I wanted to take a brief moment to copy & paste an excerpt from a conversation I’m having among some colleagues. The topic addresses cutting your rates for clients and was stimulated by a request for spec work and an ensuing logo contest on 99designs.com. I have a lot of opinions about why these ‘logo.com’ sites aren’t adding value for their customers’ businesses and why they are also devaluing the industry. I do admit, they are here and here to stay…but I also think it’s extremely valuable to evaluate the plausible futures where theses sites exist and if it allows for professional, process-driven design to coexist. I believe so, for the record.
So, without further delay here are my thoughts on lowering your rates and why you shouldn’t do logos for $99 or for a contest.
I have lowered my hourly rate for production work many times based on an agreed commitment to a certain amount of work over “X” amount of time. It makes sense. All of us who work for ourselves know that the reason rates are high is because you don’t typically put in 40 (billable) hours a week times 52 weeks a year that equal a salary…and even if you did the costs of owning your own business, taxes etc. are a burden which raise the rates.‘Bulk rate’ pricing is something I practice frequently on production work. Now, I make the distinction of production very carefully here. There is a difference in hammering out some work inside of an existing brand or with existing assets. That takes, skill, experience and a basic understanding of design principles. To BRAND someone or develop an identity is to offer your own intellectual property to someone. It’s conceptual (or at least it should be). Therefore, it has more value. A well thought out logo should have a world of meaning behind it that is correlative directly to the mission and core values of a product, service or company….not just a neato image you squashed together in a completely subjective dreamstate. I could drag any teenager in my office, show them the ropes on illustrator and set them loose to make a logo for my company. That doesn’t mean that they have the experience or creative gift to come up with a concept that is both on target and will stand the test of time in pop culture. This is all said WITHOUT even mentioning the functional know-how on building a successful logo. I have been on the receiving end of these $99 logos before and they are never prepared correctly….rarely come with alternate versions ready for use on dark backgrounds, or in any other myriad of situations…..and the client winds up paying another designer to improve, tweak and manipulate their cheap logo over time. This escalates the ‘bottom line’ price for the work that was initially done because they went the cheap route in the first place, ironically. Finally, what of brand management. A logo is not a magical unicorn that is going to suddenly take you to new heights. It’s only part of a comprehensive brand strategy and communications plan. Going 100 different places and shopping out your communications and design to different people in the absence of a brand manager and / or without brand standards to lean on will send you down a path of a discombobulated, messy, unprofessional look and image. It is all around us.