Anti-Spam

Anti-Spam

Business

Technology has invaded our lives. Everyday we spend several hours checking social media and email. Personally I hate updates: all the background noises and flashy messages that pop up on my phone to alert me of things that I don’t really have time for. I’ve turned the majority of my notifications off. This is why I choose not to advertise using email. To bombard you with useless notices about something that you really don’t need – it irritates me as I imagine it does you.

If you search the Internet for marketing tips one of the strategies you will see is building an email list. It is the number one sales tool for companies because it gives you a direct pipeline to people’s private lives. It is also said that “conversion rate” or turning clicks into sales, is highest in emails, bringing a higher return than social media. This is why people are always trying to get you to sign up for email lists. They believe you are better primed to spend money and it’s these kinds of tactics that I have learned to dislike.

Therefore I have deliberately decided to meet marketers’ advice to shout as loud as possible at people to get their attention by any means possible with my own silence. In this one area anyway. I do advertise. I occasionally take out ads on Etsy. I publish pictures and notifications on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ (although I don’t know why I bother with the last one). And I’m considering hitting up several businesses to drum up client work. Because how else will people know that I exist?

But social media is the kind of space where you have more latitude to control who you let in. And it’s momentary. Something pops up. Then it quickly moves to the bottom of the list, evaporating from view over time. Unlike the unending, never expiring mailbox. Social media can also be conversational, not just a one way shouting match, where you can talk to a real person and not just a corporate image. If my story is interesting enough I think social media should be sufficient for my advertising purposes.

A lot of this attitude is learned by working my booth at a craft fair or art show. I can see people’s immediate reactions when their faces and body language change after I try to start a conversation. Anything more than “hello” and people run away afraid of aggressive sales tactics.

I’ve talked about this before. Going to a small Sierra mountain community and being welcomed like an old friend was a shocking experience for me and my wife. We are so used to being hit up for money that we have become distrustful of strangers. And that is a sad state, but one that I’m intimately familiar with.

I used to be one of those aggressive salesmen in the mall trying to get you to sign up for credit cards you didn’t need. I hated being in that position. I felt awful and sleazy, but when your job depends on car salesman tactics you either comply or go hungry. Today, I take that life lesson seriously by trying to give people the space and freedom to browse on their own, because as someone who’s been around this aggressive sales culture long enough I think it is important to respect people the same way I would like to be respected. Maybe I can even capture some of that Sierra mountain friendliness and bring it back to the urban sprawl.

Being friendly, approachable, joking, taking the time to demonstrate and inform – these are worthy attributes that outweigh any benefits I might receive with an email advertising campaign that junks up your inbox. I want to be personable. Human. Not a salesman. And in order to serve that principle I will strive to be less invasive. To treat you like a friend which is easy enough since if you like dinosaurs and beer, chances are we have a few things in common.
 

Copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson

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Reclaimed Wood Decor

Double Duty

Business

Busy. Slammed. Overworked and feeling like I might be on the verge of burning out. But I keep pushing forward. I can’t stop. Because it’s survival mode now. Nothing like a little pressure to motivate you.

I can’t really tell you what has happened over the last few months. Not just because my memory sucks – something I like to refer to as my beer soaked brain – but because I have been going pretty much non-stop. When I’m not working a full time job during the day as a tech for theater (building sets, hanging lights, cleaning up other people’s mess, etc.) I’m taking whatever free time I have to build up… well… what has become the family business. Which isn’t out of the ordinary. The biggest difference is that everything feels like it hinges on the success of our separate, yet jointly created ventures. Our feet are in the fire now.

Here are some things I’ve been working on behind the scenes…

Over the last three to four years I’ve been plugging away at this art business in a moseying pace. Sauntering in the way retired hobbyists do for pure enjoyment of a thing that keeps my human setting on tolerable instead of obnoxious. That was pretty much the course we followed when, earlier this summer, my wife quit her job. Now, urgency is how we operate. Like the way that a bathroom can be urgently needed when a bowel movement won’t wait. One savings account has been depleted and we are living on single mediocre income in the one of the most expensive counties, in the most expensive state, perhaps, in the world. Rent is about to go up. Probably will do again soon after that. Cost of living is steadily rising at the same pace as global warming and has a similar impending doom feel about it.

