humenn says, “Pay Peanuts, Get Monkeys.”” That’s why a great logo isn’t cheap.

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