Working with small business owners (and being one myself), I understand that you have to carefully pick and choose what you are going to invest in, both from a financial, energy, and time aspect. What makes it tricky is the countless options for worthwhile investments you can make to help grow your business and make things go as smoothly as possible.
There’s accounting software, email marketing, business coaching, education, virtual assistants, hosting and designing a website, and so much more. Oftentimes we can’t afford them all, so it comes down to making a decision about which is the smartest investment of your hard-earned cash. And besides cost, there’s the time commitment that being a business jack-of-all-trades requires. Amidst all these things a business needs, where does design fit in?
Last week I talked about common mistakes I see in DIY branding design because I know there are a lot of business owners and bloggers out there who are choosing to wait on making the investment of working with a designer. However, the DIY route is not necessarily the best fit for every business and hard-working entrepreneur.
WHY HIRE A DESIGNER?
Speaking from the perspective of a designer who has worked with all kinds of clients, I can tell you that design is only going to be a wise investment if you understand and appreciate the value of high-quality design. However, working with a designer means bringing someone onto your team who is not only creative, but savvy and strategic. Designers don’t just make things look pretty; a good branding designer is going to dive into the heart and soul of your business to understand what your goals are, who you’re trying to reach, and combine it all together in a smart, purposeful, memorable, and beautiful way.
When you hire a designer who’s onboard with making your vision happen and who is someone you can trust completely, you just freed yourself up to wholeheartedly pursue other parts of your business that need you most. Not only can hire a branding designer for a one-time project; many designers offer retainer services so you can always have someone to help you out when a design project pops up (and it’ll be perfectly in tune with your branding). That’s peace of mind right there.
WHEN SHOULD I HIRE A DESIGNER?
I obviously place a high importance on quality design, but not just because I’m a designer trying to sell you on something. There’s enough solid evidence that supports the fact that design is a vital part of running and marketing a business anymore. People judge quality of products and services by the quality of the website design or logo. Why? Because good design builds trust. Despite all the reasons that qualify the importance of polished and professional designs, it still doesn’t mean everyone should hire a designer.
Here are some instances that may show you’re not quite ready to collaborate with a professional designer:
You are just starting out, and you don’t see the value of investing in custom branding just yet. You’d rather put money back into your business by investing in other startup costs or educational opportunities.
MY ADVICE: There are a lot of options for pre-made branding packages that don’t require the same time and financial commitment as a custom project. Check out Etsy or another creative commerce site to find some branding options. Keep in mind that some pre-made logos aren’t one-of-a-kind. Be sure to look for a package that guarantees to be sold once so that it’s unique to you. The other option is to go the DIY route, and there are many classes you can take that will walk you through designing your own brand identity. Here are a couple blog posts with design advice to help you with DIYing!
6 Common Mistakes DIY Designers Make with Their Branding + simple solutions
6 Things that will Instantly + Easily Improve Your Designs
You enjoy DIYing, and seem to have a pretty good eye for design. You’d rather take the time to figure it out yourself than pay someone to do it for you.
MY ADVICE: Check out Skillshare or some other online design classes to teach you more tricks of the trade and to educate yourself on different design programs. I took Courtney Eliseo’s design class to help me get in a more objective mindset when I was designing my brand identity. You can also check out this blog post for more advice about branding yourself!
You think design is a super important component to building your brand and business, but you don’t have much of a budget to work with.
MY ADVICE: I’m never, ever going to recommend you ask for free design work. That’s just not cool. If there’s a designer you love and whose work you connect with, my number one recommendation is to start saving up to work with them. It’ll really make the experience that much more special when you’ve been anticipating it and working hard for it! You can even reach out to that designer and ask if they have payment plans available. If so, you might be able to get started sooner than you thought.
Besides saving up, there are some alternatives, like trading services. If you know a designer and have services that could be useful to them (like photography, copywriting, social media management, etc.), try to work out a trade agreement. Make sure you’re both clear on the exact details and value of services being exchanged to ensure each person is benefitting from the arrangement. Another option is the advice I listed under the first point. Find a designer who offers pre-made branding and make the investment in that. It’ll be much more cost effective than custom work, but you’ll still have a professional brand identity you can feel confident in until you’re ready to invest in a totally custom visual identity.