Still I’m not worried. Anxious. Tense. Sleepless – absolutely. But we’re not to the cliff’s edge yet. And we have experience in this sort of thing: post recession we tightened our belts and pulled together what we could to make ends meet. It was stressful, but I think weathering the storm made our marriage even stronger. Made us tougher people which will come in handy as the strain grows, and it most definitely will. We’ve only just begun to hit hard times.

In the last few months my wife has opened five shops under three brand names, posting two or three dozen products of her own. She’s been by my side at many of the flea markets, art walks, or craft fairs that I’ve attended this year and she has been working every day to work on building her product line.

Time for a plug here: you can see her shops on Etsy, Society6, and Redbubble under Come To California and I Love The Unknown. Or follow the links here: 

https://www.etsy.com/shop/cometocalifornia
https://society6.com/cometocalifornia
https://society6.com/ilovetheunknown
http://www.redbubble.com/people/ilovetheunknown

Sure I’m tired. However, without that tiny, minuscule earning we are earning the hard way we might not weather this storm. It’s our tiny life boat. A raft in the in cold, trashing ocean. Got to bail the water out. Or sink.

So when I say I have been busy it’s actually true. Not just something I say to blow off our friends, but an all out war against the lies that the economy is recovering. Over the last few weeks I’ve tried to not only ramp-up my efforts to put up new prints, but create things to help my wife’s business to gain some traction. I’ve made a Pop-Art dinosaur, some reclaimed wood decor, display tables and shelves. I’ve enrolled in fairs and markets as a partner to my wife. All while holding down a job that doesn’t necessarily have a constant schedule. I am one hundred percent business and we spend a lot of time talking shop when we are not working.

It’s odd to be here. I’ve heard the war stories from other creatives who say that when you don’t have a fallback you work harder. Well, now here we are. No Plan B. Without a safety net. Or at least, a safety net that looks a little threadbare. Maybe it can’t take the full weight of our fall, but it’s best not to think about that. Concentrate on reaching the other side. It’s with that determination that I keep working. Normally I would be too tired to keep drawing. This is the busy time of year for me when the day job takes up a lot of time and energy. Luckily there has been a little bit of space to breathe in, but I’ve had a few days here and there where I don’t feel like doing anything.

Then I pick up the axe and go right back to swinging. Dark bags under the eyes. Shoulders bunched up like knotted Christmas lights. Barely able to recognize mistakes. Which I’m making more of. Before this autumn I would have told you that I didn’t have the strength. That I would have let the flame die out. I’ve surprised myself.  My wife stepped up too. I knew she would. What makes it hard for her is that we keep hearing how the economy is doing better, but we’re not seeing it anywhere. Approaching one hundred applications to underpaying jobs and several interviews and temp agencies teasing opportunity only to pass on actually hiring through a gutless email. Pile on top of that a heap a lackluster sales and you might begin to understand the low feeling it brings. Can’t stop though. Not now.

This is the sort of thing people don’t really share on Facebook. If you looked at our photos and posts online you probably wouldn’t know that we are having a hard time. I don’t see us starving any time soon. We’ll get through this for now. Yet when times are tough you buckle down and dig in. You don’t quit. And I think that’s the thing that gives me hope. That by doubling down on our dreams we might be able to tunnel our way out of this mess. To feel the warm sunlight on our faces again as the storm clears. Stronger, better people for having survived. We are fighters after all, seasoned by a harsh environment and used to pulling double duty.

Rob's Hand Made Sign

Art Show Beginner

Business

Taking the business to the next level involves taking my prints to the people. So far I’ve had pretty good experiences, but I’m only three shows into my print career so I have a lot to learn. Nonetheless, here are my experiences at the Claremont Art Walk and the OC Weekly’s Artopia in Downtown Santa Ana.

Chronologically Claremont came first. It came to me by way of a friend-of-a-friend who has taken over the Art Walk. I’m not sure exactly when the whole thing started, but when I jumped onboard it was the first time that Rebecca had run an Art Walk. It was also the return of the walk from a brief hiatus. As I wrote about a month ago in my previous article the Art Walk had shakey beginnings. Now under the guidance of Janelle Rensch and Rebecca Ustrell it is on track for the first Saturday every month.

