Andy Pratt, creative director at Funny Garbage, New York, who teaches digital platforms at SVA MFA Design – Designer as Author + Entrepreneur, recently launched an entrepreneurial venture called Pricetag (go here for an introductory video). This application helps designers determine what and how to quote a job to a client. The co-founding development team includes Andres Garzon, who heads up the business side; Camilo Bravo handles technology and development; Pratt’s focus has been on UX, design and branding. Staff member Juan Pablo Atiaga works on development. I asked Pratt to explain how Pricetag will impact the average designer’s bottom line.
What inspired you to create Pricetag?
The first reason is because it helps to solve a problem that I’ve experienced myself. Many designers, developers and small digital agencies are familiar with that amazing feeling that comes from a new job opportunity. You’re excited at the prospect of flexing your creative muscles and can’t wait to dive in. The problem is that you still need to get a quote to your client in order to win the job. We wanted to create a tool that simplifies the bidding process so that users can get back to doing the work they love. The tool guides them through the steps needed to make a comprehensive and accurate quote. It’s simple and intuitive, and we hope it will make users be more profitable, too.
The other reason is that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Like the rest of the Pricetag team, I’ve been in client services for my entire career. I found the idea of creating something for myself appealing. I liked the idea of taking a chance and trying something new. And since we don’t have layers of client approvals to go through, our team can be a bit more agile. We can respond to suggestions quickly and try out new ideas on the fly.
How long has it taken you to get to this stage of development?
We started conceptualizing Pricetag in February of 2011 and had a live beta site up at the end of May. This isn’t bad, considering we are all juggling full time jobs, families and other professional obligations. Since the beta site launch, we’ve constantly refined and updated the site based on user feedback. We recently launched officially, but I don’t feel like Pricetag will ever be totally done. Projects like this are living organisms. They need to evolve and respond to users, competitors and new project goals.
How successful has it been, so far?
We’re very excited about the response. The feedback has been extremely positive and helpful, and new users join daily. We knew that we weren’t the only ones with the quoting problem, and the feedback we’ve gotten proves it. There are other proposal/quoting tools out there, but we found that many of them try to do too much. They make the barrier to entry high, and bloat the user interface. We don’t want Pricetag to handle things like inventory, or deal with time tracking. We want our tool to do one thing–project bidding–and do it well.
We also like to measure our success by our level of team happiness, something that is often overlooked with start-ups. We all really enjoy working with each other. We respect each other and we know everyone brings a level of passion to their work. This makes it a really pleasant endeavor to be a part of.
There is something cheery, inviting and accessible about this (especially your video), which was your intent. But how did you determine the “Voice” you wanted to use?
Since we are dealing with money, and, to some degree, facilitating client relationships, we want to inspire trust in our users. However, we also want the brand to have a personality that is fun and casual. That sets us apart from some other tools, which are more straight laced. The casualness in tone is also part of our general message: quoting is important, but it isn’t this mammoth, odious task. With Pricetag, it just becomes part of your routine.
We will continue to update the tool based on user feedback. This does not necessarily mean implementing every specific suggestion, but the feedback does cause us to investigate things to see what the core problem is. For example, if the user says “Make the button red,” they may really be saying that button needs to pop out more or be in a more prominent location. We are constantly looking for new ways to guide the users and make their lives easier. For example, Pricetag suggests sample copy for project overviews, timelines and schedule and project assumptions. We plan to incorporate more options for this copy, so the users have a greater variety to choose from and personalize to make their own.
There are also other third party API’s we may try to integrate, in order to take advantage of other products and services our customers are already using. In the long term we would like to see Pricetag roll out to different industries. The suggested roles, copy and other features are geared towards the digital industry. However the tool is so flexible that we feel it would work really well for other jobs that require project bidding, such as catering, interior design or photography, to name a few. That entrepreneurial bug constantly pushes us to make the product better and think about were it could go to next.
(Read yesterday’s Nightly Daily Heller on “Cardboard Modernism.”)