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how to price for design work

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Post Mon Jun 25, 2007 11:33 pm

how to price for design work

Just wondering how you experienced people price for design work....
I was asked today vaguely about doing a mural. Building in question is owned by management company and one of the members asked if I could paint the name on it. He was vague about what he wanted exactly and basically asked if I could come up with some suggestions, that he could take into their next meeting and discuss..
I know myself.. I could spend hours coming up with different designs, but as I have no idea what so ever what they are looking for it could be a big waste of time.
So should I set a fee up front for some designs or do I put in the effort and hope that I get the job?(and then work the cost into it).
What is standard practice?
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Jon Marshall

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Post Mon Jun 25, 2007 11:39 pm

It's probably about right. But there will always be someone who just prices it up being a roll of vinyl and a days work.

We did some big Merc Sprinter LWB's a few years back for a similar price then another company done them later on for £400!
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Bill McMurtry

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Post Tue Jun 26, 2007 12:14 am

Tough one - depends on the job. If it's a lucrative job then submitting a couple of design options (maybe 3 at most) might be worth risking a couple of hours of your time for. If not then quoting an hourly rate for your design time should seem reasonable and professional.

Either way, don't forget to stamp the bottom of your designs with your copyright notice :wink:
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Fred McLean

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Post Tue Jun 26, 2007 8:13 am

Do 2/3 quickies to get everyone talking and keep track of how long your spending!
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Harry Cleary

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Post Tue Jun 26, 2007 10:07 am

I know the predicament you are in Angelique, the concept of design fees is unknown among many smaller businesses here, I normally build it into the cost of the job, or if I know I'm in a 'pricing' situation I will charge at my hourly rate....unfortunately because people are so used to giving a job to a signwriter on the back of a cigarette packet and letting them do the design its sometimes difficult to get paid for design. It comes down to your judgment of the customer/job I think, and how much you can make by actually getting the job! I always, always make a note on the invoice of how many hours went into design though :D Hope that helps
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Post Tue Jun 26, 2007 10:40 am

Thanks for the suggestions/opinions.. Much appreciated
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John.Taggart

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Post Tue Jun 26, 2007 7:11 pm

Hi Angelique

I come from a design agency background and the best way that I get a client on board is to charge a nominal upfront retainer of around £250 and for that I would give around 4-6 studio hours to come up with maybe three different concept. After this if they agree work to either an hourly rate or a fixed fee that both sides are comfortable with. Every client has a diferent concept of what to pay for design. This way you'll get paid for your initial time and also for additional time you spend.

Hope this helps. :D
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Post Wed Jun 27, 2007 10:19 am

so what is a reasonable hourly rate for design work?!
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Post Wed Jun 27, 2007 1:42 pm

A good rate for design work would be £25-£30 per hour for a qualified designer.
I think the main point here is the relationship with the client, if this is an existing customer and you have a good working relationship then I dont think you should make an initial charge, just make sure it is covered when the job is done.
If on the other hand you know the client is talking to 2/3 other people then I would be very relctant to spend 2-3 hours on a design that may/may not be chosen from one of many.
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Phill Fenton

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 7:39 pm

I have resurrected this thread as a result of a phone enquiry today that really got my back up.

My normal practice (if it is someone I have never dealt with in the past) is to offer a guide price based on their description of what they are wanting done. Then, if they ask me to go ahead and draw up a suggestion, I always ask for a small deposit to "cover some of my time". I explain that this would be deducted from the price of the job if it goes ahead. If it's a typical layout for a van I only ask for £25, but this helps to weed out the price shoppers and timewasters. If it's something fairly complex I ask for a bigger deposit.

Today I had a call from a Roofing company asking for a quote and some layouts for their van(s). I have never dealt with these people before so I explained my usual procedure, only to be told "To be honest with you I wouldn't pay a deposit because what happens if I don't like your design". I explained that the deposit was necessary as I do not work for nothing (although I will do speculative work for regular customers). He then began to argue that I was the only sign business he had ever come across that expected a deposit up front. By now I was getting very irritated, so told him I wasn't interested in quoting his work and hung up!

Some people just aren't worth the bother and aggravation. You can be sure that if I had produced speculative work this would have been hawked around every sign business in my area looking for the lowest price.

Similarly, I was sent an email only yesterday of a van layout and was asked "what it would cost to do". The layout had a copyright notice on the bottom so I emailed back that I wouldn't do this as it was copyright of another company (I also emailed the other company to let them now the situation).

There is a definite perception that artwork should be free. In fact I even used to offer this myself ( I'm sure my website still mentions this - mental note to update it).

It's a difficult one I know - but I also know from bitter experience that you can waste a lot of time doing speculative layouts - time that can be better spent actually earning money. My advice is to always obtain a deposit when working for someone new that you don't already have a history with.
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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 9:06 pm

Phill, that makes me mad just hearing about it!
Put it this way...if they will not give you a deposit, they are not serious about your services...and if you do something without a deposit, you are giving your work away.

