When times are tough and budgets are tight it can be tempting to do work for less than your normal rate. And in some cases it may be tempting to actually work for free - with the expectation of praise – everyone telling you how creative and wonderful you are, and the promise of a bigger job to come.
But when bigger projects do come along and a bigger budget is available. Does the smaller business handing out favours get the bigger job? From my experience, rarely.
Starting up my new business – Cooke With An E, with a global recession in full swing has been a challenge. And for all my experience and “I should have known better” ringing in my ears, I’ve worked on the occasional project for little or no money and even less praise. And once someone gets something for nothing they expect more of the same.
So what to do?
For me, working closely with a client is very important. Developing a relationship of trust and real value takes time. Free pitches for potential new clients rarely offer the opportunity to collaborate effectively. Pro Bono work is ‘good’ as long as there is a clear understanding at the outset, what is expected by both parties.
Adding value is not doing more for less money but doing what’s the most effective for the budget available. I like to think that creativity is an investment rather than a cost.
If you want good design, first of all find someone whose work you like. Don't tell them what you want, but discuss what you'd like to achieve – they are the experts. Work out how much you can afford or would like to spend. Saying you don't have a budget and asking for a quote is unrealistic, if you are expecting a Rolls Royce for the price of a Toyota. If you are working with someone you trust, you have to believe they're going to do their very best to get the most from your budget.
So how much do I charge? The $64,000,000 question! The only people I know who get away with charging hourly rates are lawyers! Working within an overall budget – every stage of a project is estimated – no work is started until everyone is happy and all budgets have been agreed. This way there are no suprises ... apart from the work which invariably exceeds their expectations!