Why is Design So Expensive? Explained!

Sarah Kleist twirling

If you’ve been searching for a brand or web designer to level up your online materials, you may have also had the realization that so many others have had before you:

Wow, this is more of an investment than I thought it would be.

If you’re new to the online space or are just starting your business, you might be shocked at the prices. Freelance designers these days are charging anywhere from $5K (on the low end) to $10K+ for just the branding side—add a lot more for web design!

At first glance, you might be thinking—this is wild! This is too much! All they’re doing is making my stuff look pretty on the internet!

And, without knowing how much goes on behind the scenes, it’s completely understandable why you’d think so. (Before I became one myself, I felt the exact same way.)

So, without further ado, here are 4 reasons design costs money—and a few other avenues you might explore if you can’t afford a designer just yet.

1.) Good Design is Valuable

At the end of the day, the whole reason you probably want to hire a designer is to make your stuff look nicer—so that people will buy more from you.

According to Forbes, “Presenting a brand consistently across all platforms can increase revenue by up to 23%.”

The word investment gets thrown around so much these days that it’s hard to actually remember its definition, but good design is just that. The whole point is to get a much bigger return than you initially put down.

So, while you may find a designer who charges solely for their time, the majority of designers charge for both their time and value. Meaning, the bigger your business is (or the more eyes on it), the bigger the invoice will be.

2.) Good Design Takes Skill

If it was easy, we wouldn’t be needed!

Contrary to popular belief, designers aren’t just sitting at their computer futzing around with different fonts and colors and shapes. (Although, we are also doing that—and it takes a lot of time. See below.)

Good design takes strategy, research, knowledge, expertise, years of trial and error, creativity, and even a little bit of gut instinct.

Designers stay on top of trends, forecast for the future, think ahead, strategize, storytell, and then bring that all to life in a visual (and beautiful) way. Designers are experts at solving your business’s current and future problems and help you build a business (and life!) that brings people together and makes you money.

And in my experience, you don’t just leave your designer with beautiful marketing materials. You leave with a deeper understanding of your business and audience, and potentially even a few new ideas about how to expand from there.

3.) Good Design Takes Time

Logistically speaking, design projects take time.

Between all of the strategy and creative pieces mentioned above, plus communicating with you about drafts, feedback, and revisions, it can take anywhere from weeks to months to put all the pieces together (depending on the designer).

And even at its fastest, leaving room to marinate is important. (I may think I have an incredible idea for an execution of your brand or website, but after returning to it a few sleeps later, I might think of something better. It’s happened before and will happen again.)

Every designer’s process is different, because every creative brain works different. Regardless, time must be accounted for.

On top of all of that, consider that designers can only take a certain amount of clients at one time. And like anything else, the higher the demand for any given designer, the higher the price.

4.) Designers Are Running Their Businesses Too

Running a design business comes with its own list of expenses.

As with any self-employment endeavor, you can assume your designer will never see 25-30% of whatever you’re giving them. (We love US taxes 🙄.)

Add on top of that—recurring subscriptions like Adobe and website hosting fees, Paypal fees, bookkeeping software… you get the point. 😉 Plus, most designers I know (myself included) are constantly educating themselves via online courses and programs so that they can continue to use the most up-to-date information on client projects.

So… what can you do if you can’t afford it just yet?

If you’ve made it this far, you might be thinking—“Okay, I totally understand why it’s so expensive now! But I still can’t afford it yet. What can I do?”

First things first, I totally get it. And honestly, custom design isn’t for everyone at every stage of their business. (I actually wrote a whole blog post about this that you can read here!)

Here are a few choices you have if you find yourself in this position.

DIY Templates

A lot of designers offer DIY website templates that you can customize yourself (Hello! Me!!!! Just launched a new one! See it here!). More often than not, templates come with video tutorials that show you how to change fonts, colors, and imagery to your liking—plus

Semi-Custom Design

Another semi-custom design, which means they’ll customize a template or brand for you. (I offer this toooo!) This service is usually a lot less expensive than fully custom design projects, but you still get the benefit of having a designer work on your stuff.

Free Resources Online

And lastly, there are tons of free resources online that teach you how to conceptualize a visual brand identity for yourself. Try searching on places like Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok for design and branding tips. (I put a lot on instagram and Pinterest particularly, so if you wanna follow me there, I’d love it.)

Ready to invest in great design?

You know where to find me. 😉

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