Lamborghini or Hyundai? 99Designs vs Designers

lamborghiniA-list blogger and successful social media consultant Chris Brogan posted a logo design project on 99Designs a few days ago. Then, he tweeted about it.

All hell broke loose.

If you don’t know, 99Designs is a design contest site. Businesses post a project, with a budget, and entrants submit work. If they win, they get paid. If not, they worked for free.

The small business reaction to 99Designs

Judging from the comments, small businesses love it. It’s cheap! It’s fast! There are lots of options! They think, “Hey I can get something that looks nice and I don’t need a second mortgage on my house!”

99Designs vs Designers

Experienced designers hate it. It’s spec work! It devalues my art! It looks like crap! Would you ask 50 contractors to build a new den on spec?  Or trust your operation to an amateur brain surgeon?  What about the story of your company? Or how the colors and fonts express your philosophy?

They insist that you can’t just get a logo in one format. You need different versions for larger/smaller or print/web uses.

All true.

However, railing and ranting (while immediately satisfying) won’t change anything.

How to charge more for your work

If you want to get higher prices for your work, you need to better communicate and to better educate your clients:

  • why you are worth
  • who your market is (and isn’t)
  • why buy from you
  • what  you offer that cheap designers can’t (in business terms)

Specialize – pick a specific market (a niche, more on this coming later). Focus on them. Ignore everyone else.

Brand – use some of those branding skills on yourself. Are you the Ferrari of designers? Or the Smart Car? Why do people choose you? What do you bring to the job that other designers (or that cheap designers) don’t have? How are you remarkable?

Extra value – why knowing the difference between EPS and and RGB matters. And why one logo format doesn’t work for all media (web, trade show banners, brochures, faxes). A logo that looks OK online might look like a mud pie printed out in black and white.

Copyright /Due Diligence – a designer logo is the client’s alone – not ripped off from someone else’s site or work (legal fights are scary and expensive).

Skip the “I’m a professional, I have years of experience.” You are, and you do. That’s not what matters to the client. What matters to the client is whether you give her what she wants – to feel better, look better, earn more, be more successful.  What are you really selling?

Here’s the thing. Lamborghini doesn’t really sell cars. They sell status, luxury, sex appeal, and VROOOOM.

Hyundai sells cheap, reliable, and super guarantee.

Are you Lamborghini or Hyundai? Does Hyundai care about Lamborghini’s buyers? No. Nor vice versa. They ignore each other.

Show them why a real designer is worth it. And try to understand when they want to make the logo bigger!

Share your thoughts

What do you think about this debate?   Does cheap or spec  work hurt designers?  Does it matter what the “cheap” people do? What other ways can you approach the problem?

Image thanks to omniNate

4 thoughts on “Lamborghini or Hyundai? 99Designs vs Designers

  1. I love the first part a lot. The solution is where I’d offer a slightly different opinion.

    Think a bit more like GM (and not from the US vs non-US perspective, but I know their product range more).

    Cadillac on the high end, Chevy on the low.

    There’s a huge market for both. So, it’s not that designers all have to serve the Cadillac market. Instead, designers should have a product line for both markets, IF BOTH ARE DESIRED CUSTOMER BASES.

    I work on the Cadillac side of social media marketing. I do, however, work on the Chevy side of online education (another business of mine). So, I use one kind of offering for one and another for the other.

    See my slight differentiation?

    I love your post, and your blog is obviously beautiful. : )
    .-= Chris Brogan…´s last blog ..Perfect Example of a Good Affiliate Marketing Project =-.

    • Wow! I feel a bit like someone in a bar band who looks up and sees Bruce Springsteen applauding!

      Thanks for commenting and for the compliments. 🙂

      I agree, not everyone has to be a Cadillac (or a Lamborghini). There’s room for Chevys and Hyundais too. I do think it’s important to be clear about who your customer is (and isn’t) – and that might be different people for different services. I also personally, find the “edges” more interesting than the middle.

  2. Nice Jodi. I do both spec, crowd sourcing and exclusive bids only. My clients range from Hollywood to the plumber down the street. I sell great writing and great copy and graphics. So I don’t know if I’m a Cadilorghini or what, but I don’t see the price point as being what matters. Spec work? It gives me a chance to show off what I can do. I do spec every time I submit a bid – so the buyer gets a taste of what I’m capable of. When the debate degenerates into “My art,” and people use words like “devalue” or assume their stuff is so much better…they kind of miss the point. Is your goal to get your work out there, or to be thought of as a great artist? I like getting my art out there. When we get caught up in a debate about value versus who’s selling, notice the ones not arguing are the ones making money.
    .-= Becky Blanton´s last blog ..Pull the Plug, Cut Your Losses and Run =-.

    • Thanks Becky. I think what you are is a Chevillac. But hey, that’s what Chris Brogan said he was, so you’re in good company. 🙂

      Yes, you do some spec work, but the way you do it is unique. Since nobody does it that way, you’re standing out by both the quality of your work and the way you approach it. So your success rate is higher. You win because you clearly show that you’re worth every dollar you charge.

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