When it comes to design and startups, a common misconception is if everyone in your industry looks terrible and has unpleasant experiences, it's ok for follow suit.
This has been disproven time and time again by the companies we all love. Design-driven companies yield a greater emotional connection with their customers and are an all around better company to work with. Even something as simple as having an easier website to navigate makes a big difference.
The difference? A customer being stuck with you instead of sticking with you. If given the chance, they will leave and pay a premium to someone who can treat them better. You have to design an experience that makes you irreplaceable.
Don't use the excuse, "everyone does it that way," when surrounded by mediocrity. Take it as an opportunity to be a diamond in the rough.
Alright, say you want a logo for your startup. For an experienced designer, this has a streamlined process as well as varying tiers of engagement. They also have a rate for which they will carry these services out. Unless added variables outside of these packages are added, the price shouldn't change that much.
Now say you want a custom e-commerce website, with a bunch of third party integrations, some help on copy, sourcing photos and icons, and then recurring maintenance. You don't know how many pages there are, who is responsible for a lot of the things that will go into the site, it's all custom.
Here's the thing, some design work can be structured within a detailed process. Projects like that should have fixed prices based on the value the designer is bringing to the table. Projects that are unique and require just as much planning as they do execution get custom prices.
In the instance of the latter, it makes sense to dedicate 10% of the estimated budget to getting three, tiered, custom options.
"Our target persona is the mid-market."
What this really means is that the founder is looking to acquire the most marketshare possible. Understandably. Mid-market means you've leaped the chasm between early adopters and innovators into the realm of the masses. More buyers, more cash, more power to do amazing things with your product.
Here's the problem: no one gets there as a first step.
The innovation curve starts with innovators and early adopters for a reason, because the mid-market is scared of anything new and exciting.
Even Jesus had early adopters (a small focus group of 12 disciples). It wasn't for centuries that His mission finally reached the masses.
The point? Start with a small group of innovators in a niche market, understand what problems they have, who they admire, and build things for them. They will give you grounds to prove yourself so that the mid-market will eventually trust you.
Mid-market is not a user persona.