Friday, October 1, 2010

The Financial Translator as Small Businessman: No Logo? Yes Logo!

As part of my focus on direct clients, I decided to spruce up my website and acquire certain accoutrements (logo, letterhead, business cards) that bespeak professionalism (without actually pretending to be an agency, which a lot of people do and simply looks shady). The new website is almost completely ready and I will roll it out as soon as I iron out a few details. Regarding the visual paraphernalia, I read on Tim Ferriss's Four Hour Workweek that there are websites for small businesses where graphic designers compete to provide precisely that kind of service. (A quick aside: Regarding Ferris's book, I recommend reading it even if you think the concept of "lifestyle coaching" is laughable or if your list of goals does not include working just four hours a week; it is full of tips and observations that are helpful for any professional working by him or herself).

One of the websites mentioned by Ferriss is, where small businesses can recruit freelancers to carry out graphic design projects. The concept is simple. The first step is to post a graphic design project. You must provide as much information as you can: what the logo is for, where it will be used, what you want it to transmit, etc. Then you specify the amount of money you will offer for it. The minimum for a logo project is $200 and for a logo and letterhead project it is $300. The project is then posted to the site and designers register to participate. Afterward, they submit their options. I left mine open for nine or ten days and received some fifteen submissions, most of which were of a surprisingly high quality.

This was the design I eventually selected.
I ended up going for a simple logo composed of two arrows pointing toward each other. It is slightly generic, but I thought a design that is as simple as possible was better for posting as a profile photo on professional websites. The closest competitor was a bar chart enclosed in a circle with a fountain pen tip projecting outward. It was worth considering because it was obviously made to suggest financial translation. However, ultimately I went with the frontrunner because of the aforementioned criterion of simplicity.

In summary, I was very pleased with the experience. It ended up costing $474 for my logo (on both black and white backgrounds in addition to an  array of formats for the Web and print uses); a letterhead template in several formats (including Word); a business card design I can upload to online printing services; and an envelope design. Three hundred dollars from the total go directly to the designer and the website's different fees account for the rest ($174).

Other random observations about the website: the winner was ultimately the person who submitted the first proposal, several days before the deadline. Also, it doesn't really pay to set a deadline of more than a week because, in the end, 99% of the submissions were placed on the final day (indeed, the final hours). That means the winner (a designer from Bulgaria) had an edge, because I had already asked her for stationery designs and I had already been given several days to get used to the idea of her design as the look for my new website.

Therefore, all in all, a very satisfying experience. Now, I must also mention in passing that I was ambivalent about using the service. After all, I am a freelance professional and I was using the website to hire freelance professionals. The crux is that the contest format means that the people who submitted the ten or twelve losing designs did not receive anything for their work. I admit that this gave me some pause. You can award second or third prizes for entries that do not win, but when I tried to include a second prize to assuage my guilt (after the project had already been posted), it turns out that any prize has to be equal to the first one, which meant that I would have to pay a further $300 plus assorted fees, bringing the total cost of the project to over $800 (after factoring in the website's fees). This was well beyond what I had budgeted and so, unfortunately, I decided to decline the second-place prize and live with my guilt. I had to tell myself that the cost of mocking up the design was small enough that the risk of losing was outweighed by the frequency with which you win a competition (comparable, perhaps, within the translation sphere, to submitting a small sample when bidding for a project).

So, in any case, that is my first incursion into the brave, new world of crowdsourcing. Despite my qualms about the contest format, I amply recommend the service, because it beat all of my expectations. And now my freelance business has a professional client-facing look that will hopefully send out the right message to prospects.


Tom Ellett said...

Congratulations on the new logo! Another good source for graphic design services targeted at solo professionals and microbusinesses rather than the corporate market is That's where I bought my logo.

Financial Translator said...

Thanks, Tom. That reminds me: I forgot to mention another crowdspring competitor called 99 designs: It seems to work pretty much along the same lines.