When I think about my night there it makes me think of a club house. A hangout for your friends where you can feel free to joke, share new experiences, and wonder about the future. Since the Art Walk is just getting back on it’s feet there wasn’t much fanfare to attract visitors. Although I did notice that between the time I lived near the area and now, a difference of four or five years, that the Packing House filled in it’s empty store fronts. That led to steady traffic throughout the night and since you have people waiting for their tables at the hipstery Whisper House restaurant, you have a chance to catch a few eyes from there. Passers by from other eateries like the amazingly delicious Eureka! Burger helped fill in some of that foot traffic as well.

Considering it was a free, juried* show the amount of cash earned that night was strictly profit. After three shows at this level my average sales seem to float around ten prints at a very, very reasonable price point. You can do the math on that, but until the show earns some more notoriety I would imagine that earnings for someone like me will stay kind of low. The other people participating that day didn’t seem to do as well (a guitarist, and high-end French gift basket vendor).

The Claremont Packing House was one of the first renovations to take place in the area and is one of the nicest places to visit. It’s had a hard time attracting business in the past, but when I visited for the show it was buzzing with activity which is good to see. Downtown Claremont is a little hidden from the world, which is how I believe the residents prefer it, but I’m seeing signs of growth. The venue itself is pleasant with reclaimed wood floors and dim lighting. It was suggested that I bring my own lighting and I’m glad I did. It was nice to be indoors too and while it looked like it might rain that day it luckily never did. During the summer months it can get really hot out there so I imagine that being inside will be helpful in future walks, but there is talk of expanding to the outside courtyard between the parking structure and the Packing House.

Overall the Claremont experience was nice and people were a lot friendlier than I have experienced in the one previous show that I’ve been a part of. Not that people were rude, just less engaging. Quite the opposite in Claremont. The Santa Ana art show on the following weekend would have some parallels.

When my wife sent me an ad from the OC Weekly hosting an art show the second week of May I was cynical about it. The annual Artopia, also held in LA and a few other cities I think, was a vote-for-your favorite kind of marketing scheme. If you’ve ever participated in a Pepsi school fundraiser where you have to get as many people you can to sign up on a website and vote for your school then you know what I’m talking about. It’s a way for the OC Weekly to build email lists and send you junk mail. Normally I wouldn’t go for this sort of thing, but I thought I might be able to piggyback off the OC Weekly’s promotion efforts and at the very least get my name out in the open.

I didn’t ask anyone to vote for me. I’ve tried my hand in a similar promotion years ago with the tee shirt company Threadless and met with awful results. Personally I don’t like being marketed to and I will walk all the way around something that smells a little bit like advertising, so I get it. People don’t want to go on Facebook and see that shit. No problem.

However, my wife is my biggest promoter and jumped on that wagon quicker that you can say “hold your horses”. That’s probably what got me through the door because she convinced a lot of friends to sign up to vote which got into the top ten out of thirty pre-approved artists. I’d love to know what the vote looked like because I’d be willing to bet that there weren’t that many votes and I probably defaulted in because I was one of the few that got votes.

In any case this was a pretty good operation. Plenty of communication, parking maps, wristbands, club lights, dj… the whole loft party package. Which gave it the feel of a mid-sized, exclusive event. The staff, led I think by Jenna Moothart of OC Weekly Marketing, was incredibly friendly and helpful. I really felt like they were there to cater to me and there were a lot of OC Weekly shirts to provide manpower. So even when there were some kinks, which I later found out was caused by unfamiliarity in a new venue, they were fast to respond, and really accommodating.

Although typically rented out as a wedding space the venue itself, The 1912, was nice. A contemporary upstairs take on the hipster packing house trend that is slowly taking over southern California, the wood floors and beams give it a warm feel with the old style warehouse windows letting in nice light during the day, and antique edison style lights with some small, moving, track lighting type dj lights and gobos (or patterns) for the night. It was really dark in my corner and my neighbor, by the end of the night, was living in shadow. So I was glad that I packed my lamps.

