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When does a cheap design and print project, become too cheap?

I was scrolling through a social media web site the other day and I spotted an interesting post. The person was looking for a cost to design and print a small double sided A5 leaflet. They required 5000 copies of said leaflet. I thought I would try an experiment…

I will generally avoid one-off, crowd sourced design and print projects like this. Why? The obvious one is no brief. In my experience, all the client is looking for is the cheapest possible cost and they will hold no value in the design process. And I was about to be proved correct as the post started to unfold…

I started the lucky ball rolling with a ‘normal’ design cost for one days work and a very conservative print price. This was based on his volume requirements and a quick look at what the business was. Be in mind this is an experiment.

The ‘customer’ came back and said that that was way too expensive, so I left it for a bit. To be honest I wasn’t too surprised.

Very quickly I spotted that someone put on a ‘cost’ with no understanding of what the client was actually looking for. Which is one reason I tend to avoid them.

So with caution to the wind, I posted that I could print it cheaper by around 30%

The person who posted the other price said they could do it cheaper again by 20%

So I then posted that I could then half that cost again You can see what was happening here.

Cut a long story short, the other company’s price to design and print was £92 with a design charge of £10! I hasten to add that I was purely trying this social experiment using the print price and not the design price. The reason being that the other person doing the bidding was a printer.

I was completely amazed to read that the person unwittingly taking part in my little experiment, had the audacity to post that “these things are not always about getting it cheaper”.

“…there are several things that affect the cost of a job, customer service, delivery, paper value etc etc etc”. He had a point of course, but why was he bartering so hard on the actual ‘cost’ of the job.

I think he was making a rod for his own back of course as he bartered on price.

When it finally got to £92 plus a £10 design fee, I thought I would bow out and use humour to deflect the fact that I was trying an experiment for my next blog.

To make a profit on the design he would need to design it in the absolute minimum of time. I’m guessing below an half an hour! Assuming that the client was ‘happy’ with their first design – and probably not 🙂

As I thought about how I was going to write this post, It got me thinking that in order to get a project, no matter how small, some people will go to extraordinary lengths to get, what many would see as a turnover project and not a profitable one. I am not so sure this is a particularly good way to run a business and the project merely becomes a turnover exercise for the company taking on the project. In my experience those to whose to take on turnover projects will mostly end up in a terrible place.

So when does a cheap job become too cheap? Of course the client actually just wants the cheapest job possible and this was the reason they crowd sourced it in the first place.

At one point the client intervened and stayed that all he was looking for was a simple print price and a design price.

If I hadn’t stopped my experiment, I began to wonder what cost he would have gone to, just to get this project.

By costing projects this way, do they actually value their own businesses, never mind the customers business?

How many of these projects to you take on before you start to lose your soul or your business?

Thanks for reading and I look forward to comments.

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