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Subscription-Based Graphic Design Services: Are They Worth it?

When you’re building a website, you’re going to need a variety of images, some of which will have specific size requirements. If you’re not a graphic designer, you’ll need a professional to create most of your images.

Professional graphic designers can create just about anything you need, including buy buttons, decorative images, logos, icons, infographics, branded imagery, and featured images for your blog posts. However, it can be expensive to hire a designer.

In recent years, businesses have been turning to subscription-based graphic design services to meet their needs. This seems legitimate. For a monthly fee, you can have access to unlimited graphic design services – or so they say.

Are subscription-based graphic design services worth the cost? Sometimes, but not usually. Let’s take a look.

What is a subscription graphic design service?

Subscription graphic design services are a new model in the design world that aims to make custom graphic design affordable for everyone. You choose from several plans, pay a monthly fee, and receive unlimited, custom graphic design work.

On the other hand, traditional graphic design services provide one final product for a set fee. Some designers bill clients by the hour, while others bill a flat rate per project. Either way, when you have a good designer, the end product is worth every penny. You get exactly what you want and the design is high-quality.

Subscription services are growing overall, but does that mean they’re right for your business? Source: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20191003005016/en/The-Subscription-Economy-Grows-More-Than-350-Over-7.5-Years

Subscription graphic design services make graphics affordable

Not everyone can afford to hire a graphic designer. By the time you pay for your design and a copyright transfer, one design can cost thousands of dollars.

When you need more than one design, subscription design services are appealing, especially when they promise a fast turnaround time. In theory, you could get all of your designs completed in a month or two and pay a fraction of what it would cost to hire a designer directly.

This sounds great when you need some (or all) of the following graphics:

  • A custom logo
  • Branded header images
  • Custom thumbnails
  • Animation
  • Designs for packaging
  • Brand identity
  • Website buttons
  • PPC ad images
  • Postcards
  • Infographics
  • Banners
  • And more

When you need multiple images, you’ll naturally gravitate toward solutions that promise more designs for a lower cost. The problem is, for most businesses, subscription design services aren’t worth the cost.

The business model doesn’t work like you’d expect

Subscription graphic design services are intended to make graphic design affordable to clients with ongoing design needs. However, this business model ultimately serves the design company – not the customer.

Subscription-based graphic design sounds good in theory, but doesn’t work as expected. Here’s why.

1. The monthly cost is astronomical

Currently, there are many design companies that work under the unlimited design business model. Most have multiple plans that provide higher levels of service for an increased cost. For example, some plans start at $450, but to get what you need you’ll need to pay at least $800-$1,500 per month.

Upon first glance, paying between $450-$1,500 per month for unlimited graphic design seems like a steal no matter what you need. You can’t even get a single, professional graphic image for less than $500. Even $1,500 isn’t bad for unlimited designs. Why would anyone pass up this wonderful opportunity? Could it really be that bad?

In reality, cheap plans won’t grant you access to high-level, talented graphic designers. For most services, the cheapest plan is the entry-level plan that gives you access to designers with basic skills that any DIY Photoshop designer can easily outperform.

To access highly skilled web designers, you have to pay more – a lot more. If you want access to a company’s top designers with one-on-one interactions, you’ll have to pay far more than the base price advertised.

The business model is designed to generate upsells

Low-cost subscription design plans are a marketing strategy to upsell businesses on more expensive plans. It works really well. Predictably, many businesses will test out the cheapest plan, but will quickly realize they need more services. Once they see how easy the system is, they’ll simply upgrade to a more expensive plan to get what they need.

This business model works well and appeals to the desire for simplicity and saving time. Half the struggle is finding a designer to start with. These companies make it easy to connect with a designer directly and switch designers if you need. Many businesses will pay a premium for access to multiple top designers instead of hiring a designer directly.

That’s great news if you have $1,500+ to spend each month on graphic design. Sometimes, convenience is worth a premium. However, if you’re hoping to get the perfect logo for $450 per month, you’ll probably be disappointed.

2. Unlimited revisions for a monthly fee isn’t efficient

Getting unlimited revisions to your images for a monthly fee sounds like a dream come true. In theory, you can tweak and alter your image until it’s perfect! Except, it rarely works that way.

