The cost of bad design

I’m seeing a lot of designers charge little to nothing for their services and promising really quick turnarounds. In this post, I’d like to provide a little bit of insight on the difference between a professional designer and a low-cost designer — and the impact that it can have on your business!

You’re either a new business or you have a business that is growing and you’re ready for a professional brand identity and / or website. You’d like it to be complete in a reasonable amount of time and you have a reasonable budget. When looking into hiring a designer, you will find professional designers and you will find low-cost designers (amateur designers). I want to help you spot the difference between the two, because working with a professional will save you a ton of time, money, and headaches in the long term and in the short term.

If working with a professional fits within your budget, it is absolutely worth getting the job done right the first time.

A low-cost designer will charge very little (yes, I’ve even seen $50 for a custom logo) and promise delivery within a week (or even a few days!). Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, no. Cheap and quick is the exact recipe for failure when it comes to thoughtful brand design. The end result? Cheap design that looks cheap and is far less effective.

Your brand is the face of your business — it’s the very first impression! It’s the personality and emotion behind what someone feels when connecting with your brand. Your brand and your website need longevity to become recognizable and to avoid the costs of having it redesigned time and time again. It should be timeless, professional, and consistent. It should be authentic and original to you and your unique brand story, and it should reflect the time and thought that went into designing it.

You know the saying “If you buy a cheap car, it’s going to break down more often”. This goes for design too. Quality design is far less expensive than bad design. If you rely on low-cost design services, you’re going to spend a lot more time and money rebranding, revising, redesigning, and looking for new designers, and while this pattern will continue to cost you a lot of time and money, the biggest lesson to be learned is the amount of clients and opportunities that it could cost you in the process.

Effective, timeless, and professional design can not be sufficiently covered by such a tiny cost and quick turnaround. It’s the result of a thoughtful process. It’s the process of collaboration, discovery, and refinement. It’s getting to know the client and their business, understanding their ideal client, researching, brainstorming, and the development of authentic work. If you purchase cheap design, the design is going to look cheap — it’s not going to look professional. If your potential clients perceive your brand as cheap or unprofessional, it will signal that your product or service is cheap, which will make it hard to take you seriously, and in return make it harder to sell your product or service.

Three things to look for:

1. The work — Look at their portfolio. Do their designs look intentional or do they look cluttered and all over the place? If their work is not inline with what you envision for your business, and their work does not look intentional, walk away.

2. The cost — Simply put; you get what you pay for. If they aren’t charging a whole lot, it’s safe to assume that you’re in a swamp with 50 other clients and not much thought or time will go into you or your brand. 

3. The turnaround — Is their turnaround too good to be true? If it’s anywhere within a few days to just a few short weeks for the whole shebang, my guess is yes! Design takes time and should be thoughtfully executed.

PS: If you’re looking for thoughtful and intentional design, you’re looking for a professional that has a QUALITY over quantity business model. If the services are cheap and quick, they are running a QUANTITY over quality business model. Also, low-cost designers typically use clip art, so if you’re looking for something original, you’ll be wasting your time and money. 

A few cons in hiring a low-cost designer for the face of your business is their lack of experience and follow up, and “the disappearing act”. Unfortunately, low cost designers fail to understand their clients’ needs, which is a crucial step in the process. This is either because they are not experienced in the discovery process, or it’s because they’re running a quantity over quality business model, which can only survive as a turn and burn. They generally don’t have the time or desire to follow up with you, or cheer on the success of your project or business because you’re treated more like a number. And last but not least, when you hire a low-cost designer, the risk of them vanishing goes up substantially. They may not have a reputation on the line, not much to lose, and they could be burnt out (which is a story that I hear far too often).

What does this mean for you? This means that your project is being knocked out as quickly as possible, with little to no thought process.  This also makes it much harder for you to trust that they will be there when you need them. What if you have questions after the project is complete? What if you need additional pieces designed? What if the files they provided weren’t correct? Will you be able to get a hold of them? Unfortunately, you’re at risk of them burning out and going out of business (aka the disappearing act).

Along with hiring a professional, reliable and trustworthy designer, you receive the guarantee of customer service. This means that your designer is not going to vanish. They aren’t going to ignore your feedback or stop responding to your emails. They have a reputation to maintain, and they value the success of the project and your experience in working with them. They charge what they feel their time, creativity and experience is worth, and they focus on quality over quantity which means you will receive the personalized attention that you deserve.

The conclusion? Your brand needs to be a thoughtful reflection of the message that you’d like to convey to your ideal clients and / or readership. Choose a professional designer that chooses quality over quantity and you will be extremely pleased in the process, and in the outcome. You will avoid the effects that bad design can have on your business, and you will save a ton of time and money avoiding rebrands and redesigns!

Tip: If you’re working with a lower budget, you may think that cheap design is your only option, but bad design is way more expensive as it could be detrimental to your business! I would recommend starting with something clean and simple, and saving for a professional that can craft something intentional and authentic for you when your business takes off and your budget permits.

Have questions? Feel free to get in touch with me anytime!

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