Dear Student Designer,

We know. We have all been there. You want to develop a portfolio. You want to get your work recognized. You want to excel in your field so you can be set when you graduate. But I am here to appeal to you from your future. Stop under-cutting those of us working in the field.

Now, you might say, “Pfft! Of course he is going to say that. He’s not in my shoes. He’s already in the business.”

Well, you’re right. I’m trying to pay bills, have a life, afford gas…But I am telling you that YOU are going to be doing this in the future. And you are soon going to hear “Why should I have you do it when I can get a student to do it for next to nothing?”

That is when it becomes real. When your rent is due. When your bills need paid. When you want to go out on a date on a Saturday night. When you should be a self-sufficient adult. By under-cutting those people working in the field, you are under-cutting your own future in this business. That is what they don’t teach you in school. So I am going to try and teach you Designing Life 101 right here.

What they don’t teach you in school is that you are a value-added service. What you do for a company adds value to what they have. They can have the best product in the world, but if they have no form of marketing or advertising, no one is going to even know about them, let alone use them. So that $50 bucks you charge them to make a really snazzy logo that will eventually end up all over their marketing material is going to make them thousands, maybe even millions. Sure, you have the bragging rights that you created that logo, but when people ask you how much you created it for, you are going to feel that twinge in your stomach. You suddenly know you were duped. And will the company give you credit for it? Nope. You know you made it, but no one else will. It is now the company’s logo, not yours. As far as they are concerned, they have always had it.

The most common excuse that people will give you is, “Well, I have a limited budget…” If they cannot afford the standard cost of your time, then they are not going to be in business long enough to have your logo noticed anyway. Every good business with a solid platform starts off with a marketing budget, no matter how small they are. If they didn’t include that, then they are not using good business practices. And what they are not telling you is that, yes, they have a limited budget now, but how much do they plan to make from your labor in marketing their product? How much do they value the product they are selling? You need to look into what the standard rates are for developing logos, websites, video and other marketing material. And yes, under-cut the pros by a bit, but doing them for near-slave-labor prices are only hurting yourselves in the long run…Because you are watering the market down. By the time you get ready to practice your art and make a living for yourself, you are going to find it impossible to do so.

Plus, what are you telling people about your worth? About how you value your time? About your professionalism? Knowing these things are valuable will make all of our work more valuable in the future. Customers WILL try to take advantage of your insecurity! There. You have been warned. If they feel you are too unsure of what you are doing, or the process of doing things, they will try to even under-cut what you already have under-cut yourself. I know you have big dreams and ideals and think the best of your future. We all did. We all started off with the best of intentions in an ideal world we were planning. I know you are the “next big thing”. But in all honesty, out here, you are a number on a piece of paper among many other pieces of paper that have been thrown into a hat. To BE the “next big thing”, you have to act like it. Because we put the time and the energy into knowing principals of design, UI development, best-practices, etc, we deserve to be treated like any other professional service out there. No one tries to negotiate the price of a doctor’s visit. We don’t tell the mechanic what we plan to pay for them to fix our car. We don’t tell the dentist we are working on a limited budget. We pay the market price. As a soon-to-be professional designer, so should you. What we do just looks better than what the average consumer can do with the free website services offered, the picasa photo fixer, or the video editing software that comes with their computers. We as designers and videographers have a skill! It is a marketable skill! Don’t sell yourself short.

Learn your value. You owe it to yourself. $50 is a lot of beer money for a Saturday night kegger, but when you start paying your own taxes and need to eat, that $50 is nothing. If you want to develop your portfolio, just start creating. Make up fictitious companies, think of their product, how they want to show themselves off to the world. When you start thinking in those terms, your creativity actually increases, and you end up with a cool story for each logo you create. Design a web page for one of them. Create a whole marketing scheme for your fictitious company. You don’t think your future employer or client is going to appreciate all the time and effort you put into doing that? Think again! That is what we call PROACTIVE. They will find it MORE appealing, because it shows you are creative and can think in broad terms. We LOVE that stuff. Those are the people we want working for us. Those are the people that future clients hire to do the work for them. Forward thinking is vital for our practice…So start practicing! But when the time comes for you to be called upon, remember your future…Remember your future colleagues…Remember that you want to leave your parent’s house when you graduate…And start charging accordingly.

Don’t be a creative slave. You are worth it. Trust me.

Hugs and Love,
Creative Director at Philly Puddy Designs

P.S. I live in a major university town (University of Texas), and I mean NO disrespect to those of you studying to get into this field. I and many other’s like myself have just noticed that this is a common theme nowadays, and are trying to maintain this field to be a lucrative industry in the future. Otherwise, that degree you are working so hard for will be worthless…So please keep that in mind. I am here to help, not hinder. I look forward to seeing your talent in the future. And don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I am willing to meet at coffee shops all over Austin. πŸ™‚

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