New year, new budget. Faced with limited resources and tight deadlines, we all have the tendency to think that we can just roll up our sleeves power through every aspect of the business, including parts we aren't good at.
It's possible for you to take on many of these tasks on your own to save costs, but you're only thinking about this in the monetary aspect and in terms of how much you'll need to spend. Think about the consequences, though, on yourself. You are likely to already have too many things on your plate. Having another item on your list might very well push you over the edge.
It’s time to stop giving yourself extra work to do. With the abundant resources available, the trick is simply using them efficiently.
The thought of having custom brand fonts, brand new illustrations, customized icons and a library of custom stock photography can sound amazing, especially when you're starting out but that really isn't in the realm of possibility here. Not unless you're swimming in millions of dollars and don't mind splurging to get the most unique branding that money can buy.
"But shouldn't I fake it till I make it? How else can I let my potential customers know that I'm highly successful and can provide them with the best value?" Whoever told you that gave you the worst advice possible. Instead of planning your brand identity and design needs like you're working for a multi-billion dollar brand, work within your means and leverage the resources that are available to you. Focus on a more realistic path.
Instead of investing your money into single use assets, put your budget to use by investing in design templates.
Custom sounds nice but, you’re better off spending your money on other areas of your business, at the start anyway. Think about using assets with longer shelf life that can be easily assembled to fit your needs. Take for instance your presentation template or pitch deck. While having a basic style guide or design reference is good, making use of an existing basic template can be a good starting point. You can customize the free or affordable choices available to you. A well-designed template will include a built-in basic color palette, slide layouts, shapes, charts and fonts.
While having customized art done specially for your business can seem like a unique differentiator, it comes with a price. That price comes with many digits and can make you blow your budget.
Simply put, customized takes time and time cost money. That’s why you’re better off keeping it simple. If you want patterns, source them online. Want illustrations, look for free ones to use. Want templates? There are many free-to-use options on the internet. When it comes to designing for your brand, remember that less is more.
If you’re thinking about customizations, know that starting from scratch is going to cost you. When working with a designer, gather as much information as you possibly can. Whether it’s design references or color palettes or styles. Anything that can help speed up the process will mean savings for you. Think about using wireframes or templates, sketches (even your ugly hand drawn ones are good), diagrams or moodboards. Whatever can explain your ideas well will help cut design time down significantly more than having to go through the exploration phase.
Now I’m not suggesting micro-management because that tends to backfire and work terribly with creatives. Instead, try structuring your design management process a little better. Start off with a discovery session so that you and your designer can align better. Provide a strong brief to ensure your scope is clear. Clarity is key.
When you have your design project going, keep an open line of communication. Set consistent check-ins and milestones. This needs to be a hands-on process. Provide constructive and direct feedback. Ask clarifying questions and be concise on what you like or don’t like. Your feedback needs to be directive and you’ll need to have a clear idea of the direction you want to take the project. Controlling this process will help you control the cost for your design project.
Stretching your design budget comes down to how to plan and manage your design projects. While free alternatives are always a good starting point, they will come short as you continue to grow your brand and require more customized assets and solutions. Design is one of the aspects that can’t go on auto-pilot because it’s your way of communicating your brand values to your customers. If your brand matters to you, your brand design should too.
Alternatively, affordable design agencies like Mad Creative Beanstalk is now an available solution. Get in touch to get designs at scale.