Are we fools for loving what we do? Is loving what we do stifling our money making senses? So often in the world of design, commanding an appropriate fee for the work that goes into a project can be a very tough ask. By the very nature of most design industries, the end product is all that is seen. The blood sweat and tears, not to mention the long hours that have gone into making the final deliverable, are rarely noticed. But because of our passion and love for what we do, the commercial viability of projects can all too often be forgotten. Have you an unhealthy love affair with your profession?
How often have you uttered the following sentence – ‘We didn’t make any money on that project but it is a great portfolio piece. It will lead to much more work’. Well as the saying goes – be careful what you wish for! Whether you know it or not, the benchmark for your fees has been set and trying to command more money from the same client for a similar project will be near impossible. And if you think about it, if the next project is not as big as the one you just completed, or worse still, larger, then the next project may go from breaking even to costing you money.
Being passionate about your work and what you deliver is of course paramount. After all, passion and love for our profession, helps us produce superior work and helps set us apart from the opposition. But do your clients see the difference in the work you do compared to cheaper rivals? Can that extra ‘design mile’ be costly to you and does it go unnoticed by your client? Striking the right balance is key and something that all design companies should look at closely on a regular basis.
As we come out of the recession, habits of old seem to be creeping in. Clients need work done quicker and costs are always a factor. They always have been and they always will be. If you can command justified fees for your work then fantastic but if the client doesn’t want to know then it is how you choose to navigate this area that is important. It is a fast paced world and if your work is helping your clients make money, then you should be making money too. So what can you do?
Educate The Client
It’s probably the most time consuming approach but definitely the most effective in our eyes. Showing clients how the final design is reached goes a long way in changing their perspective and helps them understand the creativity, flair and skills that go into design. This also allows you to point out how your work stands apart from your competitors and why attention to detail is so important. Ultimately an hour or two in front of the design screen with your client can be a huge and very worthwhile investment.
For the most part, and particularly lately as everyone is getting busier and therefore have less time on their hands, all your clients want to know is what is the bottom line – ‘How much is it going to cost me?’. They will compare costs with other design companies and the cheapest will win the work. So providing that you want the work without losing your shirt what options do you have? To find out you need to research what type of work the client has had done in the past? Find out if the quality is poor average or good. This alone will help you make an informed decision on whether you should quote or not. In cases where previous work is poor by other suppliers you have two options:
1) Drop your quality of work and get it out the door at the cheap cost that the client is willing to pay
2) Walk away from it.
If you don’t want to drop the standard of your work then walk away. We can all be busy fools. But remember that the client has certain expectations so delivering sub standard work in your eyes, may be totally acceptable to the client. Ask yourself this, are some projects worth taking on if you can get them in and out and still make a bit of money on them? Knowing how much of a drop in standard you are willing to make is very important and you need to be comfortable with it. We all strive to produce high end design but sometimes projects, even larger ones, simply don’t demand it and these can be missed opportunities.
Be Strict On Yourself and Your Design Team
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of spending more time than absolutely necessary on a project. Making tweaks to a project when a client has already signed off on it is not proper business. Get if finished and out the door and move onto completing that never ending ‘To Do List’ if no other project requires your immediate attention. Every extra hour spent on a project, that is more than what was actually priced for, is eating into profit margins which no doubt were tight as it was. If you are waiting to commence another project use your time wisely. Spend it searching and securing more work or updating your website which is an important direct and indirect sales tool. This also goes for your design team. Track hours being spent on a project and have regular discussions with them to ensure that they are sticking to target hours.
Ultimately all designers love what they do. This will never change and it shouldn’t. We are all proud of the work we produce as individuals and design companies. We always strive to produce design that stands out from the crowd whether we are an individual, small design house, or large international design bureau. We all share the same ethos. Just make sure that the extra ‘design mile’ is worth traveling.