Seriously, We Need to Know Your Design Budget! Here’s Why



Read Time

14 min


27 February, 2017

Let’s talk about your design budget.

But first, a disclaimer:

Rant alert. Really, if you’re not prepared for a rant, then this post probably isn’t for you.

But why am I ranting?

The Marketing Brief Template

The Marketing Brief is a free template that will help you get the brief for your marketing project right. Whether ...

One type of question:

“How much?”

This can relate to:

Here’s the deal:

There is no simple answer. Between you and me, if there were a simple answer, I’d be handing it out every time anyone asked how much it would cost them to work with Canny.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

We need to know your design budget. Check out the video below, or keep reading to find out why:

There Are Different Levels of Service Available

Picture this:

A few years back, I went out shopping. I was looking to purchase for my first brand new car. An exciting time, for sure. If you’ve done it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

In Newcastle, there’s a road called Scotswood Road (from the famous Geordie song, “The Blaydon Races”). On that road, there are a lot of different car garages. They range from Ford, to Audi, to Mercedes-Benz, to Range Rover, to Honda. If you’re looking for a car in Newcastle, that’s where you go.

Lots of car brands in a parking lot

When I went out, I knew what I was after. A Ford Focus. It had been my dream car for years.

So, I went straight to the Ford garage on Scotswood Road. And by even being there, I had suggested my budget to the salesperson. How?

Well, Ford are known for their reasonably-priced, reliable cars. I wasn’t at Audi or Mercedes-Benz, but I also wasn’t at the Kia garage next door. By being at the Ford garage, it was clear I was in the market for a mid-range car.

When the sales person asked my budget, I told him I wasn’t completely sure. Somewhere in the £14,000 range. As all good sales people do, he showed me an option below, an option on my budget, and one little beauty that pushed my budget an extra £3000.

I didn’t have an exact figure in mind, and that’s fine. But both he and I knew that I wasn’t looking for the cheapest option available and I also wasn’t looking for the top-of-the-range Focus ST (although, I wish I had been!)

I was looking to make a mid-range investment, and they had an option for that.

In the end, I fell for the upsell. I bought a new Ford Focus Titanium Navigator, and I didn’t regret spending the extra money. Not one bit.

By being in the Ford garage, and not over the road at Audi, the sales people had a starting point. Yes, they sell higher priced cars in Ford too, but because I was open and honest regarding my budget range, they didn’t waste their time trying to sell me them.

And that’s just one of the things being honest about your design budget helps avoid.

clock face on its side

Nobody Likes to Have Their Time Wasted

If you come to Canny, or any other design agency for that matter, we’re going to want to know your budget.

And one of the first questions we’re going to ask is, “What’s your budget for this work?”


Because we don’t want to waste your time, and we don’t want you to waste ours. Talking about new projects is great, but we have to know we’re both singing from the same hymn sheet so to speak.

There’s nothing worse than consulting with an exciting startup that wants to undergo a branding process, have an eCommerce website developed, and design some print advertising and work on their online marketing, only to have them reveal at the end of the conversation that they only have a budget of £5.

Sure, I’m exaggerating, but you get the point.

On the flip side of that, if you’re a Marketing Manager at a large corporation and you’re looking for a full rebrand across multiple continents with hundreds of thousands of design assets, new brand guidelines, marketing campaigns, videos, animations and more, then you’re probably going to want to look at your budget in stages. And Canny can help you with that.

It’s important that both parties have a complete understanding of each other. And getting to know your budget goes a long way to making sure that we’re not all wasting each other’s time.

jar of pennies

Not Everyone Knows Their Exact Budget

Genuinely, not everyone knows their design budget, and it’s rare that we would get specific figures out of people when first talking about it.

And that’s absolutely fine.

Knowing a rough design budget is often an even better starting point. It shows you have a degree of flexibility and could invest more or less depending on what the offer is.

If you can come to us with a range of £3000-£6000, then we know what level of service we can offer. If you come with a budget of £8000-£12,000, that’s great too. And again, this helps us understand where we are in terms of the scope for your project.

And if you have £1000 or less, more often than not we’ll recommend a freelancer or small design team that could undertake the work for you.

Do you want to know a little secret? I’ll tell you how we find out our clients’ budget range.

