You Get What You Pay For… Sometimes.

March 27, 2015

get-what-you-pay-forWhen you’re a new entrepreneur, one of your tasks is to source talent. It is highly unlikely that you are a graphic designer, an SEO expert, a lawyer, and an accountant, all rolled into one, and as such you’re going to need to pay those people to do some work on your behalf. Your role, as the entrepreneur, is to find all the puzzle pieces you need to make your business grow, and to put them together in a way that makes sense.

There have never been more options available than today, and you can find any of these services quite easily with just a quick Google search. This is advantageous, but also overwhelming: The entrepreneur is confronted with a lot of options and a lot of tough decisions to make.

Making the right decision about each vendor, meanwhile, means thinking about where you are in the life cycle of your business—and ensuring that you don’t overshoot and overpay, but also that you don’t undershoot and end up with shoddy work.

My recommendation: Lay out all of your options and compare them closely, remembering that, in any niche, there is going to be something of a food chain. You can find a graphic designer in India who will do your work for pennies on the dollar, and you can also shell out big bucks to a Madison Avenue design firm. Of course there are plenty of options in between. These options come with different price points but also with tradeoffs in quality and in how much of your own time and involvement you will be expected to invest.

To some extent, maybe, the old cliché “you get what you pay for” applies here, but not nearly as much as you might imagine. Thanks to the Internet, the playing field is somewhat leveled, and great options can be obtained affordably. Instead of shelling out top dollar for a huge firm, you might enlist a boutique firm, perhaps started by someone who left one of those big agencies to go out on his or her own. You’ll get basically the same quality and experience, but you’ll pay less for it and likely receive more personalized attention. Personally, I find this to be my sweet spot.

As you think about your options, it might be helpful to think in terms of these basic categories:

  1. Freelancers. And, as a subset of this, foreign/international freelancers, for whom your $ 100 is more like $ 1,000. The upside of the freelancer is that the work can be cheap, but you’ll have to tell them everything about your market and you may have to be more involved in the process than you would otherwise.
  2. Boutique and independent firms. You’ll have to do some work to source these midrange options, but you’ll often get great work and a high degree of personal attention. These firms have less overhead, so you’ll also pay lower rates.
  3. Local, regional, and national firms. There may be times when you want to pay the big bucks for a big name, but only when you need something you just can’t get elsewhere—like connections, market access, or the name recognition of a law firm.

Again: Sometimes you’ll get what you pay for, but sometimes it makes the most sense to go with a middle- or even lower-tier option, simply depending on where your business is and what the nature of the work is. The important thing is to do your homework—and to think like an entrepreneur.

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