Dealing With Low Cost Expectations

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I recently read a great blog post by graphic designer Lee Robson Spence about ‘Designer vs Client’ scenarios. In the post he shares his experience with a client’s unreasonable expectations of his design work. Lee’s response is a perfect example of how some clients make us feel. His reserved, yet sarcastically comedic decline is worth a look.

This got me thinking though; what if instead of being tight fisted, some people just genuinely have no experience working alongside graphic designers and hence no idea about its value? What happens if this rejected client then approaches another designer who needs the work and provides the client with terrible work for the terrible pay he was offered? Then the client is left with nothing but disappointment with designers in general, but still none the wiser to his unrealistic expectations.

Do we – as designers – owe it to others to help them understand the value of true design?

There are lots of people out there who have low budgets or simply don’t have the money for great design, and while in some circumstances a designer may have no problem working with these people (working alongside friends or with a charity for example), there is also nothing wrong with saying no. I’m certain however, that some of the people out there who simply do not see graphic design as a priority, simply haven’t considered the cost of design. These people may not realise the high costs of the various software and hardware required, the years and years of constant training and practising that designers have to go through to keep up with the latest technologies and trends, and for freelance designers, paying bills and keeping a roof over their head. Every designer has a minimum rate which they need to meet for their graphic design career to be a viable way of making a living.

So how would you know if your potential client is aware how ridiculous the price they’re asking for is? How do you know if they’re genuinely unaware or just trying to rip you off? How do you tell if they’re worth the time it takes you to explain it to them? The simple answer is that most of the time you probably can’t tell. Nobody really wants to have to write out a personalised explanation to every individual who asks them to design a website for a fiver, especially if that person isn’t interested in knowing, because their nephew who has an art GCSE could do it in half the time.

My advice would to be to write yourself a decent, re-usable explanation which you keep on standby for this sort of person, and tweak it each time, or alternatively send them a link to a great resource that will do the hard work for you. For example, Sean Hensher’s post on Graphic Design Pricing. Perhaps if you would love to work with the client you could come up with a stripped back proposal with an idea of what they could get with the money they have, to get closer to the client’s budget while still being realistic about time and cost.

If the client is still not convinced, then it is time to politely decline (Or perhaps if you’re frustrated, come up with something witty and say what you really want to say). Hopefully, by educating at least some of our potential clients we can rescue both ourselves and other designers, and retain the value of professional graphic design.

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