Rochelle Weiner Carr - 05/13/2016 - Biz tips / Creative Process


I've seen versions of this graphic over and over throughout my career. It's a truism of any creative field.

Early in my career I worked at a place who promised their clients we deliver fast, cheap and great as a normal day's work. It was their big marketing ploy, we publicized it far and wide, and it didn't work. We ended up with a very stressed-out creative department trying to squeeze great work out of small budgets with no lead time. We may have gotten more clients in the short run with this promise, but quickly this idea ran it's course. The designers weren't happy, the clients weren't happy, and management's big idea was a pretty big flop.

To promise great, fast and cheap as a matter of course degrades the creative process and does a disservice to the graphic design industry as a whole. You might be able to pull that kind of service out once in a blue moon, but certainly you can't promise that every time. Creative inspiration doesn't turn on like a light switch. And even if it could be done, it shouldn't be done.

I was talking to a fellow self-employed art director yesterday. We were discussing our businesses, and the perceived value of our time and talents. He'd recently had a potential client turn out to be a bust. He'd spent a significant amount of time conversing on email with this client about needs, project parameters, goals - thinking he had a great lead on the line. However, a gut feeling told him that he should initiate a discussion about budget expectations early on - something he doesn't typically do until later in the process. It was a good thing he did because once the client heard the suggested budget, he admitted that he had set aside a much smaller amount for this project - around 10% of what my friend had quoted. Wow.

There are online shops that sell graphic design for very cheap. You can get a custom logo and endless revisions for $100. Think about that. The designers creating this work are getting pennies for their time. Brilliant designers they are not, you simply cannot expect brilliant work at this price range. But not everyone values brilliant.

Some prefer fast and cheap to good. Some value great work but have no budget so they might talk the designer into taking the job leveraging ample lead time. And if you need a great job done fast, it's only fair to pay extra to the designer to work late hours or put off their other work in favor of yours.

Every designer must place a value on their time in order to set fees, and that number should be based on the value they bring to their clients and the project. Not every client will recognize that value in the same way - some get it immediately, and others never will.

The trick is to find the ones whose estimation of your value matches your own. That, my friends, is a match made in heaven. That client will see the value you bring to the project, and allow you the time to do your work. And if they are in a rush, they will expect to pay a premium for your undivided attention. And if you're smart you'll value the heck out of these clients and do everything you can to make sure they're happy.

I've been lucky enough to work with some amazing clients throughout the years. I've also worked with some not-so-amazing clients. Working with a difficult client makes you appreciate the great ones all the more.


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