Naming Your Price And Marketing Yourself
by Robert Tan
Now that you have the infrastructure set up for your business, it’s time to get the dough rolling in the door!
How Much Should You Charge?
Every designer who starts out on his own eventually comes face to face with this question. How much should I charge for my services? If you left your salaried job recently, you will know how much your company used to charge for their services. Obviously, your fees should be less than theirs, but how much less? Well, how much are you worth? There is no hard and fast rule. Some designers charge by the hour, at rates ranging from RM20-RM100 or more, and others prefer to quote project fees. One designer may charge RM200 for a logo design, and another, RM2000. How much you should charge depends on many factors, including how much experience you have, how good you are at what you do and what kind of services you provide.
Here is one way that people calculate how much they should charge:
The hourly rate calculation:
i Calculate how much you would like to make in a year RM 50,000.00
ii Divide this by the number of hours you expect to work (Many people budget for about 1600 hours a year, to factor in non-billable time, such as when you are preparing self-promotional material, marketing, holidays, sick leave and so forth 1600
iii Your hourly rate is: 50,000 – 1600 = RM31.25 an hour
iv Add a percentage for profit, ~20% 31.25 + 20% = RM37.25
v Round up the figure to factor for contingencies RM 40.00 per hour
Now that you have your hourly rate, see how long it takes you to execute a job. This formula can be applied to any project, for example, corporate identity design, brochure design or book design.
Let’s use an example to illustrate the formula. To design a logo, it will take 20 hours, including meeting the client, conceptualising, churning out a few options, factoring in two revisions and presenting the final product. Bear in mind that this does not include the application of the logo to anything. Your fee for designing a logo is then 20hours x RM40 (hourly rate) = RM800.
These figures are for your own estimation. If you feel the client will try to squeeze in last-minute changes, pad the figure a bit to factor in the additional work-time. As you improve in speed of execution, you may not need 20 hours to complete the job. This means you’re actually getting paid more per hour, and then you have a basis for calculating “expert” fees.
How Will You Get Business?
There are several ways to start.
- You could set up your own website and have the URL printed on your calling card. Make it interesting, and remember to optimise the graphics so visitors don’t have to wait ages for your page to load. Put a varied selection of works on your website, and maybe a little write-up about each piece so people have an idea how you executed the project.
- You could print some cleverly-designed flyers in colour. After you’ve obtained a mailing list of your potential customers, send these out en-masse. Try to address the material you’re sending to an actual person like Liew Yew Tzen, the Art Director of an ad agency or the Encik Azlan Ahmad, the Manager of the company. Make follow-up calls. If you want to get a foot in the door, you can say you’d like to speak to the manager regarding the material you sent him.
- You could place an advertisement in a newspaper, community newsletter or other types of publication.
- Another way to remind people who you are is to add your URL, contact information and a brief description of your company at the bottom of all email you send out.
- Networking is essential when you are on your own, so keep a stock of calling cards with you always, and practise telling people about your work in an engaging way, in under a minute. If you are a member of some club or association, bear in mind that these are doorways to business opportunities. Be warned, however, that you should exercise discretion and not make yourself a nuisance by touting your services at every given moment.
- Creating A Portfolio
If you have nothing in your portfolio to start with, do some pro bono work for experience and exposure. Do diverse projects from different types of clients so you can show your flexibility and adaptability. For example, incorporate in your portfolio some corporate stationery – perhaps you designed stuff for your father’s company, a brochure you may have done for a charity organization and some concert posters for a fledgling band.
Creating Your Own Success
As you start getting work, make sure you conduct yourself in an honest, efficient and responsible way. Be on time for appointments, and call to apologise if some overwhelming emergency makes it impossible for you to attend. You should be warm, professional and reliable. If your work is good and people like the way you work with them, you will get referrals through word of mouth – the best kind of advertising there is. Dress decently when you attend meetings. Don’t feel you have to look like a surly hobo in scruffy T-shirts and hole-ridden jeans just because you’re in “Creative”. Your potential clients may not appreciate those kinds of fashion statements. They want to feel they can communicate with you and that you will understand their needs.
There are many skills you will have to learn as you develop yourself in this field. It has its challenges, but also many rewards. There are many books in the market which can give you more details of starting up your own homebased business, pitfalls you should look out for, and the like. Also check out the many websites out there for the latest developments in Graphic Design, new techniques, new equipment and lots of valuable ideas on how to get started.
Like any other career choice, there are no shortcuts to success.