July 28, 2022
You’re part way through a discovery call with a potential new client. It’s all going so well—you can see such a vision for their business and they really do seem like a dream client. It’s a mutual admiration society all around!
Then you get to the money part of the meeting. (Yay, go you! Talking about the money!). You confidently discuss the budget required to achieve all the design goodness on their wishlist. And then you see their shoulders fall—they let you know, sadly, it’s more than they can afford right now.
And no, it’s not that you are not too expensive. (We actually addressed this issue back in episode 31, “Your design quote is too expensive”, where we chatted about what to do if potential clients aren’t seeing the value you provide.)
This is the flip-side of that—where the client can actually see the value you provide and they think you’re awesome, but they simply don’t have the money to work with you. You are like the Chanel bag they’re coveting but can’t afford yet. Sad face.
We are big fans of flexibility within your design business—we’re always going to remind you that this is ‘your business, your way’. So if there is a super cool startup you would love to work with, how can you make it happen while also honouring the immense value you provide in your graphic design business?
Here are some options for you to consider!
Sometimes clients will come along with a big wishlist. They’re excited and want ALL the design services you have to offer.
For example, they might want a complete branding suite with all the bells and whistles, but they really can’t afford the entire package. This is where we like to break projects down to stages.
You could let your client know that normally you would deliver five elements for this package, but for their budget, you’ll be able to deliver three elements as stage one. This way you are not reducing your pricing, you are simply meeting your client’s budget where they are at.
Not all businesses need detailed brand strategy, highly conceptual solutions and extensive brand manual. What they might need is a simple branding starter pack — with a logotype (no symbol), colour palette, font story and very simple brand guidelines.
Another example — say you have a potential client who has approached you to design a brochure showcasing all their products, but they have underestimated the budget required for this level of design. The solution may be to design a simple postcard series as stage one rather than a detailed brochure.
You’ll be amazed at how many clients will then be able to move on to stage two, three, four etc as their budgets become bigger and they see the immense transformational value of working with a graphic design professional like yourself.
So even though the initial project was smaller, through consistent relationship building, nurture and considered systems, clients like this are likely to become highly profitable, long-term clients.
Yes, we know it’s always best for clients to have bespoke solutions, however the best option for a client who appreciates high quality design may be a template designed by you. Having you at the helm driving the brand and customising a template-based solution is going to be more strategic, resolved and successful than if the client finds a cheaper, substandard solution (for example, they DIY it themselves).
Let’s not get too snobby about it, having template based design is a valid way for some businesses to get started with their branding.
There’s a couple of different ways this can work:
Formula based design is when you tap into your wealth of knowledge as a designer and use the tried and true classic design elements you’ve used in the past—you know they work, and they will work again.
Not every client needs groundbreaking, off-the-charts creative. The solution may not be cutting edge or award winning, BUT it will be aligned to the brief and it will be professional, functional and beautifully designed.
Be transparent with your client about this approach and the results you expect to achieve. This requires a clear conversation explaining how you will tap into your vast pool of design knowledge for this project without exploring deep strategy and high-level conceptual thinking. Let your client know that while it may not be a super innovative solution, it will be rock solid and highly appropriate.
Think about how many unused concepts you have stored up in your design career so far? What ideas didn’t you follow through with that could be reworked or recycled to create a great solution for another client?
As designers we’ll often branch off in a few different directions for a client during the concept stage, but as we live and breathe by the one-concept approach w,e’ll only fully resolve one idea. You can listen to us talk about our thoughts on the one concept approach here and here.
Just because a concept wasn’t the right direction for one client, doesn’t mean with a few tweaks, they couldn’t be ideal for another client. We really love the thought that these not-quite-right concepts your beautiful brain created previously won’t be wasted.
This one is so controversial we almost didn’t include it. It’s skirting close to ‘reducing your prices’ which is dangerous territory for a designer.
But imagine this scenario. You have been approached by the most wonderful potential client and the brief sounds amazing. Let’s be clear— you would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to work on this project and the possibility of having an ongoing relationship with this business feels exciting.
But for whatever reason, the budget is lower than what you would typically charge and there genuinely doesn’t seem to be much wriggle room.
You could agree to do the project within their smaller budget, but in exchange what are you going to recieve? Ideally something that will help you grow your business.
It’s up to you to decide what would be a valuable enough exchange to make the lower budget worth your while.
It could be that you ask the client to sign a contract that gives you complete creative control of the project. Or you could negotiate a specific marketing action plan that the client must implement, such as providing written and video testimonials, 3 dedicated posts on stories times etc.
This needs to be more than just a casual conversation — be very clear about the terms and have a written agremeent in place.
Whatever you decide, be sure that the client knows the full value of the work and it’s indicated in the invoice.
That’s correct, do nothing right now. Make a plan to stay in touch, keep connecting with them regularly and wait for this client to be ready.
Remember, NO NOW DOESN’T MEAN NO FOREVER.
Put it this way, if they can’t afford you right now, that’s ok. But you want to be on their vision board. 🤗
As you grow and become more confident with your pricing (and especially when you go through the Design & Prosper Academy ; ) dream businesses who are just starting out on their business journey will reach out to you, but REMEMBER, do not work more hours or turn yourself inside out to fit into their small budget.
Have the money conversations as soon as you can, and with open and honest communication, you are likely to find a solution that is a win-win for you, and your client.
Think strategically — as your client grows, their scope of work will get bigger and budgets will be bigger. It’s really exciting to be a part of that journey.
Until next time!
Kris & Don xo
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