Do You Value a Good Designer?

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to participate in a group chat with Darren Rowse of I got to watch as bloggers from all over the place asked him questions about blogging and making money online with their blogs.

Although I asked him a few questions, I asked him a question that particularly interested me … did he think it was worth it to pay for his recent redesign???

His answer really made me happy … not just because I’m a WordPress designer, but because I have seen way too many people devalue the work people like me actually do. He raved on Ben, and made it clear that he did not overpay for his design, but he didn’t get a steal either. But overwhelmingly, his redesign was worth the money.

But this is not the case with a small percentage of the potential clients who contact me.

On average, I get around 4-5 requests for custom work per week. I don’t like to overcharge, but I have bills to pay, and I believe that my hard work is worth what I charge. Normally, only 2 out of 5 actually pan out into paying clients, which is plenty to support me.

But what really gets under my skin is the cheapos … and you know who you are.

For instance, I recently got an email from a person looking for a PSD to WordPress conversion. Generally speaking, this kind of job takes me a full workday, around 5 hours. So I charge $500 and break the work up into several days, so my eyes stay fresh. Now, if the person had just said “I’m sorry, but I can’t really afford that right now … let me know if your schedule lightens up and if you might consider doing it for [insert price here]”, I would have been just fine with that.

But instead, I heard a familiar theme. You see, if you look hard enough, you can find guys to do your WordPress theme for around $100-$200. They are generally from India, where the cost of living is much lower, and $200 is a lot of money. And this person made it a point to tell me how ridiculous my price was, and how they could find someone to do it on digitalpoint/sitepoint to do it for a tenth the price.

Listen closely …. if you can find someone to do your WordPress custom theme for $200, by all means hire them, and roll the dice. I’m not trying to be mean, and I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions to this, but here is what you will probably be met with.

  • Probably broken English
  • Time zone restrictions. When you go to bed, they are just waking up, and vice versa.
  • Lack of accountability and track record.
  • Work that may, or may not be top-notch.

For reference, here’s what you’ll get when you hire an established, reputable WordPress designer.

  • We can communicate well. We know what you want, and we can make it happen.
  • We’re up when you are. We sleep when you do. If you email us, more than likely, you will receive a response within hours.
  • Since we’re public figures, and many of us have released public themes, you can see examples of our work. You can download the themes to see if our code is bad or not. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to use us.
  • Valid Code, a deep understanding of WordPress and it’s features.
  • And an all around better experience.

Again, this isn’t always the case. In fact, I know Indian designers that do GREAT work! But I’ve had too many clients tell me horror stories about their experience with wasting money on “cheap” work, then come running to me for help. I’m trying to save you the trouble. Cough up the cash, and hire a reputable designer … not the guy who says he’s willing to do your job for the least amount of money on some job board.

Yes, many times the top-tier of designers are too busy to take on work, or charge more than you can afford. But, many times, they will pass you along to another reputable designer that they know has a light schedule at the moment. The WordPress design community is rather tight, and most of us know each other and have standing relationships like this. We can give you the name of someone who better fits your criteria.

What about newcomer designers?

If you are an up and comer WordPress designer, and are getting pissed at me right now for this article … I don’t blame you. I know it sounds like I’m telling people to never go with a guy with no portfolio or example work to reference. And to a certain extent, that’s true.

Here’s how to fix that problem…

Send emails to 5 of your favorite designers with samples of your work. They can be free themes, or paid client themes. It doesn’t really matter, because we’re going to go straight to the code and look at how you structure it and how well you know your WordPress. If you’re modding K2 or SandBox, don’t expect any referrals from us. Write your own freakin’ code!

But if it’s clean, well structured, and shows you have a grasp on what you’re doing, you might just get a referral or two. Once you’ve built up your portfolio and have a couple of successful free themes, you’ll be in the “reputable” category. People can trust you.

So quit being a cheapskate!

You need to realize there’s inherent value in a good designer.

I know that if I were going to hire someone to design by blog, I’d go for Brian or Chris first, and see who they refer me to. Then, I might ask Ben (because of his work on Problogger) or Charity (because I’ve seen her code), or Darren (because Mimbo rocks!) There are others you could ask (including myself), but you get the point.

What about Blog Design mills?

I won’t name any names, and my opinion doesn’t really matter that much, but I’d say you need to avoid them. Although they may claim to be unique, it doesn’t make it so. Chances are, you blog will end up looking much like 100 others … and that’s fine, but for $500-$1000, I want something that can justify that cost.

Am I Angry?

Not at all! I have plenty of clients, and don’t need to accept every offer for work. I also have the satisfaction of knowing that the cheapos probably just wasted $200 on a theme that sucks.

