This is the final blog in this series about taking your graphic design business to new levels. It focuses on how you can distinguish yourself as a valuable expert.
If you continue working the same way, using the same pricing strategy, you will likely earn the same amount late in your career as you did at the start, while others have been upgrading and automating – and working smarter. Things that were near impossible when you first learned how to do them now have their own apps that anyone can download for a few dollars.
Bet on Your Skill
Most designers work by the hour. It feels ‘honest,’ the client knows what they’re getting—at least the kind of clients who pay designers. The 93% of small businesses that don’t pay designers may have many reasons for not doing so, but one of them is certainly ‘pay by the hour’ pricing. Though it seems ‘more honest’ to the designer, it means that small businesses have no idea what design projects will cost, especially if they haven’t worked with designers before. Is it a one-hour job, a 10-hour job or even a 100-hour job? What if you do the work, and they want to change something, and the bill suddenly doubles?
For most clients, offering a fixed price quotation for the work is much more attractive. But to do this, you must be willing to bet on your own skill. If you’re the slowest guy in town, you’ll make more on pay-per-hour, right up to the point when people realize they are paying for your slowness. But if you’ve used all the styling and automation features that Quark and its products offer — and you’re a skilled worker — you can work faster and more accurately. Accuracy equals speed, because it takes far longer to fix mistakes than not to make them in the first place.
Many designers don’t improve their workflow because there is no incentive to do so: working faster benefits the client, not them. If you move to fixed-price quotations, suddenly the speed gains help you.
If you’re a die-hard print designer, then the prospect of e-books and websites may seem daunting. But that’s where the growth and the dollars are. Twenty-five years ago, many designers baulked at providing PDF files. Web design packages may have come a long way in the past 10 years, but they are still tedious to work with and they generally do not produce results that look like the brand that was carefully crafted for print. So, the client then has a choice—ask the web designer to work to the brand or go back to the print designer and ask them to reconfigure everything.
Web work sounds more complex, so the chance is great that they will believe the web designer who says, ‘that kind of branding is behind the times’ or ‘it’s going to cost 10 times as much to reproduce that.’ So, suddenly, your design skill becomes subordinate to someone who is a good coder but has not had a day of graphic design work or training in their life.
If you’re able to offer a website as part of a package — completely conformed to the brand, completely consistent, and with auto-updating when the text changes, then you can probably double the entire project price — or more. Since most small businesses expect web design to be more expensive, you can literally turn a brochure into a flex layout, which is the most contemporary form of web design, inside half an hour.
Even if the client will eventually have it built into a CMS like WordPress or Drupal, the ability to visualize it and hand the coders a reference will dramatically reduce their costs.
Embrace Your Real Value: Experience
When I left the corporate world behind and started a branding business, I consulted with a business coach who told me that it was my intellectual property — the knowledge and experience I had gained over the years — that was most valuable to the client.
Even if you are offering advice as a value-added bonus rather than charging for it directly, you should always be aware that someone right out of college could probably do the things you do, but they do not know the things you know, and they do not see with your eyes of experience.
If you’re new to design, great — you have a wonderful adventure ahead of you — but if you’re an experienced designer, remember to maximize the value of your experience — your qualifications and experience in design are worth far more than your clients will ever know.
Try QuarkXPress for free and see how it can increase your value as a designer of brilliant print and digital content.