The next time someone questions your fee, just say that it is company policy. If they end up not liking the design, you still get paid (with the deposit) for your time and effort. Usually people say they don't like something in order to get a discount.

Angelique, offer to come look at the site for a smallish fee, call it a site survey (like $25-$40) Again, if they are serious, they will pay it. Take digital pix to aid you in any mock-ups you will do for them. The last mural I did was about 4'x25' and I charged $1000, but it was for an associate.
I think if it was a simple design on a smooth wall I would go $10/sqft but if it was complex, or on a rough surface needing lots of prep work, up to $15 sqft.

I can never emphasize enough to GET A DEPOSIT.
Love....Jill
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Steve Underhill

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 10:49 pm

To be honest I dont ask for a deposit when drawing up a design, like the customer says what if they dont like what you did?, for all they know you might draw such an amateur design that they could have done it themselves, I know you wouldn't but from a customers perspective its how people think.
That's like a builder going out to quote a job and asking for an estimate fee, if you have 4 firms out and pay 4 times you pay 3 firms for just pricing a job.
In this game if your designs good and they like it they have no reason to go anywhere else other than on price, this is when I inform them there is no design fee to be added onto the final price (which is already factored into the price anyway in the form of however long it took me & how much I thought it was worth)
This makes it seem like they are getting a good deal and you still get your design fee.
Just my opinion,
In comparison, I have a lot of tattoos, when I have my tattooist draw me up a design he doesn't ask for a design fee and he is on £60 per hour.
Its like signs, if you re spending a lot of money you have to have it right and you don't want to be paying somebody each time to get something right.
Not meaning to ruffle any feathers but I would only pay a deposit to a designer etc who had the final design that I liked ready to go, not pay them from the outset without knowing the quality of work they are likely to produce.
Some you will win some you will lose, but unfortunately that's how a lot people think.
Basically they pay once the final proof is ready to be printed/cut, in the meantime you have already added your design fee onto the price anyway.
They go away happy, so do you... everybodys happy!
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Phill Fenton

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:02 pm

No Steve you are wrong!

Too many people have given away designs - myself included (I've seen them on the side of buses etc. - and I never did the damned work - Just the design).

This idiot on the phone today was hoping I would come up with something special free of charge. Only if my price was the lowest (or comparable) to any other tom d1ck or harry that was prepared to copy it would I have got the work.

This was a roofing company - I nearly said to him - come and fix my roof - but you'll only get paid if I like the job you do.

Quotations are different - I give out quotes or estimates all the time free of charge - but designs need to be paid for!
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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:11 pm

It's funny to read this thread again and looking at the dates!!! That was June.....I gave the people in question a few designs ages at the time. Last week they got back to me with a decision and the request 'if I could have it done for the opening at the end of October!!! (oh yeah, and they have not even painted the walls yet!!)
Lovely as the Irish weather is just great this time of year for outside work...... NOT :evil:
Anyway.... I won't complain cause I hope it might lead to more work.
Jill, your guide price per square ft is a good idea...I'll see how it translates to euro's and compare it with previous jobs..
I just know that I won't make big money on this job. I decided to go easy on them because it is a community project funded by fundraising+ lottery money... So this will be my contribution (and covering my costs)....
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Martin Pearson

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:11 pm

Steve, I don't think you can make that sort of comparison as a builder isn't going to spend possibly a couple of hours of his time drawing up some sort of design.
As for getting a design they could have done better themselves the chance of that happening has got to be virtually Nil. Every Signmaker should have a portfolio of their work and a quick look through that should tell the potential customer if your work is any good.

Having said that I don't charge a design fee as such either but then I don't tend to let customers take a copy away with them if I don't know them, having seen my work on vans I haven't done and having had people come in and ask if I could do a design they are carrying about cheaper than a certain price it makes me reluctant to let any designs leave the office without some sort of deposit for the job.
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Lynn Normington

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:11 pm

I am quite happy to sit and design with a customer, my time will be factored into the job as long as they don't want to much of my time, if it's a new customer and they say "yes I like that" when can I get it done then I ask for a deposit and give them a print out, if they say "I'll think about that can I have a print out" the answer is sorry printer is out of ink so many times I have seen my design drive passed and thought I did that :roll: but didn't, if it's a regular customer who want's a new image slight change I will happily give a print out so they can look at it talk to partners etc. or more often these days it's e-mails. just my out take


Lynn
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Steve Underhill

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:12 pm

I'm not wrong I just have a different opinion, so lets not start on that one.
:wink:

And its one that I know my customers wouldn't like.
Make them pay for something that they haven't seen yet?.
I wasn't talking about giving them the design to take away.
In my shop its always shown to them on a Monitor, so even if they like the design and try to replicate it they have to start over with another designer as it exists only in their head..
And its exactly the same as a roofer, if you don't like the job they do they don't get paid, until its right and all finished properly.
But its hardly the same is it, they don't come and design a roof they just put one on, there isn't many different ways to do that in this day and age of building regs.
In almost every trade the tradesman gets paid after the work is done, if you get deposits upfront for design work you haven't carried out yet fair play, I always ask for my deposits when they like the design and we have finished changing bits of it and its ready to go, just like all the other tradesmen I know.
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Phill Fenton

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:17 pm

Steve Underhill wrote:I'm not wrong I just have a different opinion, so lets not start on that one.
:wink:


Okay then - in my opinion you are wrong :wink:
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Graeme Harrold

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:19 pm

I dont think there is a right or wrong answer, every one must take each customer as a business risk and evaluate each on their individual merits. You can go to the extremes by insisting on deposits every time or take the risk that the customer will go else where.