It doesn’t bother me when people can’t afford my services. In fact, I’ve been known to offer discounts to people who are honest about their situation.

What I don’t like is when people throw the “I can find it cheaper at another site” argument at me, as some sort of justification. I know you can. I don’t care. I’m confident in my abilities, and if you think you can find someone to do the sort of work I do for half as much, GOOD LUCK!

And good riddance. You’ll probably be back anyway 🙂

12 Replies to “Do You Value a Good Designer?”

  1. Hi Nathan,

    A couple of months ago, I was fortunate enough to stumble across, I was immediately drawn to the “style”. Since then, pretty much every theme I’ve used has been made by Cory Miller or yourself. (currently using Elegant Blue with a slightly custom header).

    I’m not quite to the point yet where I’m looking for a truly custom paid theme. But when I am, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that I’ll be trying to track down either yourself, or the aforementioned Mr Miller.

    Keep up the great work … thanks.

  2. Nathan – you should not feel like you have to explain or excuse your prices. It sounds like you may even undercharge for your skill level. There will always be people who complain, but as you said, they can go elsewhere and they’re not worth the headache they’ll probably end up being as a client.

    You’ve got a lot of experience and built up a name for yourself. And that’s why When people buy your work, it’s worth more than the work of some unknown newbie.

  3. Good points on hiring cheaper designer. Chris Pearson wrote a good post about how much a design should cost a while ago, created a bit of controversy with the “cheap skates.”

  4. @Ben – thanks for the link man. I remember reading that a while back, and thinking “yeah, but that’s Chris Pearson”. Since then, becoming a full time freelancer and a reluctant “big name” in the WordPress design community, I’ve realized that he wasn’t far off at all.

    @Miriam – I appreciate the compliments! I’m not sure if I undercharge, but I certainly feel like my prices are fair, especially considering the service I know I give.

    I love the mod, man! And of course, I appreciate the kind words of confidence.

  5. All very well said Nate! This was the perfect post for me to read right now too, because I’ve been trying to weigh some outsourcing options lately. I hesitate to hand over control to a slicing agency because I’m just so picky about how the code should look and be organized. But I recognize that I can’t do it all – especially with two kids underfoot. I had not considered some of the points you raised, so thanks for bringing them to light!

    Sorry you had to deal with such a moron. I haven’t had that situation come up yet. Occasionally a potential client will just disappear if they feel my prices are too high – rather than come back at me with uninvited opinions. So I guess I’ve been lucky that way.

    People don’t understand how difficult it is to FAIRLY price the services we as designers offer. (At least, for me it’s difficult.) Sometimes I question my decisions on pricing, but when I read a post like this I know I’m on track.

  6. Charity »
    Outsourcing is great, if you can find a gem. I haven’t found too many, although I’m happy with the person I have right now. The limitations are the same though … especially in terms of time zones. But if you are willing to have a flexible schedule, then it’s not a bad thing.

    Even when they don’t do the “I can get it cheaper” shpeal, it’s still frustrating when people ask for a quote, then bail when it’s over $200. But yeah, at least you haven’t had to deal with the crap I have.

    Charity, you are actually one of the very few people who I esteem as a “great coder”. Lots of good designers, but the coders are few and far between. Because you can do both, you have a significant advantage. You just need some good marketing 🙂 But you are a star in the WP community, and I’m glad to be on your blogroll 🙂

  7. Wow thanks Nate. I don’t know about a star but I agree about the marketing. 😉 It’s never been my strong suit. I need to sit down one of these days and consider some advertising sources or perhaps hire someone who can help me strategize.

  8. Great point. I’m not a designer, but I am a programmer and get the same thing at times. I think your pricing is great. Don’t let it get to you. Not all clients are good ones. Especially the cheap ones who can be more of a hassle than it’s worth.

  9. @Theo J.
    Thanks Theo! I’m sure that it happens everywhere. I’m not sure who’s to blame, but either way … us freelancers get the blowback.

    I’m sure the marketing is the hardest part. That’s why I’m so glad I have Cory. He’s a great marketer, and I don’t doubt for a minute that he is responsible for the majority of the sales of NewsPixel.

  10. Hi Nathan,
    as somebody who’s been buying design services for 20 years, I’ll just say: Yep. Frankly, your prices don’t seem out of line to me (and not long ago we paid more for a WP theme that frankly, was not good).

    I’ve noticed that people like Template Monster are now offering themes – but they honestly aren’t any better than what you can find for free.

    FYI, probably going to use one of your free themes for a pre-launch of a site & perhaps come back to you for some customization.

  11. @John Whiteside
    Thanks man! I appreciate the vote of confidence!

  12. Thanks for the informative article. It made me think up some things. 🙂

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