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Logo and Web Design for Small Businesses

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Branding options for every budget

It takes consumers 10 seconds to form a first impression of a brand’s logo.

Visual appeal can be assessed within about 50 milliseconds.

Nearly half of consumers feel a website’s design is the number factor in determining a business’s credibility.

Meaning: if you want your business to be trustworthy, and to make a solid first impression—your branding matters.

That being said, if you’re just getting off the ground, you probably don’t have a bottomless budget to pour into your logo and web design. So we’ve outlined a few accessible ways to make sure your business is well-branded, without breaking the bank.

Defining your brand assets:

Logos are the faces of brands, and we gravitate towards familiar faces. Anywhere people can find your business, they should see your logo.

But they shouldn’t only see your logo. They should see your brand as a whole. Because if your logo is black, white, minimalist, sophisticated—but your ads, and your business’s interior, and your merchandise, are bright, flashy, bold and complicated—you’re going to prompt some confusion.

Having your brand assets defined and consistent from the get-go is a good idea.

Most designers should be able to put together a series of brand elements, and a style guide for you—after they understand your business, your market, and your goals.

At a minimum, your style guide should define:

  • Your logo, and logo usage (size, placement, etc.)
  • Your color scheme
  • Typeface and usage (weight, header text vs paragraph text, etc.)
  • Icons or other lightweight visual elements
  • Photography styles

When it comes to aligning your company to the right branding—there are a few different routes you can take, all at different price points. You can hire a freelance designer or agency for a full branding project. You can use a freelancer from online platform to handle small design task. Or you can use a logo generator or try and DIY your assets.

We’ll break down the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Hiring a designer or agency for a full branding package:

Where to look: Through your referral network, Yelp, on slack channels where experts hangout, local creative agencies, or over LinkedIn and other networking sites.

Advantages: The advantages of hiring an expert are pretty intuitive. They need less direction, so they take up less of your time. You can pick someone with a portfolio that you like, and collaboratively discuss the direction you want. They should produce high quality work, and that should be highly advantageous for your business.

Disadvantages: The advantages of hiring an expert are also pretty intuitive. Experts are not as cheap as novices, or a DIY solution. And they tend to juggle multiple demanding projects at once—so they might have a slower turnaround time. Finding the right freelancer or agency might also take a bit of energy. Unless you have someone to lend you a referral, it might take a bit of time to look around, ask around, make calls, or take a meeting.

The cost: There’s a lot of variability in what different contractors and agency will charge you for a design. Elite branding and marketing strategy firms will charge up to $10,000-$50,000 to define your assets and give strategic business guidance. Smaller contractors and agency will often be far more reasonable—putting together packages for $2,500-$10,000. And some freelancers will bill at an hourly rate, with experts usually clocking in between $50-$150 an hour.

Pro-tip: If you want to hire someone who “gets” branding, but budget is a concern, look at local universities. Students are often looking to expand their portfolios, and may be able to do professional quality work at a cheaper rate.

Using an online or crowdsourcing platform to hire a freelancer on a budget.

Examples: Fiverr, Dribbble, and Upwork to hire budget freelancers for quick work. 99designs, DesignCrowd, and DesignHill to crowdsource your work to a pool of designers—choosing and paying for the best result.

Advantages: Hiring a freelancer from an online platform is small business branding “middle ground.” You won’t spend as much time on the design as you would if you were to take it on yourself. And you won’t spend as much money as you would if you were to outsource to a professional designer or design consultancy.

Online marketplaces give you a wide array of design choices and styles to survey easily. They also cut out a lot of “back-and-forth” that happens when you hire an individual a more traditional way. You can often set deadlines or pay a rush charge if you need the project turned around fast.

Disadvantages: Online platforms offer competitive pricing, but provide work of varying quality. You’ll want to really dig through a designers portfolio before you hire, or give very specific parameters for your crowdsourced design competition. Some budget designers also tend to reuse templates that have worked for them in the past—so if you want something very custom or distinctive, you might want to pay a little more.

The cost: Freelancers on sites like Fiverr and Upwork charge anywhere from $10 to $200 dollars per hour. Packages usually range from $50 to a couple hundred dollars. On crowdsource sites, prices also vary. DesignCrowd designs cost as little as $109, on 99designs you’ll get a package of four logo packages from $399 to $1699.

Pro-tip: Make sure your designer provides you with “raw,” editable image files—not just fixed .pngs or .jpgs. That way, if you want to edit your designs in the future, you’re easily able to make tweaks.

DIY-ing or using a generator to produce your own logo and brand assets.

Guy moving pieces into place on a logo for logo and web design for small businesses

Examples: For complete “from scratch” logo design, online tools like Canva or more sophisticated tools like Adobe Creative Cloud Suite are solid bets. For templates you can manipulate, try sites like the Creative Market, GraphicBurger, or GraphicRiver. For AI powered generators: Logopony, Designhill, and Looka lead the market.

Advantages: This is the absolutely lowest cost way to get brand assets for your company. If you’re bootstrapped, or very low on funding, this might be the most practical option for you. Some of your AI-powered logo generator options are totally free—but they won’t produce anything unique, and you’ll have limited control over design tweaks. That being said, if you have some design prowess–creating your own brand assets is a clear way to ensure the “vision” you have for your brand is fully realized.

