In today’s world, it’s more challenging than ever for businesses to cut through the noise and content that exists online and promote their own products or services. Having a great marketing campaign helps reach those customers and pull them in, but to do so, you have to have a professional, eye-catching graphic design.
For smaller companies or startups, graphic design costs might be out of reach, but there are many other ways to get affordable, innovative designs on a tight marketing budget. Below, 15 Forbes Agency Council members offered their best tips for finding high-quality graphic designs on a budget.
1. Start With A Vision
Creativity can happen anywhere. What’s important is vision. Once you have a vision, aligning with graphic design is all in meeting someone. It’s valuable to build a brand identity so any derivative creative work can reflect the true nature of the brand. Whether you use a service like Canva or Picmonkey or find a freelancer, always remain consistent in the pieces that make your brand stand out. – Ashlee Piga, Lotus Digital
2. Use Candid Shots
The humanity of a brand or the noble purpose it serves can rally communities to support a shared mission. Commodity services and products will have a hard time gaining this type of traction. I have also learned that homegrown pictures and candid shots often gain more engagement than those of high polish. So sometimes a little “real” can go a long way. – Joe Becker, twelvenote
3. Connect With Freelance Designers
Expand your team by simply adding freelance designers! Websites like Upwork.com are a great way to connect with talented designers at a much more affordable rate. Another unique way to tap into the design world is with services like logomyway.com, where you can run a logo contest and gather logo ideas from experienced designers. – Nate Reusser, Reusser Design
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4. Find An Agency Creative Team
Using crowdsourcing sites like Fiverr or 99designs can be a mixed bag — you get access to many creatives for fairly competitive rates, but getting revisions can be challenging, especially down the road once work is complete. I’d recommend finding an agency creative team willing to take on projects. You know they’ll stand behind it and continue to support you down the road. – Dan Kahn, Kahn Media, Inc.
5. Work With Community Colleges
Community colleges are a great, untapped resource for accessing affordable top talent. For those colleges that offer technical and work skills development like MiraCosta College in San Diego, CA, they strive to connect students with industry partners so it would be a very easy ask. Given the geographic proximity, it would be a real win-win for students and businesses to connect through the college. – Crystal Sargent, Invested Advisors
6. Try Visual Communication
Good design doesn’t need to be expensive. The experiential design needs to be clever, and its usually produced iteratively through contextual exercises, user testing and best practices. The original design that extends company authenticity, voice and tonality is a key to staying on brand. Visual communication is one of the easiest ways to connect to the user base and create user experiences. – Goran Paun, ArtVersion
7. Contact A Local Marketing Association
The American Marketing Association is national and has a presence in numerous cities and on college campuses. They would be a good source of information and likely provide member referrals and other suggestions — even if you’re not a current member. There are also many talented freelancers, depending on your need, so post your requirements on LinkedIn. – Megan Devine, d.trio marketing group
8. Get Pre-Approved Concepts Through RFPs
Submitting a Request For Proposals (RFP) to a group of designers will make sure that not only are your interests aligned but that you will be getting the best talent for your budget. With pre-approved concepts from the RFP process, there wouldn’t be as much time spent brainstorming, but rather going straight to campaign execution. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC
9. Hire A Professional Designer
The best way to get top-notch, professional graphic design is to do it with a professional designer. There is no other way around it. Fitting it on a tight marketing budget requires staging: creating a tailored brand book reflecting small business values and key moments first and leveraging existing automated design services to develop creative variations for social, display web and mobile after. – Oksana Matviichuk, Performics
10. Collaborate With Technical Schools
If you want to save money on design work, consider building a relationship with your local university or technical school. You can provide learning opportunities for design students and bring a fresh look to your collateral work. Instructors are frequently looking for real-world opportunities for their students and will appreciate the exposure to actual business situations. – Sara Steever, Paulsen
11. Hire Someone Part-Time
Before investing in graphic design, I’d look at internal marketing support. Small businesses need to start with a marketing manager as they’re essential for helping brands see the bigger picture and make strategic decisions on investments. I’d then recommend the brand hire a part-time graphic designer to save on freelance fees, invest in the team and set the foundation by developing brand assets. – Kathryn Strachan, Copy House
12. Rely On Free Services Like Canva
Canva is a great tool because it provides pre-sized documents, tons of templates and all of the necessities to make a brand’s logo and iconography stand out. Canva is free to sign up and very user-friendly. Though there is a premium version available for a fee, the program also has free templates that you can use and plug in your own information, or just use as inspiration. – Durée Ross, Durée & Company, Inc.
13. Draw Inspiration From Fans
Asking fans and followers to participate in a #FanArtFriday about your brand is a great way to bring some life to your feeds and give young artists some exposure and love. You never know, you might find a graphic talent in your price range among those dedicated fans! – Samantha Reynolds, ECHO Storytelling Agency
14. Leverage White-Label Agency Partners
Companies without the budget to hire a full-time graphic designer can leverage freelance graphic designers or white-label agency partners to deliver professional graphic design. Typically, these projects can be as-needed, depending on the number of deliverables you need in a given timeframe. This approach will help you save on costs while still delivering high-quality results. – Elyse Flynn Meyer, Prism Global Marketing Solutions
15. Develop A Creative Collective
We have a creative collective through the production studio within our agency where we provide packs of graphics on a monthly or quarterly basis. Freelancers are also a great way to go. There are a ton of libraries like Creative Market, Envato Elements and others that have templates too. – Vix Reitano, Agency 6B