How likely is “design-as-a-service” to be the new norm?

2023 was a crazy, fluctuating mountain of a year for everyone it seems.

World Wars. Predictable tanking economies. Communication errors and setbacks. Recurring illnesses, surgeries and deaths. In some ways, that should be given a better sense of consideration, we have not recovered from 2020.

The road to recovery is never easy. It comes with pain, struggle, and a lot of uncomfortable acceptances.

But in that pain and struggle, we can always devise a plan of action and healing that ensures our recovery is successful and well intended.

What happens to brand building in 2024?

If you’re like me, you keep your ears to what’s going on by listening and watching the experts and those further along than you. In my experience, it has been better to listen to their observations and study their plan executions, simply because they are transparent about their learning process and be willing to try and fail.

And according to some of them, like the Earn Your Leisure podcast or the Joe Budden Podcast, is that this will essentially be a major factor into the downfall of a lot of businesses and broadcasts in 2024.

People are still trying to figure things out, in particular since the 2020 pandemic.

Now if you were already remote before 2020, you already saw and understood the writing on the wall. You had already been living this remote reality for years, to which we all now have to adapt to live to.

Now if you were on the other side of that coin, you struggled then in 2020 and are still struggling now. Because whether your brand is digital or not, and for whatever your valid reasons are, you discovered a business model is still needed. Something which still gets overlooked today when we have a great idea for a business or brand, but still no sustainable model to build and fund that business.

So I talked with my AI, asked it to predict 2024 on brand designs. Here's what it said.

SoulMan IT:

Graphic and Web Design services, specifically the business models and prices as we move into 2024.

I see more designers using a subscription model in which they charge a flat rate for 1-2 design requests, which seems to be more sustainable for a solo designer or small agency such as the one I’m currently building.

How likely is this business model to become the new normal, what other business models are there for these types of designers, and what business models do you think are sustainable and worth pivoting towards or investing in for 2024 and beyond?

Fafai:

The trend towards subscription-based business models in graphic and web design services is indeed gaining traction. This model, often referred to as ‘design-as-a-service’, is particularly appealing for its predictability in revenue and the ability to build long-term relationships with clients. For solo designers or small agencies, it can be a sustainable option because it allows for better planning of resources and time.

As we move into 2024 and beyond, the likelihood of the subscription model becoming more prevalent seems high. This is due to several factors:

1. **Client Demand**: Businesses are looking for ongoing support rather than one-time projects, as their design needs are continuous. A subscription model offers them consistent access to design talent.
2. **Designer Benefits**: Designers and agencies can stabilize their income with recurring payments and can scale according to the number of clients they serve.
3. **Market Evolution**: As more tools and platforms support subscription management, it becomes easier for designers to implement this business model.

Other business models in this space include:

– **Project-Based Pricing**: Charging per project is traditional and may still be preferred for large, unique, or complex projects. It’s a good model for designers who like variety and don’t want to be tied to a few clients.
– **Retainer Contracts**: Similar to subscriptions, retainers provide steady income by offering a set amount of work for a client each month, but these are often negotiated annually or semi-annually.
– **Value-Based Pricing**: This model charges based on the value provided to the client rather than the time spent, which can be lucrative for high-impact design work.

When considering sustainability and worthiness for investment, the decision may hinge on several factors:

– **Niche Focus**: Specializing in a particular niche can make the subscription model more viable, as you can offer more tailored and expert services.
– **Scalability**: For scalability, the subscription model works well if you can package services that do not require extensive customization.
– **Automation and Tools**: Leveraging design tools that automate part of the workflow can make subscription services more profitable.
– **Client Relationships**: Fostering strong relationships and understanding client needs can lead to higher retention rates in a subscription model.

In conclusion, the subscription model is well-suited for the future of graphic and web design services, particularly for solo designers or small agencies looking for sustainability and steady growth.

It’s essential, however, to evaluate your specific circumstances, including your target market, your operational capacity, and your personal preferences for project work versus ongoing client relationships.

Diversification might also be a key, offering a blend of business models to cater to different client needs and market demands.

So...now what?

Online subscription models are the biggest and latest business trend since 2022, but they are not new.

Before blogs, podcasts and video channels fully dominated, we used to pay for subscriptions to newspapers, magazines & catalogs.

With subscription models, it’s also easier to convey what you’re selling; products, services or content. Simple. And it’s because of this one thing, you see many businesses changing how they mainly make money.

The first wave we saw was music artists becoming broadcasters. By switching from a Project-based business model (selling records), they switched to a Subscription-based business model. The reason? It’s easier and faster to make content about music than it is to make quality music that resonates, especially when you’re still developing your “it factor”. 

Bottomline for 2024: start thinking about who you can deliver or offer value to your customers on a continuous basis. If you’re good or great at what you do, now’s the time. 

You don’t want to be playing catch up again, especially during a pandemic or crisis.

Prepare for the storms yet to come, so you can fully enjoy those moments in the sun.

 

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