I’m sure so many of you have had this very experience:
While at a social gathering you’re asked what you do for a living, you cite some manner of creative position. At least 50% of the time the conversation leads to “I am” or “I know somebody, looking for a logo or business card” and so on. Networking and casual conversation has, in the past, materialized into a lion’s share of my work (note to freelance designers looking for work; get out there, be social, have a stash of biz cards ready to fire!)
Many clients, I find, prefer to work with someone local. There could be a number of reasons for this:
- The client prefers to meet their contractor face to face
- The client wishes to support their fellow local business professionals
- The client needs a designer that understands:
- The local economy
- The local market
- Societal nuances; cultural understanding is required to be effective and appropriate
- The client has a grandfathered concept stuck in their head; they cannot work strictly via email, internet and phone with a professional not based in their location.
I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, however, what does the average small businessperson do when they decide to seek out a local design professional?
Google can be a twisted mess for anyone not search savvy. When I search “my city + logo design”. I was a bit underwhelmed by the first few entry’s portfolios, at the same time in awe said site has the SEO prowess to make the first page of Google results.
Poor small businessperson, often no clue what the industry going rate is for pro design work, often settles at a number between $150 & $300. If they’re particularly “thrifty”, they post the much-lamented “good project for a student looking to build their portfolio”. I am always baffled why a business owner that cares about their business would possibly want student quality work? (Haircuts at hairdressing academies…anyone?)
Both types of these postings usually result in an angry blast response post by an industry someone (not necessarily an industry somebody) Personally, I stopped looking at Craigslist postings about five or six years ago. I’ve found it a complete waste of time not to mention a little disheartening.
Yellow Pages ?
Whoa, did I actually type Yellow Pages? I might as well as typed some awkward ol’ timey nomenclature such as Bathysphere (ol’ timey submarine)
Yes we’re all aware of the evils of crowd-sourcing, fortunately many clients I’ve encountered have never heard of sites such as 99 designs. And if they were aware of such a service may choose not to use it (for the reasons I stated above, they want to work with a local)
Where is a small businessperson to turn, that puts them in touch with a designer that is:
- Not a large firm, may not be suitable to the small client (price and scope)
- Not a subpar designer that just happens to have a site with good page rank
- Not somebody they just happened to meet at a party
There has to be a happy medium between crowd-sourcing and full-blown large design /brand studios.
I’m just throwing the idea out into the internet-o-sphere but what if someone were to set up an online city by city design directory. Common URL/city. The site could:
- Uphold a certain standard of designers listing (perhaps a moderated peer review)
- Reinforce fair pay for design services promoted via the site (AIGA guidelines?)
- Provided a reporting process for those designer’s clients to field complaints (think Better Business Bureau for Design)
- Could become a standard go to site for small businesses looking for a local designer.
Yes, there are several professional organizations with listings of members and often some great online tools for searching amongst the listings, but the small businessperson is just not aware of listing sites like AIGA, iSpot and Coroflot. There would need to be a big launch of a web initiative with marketing firepower to get the site and the local child sites into the societal conscious as the go to site to find your local design professional.
And how might this website pay for itself? (server space, design, upkeep, employees, marketing)
- Advertising – there’s a number of other companies rabid to get exposure to the small business person. In my neck of the woods (Canada) small businesses with 1-10 employees is the fastest growing segment of the corporate sector.
- Subscription – dependent on how well marketed the site is, and the volume of listing subscriber base; this could be a relatively low and reasonable price.
- Micro-donations or pay what you can afford via PayPal etc.
If I could pick one important item the internet as of late has taught me, It is that a pay what you want structure can be extremely successful if it is pitched “ in good faith”. For example, The Humble Indie Bundle, Independent game developer’s initiative and Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” album release. If I am provided with a good value for a good product and the independent or small venture angle is pitched, I can be wildly generous.
Thanks for reading my thoughts here, it was therapeutic to get it all down in copy and share. I will probably continue to revisit this subject as I give it more thought and, as always, would welcome any input or thoughts you may have to add.