Disadvantages: If you don’t have a design background, producing a logo without the help of an expert might take you a lot of time. The final result might be something that fails to distinguish you from your competitors, or hurts your business’s credibility. That being said, if you want a clear, simple, text-based logo—and a very simple, 2-3 tone color pallet, you might be able to build something that hits the mark. You can always solicit opinions from professionals after you have an initial mockup.

Cost: AI fueled logo generators range from free – $75. Paying for a template and manipulating it on your own usually comes out to between $20-$50. Adobe Creative Suite can be paid for monthly at around $50. Canva is a free online tool.

Building your website:

Website and mobile site for JP Plant Delivery as part of logo and web design for small businesses

So your website is important. But just how important, and how much of a priority it is for your business, depends on what you sell, and what your presence will be online.

A few questions to ask yourself:

  • How will your website be used? Are you planning to have a super robust website where people can run virtual tours, or buy products, or view demos? Or do you just need to make sure your location, your hours, and a menu are viewable?
  • Do you need any special features? How much of what you envision for your website “looks like your standard website” and how much of it does something to solve a specific need for your brand?
  • Can people buy from you online? Are you planning to open an online store—either as your primary business, or as a supplement to your brick-and-mortar location?
  • Are you planning to advertise your business online? Will you be driving traffic to your website? Is digital advertising a part of your greater marketing strategy?
  • How web savvy are you? Will you be able to handle the “little logistics” of hosting and web management on your own?
  • Will you need to change your website often? Do you anticipate your website needing to be updated frequently, or will it be mostly static?

If you just need a website as a touchstone for potential in-person customers, or to ensure new customers can confirm your validity—you probably can get away with a lower-budget, lower-effort option. If your website will be the backbone of your marketing strategy, require customization to meet your goals, or serve as a portal for generating revenue, it may be worth your while to make a bigger investment.

Hiring a designer/developer to build a custom site.

What to look for: Keep an eye out for agencies and contractors who have worked with small businesses in the past—they’ll understand what’s truly essential to have, and what’s a “nice feature.” If you’re hoping to retain the capacity to edit small bits of parts on your own (basic text, adding simple pages, managing the blog)—you might want someone to build your website in a system you can edit without coding knowledge. WordPress (.org, not .com) and Craft are popular options for WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors.  

Advantages: When you have someone build your website from scratch, you’re open to a whole world of customization options. How your website appears and functions is up to you. How your data loads and is stored on the backend is under your control. You can easily ensure your site is robust enough to meet your user’s needs and expectations—and that it’s both technically and visually appealing enough to rank on search engines, or fuel your digital marketing efforts.

Disadvantages: As with branding, anything custom takes time and money. Additionally, when you custom-build your website, you pay for hosting and take responsibility for site security.

Cost: Depending on how much you want your site to do, and how delux of a web design firm you work with—your costs can vary pretty considerably. Some agencies start web builds at $2,000+. More elite designers, handling a website with more robust demands, can charge prices as high as $50,000.

Hiring a designer/developer customize a template, or add plugins:  

Examples: Shopify/Bigcommerce/Weebly (for Ecommerce), WordPress.org, WIX, Squarespace.

Advantages: If having a website that looks great and runs smoothly is a high priority for you, but you don’t need your site to be overly complicated, starting with a free (or cheap) template might be a good call. Most build-it-yourself sites offer a template store—with each template offering you a certain amount elements to work with. You can hire a web developer to set one of these up for you, custom code new plugins, or build new elements into the theme. This should allow you a decent mix of customization and versatility on a budget.

Disadvantages: If you have a lot about a template you want to change, getting a designer to make those changes might add up to about the same cost of a custom site. If having your branding really stand out is important to you—you might end up with a templated-site, that looks and feels clearly like a templated-site.

Cost: Templates themselves can be anywhere from free to a few hundred bucks for a business license. The cost of hiring a web developer also varies, but similar to designers, generally falls in the $50-$150 range.

Design your own website from a builder:  

A guy moving images into place for a website builder as part of logo and web design for small businesses

Examples: Shopify/Bigcommerce/Weebly (for Ecommerce), WordPress.org, WordPress.com, WIX, Squarespace.

Advantages: Site builders are becoming increasingly more intuitive—so building a professional-looking website on your own is possible. You’ll have to buy a domain, and likely pay to host your site—but aside from that, plenty of platforms and templates are totally free. If you’re website is less to actively promote your business, and more to claim a bit of internet real-estate, this might be a good call.

Disadvantages: Even the simplest, most intuitive site builder will take time, energy, and patience to manipulate. If you want your site to stand out against your competitors, DIY-ing it probably doesn’t do you many favors. And if you want your site to do more than host text and images—you’ll likely hit some limitations with what you can do on your own.

Advantages: If having a website that looks great and runs smoothly is a high priority for you, but you don’t need your site to be overly complicated, starting with a free (or cheap) template might be a good call. Most build-it-yourself sites offer a template store—with each template offering you a certain amount elements to work with. You can hire a web developer to set one of these up for you, custom code new plugins, or build new elements into the theme. This should allow you a decent mix of customization and versatility on a budget.

Costs: Building a website without a custom domain or hosting can be completely free (ie. A WordPress.com site). If you want to choose a custom domain, you’ll pay $3-$30 dollars for that license, and ~$100 a year for hosting.

Summing it up: logo and web design for small businesses

No matter how you look at it, what you invest in your brand is a huge part of what you’ll invest in your business. Just like with any other investment, the time and money you put into it should translate to growth, ease, and revenue. And how much you invest, should depend on the ease, growth potential, and revenue you expect your website to generate.