Today I’ve received an email that made me think about this subject. Somebody asked me to confirm that a design agency that I’ve never heard of before, has done the design you see on Blogsessive. Obviously, I replied and told him that Blogsessive is a custom design done by yours truly, and any agency (with one exception) that would proud themselves with Blogsessive’s theme would be a fraud.

After hearing the price for which that agency was going to create something similar, the following thoughts started taking shape:

  • Why would you proud yourself with the work of someone else?
  • Why think these things would not surface?
  • Why roll out a low-ball quote for something that’s worth much more, or that you cannot deliver, but still state you can.

Before getting a custom design for you blog, here are some things you should consider.

Do you really need it?

You know my view on this one. I personally like having a unique looking blog, but than again, I’m a happy case. I can do my own designs.

Those who cannot have to relay on the skills of people like me and many others. In this case, there are some things you should base your decision on:

  1. Can your budget afford a custom design?
  2. Will this design generate profit? (Profit can be either traffic, awareness, money…)

If your answer is ‘yes’ to both questions, than you should go ahead with the design. If you answer with ‘yes’ to the first question only, then it’s only a matter of personal choice and willingness to invest in a hobby. The choice is obviously yours.

Looking for quotes

If you’ve decided to go ahead with the design, make sure you write down all the things you need. Otherwise, the quotes you’ll receive won’t reflect the reality.

Ask around for quotes on site like Elance, Get a Freelancer or Rent a Coder or simply contact the owners of the blog’s that you like and ask them to recommend you their designer.

Choosing the designer/agency

You’ll probably receive quite a bunch of quotes. Some will be very low, some will be too high. The ones that are too high will be pretty easy to identify, but the lower ones can be pretty attractive, considering the restrictive budgets these days.

The best advice I can give you is: Don’t be fooled!

From my whole experience I can guarantee you that there’s no such thing as a bargain when it comes to a job well done.

We all know that – for example – Darren Rowse’s blog, is an excellent design incorporating so many custom areas, like the Job Board, custom archives, best of zone and so on.

If Darren’s blog is such a hit, then you’d probably want something similar in terms of structure and accessibility (bare in mind the design is not everything and Darren is a great blogger, theme aside). Would you expect to get such a well done job for $300, or $400, or $500? Ask a real pro and the answer will be ‘no’. But then again, there are those people quoting these amounts, claiming they can get the job done.

The good: It fits your current budget.
The bad: Lack of professionalism in communication. Delays in delivery. Lack of attention to details. Bugs, and the list can go on and on.

Some of you would probably say I’m wrong, but consider this. A really well done premium theme sells for $49 to $99. Multiply this with the total sales and see the real price of that really well done design.

Fitting the project into your budget

Forget the bargain, start the negotiation. At this point you probably don’t even need all the features that Darren (, or Brian (, or I have on our blogs.

Does your traffic and exposure justify a job board? Do you really need so many custom page templates?

Instead of trying to fit everything into a tight budget and probably getting low-quality works, why not fit the custom concept along with the most important features into it. Negotiate.

Let’s say your budget is indeed $500, but a good agency will ask you for $800. Instead of picking the lowest quote, rather extend the deadline. Taking pressure off the agency could result in a lower quote.
Cut down on the features. Will also reduce costs.

I assure you that you blog will grow naturally even without that job board, and when the time is right and the blogging income will allow it, add that too. Take it step by step and don’t cut on the overall quality.

Rather put a smaller budget at work to get real results and build on that, than throwing your money out the window on something that will require constant fixing and attention and in the end, a whole lot of extra money to get done.

This is not the view of a designer. This is what I’ve concluded based on previous experiences, folks coming to me to fix work they previously had done as bargains. It’s not worth it.