The importance of communicating to clients that they get what they pay for.
We’ve all been there, a client wants to hire you for an animation that has a “needed this yesterday” deadline and a “loose change in my couch” type of budget. You can politely decline the gig, suck it up and take it knowing full well you’ll most likely be severely underpaid and severely overworked, or you can try to educate your client on why their demands aren’t realistic nor fair to ask someone to work for what could potentially amount to below minimum wage. One phrase that is jokingly tossed around a lot regarding client expectations, and is very true is: “Pick 2: Cheap, Fast, or Good.” When a client expects all 3 is when trouble arises.
Show up to a car dealership with $500 to spend and you’re walking out with a busted up golf cart.
As freelance designers, we work in the world of visual communication but we tend to forget the importance of communicating to clients what your services and skills cost and most importantly why they cost what they do. The difference between a budget of $500 vs $5000 is massive but for an uninformed client they may not understand why you should cost so much. Here are a few important things you need to communicate to your client to justify why you cost what you do:
1. When you talk about budget you talk about time and cost.
Clients with limited budgets need to understand that hiring a designer is like hiring any other expert in any other field. There’s this perception in many creative fields that due to the fact that many of us love our jobs that we don’t want to get paid for it properly. If they have limited budget that client has to be honest with themselves about scope and expectations. A client won’t get a talented, experienced designer with a very small budget. Sometimes a client is faced with having to rethink what’s more important, adjusting project scope and budget to be able to afford someone to get the job done right or risk hiring someone who may or may not get the job done. With a low budget, they can only afford someone with no or very little experience and they may not deliver to expectation. Show up to a car dealership with $500 to spend and you’re walking out with a busted up golf cart.
You wouldn’t hire an architect right out of school to build the Golden Gate Bridge.
2. In many instances, designers estimate project cost based on a day rate.
Sometimes that rate may be as much as $500 a day, so that means that for a client whose budget is only $500 they’re only going to get a day or 2 of work in order for you to make a fair wage. It’s really simple, the bigger the budget the bigger the scope, and the more experienced a designer they probably want to hire to handle such a large important job. You wouldn’t hire an architect right out of school to build the Golden Gate Bridge, nor should they hire an inexperienced designer when a company or brand’s image is on the line.
If a client goes cheap on hiring a designer, they run a great risk in not getting the job done to satisfaction and that will end up costing them more money in the long run if they need to hire someone else to finish or fix the job.
3. Many clients may ask “Well why is it so expensive, what am I paying for?”
Well why does anyone get paid any amount of money for anything anyone does? You’re paying for quality, expertise & experience. You’re paying for all the years of a designers experience in fulfilling clients needs and the experience in learning design, in animation and in learning the software to create a final product. You’re paying for the time cost that designer will be working on that job. If you ask a builder to build a house, it’ll be more time and money than if you asked to build a shed, and a lot more expensive and a lot more time if you wanted a mansion. And you want that builder to be trustworthy and to have built many houses before with success. If a client goes lowest common denominator on hiring a designer they run a great risk in not getting the job done to satisfaction. And if that does happen, it may end up costing them more money in the long run if they need to hire someone else to finish or fix the job. Better they pay someone fairly who will get the job done professionally the first time and allow them to sleep better at night knowing they hired an expert in their field that will meet & succeed expectations…that expert is you!
4. Visual branding or advertising is how the world sees a brand.
Will your client want the world to see them in a soiled t-shirt and sweatpants or will they invest in their image by buying a designer suit? There’s a reason why people try to dress their best when meeting new people or for a job interview. Your image is THE thing that communicates to people who they are and what they do and it’s also why large companies spend millions of dollars on a logo or ad campaign.
Just because a clients’ budget is unrealistic doesn’t mean you can’t work with them to let them know what they can afford.
5. Being Upfront About Costs Allows You to Be Flexible and Negotiate
When your client understands everything that goes into your rates, you can then be in the position of finding a middle ground with your client about what a certain budget can get them. They wanted a 90 second animation but their budget realistically might get them only 30 seconds of animation. Pitch how you could communicate what they need in a shorter amount of time. Explain why a shorter and more concise animation may even communicate what they want to convey to a viewer even better due to most people’s attention span. Just because a clients’ budget is unrealistic doesn’t mean you can’t work with them to let them know what they can afford.
Backing up your rates with justification will help ensure you get paid what you’re worth. After all, an amazing animator with mediocre business acumen will be paid like a mediocre animator.
What are some experiences you’ve had with clients regarding rates? Have you ever had to explain to a client that their expectations don’t match their budget?