• Advice

Designers, here's how to set yourself apart from commoditized services

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you're interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

Many designers who work for themselves, or would like to, perceive services such as Fiverr and 99Designs for logo and print design, and DIY web services such as Wix, Weebly and Squarespace, to be a huge threat to their ability to make a living as a logo designer, print designer, or website designer.

Potential clients go running to those services, not freelancers, because they’re cheaper and supposedly so easy to use, right? So why should a client hire you when they can pay $50 for a logo or other design work? You must be ready to explain why your prospect, or they will put you in the same box as those other services.

I’m not a minister, but I gotta preach! Get ready for some tough love about how you can answer this question, be taken more seriously, and command higher fees. First…

Stop competing on price

There is always someone willing to do it cheaper. You know what? Let them! Do you want to build a career chasing money, or do you want to build a profitable business for yourself?

Some people are perfectly happy to pay $40 for filet mignon, but others want the cheapest dish on the menu. Don't chase the latter; find clients who are happy to pay a premium rate for premium services.

Trust that the right clients will come to you

There is a correlation between the rate and the type of client you attract. While a lot of clients understand that you get what you pay for, not everyone knows the value of a good logo, branding or website. If clients believe that design is just about creating something “pretty,” and not an investment — which will produce results for them — you may not be able to convince them.

That’s ok, because a client that misses these fundamentals is often a bad one. They may try to direct your design, fight you on the invoice, seek a discount, or try to skip payment altogether. In short: being lowballed is a great way to weed out potentially bad clients.

Don't sell yourself short

Pricing your services too low can be a red flag to a potential client. I know this from experience. When I was just starting out on my own, I submitted a proposal to a prospect, along with several larger design firms. My business was smaller, had lower overhead costs (so I could be more profitable at a lower rate), and I wasn't aware of my competitors' rates at the time. Ultimately the client didn't choose me, and cited my much lower pricing as the reason.

Their completely inaccurate perception was that the quality of my work must be inferior, and that I must not have understood the scope of work. It did not matter that I could have knocked it out of the park, and that my lower overhead costs allowed me to charge that fee. The takeaway is, if you want to look professional, start your pricing.

Colleen Gratzer is principal of Gratzer Graphics LLC, providing branding, publications and websites to nonprofits since 2003. In April 2018, she started Creative Boost and created the Design Domination podcast to help emerging designers by sharing her insights based on 20+ years of graphic design expertise and 15 years of having a successful design business. Colleen has seen it all and knows the ins and outs of working for yourself—from 0 to quit-your-job level income. Visit for more information about the podcast and for helpful, actionable tips.