A lot of small businesses and non-profit organizations approach me for graphic design and illustration work. Many of them have seen better days in terms of business, and therefore are very budget minded. However, being aware of your budget and having tight purse strings doesn’t mean you have to fore go having a clean business image. Yet it doesn’t mean that you are going to be able to put everything in the hands of a professional, snap your fingers, and have the perfect image and marketing package created for you without lifting a finger. If you are willing to put time and effort into the decisions behind the design, your business too can have a distinct look that reiterates your reputable brand for less than a standard bid.
I’m broke, but want/need a design. What can I do?
If you are on a budget but seriously want to improve your image, then you need to be committed in helping to create this change. What that means is that you need to spend the time to research your own vision for your design and make notes of things you like and don’t like. Your willingness to get your hands dirty will ultimately help you get the end product you want.
- How picky are you/ your organization or can you trust the professionals? Furthermore, how picky can you afford to be? I have come across numerous sole proprietors who don’t know what they want yet have a very small budget. Understanding that time=money, they either decide to trust me to create something that will fit their needs OR they are very precise and ask me what they can do to reduce my time spent. The non-picky clients tell me general themes they like with a general direction, knowing they can trust me to create something that keeps their interests and directions in mind. The picky ones need to really do their homework (as listed below) so that all the details they want are clearly conveyed to me, or any designer, prior to starting.
- Second, decide who is your market, what you want to do, and why you want to do it. Be sure that your reasoning stands behind making the investment. For instance, if you are an event coordinator for an event that is trying to attract a Gen-Y, party crowd and sell fundraiser t-shirts to this market, then you need to have a t-shirt design and marketing program that appeals to them. A good option in attracting this crowd is through social networking and having a basic website that people can go to from there. You know that this is the market who is regularly spending $30 or so at events and know that if you have a design that speaks to them, they will come to the event, bring a friend, and most likely buy a t-shirt. On the contrary, if you are trying to attract this same crowd, the last thing you want to do to market to them is take an ad out in the economic or real estate section of the daily newspaper and have a committee of retirees decide on the logo.
- Do your homework. What styles/ themes do you like (i.e clean and corporate, grungy, artsy and hand-drawn, modern, Asian, etc.), what logos do you like, and what attributes speak to you and your target market (i.e. colors, shapes, symbols)? Find some fonts, come colors, and components that mean something to you (and your business) and make a list (please include URLs). Include some words that summarize your business direction and add those to the list as well. A good designer will know how to tie all of these characteristics into a sweet logo/ identity/ branding that really reflects your business. Without providing this information, you may become victim to a very common logo dilemma where logos and their businesses do not reflect one another.
- Decide how you want to relay this information. Do you want an email campaign, a flyer, a website, advertisements, and a social networking plan to relay the information? Decide on what you want and what is realistic in terms of your time and budget, knowing that many marketing efforts are ongoing versus a one-time project. And keep in mind that once you decide on how you will market you need to decide if you want to have products with this image to sell and/or maintain during the event or afterwards. If so, how will you market during those times and do you need to include another marketing option?
- Decide on your selling points and your message. These are the items that will be added to whatever marketing venue you choose to use, from websites, to flyers, to postcards and email blasts. Once you take the time to decide on your concise message, it’s easy to have other people help spread the word (and relay the correct information).
- Find a designer that you can relate to, work with, and who understands your budget. Visit their online portfolio, contact them, and see if they are a good match for you. For instance, I specialize in hand-drawn, artsy, grungy themes and have a background in marketing for small businesses and artists. Though I may fit the budget of a start-up firm looking for a very clean, corporate design, we are not necessarily a good match. Just as a designer who specializes in large, corporate clients may not be able to work with a local artisan looking to create a funky and fresh marketing campaign for their upcoming open studio event. Additionally, if you are willing to do the dirty work, you will want to find a designer that rewards you with either a sliding scale or an hourly fee versus a firm project by project bid.
- Be realistic with what you are asking for. Once you receive an estimate or two and you notice that all of your requests can’t be met for the budget you have, you need to reassess. What can you cut out? Or is it worth it to spend more and increase your budget so you can sell cute, fitted t-shirts knowing you will get more people buying those than the traditional, boxy tee? Should you try to gain sponsors so you can get a larger crowd to your event knowing once they are there, they will spend more? Or should you cut out one of the modes of marketing, such as advertising, and solicit volunteer efforts instead?
There are so many things that go into design and effective marketing campaigns. This is what you pay for when you hire a good designer with a pulse on marketing. And whether or not you can pay the fees for such a designer, doing your homework will ultimately help you and your business/ event /organization in the long run. And if you are too busy to do the work, then increase your budget and invest your trust into a designer who can get your tasks and materials created in both a beautiful and effective way.