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Fast, Good and Cheap


Project Management Triangle

I bet that you’ve already read from somewhere the definition of a Project Mangement Triangle, where you have three desirable project traits: Fast, Good and Cheap but can only pick two. From a contractor perspective, it would often be the most profitable to win a project that lies within the  Good+Fast corner of the spectrum. On the other hand, clients would always be on the lookout for a legit graphic designer who’d be willing to work on the project within the ‘Rainbow Unicorn Blackhole’ area smack in the non-existent middle part of the diagram.

Nobody likes cheap things…
Before we proceed, let’s first address a pet peeve of mine: As a client or as a designer, please refrain from using the word ‘cheap’ like it’s a positive attribute. Designers, do not ever ever pitch that you’re providing ‘cheap service’. And as a prospective Client, refrain from posting a job ad like “I’m looking for a cheap designer.” or “I have a project that needs to be cheaply done.” – these is just plain wrong and you’ll inevitably be flooded with applications from contractors who are aesthetically-challenged. Instead, make use of terms like ‘within budget’, ‘affordable’ or ‘inexpensive’. Moving on…

Three’s a crowd…
But not always. In effectively scaled, bespoke setups; Fast Turnaround, Inexpensive and High Quality does co-exist . This service trio is exactly what BPOs are addressing. In high volumes and with the right outsourcing partner (or in a smaller scale, a boutique agency or even just an effectively well-networked freelancer) and a definitive servicing contract; access to fast, inexpensive and high-quality work is possible.

“But what if I don’t have that much of a budget to engage a BPO company?”
“What if the sheer volume of my design projects isn’t that much to begin with?”
“My business is not yet ready to commit our design needs to a large BPO…”

If you find yourself pondering any of the statements above, you may want to consider any of the following alternatives:

Doing things in-house…
As an example, let’s say that a real estate company (“Company A”) would like to develop marketing materials for their various marketing campaigns. The simplest way to address it is to hire an in-house graphic designer. Here some types of expenses that come along with getting things done in-house:

  • Hiring: This are manpower costs for allocating part of the company’s administrative and HR resources (for processing applications, conducting interviews, communications cost, etc.)
  • Technological: Cost of purchasing and upgrading hardware and licensing for design softwares
  • Salary and other compensation: Whether the company’s in-house designer has always enough work to process throughout the day or not, that employees’ compensation (plus insurance, healthcare, bonuses, etc. – depending on the employment package) will still add up to the company’s monthly overhead costs
  • Training: If the company wants its in-house designer to further improve and become more productive, you’ll have get him access to quality training materials and programs

Seems pretty daunting doesn’t it? It might be. But in the long run if the company is looking at a substantial amount of design work (or design projects which would require handling of confidential/sensitive/proprietary information), the conventional way of hiring a full-time Creative and doing things in-house would still be the most logical choice.

How ’bout getting a freelancer…
What if Company A doesn’t have a lot of design projects (yet) down the pipeline and it just needs access to a ‘good’ designer who can successfully execute visuals for its marketing campaigns?

Meet the Seasoned Freelance Designer. A Creative who’s profile includes an impressive portfolio of successful projects coupled with a clientele of recognisable (and verifiable) brands and businesses. Someone who’s comfortable enough to sit down with Company A’s decision-makers and experienced enough to lead the design brief and set the art direction for the projects.

This person’s rate may very well be above that of a normal in-house hire. But what you’re really paying for here is the experience, craftsmanship and actual work done. You’re not being charged for training, software, hardware, downtimes or insurance. So you really cannot directly compare the disparity between their hourly rate from in-house Creatives.

There’s no magic number on how much freelancers charge. IMHO, I think it really depends more on the individual’s experience, schedule and how much they want to be involved in your project.

Based on experience, specially if you’re looking to hire a freelancer for branding projects and not for straightforward low-level design jobs, you should get the best contractor who fits your marketing budget. Right from the start, get the ‘best’ match for your campaign. Believe me, it’ll save you a ton of time, money and spare you form an unnecessary amount of stress if you don’t ‘Test the waters’ first by initially hiring a ‘cheap’ designer. I’ve had clients who, in their desperation, had to fork up rush fees just so I’d willingly salvage their half-done project, and they could meet their ridiculously compromised deadlines – just because the previous less experienced freelancer with a lower rate couldn’t deliver.

Where’s the Rainbow Unicorn Blackhole?
Ahh yes… that happy place where everything falls apart then into place. Well, the magic word here is scalability.

Do you know how publishers can squeeze the living daylights out of printing companies? Or how they manage to get a 48-page magazine printed for a just dollar each, then sell ’em for around seven bucks? No printing company who plans to stay in business would gladly agree to print your magazine for a dollar a pop if you’re just going to order a hundred copies (even if you beg and say “pretty please”). The setup costs for the presses alone far exceeds what they’re gonna make with that kinda deal. But if you’re circulation number is around a hundred thousand, it’ll be a different story. This is due to the fact that more the same product that you’ll commission a print shop to manufacture translates to lesser expenses there will be on a per-product level: there will be guaranteed utilisation against their overhead costs. And as for variable costs, they’ll be able to haggle better prices from their suppliers with bigger volumes.

Going back to design services; the same principle above is somehow similar with design projects. If you’re to ask one freelancer to design a set of marketing collaterals (say business card template, letterhead, envelopes, corporate folder and a flyer), you are more likely to get a better quote as compared to the consolidated quotations several designers (supposing they all share the same, or at least similar, going rates) who are individually quoting for different parts of the project.

Coming soon: learn how to (almost) always get the best deal on your design projects.



Rockstar for hire.
I help businesses create memorable branding experiences for their customers.

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