A word of advice to cash-strapped business owners and startups from a professional branding agency: a logo will not make or break your business! There are many other important factors involved in building a successful business you should focus on first, including a quality business model, a solid marketing strategy, and grit. Starting a business on a budget can be daunting. The truth is, if you don’t have at least a few thousand dollars in your budget to spend on your startup branding, you should expect to do a few things yourself or at least get scrappy on things you can’t — or shouldn’t — DIY. 

If you don’t have the resources to hire an expert graphic design agency for your logo design and marketing materials, there are other options to develop a professional brand identity that makes an impression on your customers without blowing your budget. Below, we outline three different “branding on a budget” alternatives to hiring a professional branding agency.

3 Alternatives to Hiring a Professional Branding Agency

Use a Logo Contest Site for Your Starter Logo

There are hundreds of logo contest sites, like 99Designs and DesignCrowd, that allow you to input a contest prompt with detailed information about your business, audience, and brand vision. Once you activate your contest, dozens of freelance designers submit logo concepts that you can fine-tune to your liking. While there can be downsides to this method, including the fact that you have to have a clear design vision to begin with and tend to see dozens of very similar designs, this can be a great way to solicit a variety of creative ideas for your logo design from multiple designers for just a few hundred dollars instead of a few thousand. 

*TIP: If you land on a logo you like conceptually but feel like your designer just isn’t quite “getting” your revision requests or exact vision, you can contact a professional design agency to do the finessing and brand buildout from there. We’re always open to doing logo cleanup or fine-tuning on an hourly basis or a brand extension exploration to help you explore various options using your core logo mark.  

Use AI Logo Design Tools

Although the final results produced by AI logo design tools are still a bit rough ‘n’ ready, these tools can be a great way to visualize different logo concepts through trial and error and ultimately hone in on your final brand elements. You can test out different prompts to see your ideas brought to life to see what works and what doesn’t quite hit the mark. The beauty of these tools is that most are free or low-cost and allow unlimited prompts. The only cost is your time. The biggest limitation of these tools is that the color palettes, font styles, and icons are not limitless; they pull from the same library of design components and tend to design logos that are more suggestive and literal, rather than subtle and abstract. 

Just like with the logo concepts produced from contest sites, you can share your conceptual logo design with a professional branding agency who will often be willing to clean up the design at an hourly rate. 

Do It Yourself

DIYing your logo is not recommended for businesses that will be paying lots of money to print their logo on products, merchandise, building signage, vehicle wraps, or other costly print materials. In that case, it’s worth it to pony up for a logo design to ensure your brand is professional and eye-catching from the start before spending thousands on printing. Especially for products that compete with others on a shelf, your visual brand can make a big impact on your sales and shouldn’t be neglected. 

If, however, your startup is a service-based businesses whose merits are less contingent on the visual product, labels, or point of purchase displays and more on the actual product or service offered (think accounting firms, law firms, research labs, etc.), a simple DIY startup logo is just fine. Ideally, you’ll want to have a vector version of your logo on hand, so it’s important to choose the right design tool that can produce a vector or have a professional convert your logo into a vector for you. 

*TIP: If you’re DIYing your logo, the best way to keep it looking professional is to keep is simple. Use simple, straightforward fonts, color schemes, and icons. The fancier you try to get with your logo design, the more unprofessional it tends to look. 

The One Thing You Should Do to Save Money on Your Logo Design

At the end of the day, the best thing you can do for your startup branding budget is to do your homework up front. Get super duper clear on your logo vision (the colors, icons, fonts) and even come up with a conceptual logo design mockup yourself or through a freelancer. The most time-consuming part of professional logo design isn’t actually the design itself; it’s the brainstorming of relevant, memorable conceptual ideas that accurately reflect your brand and resonate with your audiences. We always use three different designers to come up with initial logo design concepts to generate a variety of viewpoints, styles, and interpretations of your brand for this step. If you come to the table with a rough-around-the-edges logo that just needs to be polished up, you’ll have plenty of lower-cost logo and brand design options at your disposal.

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