As yet I have not taken a deposit for anything I have done, but I have come close. I send out low res proofs as a protected Pdf and try to take as many precautions that I dont make things too easy for another company i.e. embedding transparent logos on drawings

If it get that cut throat, keep records and get some form of "intellectual property" contract set up at the out set for your design.
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Phill Fenton

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:21 pm

What I'm talking about here is not wasting time doing designs that you may not get paid for.

An architect won't design an extension or a house without getting paid for it - why should we?
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Nicola McIntosh

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:23 pm

Phill wrote:What I'm talking about here is not wasting time doing designs that you may not get paid for.
An architect won't design an extension or a house without getting paid for it - why should we?


quite right phil....and they DO demand their money... :-?

nik
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Steve Underhill

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:26 pm

I agree, and I think that a major point has been missed here,
I wasn't talking about spending hours on a final proof and giving it away so they can take it to another shop without obtaining a deposit, I meant that I say ok I will draw something up and get back to you, sometimes its on paper sometimes in Corel etc but only ever shown to them and not handed over.

But my point was that CUSTOMERS don't like paying something they have not yet received, never mind what I think I should be getting paid, I wasn't talking about spending 2 hours + on a design they may not like.

But lets not forget the most important point of all........

Arguing on the internet is as pointless as booing at the special Olympics.
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Lynn Normington

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:39 pm

absolutely Steve vod and coke please while we sort the rest of the world out :wink:


Lynn
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Phill Fenton

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:40 pm

This isn't arguing Steve - this is discussion. I beleive we all learn from each other. I do take on board the points you have raised just as I hope you listen to my point of view. This way we all hopefully learn from each other and improve our businesses.

What have I learned today? Not to hang up on a potential customer. I should have been much more diplomatic and tried to explain my position better. Who knows - I might have won him over. As it is - I just alienated him - and I'm sure he won't be recommending me to anyone else :-?

But I still maintain I will not do any artwork free of charge to a customer that is unknown.
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Steve Underhill

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:41 pm

Maybe I wasnt clear, I agree that you should get a design fee of course time costs money, I was thinking of the general layout & colour/fonts type thing, that they come in and see and then ask to have bits changed etc until they like what you did.
and then you start to draw up a final design based on what they are happy with after they have paid a deposit, I didn't mean spend hours,
I'm talking like 10 or 20 minutes in the shop with them looking at the computer while you change things, If I was to ask for money before I showed them what I did in that 10 minutes I would expect them to be unhappy about paying beforehand.
Hope that makes sense.
Last edited by Steve Underhill on Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Harry Cleary

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:42 pm

Did somebody mention Vodka???? :lol1:
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Nicola McIntosh

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:43 pm

Phill wrote:But I still maintain I will not do any artwork free of charge to a customer that is unknown.


me neither...and i would also demand a vodka and coke like lynn does with her customers :lol1: :lol1:


nik
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Phill Fenton

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Post Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:44 pm

I'll have a Guiness then :D
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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:01 am

I still want to discuss it.
Steve, you said:
In this game

It's not a game...it's my way of life and I take it quite seriously.
In the beginning when I became computerized I would merrily print out a sketch for even a tire-kicker and then be upset when I saw my design on the sign they got elsewhere.
I no longer design in front of a client, client meaning someone who has given me a deposit after seeing my portfolio, my webby, and the hundreds of signs and vehicles I've lettered over the past 22 years.
I draw a few quick thumbnails on scratch paper, ascertain colors, shapes, size, get a feel for what they like, then I develop two ideas. They get to pick one, or a combination of the two. Anything beyond that draws an additional design fee.
I only let someone look over my shoulder at the tail end of the process, for color tweaking. I don't want them to see how I go about my job.
I will give price quotes for free all day long...not always instantaneously. Some things are very custom and require research on my part before quoting, then I call the person back.
This is not a tattoo shop, or a restaurant where a passerby gets to sample every dish on the menu for free.
When I do a job, the customer gets my years of knowledge and hopefully skill along with a sign or logo that will serve them well for many years.
If they are not willing to pay for that, and settle for less, they can go elsewhere.
:)
Love.....Jill
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Steve Underhill

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:08 am

Game is slang for trade in the UK Jill,
Just a heads up.

