When you initially go looking for a designer, it is probably because you have a need for one.  You’re looking for a logo/brandmark, business cards, postcard, a website… You’re looking for someone with a “particular set of skills” to complete a project.  You have something roughly in mind. What’s not even on your radar is that you may be speaking with someone who could substantially help your business, if only you would let them.

Help my business, you say? Of course, I want that. 

That means you have to let go of the idea that you’re buying a product. You have to let go of the idea that this is a time for rate transaction.

Ok… but now what’s it going to cost me?

I know it has to be one of the most frustrating answers to the question but when a designer tells you it depends, it’s not because they are trying some mystical sales technique to squeeze more money out of you. It really does depend. 

On what? Isn’t a business card a business card? A logo a logo?

No.  Here’s why…

Commidty Design

Some places do offer design as a commodity. You give then a very brief description of what you want and they produce it, sometimes even a lot of variation. The work has no basis in strategy, what your business really needs, it’s just a production of what you said you wanted. If all you’re looking for is a set of hands to do production, this may be the choice for you.


If you want someone to bring design concepts, creativity, and problem-solving to your project you’ll want to generally avoid the commodity design sites. Problem-solving is the job of designers, but only if you (the client) will let them do it. 

In order for your designer to help solve problems, you have to let them KNOW what is going on in your business. There are three questions you need to answer for your designer… Why do you want to do this? Why do you want to do this NOW? And Why are you talking to THIS designer? 

From here your designer should be able to ask more questions, if necessary, to delve into what the underlying issues are you are trying to solve. There are occations when clients come to a designer with one idea in mind, but by letting a designer use their problem-solving skills, discover that there are better solutions.


Now the next level of designer provides strategy and comes in as more of a consultant than a commodity producer. That’s not saying that you wouldn’t get deliverables (logos, letterhead, website, etc..) it’s just not the focus of the initial interaction. 

When you are working with Strategist/Strategic Designers the goal is to do a deep dive into your business and discover the challenges and hidden gems that are already there. You may come in thinking you need a new marketing campaign or logo because sales are down only to discover that you’ve been marketing to the wrong audience. In a case like this, no matter how much you market, it won’t give you the return you’re looking for because who you’ve been producing the campaign for are not interested in your offering. If you had a better understanding of the audience, you could have redirected the campaign and had much better success. Sometimes you find that it’s not even a campaign or design asset that’s needed, it’s a better understanding of yourself and your existing clients. Maybe you have a “side offering” that needs to be brought out of the shadows and into the spotlight?

It’s through this initial discover/strategy session that real value can be surfaced. After all of the “heavy lifting” has been done a plan or strategy can be set in place.  Once you have a plan and know what you need to get there you can either choose to give this designer the work or pass it off to someone else.

Why should I talk with a designer and not a business coach? 

Well, you may want to talk with both.  However, a designer has the ability and understanding of how to go about implementing those marketing changes that you may end up needing. They study trends, they’re education and background tends to cross over with marketing, public relations, social media, research, cultural awareness and by the time designers move into the strategy arena they are often avid students of business development, management, and growth. This is your opportunity to access the wide repository of knowledge to help you better understand and grow your own business. 

Now back to price. 

As you see there are distinct levels of designers. So when you’re talking pricing, you pay for the level at which the designer is at, their level of skill and experience, and for the value received and risk mitigated. Do you want a designer that always say yes and just does what you tell them to or do you want a designer who is going to challenge your preconceived assumptions, who’s going to tell you when you are headed in the wrong direction – and why, and is who is going to help you mitigate risk?