Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Have you tried getting things for free?

A video I found today inspired me to this brief article:

As many businesses are on a tight budget when it comes to marketing: is it a good idea to try finding design services for free or very low budgets?

Even though it might seem compelling to get someone to create your website for $300 or a promotional video for $250, here is why you should reconsider:

There might be pitfalls to your low cost investment, that only reveal themselves later.

Before going out to find the low budget designer, who certainly can be found, ask yourself these questions:

  • Will I get the quality I want?
  • Is my business' mission and the success of my marketing plan not worth a serious and reasonable investment?

If you try to spend too little, you might end up wasting your investment altogether. A friend of mine had her website designed on a very small budget. After one year, when the designer had disappeared and was nowhere to be found, she realized, she did not have access to her own domain name. She also had not received a copy of the original files. When the website disappeared altogether and advertisement showed up on 'her' domain name, it turned out, that the designer had registered the domain in his own name and had later sold it to a SEO company in a foreign country. This company used it as a link farm to enhance other website google rankings. Not to mention that taking legal action in a foreign country is difficult, it would also have cost more than four times the amount she had originally sepnt the site's creation.

And last but not least,  you also do not want to be one of those clients like the one in the video you are about to watch. Or do you? Take a look:

Read more about this topic on Enzo's blog: Link

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Branding my business: What to expect when hiring a designer to do your logo design?

As a small business owner, especially if you are just starting out, the question always rises: what basics do I need to present and market my new business? The answer is: Just as important as choosing your business’ name is the visual identity that comes with it.

The logo design is the core of your business’ visual identity. Your visual identity is your business’ face to the world and should give a coherent impression across all material and media. It will communicate professionalism and integrity to your clients and ultimately be a key factor to attract clients to your business. Visual identity typically includes: logo, business cards, website, social media outlets, promotional items etc. The logo, the core of all these items, gives the guideline for choice of color, form and overall visual feel of your brand and marketing materials.

Before getting into the design process and hiring a designer: here are a couple of questions you should ask yourself – The answers should be easy for you, as you probably have already spent ample amount of time researching these questions and formulating your business plan:

  • What does my business represent?
  • What is my business’ mission?
  • What is my target audience? 
  • What does my competition do and how do I want to distinguish myself from them? 

A good designer, besides aiming to get an impression of who you are as the representative of your business, will want to know the answers to these questions in all detail; because the logo should, in visual form, represent and integrate all these things. Taking your target audience into account is crucial, since it will be one of the deciding factors, how your future audience will respond to your business. Is what your business’ visual identity communicates in line with your message, mission and the value you propose? If the answer is ‘yes’ then your visual identity will support your marketing strategy.

So, before going out to find a designer, be prepared and plan ahead, for good logo design takes time and is not something that can be rushed and done in a matter of days. Remember: haste most often is waste.

How do I know the designer I have found is good?

First of all, beware of the following: Asking a family member, friend or neighbor who knows ‘a little bit’ about Photoshop to create your logo is not the right way. After all, you put lots of time and effort into your business plan and idea and coming across as professional. Why wouldn’t you take the same care for giving your ‘baby’ the nice face and clothing it deserve. Saving money at all cost is not the answer when it comes to logo design. Remember, you get what you pay for. There is countless start-up entrepreneurs, who hired a logo designer for just $85, only to be disappointed with the outcome: having an image that has nothing to do with what they plan to do, who they are and being denied any changes that ultimately would not lead to any better results anyway.  A logo should always be an original design and not include any generic stock graphics or images.

Here are a few points that will help you recognize you have made a good find

Well, a professional designer will usually give you a detailed quote for your planned design project. The quote should include:

  • An objective: a description of the designer’s assignment 

The process, ideally, should start out with a detailed discussion of your business, its objective and the questions mentioned above. Best is a face-to-face meeting, because it will give the designer a chance to get an impression of who you are, your personality. And when you describe your business’ mission, vision and idea, you usually communicate more that just the words you say; short: a face-to-face meeting will give the designer a full picture of you and what your business is about. A good logo design might even reinforce the qualities of your personality that you want to grow as a business owner, such as having a design that mirrors and supports more of your outgoing, extraverted qualities instead of the shyness that you also have, but which will not necessarily be helpful in growing your business.