Again a missed point, I'm not talking about designs that have taken time, I'm on about asking for deposits before you show them ANYTHING, I wouldn't pay for it, and neither will anyone I know.
You could show them your portfolio, you could show them your years of experience, but if you then choose a colour scheme they hate then they will have a gripe about paying you to design something they didn't like.
Its irrelevant what we think we should charge or get paid for, Im thinking from a customers perspective here and If I was asked to pay design fee deposits before seeing the final design that was going on my sign I wouldnt be happy, thats like having a new car described to you over the phone, or seeing a hand sketched drawing of one, paying a deposit and having it delivered, without ever having test driven it.
Thats all I was saying, the customer is the one who gets the final say before the job starts, and its the customer who gets the final cheque in your hand.
Im not saying people shouldnt get paid for designing, crikey Its my job here as well dont forget, Im just saying that I know how people think and they dont like to pay upfront for something they havent seen.
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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:22 am

Maybe you should be a psychic then Steve.
:P
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John Childs

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:26 am

Steve Underhill wrote:But my point was that CUSTOMERS don't like paying something they have not yet received,

Very true Steve, and there is no-one worse than me in that respect. But sometimes I have to take a chance on a supplier to get what I want.


My position is different to most I guess, but in the main my customers are the leasing companies, rather than the end users. When they receive an enquiry they pass it on to me and I knock up a layout, together with a price, and send it back to them.

The leasing company may not get the deal, for one of any number of reasons totally unconnected with what we do, but the fact is that if they don't get the contract then we don't get the work. The result is that I can spend a large part of my day knocking out drawings and quotes for absolutely no payment whatsoever.


However, dealing with normal customers, in the main, I'm with Phill. I will often make a judgement call if it feels good, or if the potential justifies it but, generally, if they aren't prepared to show any commitment to the project, then neither am I.

It's never happened yet, so far it's always been on the freebies, but occasionaly I just cannot come up with a design that I am happy with and feel worthy of the name. If that happened with someone who'd paid a deposit then I would feel obliged to return their money.
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Steve Underhill

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:27 am

I'm talking from experience of dealing with people who tell me how they think.
not from guessing how they think.
In the past I have asked for upfront fees and over here its not something they like to do without seeing something they can relate to.
Im being read all wrong here I think, all Im saying is I show them the final design on a screen before asking for any cash, If I asked before this stage they wouldn't be very happy.
maybe its different in Cornwall but Im not paying a builder until after hes built my wall and its all good.
You don't pay a hairdresser upfront, or for a meal in a restaurant, it has to be satisfactory before you pay.
Cant see why it would be any different in the sign "game" :P
I agree with customers you don't know about not giving much away for sure, you can usually tell who's serious and who's window shopping though, Ive never been burnt yet touch wood.
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Mike Fear

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 8:26 am

I can see Steves point, but I don't think it always applies to signs - when you go to a builder to quote you for building a wall, you aren't asking them to design a completely new style of wall from scratch, which will take a lot of time - they come with a tape measure, and have a standard cost per square metre for doing brickwork.

With a sign, when someone comes along with no idea of what they want 'just something good' then you could potentially spend weeks getting a design they are happy with.

Personally I NEVER do designs on spec without payment up front - I explain to the customer that once the design fee is paid, they will get a proof, and then we can make any adjustments they want before producing the finished item.

It probably helps that most of the work I do is in a few specialist fields, so I tend to get word of mouth recommendations, and I don't really bother with general vans and the like where the customer is more likely to be a bit pikey, so customers already know that they aren't going to get some rubbish design.

The other thing I do with people with general enquiries and no real idea of what they want is tell them to go away and find a couple of font styles they like on Word or similar, and think about the sort of colours they want, then come back to me and I can do some quick mockups ( that maybe take 2 or 3 minutes a time ) and once that is sorted we can move on to them paying me and sorting out the final design. Doing this I dont think I've ever had someone not come back after seeing the initial mockups.

Lots of businesses will charge up front if the job they are doing is going to take them time - if you take your car to a garage to diagnose a fault, they will charge you an hours labour for looking at it. I don't know of many garages that will find the fault for free, then tell you what is wrong with the car and let you go off and get someone else to fix it.
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Phill Fenton

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:09 am

I am seeing more and more that new customers do expect me to produce a design for free before they commit to buying. I've even had people say to me "whoever does the best design at the best price will get the job".

In effect - if we all agree to this, it means two out of three of us (assuming the customer is only getting three quotations) will be working for nothing which is not good for the industry.

I would prefer it if everyone adopted the stance of "no deposit - no design". This doesn't mean we cannot quote for work. I do it by showing typical examples and explain what each would cost.

In some cases - I've been paid a deposit for a design, that has then been taken somewhere else to be done. Presumably by someone who copies layouts for free and charges at least £25 less than I do.
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David Glen

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:28 am

I think it goes with both sides of the argument.
Some customers set out to get designs and will then choose one and tout it around for the best deal.
Others will not even dream of doing that but will just go with who's design they prefer.
I side with Steve in that people don't want to pay for designs up front.
I don't recall ever charging up front and since so many enquiries are distant it is difficult to expect someone to pay for something from someone they have never met, and for something which at that stage doesn't exist.

