Professional Conduct

by Habib Bajrami

It was only days before the official launch of Creative Latitude (CL) when the following e-mail landed in our inbox:

"It sounds like I'm being black balled out of CL because I have pricing listed on my site. To explain: My target audience is focused toward small companies and startups who do not have a large marketing budget but who need professional graphic design assistance. This, then, is the reason I post lower pricing on my site. My corporate accounts pay prices according to standards. If this makes my "lovely" site not worthy of being associated with CL - then so be it - but I believe my pricing structure makes professional design affordable to companies who need it until they are at the stage of being able to afford full prices. I am very disappointed about receiving your message."

Charging smaller companies less is a standard business practice; as a matter of fact, it's even recommended and documented by Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines. But that is not the issue here, which I'll try to explain some other time. The issue at hand is publishing prices of any kind on a web site. It is unethical and sends a wrong message to who we are. When was the last time you came across lawyer's web site or office window and saw the following: Divorce Papers for $399; Last Will and Testament $99; and so on.

I can't remember how many times I've heard other designers, including myself, complain that we are not being taken seriously by clients. To be treated like professionals, one needs to act like one in any situation. In a recent article by Maria Piscopo (Making the most of your website, STEP Inside Design magazine), Steve Woo, principal of Studioany said: "I don't like websites that list prices or put limits on the kinds of projects the company accepts. It's unprofessional."

Let's not forget, we are not selling a product but strategic problem-solving. Who can honestly tell that two logos for two different companies have the same value? I can't. Every project is different and requires a different approach and solution. So how in the world can you put a set price on something like that? Sure, we all use similar projects to arrive at a price when we try to estimate a job, but that is a totally different beast.

Another issue with pricing is price wars. It's one thing when a web site is sitting all by itself in cyberspace and a totally different story when it is part of a global network, such as Creative Latitude that was born out of a need to promote and raise ethical standards. A designer based in New York city might charge thousands of dollars for a corporate ID, and another designer as talented as the first one based in Moscow might charge only a few hundred dollars. Who do you think will have the advantage here?

The fair thing would be to compete and try to lend assignments based on talent, ability to solve problems, deliver results, and last but not least, budget. Once a potential client has narrowed down it's search for talent, then the price competition can start.

Let's all start acting like professionals.

© Habib Bajrami