We say something like this:

“Okay, so you don’t have a clue? Let’s run through a little exercise. I’m going to put out some figures, and I’ll be able to gauge your reaction.”

Then, I always throw out the highest budget we’ve worked on at Canny, and right now, that’s £40,000.

9 out of 10 people will recoil in horror and pull a face like the woman above. The 10th will seem interested in that price and we can open that discussion up further at that level.

With the other 9, it’s simply a case of sliding down the scale:

“Well, we’ve also worked on projects at £15,000, £10,000, £7000, £5000,” and on it goes. At some point, we’ll get a reaction that says, “Yes, that’s more like it!” and voila, the budget has unveiled itself.

I don’t believe for one split second that people don’t have figures in mind when engaging with a design agency.

Every time I engage with a service provider, I’m building up a figure in the back of my mind – a “comfort figure.” If they come back and it’s £X or lower, then I’ll go for it.

Transparency goes a long way, but if you’re unsure of the exact amount, that’s absolutely fine. We just have to play a bit of a longer game to get you where you need to be.

Why Ballpark Figures Are Useless

Here’s a question that we get asked all the time:

“Can you give us a ballpark figure for a rebrand and a new website?”

The short answer? No.

Ballpark figures only work one way. And that’s you coming to us saying we have between X and X to spend on this project.


Well, when people ask us for a ballpark, its impossible to narrow it down without knowing the scope of the project.

Here are some of the questions that go racing through our minds:

  • Another “ballpark” player? How do we stop this happening?
  • How big is your company?
  • What level of work do you want from us?
  • What sort of turnaround time are you looking for?
  • This website you want built – is it a brochure site; is it eCommerce; do you have domain names in place; do you have web hosting already?

The list goes on and on and on.

So, our reaction to the ballpark figure email is always:

“We prefer not to, but we’ve worked on projects ranging from £1000, to £40,000.” And then, nothing.


Because that ballpark figure is insane. It’s impossible to estimate accurately, and £1000 to £40,000 is too big a price range to even contemplate.

The ballpark figure question is not for you to ask. That’s for your chosen design agency to ask you. If you can say, “We have £5000 to £10,000,” then we can work on putting together a proposal that fits your budget.

It simply doesn’t work when you ask us for a ballpark figure with little to no information about your company or the size and scope of your project.

white abstract shapes in a maze

Understanding the Level of Complexity Involved

Here’s the deal:

Branding and website design projects can quickly become very complicated.

Your version of needing a quick and simple redesign is completely different to the next person’s version of a quick and simple redesign.

And, every company or startup business has a completely different set of needs.

Let’s look at website design as an example.

Imagine these two scenarios:

Scenario 1

Your company comes to us without a website in place. You have no preconceived ideas about how your website should look or how it should function.

Unfortunately, as you don’t have a website already, that also means there are no Analytics or tracking tools in place. That means there isn’t a whole host of data for us to work off.

Simply put:

With a project like this, we’re shooting in the dark. This means, on launch of the website, if it’s not converting or functioning as expected, we have to quickly work on a Phase 2.

All of this needs costed into the project proposal.

In this scenario, it’s also a safe bet to assume the company does not have a domain name in place, nor are they familiar with the ongoing costs of hosting and maintaining a website.

This all has to be outlined and explained, and again, worked into the proposal that we send to you.

Scenario 2

This scenario is completely different. A company comes to us and they already have a website in place. They’re familiar with Analytics and the cost of hosting and maintaining a successful website.

As such, we can put their Analytics data to good use, find out where they’re losing customers, determine if that’s acceptable owing to the sales funnel, plug the gaps, and more.

Projects like this can be really in-depth and, depending on the level of budget, we can go to into different levels of depth when putting the project proposal together for you.

One of the main things to consider here is that if your company already has a web presence — has a staff team in place and an email structure ready — the website launch day is always considerably more difficult.

We have to replace your existing website with the new one, including redirecting the non-existent pages. Then, if you’re coming over to our email hosting, too, we have to swap all of that around and make sure everything is functioning as expected.

Again, this all adds to the cost of the proposal.

Branding and website design projects can vary hugely from client to client. Some clients are selling online, while others are simply providing information about their business or services.

And even then things can vary greatly.

