When I first started my business, I was a severely resource-constrained single mother, which is a gentle way of communicating to you that I was horrifically broke. Launching a brand is an expensive endeavor, and I often hear from my clients that they’re feeling the financial squeeze that frequently becomes the hallmark of the first few years of the entrepreneurial journey. While I’m all for bootstrapping and pinching pennies where possible, I’ve learned that the graphic design that represents your brand is not an area that’s well-served by cutting financial corners.
Many of the brands that I work alongside are consumer packaged goods. Think: beauty products, candles, gourmet foods, etc. The graphic design that surrounds all of our brands- regardless of product category- plays a significant role in both the efficacy of our marketing efforts and the determination of value that consumers attach to our products. That perception is critical for every brand (I’m looking at you stationers, jewelers, ceramicists, apparel designers…), but it’s especially important for these packaged goods.
As they shop online or in-stores, consumers have no way of ascertaining how delicious that granola will taste, how restorative that eye cream will be, or how strongly that candle will smell. They actually take all of their cues from the packaging design. Design influences the kinds of fans the product will attract, in what stores it will be sold, and how much you can charge for it. These are critical facets of your brand, and they shouldn’t be left to chance. But that’s precisely what you do when you hire designers through 99designs or Fiverr.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Pause that thought for a moment…
Fiverr is a platform where you can hire anyone to do almost anything starting at just $5. It’s ripe with peeps in search of design work. 99designs is a bit different: it’s a graphic design marketplace where you can post a project, host a contest, and attach a pot of money as the prize. Designers submit work, you pick the winner, and they score the sum of money you offered as bounty. The higher that sum, the more interest your project will illicit and (theoretically), the more submissions you’ll have.
DANGER, WILL ROBINSON…
Lucky Break clients often share that they’re planning to pursue design through these platforms and- when they do- I immediately flip the switch on my blinking neon “danger” sign and caution them against proceeding in that fashion. Here’s why…
1. Good design is more than just pretty- it’s strategic. And no one who’s creating a logo for a couple hundred dollars is thinking too deeply about your strategy. A savvy designer considers the context of the marketplace. They learn what shops you want to sell into, how you want your brand to be perceived, what types of price points you need to nail, and the kinds of buyers you want to attract. And then they intentionally design a brand to hit all those marks.
Fiverr and 99designs don’t enable this critical step in the process, so the best they can offer is “pretty.” And pretty just doesn’t cut it in today’s dense marketplace, where customers are spoilt for choice.
2. That pretty logo you just scored off 99designs or Fiverr? It might not even be yours. These platforms are notorious channels of copycat work. Want to know more? This article offers a fascinating exploration of pirated work on Fiverr.
When someone is being paid a meager sum to do an important, time-intensive task, the temptation to take a short cut inevitably presents itself. Much of the design churned out through these platforms isn’t original. A logo from another company is altered to slap your name across it and viola! A $50 logo you don’t actually own. But what’s the worst that could happen… you’d just be out the $50, right? Not exactly.
3. The cost of repairing the damage from a bad logo is far more expensive than paying for a good logo from the beginning. Let’s imagine that you score a logo from Fiverr or 99designs. You’ll take that shiny new logo and likely pay a designer to incorporate it into product labels, tags, or boxes. And then you’ll incur more expense to have that packaging printed. And then you’ll either spend hours capturing + editing your own images or you’ll invest heavily to pass the baton to a professional photographer. And then those images will need to be inserted into your website + and line sheets. Each of those steps within the product development process represent a significant amount of time or money, and probably both.
If you suddenly find yourself on the receiving end of a cease + desist letter because another company discovers that your logo is a thinly-veiled copy of theirs, then you’ll need to throw good money after bad to redo every one of those steps. New logo, new packaging design, more printing, fresh images, reworking your website. Oy! And you’ve exposed your company to potential legal action for intellectual property infringement. And that could translate into monetary damages. Good luck successfully recouping them from a fly-by-night designer you hired on Fiverr or 99designs!
Perhaps you discover the infringement yourself. While it may go unnoticed by the original company, that means you have a logo that can’t successfully distinguish your product in the marketplace, which is the very essence of what a logo is designed to do. Continuing to use an infringing logo is akin to dancing on the teeth of a bear trap that could snap shut at any time.
But what if you do manage to score a truly original logo from Fiverr or 99designs? See #1. Pretty logos won’t get you far, but a pretty + strategic brand aesthetic can take you virtually anywhere. The time you waste + the momentum you lose while trying to work with poorly thought-out design can have devastating effects on your business. Many of my clients engage Lucky Break because they feel stymied and, in most every instance, we can trace the root of the problem back to anemic design. To be successful, you’re going to need to make a sizable investment in strong branding at some point. And the sooner you make that investment, the more momentum + satisfaction you’ll enjoy.
There are several other concerns I have surrounding these platforms, too. Among them: fairly compensating talented designers, encouraging + respecting solid work, the fact that many of the designers on these platforms have precious little experience… but I’ll stop myself there.
There are smart ways to save money when launching a product-based brand. There is a system for finding + vetting a skilled designer who “gets” you. There are strategies for getting the most bang for every dollar you spend (psssttttt: I share them all in my Brick House Branding class), but Fiverr and 99designs shouldn’t have a place of honor in your entrepreneurial toolbox.
Invest in your brand and it will pay off… promise!