Should You Run Holiday Sales as a Designer?

It’s that time of year again when nearly every business is offering holiday sales and specials as consumer activity increases by leaps and bounds. You may even know of fellow freelancers who offer discounts for the holidays, but is this something that you should do as a freelance designer? Do holiday sales hurt or help graphic design freelancers?

The first thing to realize is that in the reality of pricing design services, there’s no exact formula. And secondly, in order to answer the above questions and ultimately decide whether or not to extend discounts is that every freelancer is different. You have different goals than the freelancer just down the street from you. And not just because you are a graphic or web designer. Discounts may work for the web designer across town but not for you – it all depends on your unique situation.

With this caveat in mind, let’s go through a series of steps, a guideline of sorts, to help you figure out if you should offer holiday sales as a designer. Once you go through each of the steps below, you should have a really good idea of not only if you should provide deals but also what kind of deals are right for you and your client base.

What are Your Upcoming Goals?

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Keeping your list of goals updated and handy is a great way ensure progress as a freelance designer. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and lose sight of where you want to be down the road. Goals keep you on track for the long term.

But short term goals are also equally as important. In fact, you often have to break long term goals down into smaller goals that lead the way. As a freelancer, you probably know all too well that breaking a big project into a series of smaller tasks makes it seem much less daunting. The same is true of goals.

The holidays are a great time to re-evaluate your goals. You may be able to take advantage of the season just like other businesses and create small goals that help you reach your ultimate goals. For instance, let’s say one of your goals is to exceed your new client list from last year. If you see you are behind on this goal, offering discounts is a great way to speed up this process. But this point then brings us to the next step. After all, are holiday sales really the right way for you to meet this or other goals?

The Purpose of Holiday Sales

Another excellent point to consider is the reason that businesses offer holiday discounts. Knowing why is another vital step in learning if offering holiday deals is right for you. If your goals align with any of the following reasons for running sales, then you can move on to the next step of this guideline. Businesses usually offer holiday deals because…

  1. of competition: competitors are doing it, so offering discounts is a way to remain competitive.
  2. sales goals have not yet been reached: “Research shows that 20-40% of annual sales for businesses occur in the fourth quarter,” according to a Constant Contact article on holiday sales.
  3. it helps bring in new customers: saving money is especially important during a season of such high volume spending – a discount could be what entices consumers away from a loved brand to a cheaper one.
  4. upselling potential: if you can get consumers in the door with a discount, you may be able upsell far more due to the impression that they are saving so much in the first place.
  5. it’s a way to thank current customers: some businesses offer discounts to customers to ensure continued loyalty and avoid the above mentioned brand switching that can occur over holidays.

These are probably the most common reasons for offering deals over the winter holidays, and more than likely would be the only reasons web and graphic designers may want to do so. If any of these reasons don’t line up with your goals, then discounts will probably hurt you more than help you – or at least hold you back from making enough money for your own holiday spending.

Reasons NOT to Offer Holiday Discounts

Let’s say that one of the above purposes for offering a deal seems to line up with your goals for this season. Should you immediately jump right in? Nope. There are some really good reasons for NOT providing holiday discounts, even if they seem to make sense. Here are a few:

  1. Your work load is so full that you have clients lined up for months in advance – you don’t want to gain more clients when you are having trouble keeping up with the ones you already have.
  2. Your prices are already on the low end of the industry – a discount would make your time too cheap.
  3. Clients perceive you as a high-end designer – offering a discount could make you look too cheap and hurt your reputation and, ultimately, the ability to charge higher prices. This can really hurt your reputation, and when handling pricing objections, you never want to seem desperate.
  4. Your only reason for a discount is a small upsell – only low risk upsells are worth a discount (for instance, if you only have one upsell, it makes it worth all the other discounts without upsells).
  5. A client asks you for a holiday discount when you didn’t offer one first – again, you may seem cheap and they will probably continue to ask for lower prices in any future projects.

Make sure your reasons are right and don’t fall under one of the caveats above. And even then don’t jump right into starting a holiday promotion. First, make sure you do it right by following one of the tips in the next section.

The Right Ways to Offer Holiday Discounts

If you have all the right reasons for providing deals this holiday but go about it in the wrong way, then you may not have a very happy season this year. Make sure that you set it up right and also offer the best type of discount for your services and clients. Here are a few tips:

Referral Discounts

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Contact your current client list and let them know they get rewarded for a referral during the holiday. Make sure to set a time limit to give clients incentive (such as Nov 1 – Jan 1). You will also need to specify in detail what they get. You can provide a freebie, such as a gift card. Or you can let them choose from a service, such as the choice between a 15% discount on their next project with you or a new business card design for half off (just be sure to be specific what the new design would and would not include).

Discounts for Specific Work

Do you have a type of design you can do really well and really fast? For instance, let’s say you can create a certain style of illustration based on a description so fast that it doesn’t even seem like work to you. Offer a discount for this for a limited time during the holidays. You could even offer a discount on a bundle of services, but this has its pros and cons. Again, just be very specific about the size, type, number of revisions, and any other important details that a client may try to coerce from you.

New Project/ Client Deals

If one of your main goals for offering holiday specials is to gain more work or new clients, then the best type of discount for you may be one you extend for new projects started by old clients or simply one you extend to brand new clients. For discounts given to old clients, just be sure you are clear that it has to be a completely new project, not additions to a quote you are already completing. For new clients, specify that the discount is for an initial quote. Extra add-ons later in the project won’t qualify.

Clever Marketing Campaigns

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To get the word out about your holiday specials, make sure your campaign looks and sounds, well, awesome. You’re a creative, so get creative! And clever wording never hurt anyone. The idea is to make it sound appealing enough for them to check out and also cool enough to show off your talents as a designer. You want viewers to think, “Wow, this designer is really good!” not “Wow, this designer is really desperate!” And don’t forget to set a limited time for fast action on their part.

You Decide

Remember, you know your clients, goals, abilities, and business. So be sure to take it all into consideration before launching a holiday campaign. Use the guidelines above and listen to your gut. Definitely don’t offer holiday specials just because “everyone else is doing it.” And especially don’t do it just to appear festive – that’s what dancing Santa Claus gifs are for.

If you do decide that offering discounts and deals for your design clients is beneficial, then do it right and with style. Email it directly to clients or advertise it on your social media accounts and website, whichever is appropriate. Then follow through with the work you acquire until the next holiday rolls around and it’s again time to consider offering holiday specials to keep work flowing.

What about you? Have you ever offered discounts as a freelance web or graphic designer? Tell us about your experience below!

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