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How to (almost) Always get the Best Deal for Your Design Projects


Many clients think that there’s a secret language they need to speak or that there’s a ‘clique’ they need to be part of in order to cut decent deals with freelancers. As cool as how that may sound like, it’s actually just a matter of managing proper expectations. From my experience, the most important factor in getting a good and accurate quotation for your project is fundamentally having well-defined project scope and requirements.

Know your budget
Don’t ever think that it’s okay to ask for a proposal (or a pitch) without having a budget range in mind, the price spectrum of stock images alone is vast. I remember doing a print ad project for a client who initially said that they don’t have a budget limit – as long as the print ad looked great and ‘authentic’. So I sourced the best and most unique (very low download count) stock images I could find for the comps. The client was really picky but actually had good taste in shortlisting images for the print ad. After several revisions and an approval, I sent them the link where they could purchase the usage licenses for the high-resolution version of the stock images. Thinking that alls done, they almost had me shed a river of tears after I received an email reply stating that they were in utter disbelief with the atrocity of being asked to fork out around $400 for each image:

Client: “Why do they cost this much? The last time I bought a stock image from another website it only cost us $5-10 for each!”

Me: “You specifically said you wanted unique and great-looking visuals, you also said that you don’t have a limit on your budget. And your team specifically approved for the use of these images.”

Client: “Can’t we just buy these images from the old website that we used?”

Me: “You can try finding them in that website, though I doubt you’ll find these images there. These are premium quality, unlike those overused stock images that you were using before, that’s why they are so pricey. You’re paying for top-quality products.”

Client: “No, we can’t afford these. The price is too much, we’re only looking at spending $20 at most for each image were using.”

Me: “Ahhh.. there we go. You should’ve told me that earlier! Now we have to re-do this and source out images within your budget.” (pffft… mumble mumble…)

So instead of wrapping up the project on a high note, we had to go through the entire process again, noting the extra cost of for the new layouts/concepts.

Set realistic deadlines
Contrary to popular belief, freelancers have personal and social lives too. They don’t just ‘turn off’ or revert to idle mode until your next project. You can’t demand a ridiculously short turnaround time over the weekend without paying a premium. So don’t freak out if your freelancer asks for rush fees to meet your deadline. These  ‘rush fees’ will go to the additional set of hands who will help meet your production/printer deadline.

If you’re producing something like a 32-page catalogue, make sure that you give ample time for progressive submissions and allowance for revisions. The last thing you want to do is dump all the materials to your designer one week before the deadline, expecting everything back in two days so that everything can be finalized within the next three. That’s crazy!

Set project milestones 
If you have a big project, it’s best to break them up to several phases. Believe me, it’ll be more managable that way. This is especially true when you’re dealing with multiple contractors working on different facets of a project. It’ll be way easier to handle multiple small manageable projects rather than one big complicated mess.

Plan, plan, plan…
Plan as far ahead as you could. Also, it will do wonders if you’re able to plan the project along with your freelancers. This way you wouldn’t have to deal with their scheduling conflicts and wouldn’t have to deal with and pay for inefficient downtimes.

Pay on time
IMHO, there’s no faster way to to curb a freelancer’s drive and enthusiasm on a project other than having to deal with non-payment. Make sure to complete agreed payment milestones on time.

Just like how you’re expecting a guarantee to have the deliverables ready on a specific date; freelancers are equally looking forward to a timely compensation for the work done. If for some valid reason any of your agreed payments would be delayed, communicate this early  on and don’t just irresponsibly drop the bomb on the due date itself.

Setup regular/periodic meetings
These don’t need to all be lengthy status update reports. These could be just quick team huddles, casual calls or even just emails just to catch up on where you’re currently at with the project and if all is well.

I hope this article would be of help to you in planning and negotiating your next project. If you have any similar experiences and/or if you would like to add on what’s here, do let me know in the comments section.


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

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