So my system of quotes & design?

On initial contact You can tell a lot from a conversation. Like the roofing company mentioned, I can just imagine them being abrupt and to the point about wanting designs. No sensible and constructive discussion about the job, just unhelpful stuff like I just want name and tel no and a couple of other bits. Of course they will add stuff once you have quoted and if foolishly you give them a revised layout they will tout that around but quoting your original price for an undercut. Of course someone somewhere will reproduce it and undercut, quite often people new to the business who have low overheads and desperate for real jobs (please read that as written - not just new people to the business).

So, following a constructive and genuine sounding enquiry I produce artwork and quote. All artwork is blatantly copyrighted and dated.
This does work as I proved when I sued a firm for copyright infringement when they copied an a-board design. Yes, just for a poxy a-board!
He was an existing customer (did his fascia) but after quoting and designing a board, hey presto, I walk past there 2 weeks later and there's my design (on a cheapo board about £20 less than I quoted).
I photographed it and sent him a bill for artwork. Cut a long story short it cost him £25 for my bill and £30 Court fee. I did it as a tester for anything bigger which might occur in the future.

Another ploy is to go and see the customer with the design on a laptop.
I do this quite often having produced a design first, and then let the customer put in his two pennyworth and update the design right in front of them. They feel good because they think they've designed it but the upshot is that they will give a deposit for a job there and then, and as Steve says, they only have it in their heads - it's on your laptop.

I'm afraid that if I charged every customer for a design with a quote I would be out of business. Two recent large jobs have been gained because my designs were favoured against any others produced.
If they are pukka companies they will not mess with copyrighted stuff and are genuine in their search for a good job at a sensible price.

To summarise (yawn) I think with an attentive and professional approach at the initial design and quote stage, together with a design which is right on the nail, it is difficult to go wrong - as long as you sound out the customer right at the start.

Oh and watch out for emailed enquiries where it has been sent to all and sundry in the sign trade. The most companies I had in the "to" box was 17!
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Steve Underhill

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:36 am

Well I think that summed it up perfectly David.
If you are unsure of a customer, show them something they cannot take away, it doesn't take long and you can generally get a feel if they are genuinely in interested or just playing the field, this way you don't have to ask them for money to do this simple task but can then ask for a deposit so you can start on the final design.
If they need a hard copy to show to their business partners etc then do what David does, put a stringent copyright clause on it, this generally deters copying of designs by anyone with an ounce of sense.
Good posts and nice to see both sides of the argument.
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Mike Fear

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:50 am

I think we all know that some customers deserve to be fobbed off and gotten rid of asap though :D

Typical one I had was a bloke who wanted a complete custom design for his bike, when asked for some more rough idea what he was looking for, he said 'just something cool' - and from that I am supposed to work out what colours he wants, what he considers cool ( skulls ? naked women ? hot rod flames ? pictures of Des Lynam in his pants ? YOU ARE A PRAT in big letters on the side ? ) etc....

After a couple of emails back and forth and getting no further, I just quoted him £300 for 'a cool design' and he came back and said 'theres a guy on Ebay who will do it for me for £40' - so asked him for the sellers info as I'd get him to do all my work for that price.

Thankfully didnt hear back from the customer !
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Harry Cleary

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 10:03 am

I think it depends on how much you value design, my business is called 'blah de blah SIGNS 'AND' DESIGNS. The 'and' being extremely important. To my mind they are two seperate strands of what I do, as frequently my customer will follow through with printed matter(letterheads, cards etc)using the design. If they went to a graphic design firm what would happen? Why should we give this stuff out for free? It is as vital a component part of the job as the vinyl or ink you use so therefore has to be paid for, whether or not they get it put on a van or shop etc. And yes I will do speculative stuff depending on how busy I am. Show me the roofer who will put thirty or forty slates on so that you can see if you like the colour. Its all time and time is money.
Thats just my opinion.......that will be 30 quid, thank you very much....ching ching! :D
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Steve Underhill

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 10:19 am

Again the point has been missed, I must have typed it in white or something.
not once have I said spend ages on a design for free, or do a whole piece of artwork that takes ages and hand it to the customer.
All I said was Why should people pay for something they haven't seen, IE before you even knock up a rough sketch/design, your rough sketch or design doesn't warrant paying for no matter how many years you spent at art college, It will take 5 or 10 minutes if you are half way competent, your final design does however, this is the whole point that has been overlooked, I'm not saying give quality artwork away, I'm saying customers don't want to pay up front when they have no idea what you are going to produce.
However 10 minutes in front of a computer with a few basic designs & layouts & colour schemes should give them an idea, if you then put their company name etc into your templates you might or might not already have to show customers, they tend to get a better idea, its cost them nothing and its cost you 5 minutes of your time, and made a damn site more goodwill than asking for money as soon as they step in the shop
If I get totally vague requests like, anything that looks good, or whatever you think, I always sit them in front of the computer suggest a few things and then show them what I think, they like or don't like but its better than asking for money before you even start on anything.
Its not comparable to putting roof tiles on you would agree a colour and style before any cash exchanged hands, IE you choose the type & style from a brochure that has already been designed and has examples in it, the exact point I'm trying to make here with the design fee thing.
then on the final tile being laid and you being happy with the job, the roofer gets the balance if its not right he puts it right.
Thats how it works in every trade I have ever known.

