Why Designers Should Be Breaking The Time Barrier

27-Jun-2013

Kathleen and I actually do a lot of business visioning for a very specific kind of creative – the designer. A lot of what we do for designers is help them talk about themselves, write about themselves, and position themselves as experts – in other words, sell themselves. Even though we don’t always go super in depth with the financial side of running their business, designers are always asking about pricing. And that makes sense, because pricing and positioning really do go hand-in-hand. 

So I just read a short ebook from Mike McDerment the cofounder and CEO of Freshbooks, called Breaking The Time Barrier. It talks about this same positioning/pricing link as it relates to time. (Freshbooks, by the way, is the small business accounting system we use for Braid. They seem to really know their dream customer, and are always sharing branded content in a fun, but say-what-you-mean way, which continues to catch our eye.)

Breaking The Time Barrier is a quick, free, 45-minute read I wanted to share with other designers in particular, because it helps answer the pricing question they’re always asking us. And the way Breaking, breaks it down (heh, heh) is by very simply explaining the idea behind fee-based vs. hourly pricing. 

"You Only Have So Much Time..."

Breaking Time Takeaways For Designers

Okay, as a designer, the minute you hear “fee-based vs. hourly rate,” you either think:
a.) “oh man, I know, a set project or engagement fee is the only way to go”
b.) “wait, but I LOVE tracking my time!” (ha, just kidding, no one loves that)
c.) “er, how exactly do I pull that off for my clients who want to know how much time I spend and that they’re getting a good deal?”

So, depending on your answers above, you might enjoy skimming through Breaking the Time Barrier, just to reinforce that you are on the right track. Or, you might get some “aha” takeaways that can help you start to shift how you price (and in turn, position) yourself in the eyes of your clients and clients-to-be.  

If I could re-emphasize just two big takeaways here, that are very Braid-aligned with what Kathleen and I would challenge a designer to do, they’d be:

Stop charging by the hour. You only have so many hours to give. And how much can you really earn when you only get twenty-four of those suckers a day? If you’re a designer (graphic design, interior design, web design, event design) and you’re quoting clients an hourly rate for your services, you may think you’re selling design – but you aren’t. You’re selling time. 

When you do start charging based on a set fee vs. an estimated number of hours for a project, you can still show your interested clients “levels” of what they can get for what they’re willing to spend. You can call it a package, a tier, or just three options in an estimate. If they can’t pay you for the “top” deliverable, then give them the next one down that they can afford. Chances are, if you show them what they’re really getting (and it must go deeper than just design), then they’re still pretty likely to hire for the higher tier anyway.

Stop thinking like a designer. Act like a “thinking designer.” Notice how I snuck in above there that showing your client what they get “must go deeper than just design?” Well, it’s a point that deserves more than just parentheses. When you’re selling yourself, you cannot just share your portfolio paired with your prices. You have to show clients how you look inward into why they need your design, you have to show them how you ask the right questions, and how you let them in on the process. 

Oh, and it’s not enough to just think about these things or even just talk about them. You need a way, on your site, or on paper, to show them your creative process. Stop keeping it to yourself, like a designer who cannot possibly dissect her creative “ways.” Show the clients the value of the deliverable they get from you – that goes deeper than design. And then guess what happens – you earn not only a set fee everyone is happy to pay, you earn their respect as a designer who is going to guide and help them, not just design for them.

Obviously there are times where it makes sense to outline a set fee for your services, or shifting over to hourly. It’s not like a hard or fast rule. But the real shifting that happens when you think about your time and your pricing this way – is how you perceive yourself and your own value.

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Do you feel like there is still an hourly-time versus fee-based time debate? Or are most designers already making that shift? Let us know on Facebook.
 

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