“Unlimited revisions” is a phrase that implies you’ll eventually get exactly what you want. While that’s entire possible with some design services, you need a skilled designer to make it work.

The problem is that low-cost subscription design plans usually provide customers with mediocre designers who struggle to understand written directions. You can go through as many revisions as you want, but when your designer doesn’t fully understand your needs you’ll have to settle for “good enough.”

3. Unlimited revisions for a monthly fee isn’t cost-effective

Unlimited revisions on a monthly payment plan are guaranteed to make your designs cost more. On a cheap plan, you can’t escape excessive revisions.

When you’re working with mediocre designers, you’ll almost certainly go through excessive revisions. How much time are you willing to spend going back-and-forth to explain your vision to a designer through email? A couple days? A few weeks? A month?

Every day you have to re-clarify your vision adds to the final cost of your design.

Here’s why it works out this way.

When you’re on a cheap plan, your designers are paid by the hour whether or not they produce the design you want. They show up to work and for the duration of their shift, they work on a queue full of design requests.

Their job is to show up, work on their design queue, and go home. They have no personal stake in the end result of your design requests. This means when you request revisions, they have no incentive to make sure they get it right the first time. They’d be perfectly content to send you minor revisions every two days for the next six months.

When you hire a graphic designer directly, they aren’t going to waste any time. It will take longer to complete your requested design, but when you get your samples they will be far more in line with your vision each time.

4. It’s hard to “get your money’s worth” on a monthly plan

Some people are drawn to monthly design plans because it seems like a great way to get your money’s worth as fast as possible for little money. However, there are contingencies in place that prevent this from happening.

Similar to a stock image site’s plan(like iStockPhoto listed here), subscription services for graphic designers have their pros and cons.

For example, most monthly design services limit the number of people who can interact with their designers. On a cheap plan, you might be limited to one or two of your employees. Higher plans still only allow four or five points of contact.

Additionally, there are often limits to how many active designs you can have being created at once. Sometimes this number is truly unlimited, but often you’re limited to around three.

Even if you can make unlimited design requests, how much time do you have to spend managing all of those requests? If your energy is tied up in trying to get one important image right, you won’t have time to work on a handful of other images at the same time and take care of your other responsibilities.

5. You have to pay more to get live communication

One of the reasons people don’t get what they want from monthly design services is a lack of live communication.

For simple needs, you don’t need live communication. For example, if you just need some buttons and simple infographics, you may not need live communication. However, having to explain design ideas through email is the biggest reason designers have to go through multiple revisions.

Graphic design ideas are always easier to explain live, in real-time. You can get real-time communication with most monthly design services, but you’ll need to subscribe to a more expensive plan.

6. Your finished designs might look “rough around the edges”

Mediocre designers have limits to what they can produce. They will usually make small mistakes that experienced designers won’t make. For example, if you’re paying for a cheap monthly plan, your designs might consist of color combinations that don’t quite match. Technically, the main colors might match, but the hue might be off.

Another issue is text. While the text will usually be readable, you can’t expect a mediocre designer to choose the right typeface. Hopefully, you’ve got a typography or marketing expert who can inform you of the best typeface to use. Otherwise, you might end up with Comic Sans.

Who should use a monthly graphic design plan?

Generally speaking, if your business needs ongoing design services and can afford to spend an average of $1,500 or more per month, you can make a design subscription work to your benefit.

However, you’ll need a system in place to manage your workflow. This means having dedicated team members working directly with your assigned designers who have a system for communicating and generating feedback from the team.

Who shouldn’t use a monthly graphic design plan?

Individuals and businesses who only need a small number of graphics won’t likely benefit from a monthly design subscription service. Although the monthly cost for the cheapest plan seems appealing and affordable, the results won’t be ideal.

When it comes to graphic design, it’s better to pay more to work directly with a designer. That’s where we can help!

Need affordable graphic design? We’ve got you covered

You don’t need to break the bank to get good graphic design. With our design services, you’ll be working one-on-one with a talented graphic designer who knows how to turn your vision into reality.

Our design services are professional, affordable, and our turnaround time is fast. Contact us today to learn more about our design services.

Ryan Nead

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