The way I see it time costs nothing, If you spend 10 minutes with a customer designing something for him that turns into a job that is worth hundreds or thousands then that 10 minutes was well spent, if after that 10 minutes they go away and use somebody else, (albeit without your design as you dont hand it over) then just work 10 minutes later,
Like I said just what I have experienced and seen.
I have to say though I have never had anyone go anywhere else after I have showed them something, maybe Im just lucky.
Last edited by Steve Underhill on Thu Oct 18, 2007 10:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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David Glen

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 10:27 am

Mind your head Steve... :banghead:

Surely you a builder would show them some tiles the same as showing a vinyl swatch? Material choice can't be compared to design production.

Fitting tiles first would be compared to stickering a vehicle halfway then asking if they like it and want to proceed.

Most of my best and long term customers never got charged by me for initial layouts.
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Steve Underhill

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 10:38 am

My heads just come off I think David.
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John Childs

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 10:51 am

Steve Underhill wrote:My heads just come off I think.

Personally, I enjoy threads like this. Apart from learning how other signmakers deal with these sort of things, we get a nice lively discussion. Hopefully it is to the benefit of us all.

At the end of the day, we all have our own business models, and we will conduct our businesses in the way that we think best.
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Steve Underhill

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 10:53 am

Amen
:drink4:
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Phill Fenton

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 11:39 am

Excerpt from my website:-

"We firmly believe in the value of good design in all of our work. Good design helps to sell the product.
For this reason, we always produce preliminary designs when dealing with any serious enquiries. Anyone asking for a quote from us will be sent a detailed printout of the design proposed along with specifications as to sizes and materials to be used in the sign. All this with no obligation?
This policy we believe is the reason for the large percentage of initial enquiries that eventualy result in sales."


This is what I said on my website when it was first set up in 1999 (in fact the page is still there - I'll need to change it :-?)
http://www.therightsigns.co.uk/company/des.htm/

As you can see my opinion then was very similar to Steves now. So what has changed my opinion in the seven years since I first wrote this?

From my experience - too much wasted time that's what.

Good thread
:D
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Steve Underhill

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 11:46 am

Ive been a signwriter for 3 years but a designer for close on 12.
My view is still the same, If someone asked me to design a website I would ask for payment up front, If somebody asked me to design some business cards they pay when they like the design, It all comes down to time, and time wasted should be very very little if you are quick enough at what you do.

Time wasted = nothing in way of cost to yourself (unless its hours)
Customers wasted = potentially very costly

As I said above time really Isn't money its time, unless you spend hours messisng about with stuff.
unlike materials which cost money and require deposits
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Dave Bruce

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 11:56 am

Interesting discussion.
I seem to operate a different way, after initial discussion I price up the job including the design time to include some minor changes. The job price is given to the customer before any design is done, if they are happy paying my price ONLY then do I go ahead and work on the design. I produce a layout (or two) with copywrite and a note of a charge (£50) if they don't go ahead or go somewhere else with the design. This way I get paid for my design time and I know the customer is happy with the job price.

Most of my customers don't have a scooby about design so most of my designs are accepted without any changes, and others require minor changes to satisfy the customer. I have only had I customer in the three years of trading not go ahead with the work (and I did 7 different changes!!!) and he is now due a court letter for non payment of the £50. :)

Just my way of working, and so far it has worked for me.

Cheers
Dave
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Hugh Potter

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:10 pm

as it's been said, this is a very interesting discussion,
my two pence, fwiw, is similar to dave bruce.

initially i'll make a judgement on he customer when they call in / phone / email me,

in person, it's easy, simply do a sketch or two based on their ideas, or mine if they have none, then maybe do something on the laptop they can see, rarely do i take more than about 1/2hr for s consultation, only if i'm 90% certain the job is mine, will they walk away with any hard copy, and then it's only A5,

over the phone i can usually give a ball park figure for a sign, if they then come back, it almost always leads to a job, egardless of changes or if the price goes up from the original figure.

email is the same, i'll give a rough idea, if they supply some kind of artwork they simply get a quote based on that artwork.

if i go to the customer, even better as the work stays on the laptop !


only in rare cases will i quote on someone elses layout, ie if it's dated and is more than a few months old, but even then i'll make my own changes.

when i do a full quote, it will, depending on the job, include an artwork fee, if the job won't stand it i don't bother to include it, if it's a big job i'll usually put in an hourly charge, and if any changes are made after the quote is accepted, then it's allways charged for, although i will note that the original artwork was free.

i've rarely had a problem dealing in this way, i would feel awkward charging before the customer has seen any layout. every layout given to the customer is watermarked, and dated. the quotes smallprint also explains that all designs, layouts, colour schemes etc are my copyright, and in the case of any infringements, costs shall be persued.