So, ideally the first item on the quote, the objective, should contain a detailed description of the designer’s understanding of what was discussed at the first meeting and what the logo is aiming to represent and accomplish. This way, you can review everything and misunderstandings in this important first phase can be kept to a minimum.

Second item on your quote should be:

  • Design phases and number of drafts included in each phase

The usual process for any design project has three phases: initial draft, second draft after review of initial layout, which will incorporate changes that were discussed after the first review. And a third phase, which will incorporate discussion and requested changes after the second review, before the designer proceeds to creating the final design.

Every designer operates differently, but the general rule for most is three draft versions for the first phase of the design process. Most likely the designer will produce a lot more versions in the brainstorming phase, but most will select the three best versions to present to their client.  In the second phase then, the designer will produce additional versions of one selected favorite direction. These versions will again be reviewed and refined until one reaches the finished design. Depending on the price you pay, the designer may, in the second phase, produce variations of two favorite logo concepts. In most cases, however, one particular design will clearly emerge as a favorite.

Other items that should be discussed, and ideally be included in the quote should be:

  • Copyright questions

For a logo design, all copy, reproduction and usage rights should usually be transferred to the contractor (business owner, who hires the designer). Copyright information should include info on time frame and geographical region and realms that it is used in (print, digital).

Doing this (transferring all rights), instead of just selling usage rights is one reason, why logo design has higher fees than designing any other visual material.

Regarding the copyrights, in some cases, the designer will want to put a time or geographical limit on the granted copyrights. This gives an advantage both ways, for the contracting business owner and for the designer. Imagine the scenario that a small corner store coffee house becomes a worldwide franchise giant like Starbucks or a shoe designer becomes a world-renowned brand like Nike. The designer, initially giving a good price to a mom and pap store, would miss out on the success of a brand that advertises and rakes in millions years down the road. So, setting time and geographical limits to the transferred copyrights is an agreement between the contractor and the designer, for the designer to: giving the start-up business a financial advantage by offering the initial design at a lower price than a logo design usually would be, and for the contractor to: honor the designer’s work by reviewing the business together after a couple of years and, if exponential success has been achieved, pay an appropriate fee for a design that has played an integral role in the brand’s success.

Next on the list is:

  • File output 

A logo design should always be created as a vector graphic. A vector graphic allows to be scaled to any size without loss of data. This means it can be reproduced very small on a letterhead or business card or promotional item like a pen or as big as on a billboard, but it would always remain the same quality. If the design was done in Photoshop, it would be based on pixel values and large display in good quality would become impossible.

And, last, but not least, the quote, of course should contain the

  •  Price for the service (for a logo design it usually will be an agreed upon flat rate

In addition, the quote should address questions such as:
  • What happens should there be changes requested in addition to the ones included in the initial price? Will there be a fee and will it be an hourly rate and how high is it?
  • Is there any fee involved, should the project be abandoned? 

Another item on the list could be:

  • Client responsibilities 

Is there information that the designer might need from the contractor or that contractor and designer have agreed upon, e.g. images that represent the contractor’s vision and/or might otherwise be helpful in the design process, e.g. a written description of the business idea, like excerpts from the business plan  or competitors logos that the client finds successful or that he or she wants to distinguish herself from.


Creating a detailed quote like this gives security to both the contractor and the designer. The quote, when both agree on the items and terms, can function as a work agreement and will eliminate misunderstandings and problems down the road. A good and open discussion of all items will make the design process an exciting and enjoyable journey of putting a new business on the road to success. 

Thank You, Readers: we hope this post contained some helpful tips for you. Please share your experiences and any thoughts or questions on this topic.