Recently, we put together a small website for a frozen yoghurt company. The website was purely informational.

In the same quarter of the year, we also put together an informational website for a software company in the banking sector. This was another information or brochure type website, but completely different in scope, scale and size.

However, as we knew both budgets from the outset (and they were wildly different!) we were able to work with both companies and build two great partnerships.

Marketing team studying reports

But if you know my rough design budget, won’t you just max it out?

If both parties seem happy with each other, we’ll send you a detailed project proposal once we’ve understood your budget range and brand requirements.

And in all honesty, yes, there will be an option that completely maxes out your budget.

Here’s the thing:

We’re not doing it to rip you off. We’re simply offering our advice and ideas on how we could use your budget and make the most of your investment.

However, we’re also likely to explore some other options.

One price point will likely explore options at the lower end of your budget range. Another will explore options at the top end of your budget. This opens up the possibility of raising your budget and working on some things in more depth, or even working on things that weren’t even asked about in your initial consultation.

We don’t want to give you a low proposal and then end up making any web design mistakes. That would be stupid. We want to work on the right job for the right price.

Why do we work our proposals like this?

It’s all to try and make things easier for you.

Firstly, it helps you assign a budget to the project and make the relevant decisions around that. It also helps give you an idea of what can be done for slightly less, and then slightly more.

It also helps you to determine what is actually vital for the project, and what’s a “nice to have.”

In initial consultations, a lot of ideas get thrown around and it’s easy for both you and us to get carried away. By framing things off in stages like this, it helps get down to the nitty-gritty like so:

“Yes, that feature would be great, but it’s not worth the extra £xx.xx right from the start. Let’s try and prove the business model, or really focus on our core message before taking that extra step.”

We always suggest one option above your pricing point because it hints at further partnership.

We’re trying to say to you:

“Hey, we know this is above and beyond what you asked for. If you have the budget now, great. If not, let’s talk about this once Phase 1 is wrapped up or as we’re progressing through the project.”

By working up project proposals in stages, it can help you get to the budget decision a lot quicker. Obviously, if you know your budget from the outset, we can work up the proposal accordingly.

How We Work Out Pricing: A Clear, Concise, Fixed Price

So, once we know your budget or budget range, how exactly do we calculate the pricing that goes into our proposals?

First things first; we take the project requirements and list them out.

From there, it’s simply a case of assigning hours to each part of the project, and multiplying it by our agency’s hourly rate. Then, we shuffle things round a bit, and make sure everything falls into the budget range we’ve agreed to with you.

Did somebody say hourly rates? Well, yes and no.

We use our hourly rate to help us gauge the figures that go into the proposal. However, at Canny, one of our main values is the ability to offer clear, concise, and fixed pricing.

If we miscalculate the project, or actually spend 20 hours instead of 10 hours on one part of the project (through our own choosing) then that’s on our head.

We’ll never come back to you mid-project and say:

“Hey, we maxed out the budget; can we have some more money, please?” That simply doesn’t work for our clients. And it’s not fair.

Obviously, if you want to add to the project or change the scope, then we can provide an extra quote for that. But for the main bulk of the work, we do like to work to a fixed pricing structure from the outset.

It’s only fair!

Seriously, We Need to Know Your Design Budget! Here’s Why

Yes, we want to know your budget so we can maximise it. But we’re not maximising it for our own profit margin.

We want to help you make the most of your budget and help you put it to good use.

We’re not in the design business to maximise profit. Yes, we want to make money. But more importantly, we want to help your business succeed.

Believe it or not, it’s far more rewarding to see our clients winning and watch their businesses doing well than seeing a few hundred extra pound in the bank account.

By knowing your budget from the outset, we can all get on the same page and begin working together a lot quicker. If you don’t know your budget, that’s fine, too. We just have to jump through a few extra hoops to help get things narrowed down!

We love working on a range of different projects. If you’d like to talk about your branding or website needs, get in touch with us today.

Let us know in the comments below if you think we’re asking too much, or if you think it’s only fair that your design agency know your budget.

Hey I'm Tony, Founder and Director of Canny Creative. I eat, sleep and bleed Canny to be honest. I'm an absolute workaholic (and yes, I know that's not a good thing!).

Read here