As I was reviewing a few articles here at GDB, I noticed that a trend among many readers that leave comments here at the blog is to give discounts to potential clients. In other words, when trying to rope in a first-time client, some designers prefer to give them a 10% off on your first order or something similar. Today I want to discuss the potential risks of offering design discounts and the effect that it might have on the perceived value of your design.
Examine what discounts are really for
In order to understand where I am coming from, I think it is important to think about what a discount is and how they are used outside of the design community. Think briefly, for example about the restaurant industry.
Which of the following two restaurants would you expect to receive a discount from?
The fast food joint
I won’t mention any names, but you can picture the place: greasy, fast, and cheap. The employees at this restaurant get paid minimum wage and, aside from the first day of work at this restaurant, they haven’t received any official training on preparing food or serving customers. The food is prepared hastily, and in a “cookie-cutter” fashion, but it’s to be expected because, let’s face it, it’s fast food.
The classy bistro
Now I might be biasing you with the verbal imagery in those two titles, but you get the picture right? Imagine a classy restaurant where people enter, are greeted by a very professional maître d who shows them to their table. A garcon greets them and advises them on his personal favorite dishes, the customers place their order and the chefs, who have been trained for years somewhere in the food’s country of origin, carefully handcraft the meal. It’s not as fast, it’s not as cheap, but there is an enormous difference in the quality of the final product.
Returning to the question posed prior to these two imagery-laden paragraphs; you would obviously expect to find some sort of discount coupon or email offer from the Fast Food Joint, not the classy bistro. Why? Because when you go to a fast food restaurant, you expect it to be as cheap and quick as possible. Receiving some sort of discount reinforces that idea. The perceived value of the classy bistro would drop if suddenly, they starting spamming your inbox with special offers or sending you junk mail at home.
Discounts are meant to reinforce the idea that the most important consideration for your services should be price.
You devalue your design when offering discounts
The examples mentioned above bring me to my ultimate point: you devalue your design when you offer discounts to potential clients. Consider what kind of clients you attract when you offer discounts for your design services: the fast food customer or the classy bistro patron? Obviously people who are interested in quick, sloppy, inexpensive design are the kinds of clients you will attract. And who wants to design poor work for little pay? Not me.
Finding a fair balance between cost and quality
This brings us to one of the oldest conundrums of the design community. How do we establish a fair balance between offering reasonable prices for our clients and getting paid enough to create the highest-quality product possible. I have some ideas on this one, but I would like to leave it up to you and ask you to leave your thoughts in the comments.
For a few hints on what I think about finding a good balance, check out some of these GDB classics:
- The Biggest Myth of Graphic and Web Design
- Balancing Speed, Cost, and Quality in Design
- 3 Reasons to think twice before offering free design services
If not discounts, then what?
Some of you might be asking, “If I can’t offer discounts to potential clients, what can I offer them in order to entice them to hire me?” How about offering higher quality service than any other designer they come across? What if you offered consulting services in addition to design services at no extra charge? (By the way, this is a great way for them to get “free consultation” and for you to be able to vocalize your opinions about the marketing decisions they are making in regards to your design.)
Be creative and be original, you can find a way to entice people to hire you over “fast-food” designers. After all, somehow the classy bistro still has a full house on the weekend, right? Investigate how they do it, and you’ll have a client pool full of wonderful, high-paying clients and a portfolio full of high-quality projects.
Help me finish this article…
What do you do to ensure your clients understand the difference between fast-food designers and bistro designers? How do you ensure you are offering your clients the highest level of quality possible? Do you offer discounts for potential clients? If so, do you feel it hinders your ability to charge a fair price in the future? Share your thoughts and concerns, I’d love to hear what you think!