5 top tips for dealing with a tiny design budget

Short of money but still under pressure to produce an amazing design? You won't be the first designer to struggle against financial odds, and you won't be the last. Follow these five simple steps that we've teased from the business brain of owner and creative director of Dirty Design, Charlotte Hockey-Berry, and you'll soon find you can wring more from what you've got than you thought possible...

  • Check out all our career-related articles here

01. Manage the client's expectations

Make sure your client understands exactly what's possible within the budget, or they'll feel they've wasted their money

Getting the most from your budget always starts with setting the right budget in the first place and getting a good brief together. Make sure you understand it, and your client understands it. Then manage your client's expectations as to what they're actually going to get from the project.

What they want isn't always going to be what they need. It's all about trying to understand their market, and making sure they understand their own market fully, which you do by asking lots of questions.

02. Invest your time wisely

You also need to make sure that you put enough time into a project right at the beginning. Often, clients will want to see your ideas really quickly, and they might not give you enough time to do the research and all the planning, or to get a good concept together and hold focus groups if necessary.

You don't want to do endless amounts of planning, but spending too little time can end up costing you money

03. Plan your print run

Your campaign should be properly planned so that you print the right amount to start with, rather than doing one print run and then having the client come back a few months later wanting a bit more.

Some people say there's always time for a reprint, but starting up the presses again is so inefficient. You don't want to print too much either. So you need to identify how long it's going to be in the marketplace and how many copies you really need.

Lots of small savings can add up to big ones - but don't ruin the presentation of your designs in the process

04. Size up your paper stock

The standard paper sizes are often the most efficient ones, as you get the most out of them. You can potentially save on paper stock but it depends on the job.

This obviously depends on who it's going out to. If it needs to look premium, you don't want to be cutting corners on stock. But if it's a mass mailout, you can perhaps take the stock down a bit. There's no point using 300g uncoated stock for a flyer that's just going to be left on a pub table.

05. Charm your suppliers

It's very important to have good relationships with your suppliers. This isn't so you can knock their prices down, however. I try not to do this because everyone is already doing things on the tightest of design budgets.

It's because you want them to keep you informed. It helps to know that they're going to contact you and say: "Maybe you've put a bit too much colour in this black," or let you know if something isn't going to print the way it's supposed to, rather than just going ahead and doing the job anyway.

Words: Charlotte Hockey-Berry

Charlotte is owner of Bristol-based agency Dirty Design, which provides a variety of design and marketing services, from brand identity to corporate literature and marketing strategy.

Liked this? Read these!

Do you have any budget tips you'd like to share? Type them into the comments box below...