When I first set up next to the bathroom, the kitchen (or storage room of some sort), and a cocktail table there was pretty good lighting in that spot, but I was bumped for a photo-booth (maybe paid for by the event) and sent to the corner. It was a little odd, but it was better than being isolated in the alternative space, a room hidden around the corner that another artist briefly sat in until it she realized that no one would see her art. Also, I didn’t have to worry about someone hanging out by the cocktail table and spilling their drink on my prints or the terrible bathroom smell oozing into the space.

As details rolled in from Jenna I took note of certain things: one thing that I thought would have an effect on sales was the cover charge. Tickets were $30 online pre-sale with a discount code I could hand out lowering it to $20. At the door prices went up to $35. Toward the end of the event I talked to the staff who said that total tickets sold were about two hundred fifty tickets sold out of three hundred available. This is different than past Artopia events which the staff said had twenty artists (instead of ten) with around one thousand attendees. They wanted to go smaller, more intimate this year. Maybe to cut costs?

Who knows.

If you’re tracking the event’s numbers that means they’re getting between $5,000 and $9,000 before expenses which probably included bartending, dj, venue rental, staff wages, table rentals, etc, etc. All told they probably took a small loss on the event.

The only problem I had was trying to talk over the sound of the dj who always wants to get the party started by blasting beats. I liked the music he played, but having conversations with people who are interested in buying your art while there is a rock concert going on behind you is a pain in the ass. You only hear every other word and have to piece together their meaning through chunks of conversation that you repeat several times.

With somewhere between two hundred fifty and three hundred people attending I did a little better than my ten print average. Again it was a free show so one hundred percent of the profit goes to me and with a slightly heavier wallet I’m happy.

Between the Tustin Art Walk, the Claremont Art Walk, and the OC Artopia here’s what I’ve gathered about running a booth at art events:

As I mentioned, my average sales are around ten prints per show. This tells me that I need to offer a few more options to get people interested in what I’m doing. The price point seems good (you can visit my Etsy site if you want to see) and with a few lower price point options I think I’m catching a few people that might have walked away. One thing that I want to play with is raising prices. Claremont, for example, is a pretty wealthy community, so I can probably bump my better selling prints up a few dollars without scaring people away. Make a few more bucks.

I would guess that half of the people that stop by my booth are attracted to the display. The dark stained wood and slick orange lamps are all part of a package and I think eyes have been drawn to the light and overall aesthetic as much as the art it’s trying to sell. I’ve received a lot of compliments on the display and I like to joke with customers that it makes my crappy art look even better than it really is, but with the packing house architectural style being so popular right now I fit in really well among people with style. Which I think helps my art stand out even more.

Overall sales are a lot lower than I’d like and that might be a combination of things. One thing that I’m ready to try is to get into a paid show like Patchwork (which incidentally is going on this Sunday in Santa Ana). The Patchwork Show has notoriety and big crowds. I figure I can probably triple my profits by signing up for a half-booth ($150) on these one-day craft fairs. That’s totally doable right now and at minimum I figure I can break even.

On the other side of that coin I need to get some more product up. Some people like to say “Develop a style”, but right now I’m not seeing people demand that. With a couple of different series running people are choosing from all of them. Since these are things that I like, there’s a good chance that people will have similar crossing interests. What I’m not seeing though is that “Oh I have to have this” reaction from people yet. The closest I get is a long, smiling stare at my Yosemite print which is probably more the name brand than anything. I’ll take the compliment, but I’d rather have the money.

I have a few other tweaks that I want to do to the display – add more signage, build out as more product gets developed, make it more visible from a distance, make it easier to transport, and so on. There are a couple of questions that I get asked frequently, like “What is screen printing” and “Are you the artist”. Some signage could be helpful with this, but at least for now it helps me refine my pitch. The bottom line here is that art shows like these already make up the bulk of my sales.

Right now I’d say that compared to online sales, shows make up three quarters of total sales. That’s something that I’d like to change and I’m hoping to grab more show goers and pull them over to my Etsy site. But I think that just comes down to offering more and better product online. I did see a microscopic bump online from the OC Weekly event, but no sales to speak of. Yet.

