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How We Work Within a Client's Tight Budget

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

As an agency that works with mostly startups and small businesses, the number one concern our clients have is pretty straightforward: The Budget.

We’ve talked about this before in other blogs, and we recognize that for most of our clients, a branding budget does not exist. This usually means that it has to come out of the one bucket of money that goes towards development, operations, payroll, founder salaries; the list is never-ending.

And as a business owner, I’ve learned that we can’t simply give away our work for free. Believe me, I've tried that. A surprising outcome of raising our prices was that our clients became stronger partners once we started charging higher rates and our designs got better.

We built TwoLips on the philosophy that we want to work with our clients to give them exactly what they need today and help them grow so we can continue working together tomorrow. In order to do that, we’ve had to work and rework different methods of ensuring we’re getting paid adequately for our skills AND our clients are still able to stick within their budget.

So startup founders and business owners with tighter budgets, this one is for you!

Here are the 3 ways we’re able to work within our client’s smaller budget.

1. Fewer Deliverables

This is the most obvious first step. If you don’t have as much money to spend on a project, you get fewer final deliverables in the end. Sometimes, this option is rather obvious, other times, it requires getting a bit creative.

For instance, if we’re talking about a full branding project, instead of including a logo system, quick brand sheet, brand book, business cards, social media templates, pitch deck, and a website, we may recommend starting with a logo, brand sheet, and a landing page. The goal is to figure out what is needed right now and what can wait to be done later.

Sometimes this means that instead of recommending a bunch of individual illustrations that are impactful but can be difficult to repurpose, we start you with a set of interchangeable icons or brand patterns that can be included across all mediums and messaging.

Or it could mean creating one main website illustration that can be pulled apart into an entire set of illustrations and brand elements.

Simply put, our goal is to always get you the most bang for your buck.

2. Sweat Equity

In other words, come prepared.

One of our hypotheses as to why our designs and projects got better as we raised our rates is that the bigger budgets gave us more room to play. We are now able to test out different directions and concepts and make larger bets without the fear that it’s going to eat our entire budget. We can offer more flexibility within our revisions and offer more mockups to help bring concepts to life. Essentially, these bigger budgets allow us to showcase several concepts before a final path is chosen.

But this isn’t a requirement for good design. But it is a requirement if you’re unsure of what kind of direction you want to go or have a bunch of conflicting ideas that your team is equally invested in.

If you come prepared with a clear understanding of who your target audience is, strong examples of the sort of designs you love and hate, clear requirements for the final deliverables (i.e. file formats, printing requirements, sizes, concept ideas), and set aside time to provide clear and concise feedback, we are able to design more efficiently. This efficiency means that you save money because everyone is on the exact same page from the get-go.

But there is a reason we call this sweat equity. Because doing all of this takes a lot of time and skills. Hence most clients pay us to walk them through it.

We love playing in the weird zones and bringing forward ideas that our clients never would have dreamt of in a million years. But we also understand that not everyone can afford to start there.

3. Payment Plan

As an agency that started as a startup, we are very familiar with the fact that oftentimes it’s not that clients don’t want to pay for your services. It’s just that cash flow is tight.

Our typical payment structure is 50% upfront and 50% at the end of the project. But we also are comfortable setting up payment plans. This means instead of paying thousands today, we simply spread the payment over 6 or so months.

For us, this allows clients who want or need more robust projects to still work with us without us having to arbitrarily cut our prices. For our clients, who are either waiting on funding, growing their customer pipeline, or paying for the work out of pocket, this softens the financial load.

We see it as a win-win.


We make it clear from the very first discovery meeting that we see our clients as long-term partners and want them to not only survive but thrive! And we understand that sometimes that means getting creative.

As our mantra goes “Creativity thrives within constraints”. And sometimes those constraints are rather tight but we can, as the legendary Tim Gunn says "Make it work!"


Interested in chatting about design, branding, or even just cool shit?


Profile picture of Olivia Wisden, author of this blog post as well as the CEO/Founder of UnderBelly Creative.

About The Author

Olivia Wisden is the Founder + CEO of TwoLips Creative. She has worked with dozens of brands over the years ranging from city initiatives to product launches and beyond. When she’s not fan-girling over the design team’s illustrations she can probably be found reading a novel or attending a boxing class.


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