"How much?" This little 2-word question is usually the first thing we hear when starting a conversation about a new design and/or marketing project. Unfortunately, this seemingly simple question does not have a simple answer.
I started thinking about the "how much" question a lot more due to a recent onslaught of "fix it" jobs that have landed on our desks. In every case, the client initially moved forward with the bargain basement estimate and not happy with the outcome. Also in every case, the client ended up paying twice—once to do it wrong and again to do it right. So, if "how much" equates to an overall higher bill and costly delays, maybe the better question is "what is the value of doing things right the first time?"
A story for you...
The client (we'll call them "Fancy") owns a small business and has decided to take the next step in expanding—new space, new services, additional employees—and they need a total brand tear down and build up that is appealing to a new audience, but that also doesn’t alienate their established clientele.
When starting a conversation about branding—or any design and marketing solution—our first step is to dive in and understand the business's vision, ideal public perception, current and intended audience, inspiration, and long-term goals (six months, a year, five years, and 10-year). All this information is gathered before we quote the project because it’s important to understand Fancy's needs before assuming we are the right people for the job.
Fast forward to a few days later where we have done our due diligence in immersing ourselves into the potential project and generated a quote for Fancy's review. After a couple of days, we receive an email response back, “The estimate is a little over our budget. We will get back to you after we look at some other options.” Okay, not what we wanted to hear but understand and move on with our plans of conquering the world with good design and marketing.
About a week or so later, we hear back from Fancy. They tell us that there are less expensive options out there; however, they are moving forward with us because no one else that they contacted took the time to inquire about them and their goals. An email inquiry was all it took to slap a canned price on what they assumed Fancy needed.
Nice story, but what is the lesson here?
The miraculous part about the story is that Fancy could see that a lower price, in the beginning, would probably equate to delays plus a higher cost in the end because they weren't being considered in the equation from the start. Why is this miraculous you ask? Because the Fancy saw the value in doing things right the first time, and this lesson is not usually learned until after a lot of time and money has already been invested (or wasted) and we're being asked to step in and fix the situation.
We could make a living alone re-illustrating bad logos because there are a lot out there and plenty of people purchase them for cheap. We see a lot of designs built in Photoshop where the only file that exists is a low-res JPG, but it doesn't have to be this way! The right people for the job should care about the client enough to take the time to ask plenty of questions in order to do things right the first time.
When looking for design and marketing solutions without a detailed RFP (Request For Proposal), and before jumping on the lowest estimate in town, make sure you are asking the right questions for you and your business.
So, what are the right questions to ask?
1. Before you received an estimate, did the firm have a detailed conversation with you to get acquainted with your business, project, and goals?
If the answer to this question is no – be wary. Whoever you are seeking out for your project should want to get to know you and fully understand the parameters of the project before providing an estimate. How can anyone be absolutely sure they can achieve the desired results without knowing your business inside and out? Take the guesswork out of the equation.
2. Was the firm a little too agreeable to everything you were requesting?
Of course you want someone that is confident and able to handle your requests; however, you are sure to run into delays and communication pitfalls that can be very expensive if all you are hearing is, “Yes. Yes. Yes!” A good firm will ask you clarifying questions and engage you in a detailed conversation about your project(s) before moving forward.
3. Does the firm have experience that aligns with what you need?
This sounds obvious enough, and in some cases, it is, but this can be a bit tricky. For example, you have a business that produces cell phone cases and you need someone who can create the case designs, as well as the outer packaging. Just because the firm you’ve contacted has not worked specifically with cell phone cases in the past does not mean they should be out of the running. The right firm would have extensive experience working with offset and digital printing, vendors, manufacturers, and packaging design. If the majority of the firm’s experience is web work and catalogs, they would not be the best choice.
4. How responsive is the firm via phone and email?
A slow response time could mean the firm is overextended and your project will not get the attention it needs. Your firm should have a 48 hour max policy for returning phone calls and emails. Response time is especially important when working with print deadlines. Unfortunately, we have been hired on after some very expensive print deadlines were missed due to a simple lack of communication—it’s never a pretty sight. No one wants to pay for air freight to expedite the delivery of a product because of communication issues.
Seriously, how much is it going to cost?
Okay, okay, I know by now you want to see some numbers, and I am sorry to disappoint, but there is no set price. Every project is different because every client’s needs are different, so prices are going to vary. It is impossible to say, a new logo, is going to cost you XYZ without any information because I don’t know if you want a simple, modern logo that is text only or a complex icon with a font unique to you. Both have very different price points because the time needed to create is going to be very different. That’s why communication is so important in the beginning!
There is untold value in doing things right the first time, so take the time to look around and make sure the firm you choose puts you first, because bargain basement design and marketing solutions are only going to cost you more time and money in the end.