Here are some instances that show you just might be ready to collaborate with a professional designer:
You are just starting your business, and right away you know you want a killer brand identity to start things off with a bang. You have a firm grasp of your brand and a good idea of your vision; you just need a pro to help you fine-tune it and bring it all to life.
MY ADVICE: Find a designer whose work you admire, has a personality you click with, and structured process in place to help you feel as prepared as possible. Also be sure to keep in mind the deadline you have for your launch and how that works with the availability of designers. Start looking ahead of time so you can get a spot booked.
You’re just starting your business, and you’re pumped! You know exactly what services you want to offer and who your target audience is, but beyond the facts and figures you’re lost. You have no clue how to build a memorable and solid brand, let alone give all that information a visual identity.
MY ADVICE: Seek out a designer who is going to help you dive into your brand and strategize for the future. Find designers who have a style you gravitate toward, and then look into their process to see if some kind of creative brief or brand discovery questionnaire is included. Also, check out this blog post to learn the basics of branding and this post to learn about the 5 components of a compelling brand!
You’ve considered DIYing your design, but in all honesty you don’t want the hassle of learning design programs right now while there are so many other parts of your business that need attention. If you did take the time to DIY your branding, you’re wondering if you’ll be unhappy with the bandaid solution you put together and need a rebrand too soon down the road.
MY ADVICE: Rebranding isn't something to take lightly, and if you have to do it too soon, it’s way to easy to lose the audience you’ve worked hard to build up. My recommendation is to hire a pro from the get-go. When searching for your design teammate, look for a designer who is going to give you an end product that will last the test of time (check out their portfolio and ask them about their design philosophy). Trendy designs are fine if they’re done with thought an intention. However, a designer should ultimately be able to create a visual identity built specifically for a business that goes outside the lines of what’s trendy at the time. Classic will always trump trendy.
You have experience designing (you might even be a designer!), but you’re struggling with being objective in the design process and cutting through a clutter of ideas. You need someone who will guide you through the process with an unbiased, objective point of view.
MY ADVICE: Designing for yourself is SO hard. For me, it was one of the toughest parts of getting my business up and running. If you keep getting caught up in the process and overthinking the design, there’s no shame in hiring someone to help. Holding yourself up on starting your business until you’ve got your brand identity is only going to make you unhappy and keep you from starting something exciting. These two blog posts might also be helpful for you!
5 Reasons Why Perfectionism Isn’t Your Friend
What Designers Should Know About Branding Themselves
You’ve DIYed your branding since the beginning with a fair amount of success, but now that your business is maturing and growing, you’re ready to invest in a professional brand identity that will take your business to the next level. Plus, the time it takes to rebrand is too much for your schedule to handle!
MY ADVICE: Find a designer whose work you like and is someone you trust. The key word is trust! If you’ve been DIYing your business for awhile, you may find it hard to hand the reins over to someone else. Just remember you’re hiring a professional designer—they know what they’re doing and only want to help you succeed. They’re your new teammate, after all! Also, since you’re familiar with design, consider looking into hiring a designer who is willing to set up templates for you to use for the future.
You’ve been DIYing without long-lasting success. You can’t figure out how to get your branding just right, enter the restless cycle of designing, discarding, redesigning. Your constant rebranding is noticeably affecting the success and impact of your business in a negative way. You need someone else to take the wheel and give you a sleek, professional brand identity that has the longevity to grow with your business for a long time to come.
MY ADVICE: It sounds like you’re having a hard time nailing down the vision for your business and creating something that you’re fully satisfied with. Hiring a designer will bring objectivity and structure to the process, and since you’re investing hard-earned money instead of time fiddling with your logo and web design, you may be more serious about making sure it’s exactly what you want. Besides, all the time you spent designing and redesigning something that will never see the light of day can now be given to tasks that are more productive and fulfilling!
You have an awesome logo and branding in place, and up until now you’ve taken care of designing all the collateral for your business. You’re getting exponentially busier with clients and business upkeep that you need to start outsourcing design work to someone who can keep things looking cohesive and consistent with your branding.
MY ADVICE: Seek out a designer who has an aesthetic that complements your branding and who offers retainer/in-house design packages. By having a retainer agreement with a designer, you will consistently have someone you can send work to. I personally have a retainer package that guarantees a set amount of hours per month, and these clients get top priority.