Hugh
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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:22 pm

A deposit is like earnest money. It implies that the client has faith in me and my ability to provide them with a good logo or sign.
Of course they have input on colors and style. I said that earlier, but it must have been typed in white as well.
I have never had anyone who complained about a deposit, maybe things are different here.
And like I said earlier, it means that they are serious.
Why work for free?
Why waste two hours with someone deciding about MAILBOX lettering (I did once!)
The deposit also goes towards the materials which will be used for their sign...paint, vinyl, substrates etc. I get a deposit on EVERY job, no exceptions, even for old clients, unless it's a $25 coro sign and of course they get very little input on what goes on it unless they are willing to pay me for my time.
If they would complain about a design fee I would say "It's company policy" and I think that would suffice. Every sketch I do give out has a watermark on it with my company name, and they sign a contract saying that all artwork is property of my company until purchased from me.
If after paying $250 for a logo design with 1 hour of revision time and if they still did not like it, they would get the design on a CD in several formats to shop around or stuff up their hoo-hah, but at least I was paid for my time and my ideas, and the use of my equipment.
I am also not above charging someone to re-work the design they bring to me that they or their Mrs. whipped up in Word.
I even charge extra for that, or for rebuilding shoddy artwork scanned in from an old business card.
To each his own I guess, but I still would never just give my work away.
Love....Jill
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David Glen

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:25 pm

I get your way of working Dave but looking back on my jobs could see soooo many times when it would have been awkward.

Ever heard of FREE FITTING on tyres & exhausts?

Of course, everyone has.

Ever heard the saying "there's no such thing as a free lunch"?

I guess most have.

Well believe me, nothing in life is free.

ALL my design time gets charged because it is costed in to each job.
Those jobs which don't come to fruition get covered by those that do.

Same as the MO for Kwik Fit etc. They don't charge a dime for ramping up your car to check the exhaust as they know that at the end of the day the money they make on the jobs done will cover the small outlay in time for looking at non-jobs.
It's the customers that actually think that they are getting something free.
0% interest free credit, free fitting, we pay the VAT offers and even as shown here recently on a new plotter offer - free vinyl, tools and accessories.
Well of course, none of it is free at all. But customers always like to think they've got something for nothing hence they get drawn by that magic word "free".

Now more importantly, as Steve says, designs shouldn't take more than 10 -15 mins to knock out.
However, what about a detailed quote for a fascia with stand-off letters for instance plus a stand-off and an overhead light?
That takes more time to quote than to draft a design which actually might be quite simple for the same job.
Does anyone charge for producing quotes?
I can't imagine so and yet I reckon far more time is lost doing unproductive quotes than designs.
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Steve Underhill

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:26 pm

But that's just the point, nowhere was giving work away suggested, show them on a monitor that's what i do.
That way they cant take it away and have to describe it from memory if they don't use you.
Surely you don't charge somebody just for 10 minutes work while they stand in the shop?
If I did that here Id get laughed at right before the customer went to the guy in the next town.

ALL my design time gets charged because it is costed in to each job.
Those jobs which don't come to fruition get covered by those that do


Exactly! that's also a point I was making, you get your design fee by way of inclusion in the final price, just put it on the job.
Or even put 50 quid on the job and a note saying design fee FOC, that way like David says it makes the customer happy you haven't charged him a design fee and is more than happy with the final bill.
Totally agree with the whole post above RE the quick fit/quote time thing also, good stuff.
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Tim Painter

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:46 pm

Basically we all hate time wasters or people who don't have the common decency to be straight with us.

Print trade is even worse than the sign trade for free artwork, the number of times I've done work on say a business card only to have it used in adverts, signage etc etc. People just don't want to pay £25 - 35 on top of a £50 business card job.

Many clients have ideas that they want to go ahead with down the line but need an idea of cost for budgeting. I have no problem with a speculative quote, I'm cool with this as long as they say so at the outset.

If I get an enquiry via email I always ask for contact details and on many occasions I will make a call to sound out the client as it's impossible via email. On some occasions even after asking, people won't give more contact details so I simply do give them any pricing.

Have read all these posts and we all have different stand points. As long as we feel the way we work is OK for us and doesn't threaten our business then that's fine. All I will say is time is precious to us all & skills don't happen in 5 minutes. In general I feel practical skills are undervalued by some in the UK. We have all had the 'It will only take you 5 minutes to pop up there and do that' clients.

Stick to your guns and don't undervalue your time or skills!

