Why a Free Logo will Cost You

Last week, a Small Business Trends article talked about 33 free (or nearly free) design services you can use to generate a logo for your business.

The article argued that custom logo design is just too expensive for many cash-strapped businesses just starting out and offered up some much cheaper alternatives.

Although some of the recommended paid services had some promise, the free services offered a do-it-yourself approach that would leave business owners with less-than-desirable

I’m all for finding ways for small businesses to save money, but this isn’t one of them. By skimping on the branding at the beginning, you will pay desperately for it later.

In a lot of ways, I compare this to doing your own taxes or filing your own legal documents. Yes, you can do it yourself and save a lot of money, but oftentimes, it will come back to bite you later. I’ve learned this the hard way.

What message are you sending?

Your brand represents the personality your business. If your logo looks unprofessional, you may be sending the wrong message to clients and prospects.

People like to do business with those they know, like and trust. With an amateur logo, it makes it that much harder for people to have confidence in your business, and ultimately, less likely to buy from you.

Any money you save in graphic design will cost you in credibility.

If you think I’m being harsh, consider which businesses you choose to spend money with. I’m willing to bet that you are more likely to choose the business with a polished logo and professional website.

Bottom line – image matters.

Cost-effective alternatives

Hiring a graphic designer or marketing firm is always the best option for businesses that want to develop a memorable brand. That said, I’m not suggesting you need to spend $10,000 to get a decent logo.

Thankfully, there are some creative alternatives to help you get some professional help without breaking the bank. Here are some ideas:

  • Trade services. Find a graphic designer who might be willing to trade services. If you’re an accountant, maybe you could file your designer’s taxes for free in exchange for your logo design. There are websites dedicated to facilitating this type of arrangement. Barter Quest and U-Exchange are just a couple that you can check out.
  • Use a freelancer. Oftentimes, a freelance graphic designer will be less expensive than hiring a full-fledged design agency. There are a number of sites, such as Elance or Freelance Switch, that allow you to search for freelancers. Elance even gives you the ability to post a “job” and get proposals from freelancers who might be interested. You can choose the one that best fits your style and budget.
  • Get help from a college design class. College graphic design classes often look for real client projects for students to work on. Contact a local college or design school to see if this is a possibility. Going this route would give you a number of logo options to choose from and would allow you to even get the work done for free.
  • Ask your social networks. When I’m looking for a service or an answer to a question, I often turn to Twitter or Facebook for help. Ask your contacts on social networks and oftentimes people will be happy to point you in the right direction.

  • Work with a print shop. Some print shops have graphic designers on staff who can help you with your logo. Oftentimes, their graphic design services are discounted if you have your business cards and other materials printed there.

And before you write off hiring a firm, call around to see if there are any that offer services in your price range. Some firms offer special packages for start-ups and small business. You don’t know until you ask.

Don’t settle for a second-rate logo just because you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on a corporate branding package.

You can get quality design without spending a fortune. You just have to know where to look.

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P.S. We offer logo design and branding services for clients with a variety of budgets. And, if we don’t fit into your budget, we’ll be happy to help point you to someone who might be able to help. Contact us to start the conversation.

Image credit: Daniel Borman

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Laura Click

Laura Click is brand strategist, speaker, podcaster and the founder of Blue Kite. Learn more about Laura and her work at Blue Kite.

12 replies on “Why a Free Logo will Cost You”

Lots and lots of people forget about the barter arrangement. We did a lot of that early on, went away from it, and have gone back to it. We get great services for doing what we do best. I’m a fan of this tip!

Thanks for the comment, Gini. You’re right – bartering is really a great thing for a lot of businesses that are just starting out. It’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind.

G stole my comment. But I will also suggest head to the interwebs. I put out a request for a logo and got a response that was pretty good. Lots of time there are budding designers trying to build a portfolio who will give it to ya for nothing…


Thanks for your blunt and honest post! I couldn’t agree more, and love the idea of trade.

We have created brands for clients in exchange for a small percentage of their company, which has been very helpful for start-ups. A brand should be an investment and we try and work with our clients on many levels to ensure they invest well.

We also offer payment plans, as budgets are tight and sometimes breaking down payments over a year can really help a client get what they deserve. Keep up the great posts!

Thanks for weighing in, Courtenay! Both of your suggestions are good ones. Many designers and marketing companies are willing to work with businesses if they really have an interest in developing something professional. I think we all want to see companies succeed and a polished, solid brand will really help with that!

I must agree to you, you are absolutely right. I think you have mentioned some fabulous points above. I have to admit your great effort, I really enjoyed that glorious article. Amazing post!

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