D-I-Y vs professional design

Close up of pound coin stacks

You may ask yourself why would you want to spend money when you can do it for free? It is a valid question but it needs thought before settling on an answer.

The question itself is is not incorrect, but rather the belief that if you do it yourself it is free. Do you not bill an hourly rate? What is your hourly rate valued at? Then add the hours up that you have used up designing a flyer yourself and see how much it actually cost you.

All right, let’s say you ‘laid out’ your flyer (sorry, I can’t bring myself to call it ‘design’ when it is not) in only 1 hour and your average hourly rate is £60, pretty quick (and probably not possible but let’s use this as a starting point). Hang on, there is another cost, the cost of brand damage. Every time a business puts out anything that has the company name on it – it is either gaining or losing, be it clients, brand strengthening or getting your foot in the door. If your quick flyer does not draw interest from potential clients due to the lack of professionalism, it means you have lost that opportunity. The business world is tough enough without adding loss of potential growth simply due to not wanting to spend an extra £90 on a professional flyer.

There is always a time and place for using do-it-yourself methods. I used to have a burning dislike of the concept, but I have since had a change of heart. Do-it-yourself sites are excellent for new businesses that have zero disposable income and just need to get ‘something’ at this point ‘anything is better than nothing’. Your next step? You need business cards and can’t afford or don’t know who to turn to for the design. You spend (let’s be honest) 4 hours putting your business card together, never mind about that time lost/un-billed. Ah yes, that will do. Like Ryan Air, each request you make is an added cost: you want delivery? That will be extra. Oh, you need it on card and not flimsy paper? Get your wallet out. You need them in two days time? A little more money please… Still it seems worth it. The cards come and you pretty pleased with yourself.

Fast-forward one year in time, you have been trading and developing a client base and maybe even hired a small team as part of your growth. Now you and your clients have expectations. Your clients expect to see your visual elements looking like the professional company they are dealing with. You realize you have no clear branding or unique identity. You don’t actually know how to make your logo more inspiring or lay out your business card so it reflects your host of offerings. Your 1 page website that once had everything you need now looks embarrassingly armature and no longer matches what your business stands for. This is the time to invest in design.

Investing in design

Chat to your designer about your business; discuss what you are doing now, and also what you expect to do next year, or even the year after next. Get the most out of your designs by future proofing as much as you possibly can. If you have some business offerings that you know are not going to be continuing on for much longer, don’t put them in a brochure that you know will take you a year to hand out. Decide where your spend will be best suited. It could be worth designing a strong logo and focusing on your website, and then moving onto print at a later stage.

If it is your website that needs focus first, keep in mind that you will have to put in time with the designer for content and concepts. A designer is there to work along side you to bring your ideas to life, not only for you. You know your business best – no one else should be tasked with designing and inserting copy for your website without your regular approval and input. I am not saying you should hold the designers hand or worse still direct every section of the website, it is more a collaborative relationship. Designers aren’t copywriters. Don’t learn this the hard way and find you have just spent a whole lot of pervious income on a website that looks good but doesn’t have the right content in the right hierarchy. A good designer will make sure you add your input and not use your website to try new techniques that excites them.

To answer the question as to when it is a good time to hire a designer, it is the same answer to the question “when is it time to buy a new pair of jeans?”. The answer could be when you have outgrown them – when fashion has changed and you are the only one wearing bell-bottoms when everyone else is wearing skinny jeans. When the jeans just don’t fit right any more or you find yourself in a new phase of life – you’re more into your relaxed fit rather than the super tight ones that your rocked in your earlier years. When your peers laugh at your lack of style…

The point I am trying to make is, you will know – the sooner the better but it isn’t always possible, so do it as soon as you feel the time is right, then move quickly.

The valuable next step is finding a designer that you relate to and relates to you. It is imperative that they are available to you. An excellent designer that you can never get hold of is of no use to a busy growing company.

Do-it-yourself if you must, but the saying is true for design too: buy cheap, buy twice.