Tim.
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David Glen

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 1:58 pm

Tim Painter wrote:
If I get an enquiry via email I always ask for contact details and on many occasions I will make a call to sound out the client as it's impossible via email. On some occasions even after asking, people won't give more contact details so I simply do give them any pricing.

Good point and something I always do. Also, if their email is addressed to their own domain, then more solid the business. Any Hotmail address asking for a quote with no contact details gets short shrift.


All I will say is time is precious to us all & skills don't happen in 5 minutes. In general I feel practical skills are undervalued by some in the UK. We have all had the 'It will only take you 5 minutes to pop up there and do that' clients.

Stick to your guns and don't undervalue your time or skills!

Now there flags up a problem. Everyone has computers and software which can knock up a layout (customers that is). Be it in Word, Corel or freebie graphics packages, the customer thinks it does just take 5 minutes to produce a design so why should he pay?
Well he's getting design and layout knowledge which generally and mostly customers don't have.
Compare some of the layouts by new sign makers to those done by others with more experience and the difference is plain to see. That difference is what requires value being placed on it.
It's also that difference which gains orders.


Tim.
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Steve Underhill

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:11 pm

Little off topic but Incidentally our solicitor
(who wont be getting any more business due to other reasons)
has a freeserve email address, but his own domain??
Looks totally unprofessional I think, I have about 20 domain names with both .com and .co.uk registered where possible.
As mentioned above I wouldn't send work to a business with a hotmail address unless I knew them as the inclusion of a hotmail address just looks terrible in my book.
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DavidRogers

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:01 pm

For what it's worth - I don't charge / ask for deposits on design work. If a deposit is a sign of good faith - so is me not asking for one! I have faith in the customer staying with ME.

For all the thousands of designs I must have done over the last, oh, 12 years - I've maybe had them 'nicked' a half dozen times at most and had customers 'take the pi$$' with endless "nah, not what I'm after" no more than 3 or 4 times. Pretty much - if they come in the door - the job is mine. If I'm quoting for bigger stuff & know I'm up against other companies - life's a lottery - you win some - you lose some. But requesting cash beforehand takes you straight out of the running if nobody else does!
I'm not the cheapest, I'm probably not the best...but I'll give them service...and part of that is not charging up front for anything except 'specially bought in products' or somebody you just get a bad vibe about!

As far a 'lost time' - I don't see it as such. Just about anything can be rejigged / rehashed to suit your next client in minutes. I've got a handy catalogue of unused / secondary designs from when I proposed 2/3 designs. If I'm stuck for ideas...load up one of them.

As said - it's what works for me...

ps. I've probably worded bits of this really wrong and not exactly how I'd like.
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Alan Drury

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:02 pm

Interesting thread, virtually all my work is repeat or recommendation so I normally do not ask for a design fee upfront and especially as a quick design to get the feel of a job normally only takes a few minutes. Sometimes it's worth just taking a punt on a customer a few free minutes can lead to many years of repeat and profitable business and although I sympathise with you Phil and nobody wants to do alot of unpaid work you won't get paid for any vans he may of had or signs or stationery or garments if you do that work neither is he likely to pass on your name. We all work in different ways and fair enough - 33 years on and I'm still here.
Alan D
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Jon Marshall

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Post Thu Oct 18, 2007 6:25 pm

Steve Underhill wrote:Little off topic but Incidentally our solicitor
(who wont be getting any more business due to other reasons)
has a freeserve email address, but his own domain??
Looks totally unprofessional I think, I have about 20 domain names with both .com and .co.uk registered where possible.
As mentioned above I wouldn't send work to a business with a hotmail address unless I knew them as the inclusion of a hotmail address just looks terrible in my book.


Totally agree. It takes minutes to set up a domain and mail forwarding and costs a few quid nowadays.

Been dealing with a company recently via a hotmail address and they messed up an expensive order. Probably because they only looked at one of the attachments we'd sent with the drawings on.
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Martin Pearson

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Post Fri Oct 19, 2007 12:06 am

Dave, Nice to know I'm not the only one that does that!!!
When I first started I would draw up 2 or 3 different designs for customer to look at and once he had picked the one he wanted (normally the cheapest) I use to delete the others, make any changes and set up the job to cut.
After I while I realised just how stupid I was and started to move the designs that weren't chosen to a separate folder so now I always have something I can use which doesn't take long to create or change.

I have a folder with examples of different types of job, One Colour, Two colour, printed etc so I can initially give the customer some idea of the different costs which I find helps quite a bit as well.

Steve, have to agree with your comments about email addresses but a lot of it is down to ignorance from what I have seen. I have spoke to a lot of people who thought you had to have an expensive website in order to have your own domain email address. Once I have explained to them that they don't need to have a website at all and they can buy a domain name for a couple of quid and use email forwarding most of them go out and do it straight away, some have gone ahead and put up a cheap website almost straight away and some said they would use the email address and get a website done at a latter date.
I must be a bit like you as I have about 30 domain names registered at the moment :lol1:

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