The price is right: we chat client budgets and project rates, with Mother Design and Date of Birth
When the topic of finances is breached in potential project talks, we were curious to know the answer to a chicken-or-egg conundrum. Do clients share their budget straight away, or expect studios to name their price first? “It depends,” says Mother Design’s Head of Design Mark Sloan, “if a client has already done some research or spoken with other companies already, they might offer a budget number in our initial conversations, but usually they look to us to estimate what a project might cost.”
In terms of scale, they’ve “found that larger clients sometimes have a set amount of money to spend and are very transparent about that early on.” Still, a ballpark estimate is a helpful way to gauge financial compatibility. And from there it allows the studio to fully comprehend the ambition for the project and the shape of the creative team.
We’re happy to guide those that don’t quite have the budget for our full services.
In Date of Birth’s experience, clients are interested in a rough budget estimate straight away. But the Melbourne-based branding and design agency believe that it’s important to understand the full requirements of the project before the money chats even begin. To aid this, General Manager Ollie Mann explains that, “sometimes, we will send a brief questionnaire to new enquiries that includes a question about their budget expectations.”
We don’t tailor our fees to the size of the client.
These back-and-forths ensure that nobody’s time is wasted if the client’s budget isn’t quite right. But even then, Mann notes, “we’re happy to help guide those that don’t quite have the budget for our full services.” Mother Design share a similar view, and are keen to work with “creatively brave” companies regardless of their budget realities. “Since we are independent, we also have the freedom to invest in projects which we feel are great creative opportunities,” Sloan says. “If someone understands the value we can bring, and we believe in their vision, we’ll try our utmost to make something work.”
When it comes to deciding how much to charge, Date of Birth typically maintain a fixed hourly rate for all clients, but will create tailored costs for larger scale projects based on their client’s needs and wants. Mother Design too, have set rates for their time, “which we use when creating estimates and service agreements,” Sloan explains. “We don’t tailor our fees to the size of the client, but generally the larger projects require larger teams,” he adds.
We tend to focus on the deliverables and showcasing the outputs.
Transparency from the very first designer-client meeting is a surefire way to build mutual understanding early on, both on budget, scope and creative direction. From there, studios can create a project plan that meets their client’s needs and stays within their budget and timeline. At the same time, by having project rates that are sustainable, studios can ensure that their business continues to be profitable. The value of creativity is a sticky topic, and can be frustrating for creatives who are asked to justify their costs.
Date of Birth have noticed that a lot of clients prefer to keep their financial information and budgets private. It’s understandable, Mann reflects, considering that the industry lacks standardised rates, and experience and quality of output can vary. “However, whenever feasible,” he continues, “we shift the conversation towards the value we can bring and how we quantify the return on their investment.”
“We believe the work we do creates tremendous value and so we tend to focus on the deliverables and showcasing the outputs to help clients understand why our rates are what they are. Not knowing the budget can make those conversations tricky but there’s a human element to what we do and advice today could lead to a project in the future.”