Why You Can’t Design Your Own Stuff

During a recent conversation with my mom, she said something that stuck with me: “You shouldn’t hire someone to do something you can do yourself.”

That seemingly innocuous statement has been ricocheting around in my brain ever since. My rational side agrees, but my business owner side is totally flummoxed. After all, if people did everything themselves, 816 wouldn’t be nearly as successful. In fact, we’d probably be forced to keep designing and redesigning our own marketing materials. (And we’ve done that a good deal already.)

But if my mother thinks that, a small business owner herself, how many others do too?

Yeah, But Have You Seen This Awesome WordArt?

A common misconception about print, graphic, and web design work is that anyone can do it. With the growing popularity of content management systems like WordPress and Joomla, as well as rudimentary “design” offered in programs like Microsoft Word, this misconception appears to have become even further cemented in people’s minds.

It’s certainly true that many can design passable layouts and graphics. But it’s the fundamentals of what constitutes good design:

  • understanding color theory,
  • styling/style sheets,
  • composition and use of space,
  • target marketing,
  • integrating social media, and
  • following recent design trends,

that makes professionals specializing in these areas worth their weight in gold. Hands down, what they’ll produce for your company will accomplish more than something produced just for the sake of adding to your marketing materials.

Ugh, Hiring a Designer Is SO Expensive

While this certainly can be the case, it’s not necessarily true. There are many ways to keep costs down while still getting a top-notch designer. In fact, a good designer will try to help you keep fees low by offering cost-effective or free solutions to your specific needs.

When you’re shopping for a designer to hire, don’t base your search solely on whether or not they list pricing on their websites. By extension, don’t assume that if a company doesn’t post their pricing, it’s because they’re super-costly. If you like the look of a team’s work, reach out to them and see what their pricing is like. We don’t post our pricing because we develop custom estimates for each client, based on their specific needs and budget.

One of my favorite examples of short-changing and limiting a potential customer is the website package price. When we price website packages, we never limit the number of pages a client can request. So that 10-page site costs you $100 per year, plus hosting, domain name renewals, etc.? Seems a little ridiculous.

We’ve heard many stories about people paying a ton of money for a design project and then being dissatisfied with the end result. Those people are then afraid to address the issue because they don’t want to incur further charges. (Check out “5 Tips for Evaluating a Designer.”)

In design, as in many other industries, you get what you pay for. But since this is a long-term relationship, or should be, you should also take into account customer service, quality of workmanship, and availability. And if the design is tailored and customized specifically for your business, then your ROI will be exponentially increased.

How Do I Know if It’s Time?

You already know the signs:

  • You have a unique product or service that needs polished exposure.
  • You want to hit a younger market.
  • Your sales have plateaued or dropped off altogether.
  • Your sales reps don’t even hand out your printed materials or refer people to your website.
  • Your website, brochures, flyers, and business cards look like they were each created in a different decade.

The list goes on and on. . . .

What could you be doing differently to improve your company’s image? What shortcuts have you taken?

Photo Credit: ali643 via Compfight

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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12 years ago

Loved the article, how absoluetly very true.

I remember using Word Art back in the mid 90’s to creat some sort of logo to go with a system that was written in Perl!

Really enjoyed reading you article. Thanks, brought back some memories for me!



Cena Block
12 years ago

This is absolutely true… Hiring YOU and taking advantage of all your time saving techniques, ideas, methods and design savvy has made my stuff look amazing! THANK YOU for sharing your talents and hard work – and thoughts brilliantly!

Suzen Pettit
11 years ago

the other really important component is SEO. It’s one thing to design your own website from Verizon or GoDaddy, or fill in the blank, but it’s another thing entirely designing something that is built to be found on the search engines. that takes much more skill, hard work and time then most small biz folks can afford….