Experience & pricing design projects for startups

I don’t usually do design work for startups so I could use a little bit of a helping hand in pricing a job. I like the idea of working with a startup because, if it succeeds, I could be getting alot more work.

Anyway, Client is a soft drink startup. They need branding, can design, and packaging for said cans. This type of project will require me to research, come up with the brand, brand standards, packaging, and pre production work. I don’t really think it will take me that long to do all of this since I have templates and they have a pretty good idea on what they want. What I would usually charge may scare them away. I’m willing to do it for less but don’t want to make that a normal thing with them if more work comes my way either. If they are going to succeed because of me I would like to get fairly paid.

So, thoughts or experience on pricing for startups?.. Or even just working with startups what have your experiences been?

Discussing pricing specifics here makes little sense. Prices differ from one location to the next and from one job to the next.

Anyway, just flat out ask them what their budget is. If that’s not doable, you can provide them with three vague price-range options: 1. A budget option with only the basics, 2. A better option that covers what they should do. 3. A premium option with all the bells and whistles (which they likely won’t choose).

Options put clients in a position where they feel comfortable, in control, and more inclined to work with you. They will also ask what those options are, which starts a conversation about what’s doable and what might not be doable for what they have in mind. This gives you the space in which to negotiate, kick some scenarios around, give them a price, and let them know why you think it’s the best option for them.

You really can’t be expected to just pull a price out of the air and toss it onto the table without knowing what they really need and are willing to pay for. Jobs like these tend to get out of hand with scope creep really fast unless you pin down what the job entails. Giving them vague options before signing a contract is just the starting point to negotiate those specifics.

If you were an electrician or plumber would you offer your services at a discount because they are a startup? If you were a barber would you cut their hair at a discount because they are a start up?

Never begin by giving a discount. You’ll brand yourself as the ‘discount designer’, and they’ll expect the same pricing on anything else you do for them. Give them your price. If they raise an objection to price, tell them you can accept payment by credit card.


Having dealt with startup complaints before, just b is right. Give them pricing options.

Explain you understand they are starting out. You can do it at x price for a certain period and limited changes. And that’s your bottom price.

After that period expires you can ramp up the price and extend the period and increase the limit on changes.

After that you charge by the hour with x amount of iterations, not redesigns.

Then a quote that covers redesign and your hourly rate.

This gives them timescales, how many changes they can request (not redesigns) and a fair price for each stage of workings.

This benefits you, as you can say 4 weeks at a rate, and max 10 proofs. Then they know what you need from them. Anything over 20 amends is charged extra.

2nd round is better. As you put more time into it. They’ve come back to you. And as per structure, the time scale is now 2 weeks work and 5 proofs. Anything over 20 amends is extra.

Now you’re building a working relationship with them. They are getting better at giving you instructions. They are getting better and choosing the amends. More importantly they should be getting better at delivering accurate info.

3rd round is the best. They’re already in with you.
Now you can go full rate.
You both understand the relationship, have a working model. Shortened timescales, they get 3 proofs. Anything over 10 amends is extra charges.

And by amends, I mean their mistake, incorrect copy, etc

You can offer free services like helping with the design of their pitch decks.
Let them do the donkey work and put it together. You equalize the font sizes and consistency and polish some photo and graphics.

Something I offer to sweeten the deal.
Plus gives you a view of how they see their brand.

startup companies before - damn phone autocorrect at 5 am :stuck_out_tongue:

Lol, it’s all good. I’ve been up at 5am zombie typing in the past.

This sounds like something I should have been doing all along. Options are funny though. If I give clients too many then they make the wrong choice, or they simply have regrets on which one they chose over the others. If I don’t give choices they either like that I made the call for them or they don’t feel in control. Psychology should have been my minor in college.

Sometimes it’s as simple as saying ‘What are your expectations?’

It’s like starting a relationship with anyone.
My expectations on going to a meeting are to arrive 15 minutes early. Or for any appointment.
It drives me crazy when someone is coming to meet me, in bussines or in person, and they say they will be there at 8.00 and it’s 7.58 - no sign of them - 7.59…8.00… 8.01
I’m ringing them.

Personal or business, my expectation is that someone who says they will be there at 8.00 arrives at 7.45.

But that’s not realistic. The expectations of the other person must be considered. For them 8.00 means sometime after 8.00 - they’re light and breezy and stop for a latte on the way - who cares.

Without that conversation beforehand on what your expectations are and the behaviours you both find acceptable. Then you find yourself in difficult heated conversations about it.

So as it’s a pet peeve of mine, people being late, when I organise a meeting I say that the meeting is at 11am but it would be great if they arrived earlier to get settled. And it works every time.

Yes, but my suggestion isn’t about simply asking prospective clients to choose between A, B, or C. Instead, it’s about proposing things in a way that prompts clients to ask questions and engage in a dialogue with you about the projects.

The dialogue about the options enables you and the clients to explore the issue and get at the heart of what the clients really need. It’s within this mutual exploration of the project that the nature of the work can be more precisely defined and prices more confidently determined. In the end, the initial options might be mostly irrelevant — they’re just a starting point for a discussion.

This mutual engagement also gives clients the opportunity to think about things and become comfortable with you and your expertise and commitment to understanding and solving their design problems.

My main point isn’t so much the options thing, it’s about finding ways to create a dialogue between you and your clients that helps facilitate better mutual understanding, confidence, and pricing discussions.

I’m also not saying this approach always works. For example, it works better in person than remotely. It doesn’t work at all with crowdsourcing. And there are just some clients (the ones I don’t like working with) who have no interest, for one reason or another, in discussing things.

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