If you are considering any of these shows I’d say that they are good testing grounds for newbies like me or maybe just trying out new ideas. All the shows I participated in are minimal in cost and if you have a winning product you only stand to earn. I can’t say what it’s like from the other side of the booth – the customer side. I think that one problem is that it’s hard to find out about these events. Other than everyone being so pleasant and curious, even if they are not handing over their hard earned cash, you are with your people at these events. Everyone that shows up is into what you are doing and probably has similar backgrounds to you. That makes it fun, like hanging out in the neighborhood club house with all your friends. So at the very least you get plenty of instant feedback, because people always have opinions – not always a bad thing – and you get to meet cool people.

 

*I’ve only learned this year that “Juried” and “Unjuried” shows make a difference. Juried shows are selective of the people who participate and are generally better in service. Unjuried tends to be a free for all.

 

 

Copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson

Special Combo

Special Combo

Business

I love making sets of prints. It makes a lot of sense to get the buyer to want to complete the collection, but I’ve found that this doesn’t quite go down the way that I intended. I might have to change up my tactics a little.

My art is on the cheap side of the print world. Rock poster gods typically do larger prints for twice as much money – on the low end. So my pricing undercuts them by a lot, but I’m also not quite at the thirty to one hundred dollar class yet. My street cred is low and my talent needs shoring up in a few small places, but I figure in another five thousand hours I’ll start catching up.

In the meantime I’m hoping to build enough stock to bring in a steady stream of online sales and that might be purely volume based. That is to say: the more prints I offer the better sales will be. Right now it’s a small collection and the more popular earners on Etsy just have bigger collections.

In my head I think, “You can make up the difference by promoting sets”. Sell two or three at a time and it’s just as good as the higher end sales. Then I can keep building stock and have the previous prints pay for the new prints. Problem is, customers are only buying one at a time.

I’m not entirely sure why that is. Maybe they are only in love with a single print and not so much the rest. Or with shipping prices maybe they’re doing the math and thinking “I have to buy a frame too,” which adds to the overall costs of a single print. In any case people are not buying the sets so clearly my strategy needs some tweaking.

One problem is my inconsistent marketing. I’m still trying to get a feel for pushing product online and being socially awkward I’m not sure what to do or say other than be myself, which I think sometimes pushes people away. Nevertheless I need to a) take some social media dietary fiber and get more regular on my posting. People respond really well when I’m consistent. And b) be a little less advertisey. Recently I ran a bunch of posts that were heavy on the marketing lingo and I got ZERO reaction. Not that I’m surprised really, because I hate advertising myself. Lesson learned. Chill with that shit.

However, I don’t do a good job of showing the sets together and I need to start promoting the sets and not just the individual pieces.

Another issue could be that people are not quite impressed with my style yet – or maybe I haven’t fully fleshed out a style and people smell weakness. This will take care of itself in time, but I’ve seen worse things go out so I kind of think the problem lies somewhere else. Besides, I’m getting likes on my work, just not – what’s the word – conversions. Which tells me people like it plenty, just not enough to fork over cash-money.

One customer hinted that if there were framing options they might be more inclined to make the buy and that has been ringing in my ears ever since. I like to build crap with wood so if I can find a way to quickly and cheaply manufacture my own frames then I can sell the prints + frames as a package deal. I really want to believe that this will help sales, but part of me thinks it’s only marginal at best.

Ultimately I think it comes down promoting effectively. I loath advice that tells you need to chase down keywords and like and follow your way to the top. It feels sticky like car salesmen tactics and I get that it works, and if you want to make money… blah, blah, blah. It’s clear to me that going too heavy on advertising doesn’t work because people get turned off by it. You need to have a plain message that appeals to customers (which is still advertising) without sounding and looking like advertising.

One last thought: the stuff I’m making is pretty niche. I’m not sure how many people really like Cats with geometric shapes or 666 posters (which at this time has 1 view in the past 30 days – my worst performing poster to date – compared to my highest performer which has 43 views), so maybe I need to mix it up with a couple of prints with broader appeal.

Be more consistent. Spell it out for people. Don’t be a car salesman.

