“Highly Limited Spaces”: Why most of my projects cost more than $1000

The transition from Someone’s Employee to Small Business Owner is a really difficult one. You’ve got to get your head around the fact that your salary is no longer stable (but has infinite growth potential!); your paycheck is dependent on how well you can sell yourself; and even if you achieve great success in the years ahead, it’s totally normal to not take a profit home in your first couple of years.

In other words: There are huge benefits to owning a business like flexibility and uncapped pay, but it takes a lot of time to set up and it’s not for the faint-hearted.

In 2022, I added three words to my enquiry form that changed the way I view and do business. Now, when you’re getting in touch with me, you’ll see this in the “Budget” field – right next to “Under $1000″…

(Highly Limited Spaces)“.

Why are spaces under $1000 “highly limited”?

Anyone who works in corporate will know exactly why I’ve set this minimum, and probably won’t even bother reading this article. But for those of you who are running microbusinesses and ambitious start-ups, let’s do a couple minutes of quick math.

The average salary for a graphic and web designer in Australia is somewhere between $65,000 and $80,000 per year.

At first glance, and to achieve the lowest of those two salary ranges, I’d have to work on 65 different $1000 projects in one year. Already – with advertising, exploration, consulting, onboarding (if successful), design scoping, contracts, work, revisions, and invoicing – that’s a lot of jobs for one person to do, with too much hidden unpaid time.

Compare this to a company employee, who takes home that $65,000 plus 10% in super by just working for one person all year. Way easier and more realistic, right? Most people would choose to work with one client instead of 65 for the same pay.

But we haven’t even scratched the surface…

Hang on a second – we’ve forgotten tax and business expenses!

So adding GST and yearly expenditure onto that $65k, I *actually* need to be invoicing more like $110k per year to be taking home a low-end salary of $65,000 and still paying myself super.

That means I would need to find 110 different $1000 jobs each year – that’s more than two every single week – and have them sign on, finish, and sign off before moving onto two more the following week.

Can you see how it’s getting unrealistic?

The truth is, I cannot handle ten different jobs in one month and still do good work. When I’m working with clients who are paying under $1000, it has to be really quick stuff – otherwise, it takes a disproportionate amount of time and focus away from everybody else, means I cannot do a good job on the project, and means I’m spending way too much time doing unpaid admin. This is why I discourage it, and I will only take you on at under $1000 if a) I think there’s a really good reason for this low budget and b) I have the capacity to be doing small pieces of work that just take a few hours here and there.

Examples of jobs that are suitable for the “Under $1000” bracket include: website maintenance, invitation designs, stationery like flyers and business cards, simple label or packaging designs, extremely quick Basic logo packages, and book cover designs (without the book).

Examples of jobs that cannot be done for under $1000 include: all websites, all proper branding packages, all annual reports, almost all books (layout and typeset), complex packaging projects, and almost everything that involves multiple months of continuous work.

You can see more examples of ballpark pricing for different design work in my Frequently Asked Questions.

It’s time to re-evaluate expectations

Heavily budget-focused design clients tend to want a lot of design work for a very cheap price.

But the truth is, a good designer is not a Chinese factory outlet. We cannot pump out work en masse, and if your focus is on budget, you’ll have to re-evaluate the result you expect to achieve with your work.

In the worst cases, focusing too much on your budget may mean that you:

  • haven’t thought through the true costs of the project,
  • have no idea how much time and effort it takes to do what you’re asking,
  • are showing inexperience and hesitancy as a business owner,
  • are demonstrating that you have a tendency to cut corners and prioritise cash over quality,
  • are underappreciating and underpaying the people you’re hiring, and as a result,
  • have doomed your project to a bad outcome, because your designer has to rush.

We’ve all seen the botched plastic surgeries and failed homemade “Nailed it!” birthday cakes. It can take a lot of work to undo the damage done from a rush job – especially if you’ve already landed a bad review from an unimpressed client. Instead, it’s almost always better to just pay to do a good job the first time.

$1000 might seem like a HELL of a lot of money to splash on design – to someone who doesn’t value the profession and is used to working for the man. But a savvy business owner knows that investments like this take a lot of time and effort, and half-assing it is going to destroy the potential pay-off.

That’s why I raised my prices this February – and why many web designers’ prices start from a minimum of $3000 for a five-pager. A quick look on Clutch, too, shows that the majority of Canberra design agencies charge a minimum of $5000 for any project.

The corporates are nodding. It all makes sense.

I’m listening. What are my options?

It’s almost always better in the long run to pay more to receive more time and better quality. That way, we can actually relax, work creatively and collaboratively, and build a professional relationship. Plus, I don’t have to rush you out the door to start someone else’s job, or run around like a headless chicken looking for client number 2 of 110.

If you absolutely can’t manage an investment of over $1000 at the moment – because I get it, times are tough and existing salaries can only go so far – take a look at my Grab-and-Go packages, which I’ve specifically formulated to get as good-quality design work done for as low a price tag as possible. I don’t have to rush this work because they’re very simple packages and I’ve allocated enough hours for the price.

Otherwise, I really encourage you to broaden your mind and set aside a bit more time for your project. What could you achieve by raising your budget to at least $2000 or $3000 instead? How successful could your business be with a properly thought-through branding package that actually connects with clients effectively? How many sales could you make if you had a killer custom website instead of a rushed, cookie-cutter one? And how much will you save getting this done properly the first time, instead of having to redo it in 6-12 months?

I’d love to chat about the possibilities with you, so book in for a free 30-minute consultation call and we can explore what your design project might look like at a few different price points. To help ease the payment, we can discuss payment plans, too.

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