Why Cheap Branding and Design May Be Costing You More


Why Cheap Branding and Design May Be Costing You More

Before we get started, we want to say that we are not throwing shade at anyone who is just beginning their entrepreneurship journey without a budget or anyone who has made a poor investment in cheap branding in the past.

Our goal is always to equip you with what to look for when investing in your brand. If you have a lower budget for design, we’ll share some cost-effective tips that will give you the aesthetic you’re looking for and the brand strategy you need. (P.S. Review episode #44 about common brand marketing terms to know!)

Let’s chat about cheap branding and design, the hidden costs of it, finding a good designer, and what to do when you need new branding.

What is Cheap Branding and Design?

When we say “cheap design”, we’re referring to designs that:

  • Focus on aesthetics only (just a logo)
  • Are often generic and template-based— nothing unique about it
  • Cuts corners or uses low-quality design tools

As a branding expert, Court has seen a lot of bad designs out there from designers or business owners cutting corners. Specifically:

  • Relying on Canva templates
  • Being fixated on fads and constantly changing the brand to fit those fads
  • Using any free assets you can get your hands on (it creates a non-unique brand)
  • Lack of consistency across marketing channels (laziness or misunderstanding of the importance of brand consistency)

A good design is strategic and purposeful. It should align with your brand values and dream audience. Effective brand designs consider psychology and your industry. The visual cues your brand gives off will attract certain people. You obviously want to attract your target audience, so your branding and website need to reflect that. 

Also, consider how you plan to use your brand assets. Most businesses will have a website and a main marketing channel or two. Think about the brand assets you’ll need to market your business and attract the right customers.

The Hidden Costs of Cheap Branding and Design

There are hidden costs of going the cheap branding and design route, and it isn’t always monetary. These are some of the hidden costs you might experience:

  • Poor first impressions
  • Lost customers
  • Lack of brand recognition and differentiation
  • Decreased customer trust and credibility
  • Lower perceived value of products/services (Abbey gets this a lot with SEO inquiries)
  • Increased marketing expenses to compensate for poor branding (When you need to redo your brand, you also have to redo everything else: website, social, printed collateral, etc.)

Here’s the deal… a lot of you already know this. But money speaks louder than pretty much anything else most of the time. And we all want to find a diamond in the rough at a great deal. 

The unfortunate thing is that cheap branding and design also often involve critical branding mistakes that can affect the longevity of your business.

The reality is that a handful of our audience will still turn to tools like 99 Designs, Fiverr, and Upwork for branding needs.

Our Take on 99 Designs, Fiverr, and Upwork

We are probably a little biased, but this route wouldn’t be our recommendation even for those with lower budgets. However, there are likely new designers and talented individuals hiding out on these platforms. It’s just difficult to sort through the people who AREN’T that to find the diamonds.

The big drawbacks to using these platforms usually are lower quality work and less experienced designers. But if budget constraints are tight, DIY is not an option, and you have no one in your close circle to turn to… then here’s what we want you to know. 

5 Tips for Searching for a Good Designer on 99 Designs, Fiverr, or Upwork

Consider these five tips when you’re looking for a good designer on one of these platforms!

  1. The first is to look beyond the price. Focus on the designer’s portfolio, experience, and communication skills.
  2. Read their reviews carefully. Look at both the positive and negative to see if their style of work (design and professionalism) aligns with your needs.
  3. Check out their portfolio. Is it aligned with your aesthetic? Is it diverse, or do they seem to have the same designs for each client?
  4. Engage in real conversation before hiring them. We have a list of questions for you regardless of where you are hiring someone, which we’ll share in a minute! For example, you want to know what tool they are designing your assets in. (Please don’t use Canva).
  5. Ask for references and reach out to those clients. It isn’t weird to ask! Designers should be pumped to share happy words from past projects. We even had one on our podcast! Tune into episode #101.

Questions to Ask Potential Designers

It’s completely normal to “interview” a designer before hiring them. They might have the best-looking website, but you still want to know if they can provide the services and strategy you need for your brand. These are some questions you should ask them!

  • Experience:
    • How long have you been working as a designer?
    • What types of design projects have you worked on in the past?
    • Do you have experience working with businesses in my industry?
    • What platforms do you design? (i.e. Adobe Illustrator vs. Canva)
  • Style:
    • How would you describe your design style?
    • Can you show me examples of your work that align with my brand’s aesthetic?
    • Are you comfortable adapting your style to fit my brand guidelines?
  • Process:
    • Can you walk me through your typical design process?
    • How do you approach revisions and feedback?
    • What is your turnaround time for a project like mine?
  • Communication:
    • How do you prefer to communicate with clients (email, phone, video calls)?
    • How often will you provide updates on the project’s progress?
    • Are you available for questions or feedback throughout the process?
  • Budget:
    • What is your typical pricing structure for a project like mine?
    • What is included in your pricing (e.g., number of revisions, file formats)?

What to Do If You Need New Branding

So, you decided you need new branding for your business. What’s next? 

DIY vs. Professional Branding Services.

First, decide if you’re going to DIY your brand or hire a professional. Yes, you can DIY it. This is for those of you in the early days of your biz. We have a guide for you! Understand how to pick colors and fonts, and dive deep into understanding your audience and brand vibe. It’s not just about the logo! If you have the budget, hiring a professional is the best option!

Find the Right Designer.

Focus on finding the right designer, not the most popular one on Instagram. We are not the right designer for everyone, and that’s okay. Check their portfolio and look at real design examples. Think about the longevity of your brand vs. chasing fads or styles.

Ask About Payment Plans!

Does the designer provide payment plans? Hiring a professional designer is an investment, and payment plans can help you break up the payments so your bank account doesn’t take a hit right up front.

Pretty Please, Think Beyond Just a Logo. 

Your brand is so much more than a logo. Colors, fonts, submarks, and patterns all reflect who you are as a business. Listen to episode #96 about how to use logo submarks (if you don’t think you need them, this episode is for you).

Regardless of the route you take (DIY, hiring a designer on Fiverr, or seeking a professional), we hope this episode educated you on what to look for and watch out for. 

It breaks our hearts when we see cheap branding and design affect our client’s growth for years. Oh, and tune into episode #22 if you are curious if a rebrand is right for you. We hope this episode opened your eyes to why cheap branding and design may be costing you more. 

hidden costs of cheap branding and design

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Abbey Oslin and Courtney Petersen are Minnesota-based marketing experts, educators, and co-founders of boutique marketing agency Duo Collective, which specializes in SEO, social media strategy, and branding for small business owners and creative entrepreneurs. To learn more about Duo Collective, or to inquire about working with our team, head over to www.duocollective.com. 

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