Hey thanks for listening. Sometimes I just have to work it out.

Copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson

Shit Advice

Online Advice Sucks

Business, Random Thoughts

For a couple of years now I’ve been chipping away at creating a business with some minor success. Although I’ve never… let’s say allowed myself to become fully independent, it’s partially the fault of crappy internet advice. When I was getting started my initial thinking was, “I can Google anything and learn.” Now I know better.

Used to be that I would absorb everything that people wrote about freelancing and graphic design. Online advice was useful for telling me that I needed a formal agreement and that I should have a process and tons of other 101-type shit. Yet when it came to delving deeper into subjects there was either no information to be found or it was hidden behind a paywall. More and more I found myself becoming distanced from what people said.

Everything that I was coming across was built on the clique-ish idea that you can build off of your previous career and attend magical conferences for hundreds if not thousands of dollars. To me it was like the rich elite telling me how great and easy their life was and that anyone could achieve this lifestyle if they just copied their model of living, morals, and philosophies.

My needs, hopes, and dreams are completely different from that. In a way I feel like the working class of the design world and the closest thing that I can call My Tribe are people taking cues from DIY and Punk aesthetics that have created their own space. I’ve found inspiration from others who have bucked the system and found their own path which I am now starting to take control of and develop in my life.

But it’s taken a long time because I put my faith in people who probably have something to offer for a certain group, just not for me. Since there is so much shitty advice in the world for people like me I feel like I should offer a tip to people who maybe feel some sympathy pains,

Finding your own way is hard because no one else has done it and no one else can tell you how to do it. Stay the course. Follow the things that interest you and you will find people like you and work that fits your personality.

That’s it. That’s all I have to offer. I’m not saying I’m qualified because I’m still trying to get off the ground myself. However, for people like us I know that all the other advice out there sucks because we are tinkerers, flipping things around, testing, probing, asking questions. This is a constant work in progress that will always create a desire to invest in yourself and your interests. These things will change over time as you develop and get better. And it will get better if you follow the one person who knows you best: yourself.

If you are like me taking the slow road to getting on the self employment train then you probably have the same start up cost concerns. You are probably trying to figure out how the labyrinth of business regulation works and still uncomfortable with your style. All of the “Top Tens”, “Quick Tips”, and “How To” articles suck for people like us because they are not meant for people who have to start with essentially nothing. There really isn’t anything there that applies to us. So when people write about working harder (like this article) and how life is actually tough – it resonates with me, but I don’t see working my side hustle as hard. I see it as enjoyable and challenging. I want more of it. I feel addicted to it and I’m willing to push myself further, not because I have some deep burning passion that I discovered at a seminar, but because I just like drawing.

Life doesn’t have to be hard. There is resistance from time to time and I am happy to bitch about how things are stacked against us. However you and I are still doing our own thing that we probably won’t quit doing. We will figure out what works for us. Customize it. Evolve or get out of the game because it’s not what we thought, but then it morphs into something else since we are not happy with just standing still. The most dangerous thing about reading articles that tell you these life truths is that you can fall into the trap of “I’m not like these people and I probably will never be.” It prevents you from even trying in the first place and the best thing you can do for yourself is to test it out. Just dip your toe in the water and if it sticks go with it. Don’t worry about following the rules or doing things the “right way”. Just do it and figure it out as you go.

When you are building from the ground up – when you don’t really have the resources to jump in – the only way you are really going to learn anyway is by doing it little by little, setting one stone on top of the other. That’s probably the best way too, because now you can learn while you earn. Have people pay for you to hone your skills and talents. Plus with your ass on the line these lessons will stick with you long after you have forgotten stupid, pointless articles like the one you are currently reading.

So the best thing to do is to ignore all that shit that people try to tell you and follow through with you ideas. Make mistakes. Get better. Start with nothing.

What A Graphic Designer Costs

Business

Budgeting For A Designer

So you’re in the market for a graphic designer. You’ve looked at websites and portfolios, talked to friends and colleagues about people they know, maybe tried a family member or friend, or tried to learn on your own. But now it’s time to hire a professional. How much should it cost?

