As a stationery designer, you probably started out taking on custom projects to build your portfolio and get a feel for what you really loved designing. But as you grew more confident in your business and your designs, you started to see the level of caliber that is required for full custom designs and may be thinking that the price tag versus what you’re delivering isn’t really matching up. It is important to remember that your time and talent are worth something. By charging a monetary minimum for your custom design work, you’ll not only be valuing your own work but also setting a precedent for future client relationships. Here’s why it’s so important to charge what you’re worth.
Many people think that 20 wedding invitations should be fine, so a designer should devote very little time to that volume. That simply isn’t the case. Stationers usually often have to work with production minimums, especially on specialty prints like foil or letterpress. But even when it comes to the design of the project, 20 orders of the same design require the same design time as 20,000. Just because their order quantity is small doesn’t mean it deserves any less attention than an order at a higher volume.
When I first start setting “rules” around my custom work several years ago, one of the first things I did was set minimum quantity requirements for custom. I decided that 50 would be my minimum. Because I knew that most of my custom clients love specialty print methods and that I am held to minimums with some of my production partners and these smaller quantities for full custom work really weren’t worth it in the end. After that, I started to see that sometimes I would get a custom order for 50 invitations with zero bells and whistles added and even with my design fee (albeit small then), it really wasn’t worth it for the amount of work that went into custom.
I still maintain my 50 quantity but started out with a $2,000 minimum spend amount for custom work. This year I am moving that up to $3,000. See the next paragraph for the main reason I am raising that!
The main indicator that I needed to set some boundaries around my custom work was when I decided to launch a wedding collection in my business built around pre-designed invitations. I was trying to figure out how I could explain the difference to a client between custom and collection, and there really wasn’t much difference other than a rather small design fee at the time. I knew that I need to widen the gap on what stood between my custom work and my collection work.
Thus, giving value to all types of stationery services that I offer. This also allowed me to start targeting two different types of clients. If I had someone reach out to me and wanted to work together but didn’t have the budget for a full custom project, I am able to guide them over to my collection suites that may be a better fit for them.
Setting a minimum amount for custom work is an essential first step for protecting yourself and ensuring that you only do business with clients who are actually going to appreciate the value of your work. This is especially important for clients who aren’t a good fit — the red-flag couples, if you will. By setting a minimum charge amount, you can filter out people who might not be willing to put an adequate amount of respect into their purchase or those who don’t truly understand the worth that goes into your craftsmanship. Protecting your worth and valuing your work should be done at every stage of working with a client, and this simple step could prove to be one of the most powerful methods to make sure everyone’s expectations are met.
If you have a client reach out to you who is interested in custom work, you know that the minimum amount you are going to quote them is whatever you have set for your standard custom amount. This could actually be an added benefit to your clients because it allows them to possibly add on items to their order that they may not have thought of or thought would be in the budget. If I get a client who asks for 75 letterpress invitation and response cards and that’s it and let’s say they’re still $500 short of my minimum, I can then give them the option to add on something additional like wax seals or a liner or assembly services since they need to bring that amount up to the minimum amount.
As an artist or designer, it can sometimes be difficult to charge clients for your work, especially if you are just getting started.
Every year, you’re increasing the skill set and portfolio of pieces of art that highlight your capabilities. With time comes a true appreciation for the hard work you put in and the value of your services. Don’t be afraid to charge what you think you’re worth; it’s important to remember that others value your craft as much (if not more so) than you do!
As a stationery designer, it’s important to remember that just because someone needs a small quantity, doesn’t make your design time any less. Charging a monetary minimum for custom work can help differentiate from other services you offer, as well as filter out not-so-ideal clients. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth – remember that you are providing a valuable service!
Interested in more details on if you should be charging design fees for your work? Check out our blog post here on just that!
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