Two things are working in your favor (and against designers): one, there is a flood of graphic designers entering the market; and  two, the recent recession has driven many to lower rates in order to survive. You can find graphic designers at ridiculous rates these days. Anywhere from $0 to $200 an hour with the old adage “What you pay for is what you get” not really applying in all situations. So finding a graphic designer that suits your budget needs is pretty easy. There are a few considerations before choosing a graphic designer (more on that here), but once you’ve narrowed it down to a handful of designers it’s time to set your budget.

One of the most talked about issues among freelancers is the reluctance that customers have about sharing their financial goals because it makes our job more difficult. For people who create art it helps to know as much as possible about the final product.

The overall budget may impact the amount of time a graphic designer can spend on a design, or what options are available for the final print such as paper weight, ink types, paper finish, and quantities, for example. Having an idea of how much you want to spend will greatly help a graphic designer make decisions about the design work. Even if you are unsure of what to spend most graphic designers will give you a free consultation to help better define budgetary concerns.

A Sample Project

Let’s say that you want to try putting together a brochure. You know that your customers are asking for information and that you could benefit from having materials to leave behind for people to pick up and peruse. To print 100 to 250 Brochures you can expect to pay $150 to $300 depending on the printing company and their options. Note: I would avoid trying to print materials on your desktop printer – this turns into a bigger hassle than it’s worth and has many defects in print quality ultimately making your business appear cheap.

Then add to that graphic design services and you might see costs laid out like this (more $ = higher rate):

  • $ or $$ Concepts or comprehensive layouts (aka “comps”)
  • $$ or $$$ Front + back layout & graphics, full color
  • $ Edits/Revisions
  • $$ or $$$ Photography
  • $ or $$ Stock image licensing
  • $ or $$ Photo touch-up, color correction for printing
  • $$ or $$$ Copy writing
  • $ or $$ Final edits, checks (more if getting press checks)
  • $ Delivery

If you have a budget in mind a graphic designer can make suggestions to meet your financial goals by customizing the above list to fit the margins. For example, if you are looking to spend under $500, including printing, I can suggest that we go without concepts or comps, limit editing and revisions, and keep images to a minimum while you provide the text. For a basic package like this I would ask for between $150 to $300 for the layout and creation of any custom graphics. I would also suggest a paper size, weight, finish, and quantity that would be in the range of $100 to $150 dollars from a professional print company, saving you anywhere from $250 to $50.

It’s good business for graphic designers to work with you this way and if you are ever in doubt you can ask for a detailed breakdown of costs.

Solo vs. Studio

Worth mentioning is the difference between solo designers and design studios. Generally speaking solo designers or artists will be less expensive while studios largely charge more. The trade off is in the resources. Studios will have a wider range of equipment and talent and can give you a pretty comprehensive service if you need a website as well as printed material or other marketing services.

Solo designers, while often lower in cost, tend to specialize in a field such as book cover design, or logos. This allows them to be really good in a narrow field, sometimes working for larger studios to fill in talent gaps. Going this route you are likely to end up with real talent for the specific job you need done, but ask for a wider range of services and you’ll probably see quality diminish.

Budget For Success

As always there are exceptions to the rule, but no matter what you look for having a budget will help make your project successful. It helps the designer determine what options are available to you and ensures that you get the best quality work for your needs. If you want to control for costs, it’s better to share information than hide it. Most designers are not out to nickel-and-dime you to death – that’s bad business. But if you don’t quite have that trust you can always ask for a breakdown of costs.

Any thoughts? Please leave a comment and don’t forget to share with your friends as well.

 

 

Copyright 2014 © Robert C. Olson

Artist Highlight: Seanwes

Business, Graphic Design

Sean McCabe is a typographist, a word I just made up, and the man behind Seanwes where Sean’s hand lettering inspires us to just give up on typography. By accident I came across McCabe while searching “how to give myself eye surgery with a Micron pen” and saw that he had some really fantastic work. So I’m sharing this here, not just because he make letters cool, but because I am always fascinated by how people got their start.

Two Things To Consider For The Perfect Freelance Match

Business, Graphic Design
Freelancer

Photo by Carsten Knoch

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