A Quick Guide for Pricing Your Design Services

Paystaff_A Quick Guide for Pricing Your Design Services

I’d really like to meet whoever romanticized the image of the starving artist willing to suffer penury for the sake of their craft. Just so I can give them a good ol’ kick in the @$$. For starters, just look at this video of needed gadgets for graphic designers:


You don't need everything in that clip. But then, this doesn't even account the courses you went through. That alone would fetch a sum more than "free".

Disclaimer: I’m no graphic artist. Hell naw. I can draw a highly-expressive stick figure using a napkin and a ball pen I filched from the last hotel I stayed in, sure, but using Photoshop or whatever program designers use to draft images and logos? Forget it.

The Culture of "Free" Design Service

As a fellow creative (if being a content writer qualifies me to be such, that is), I deeply sympathize with freelance graphic designers who are always being expected to turn in jaw-droppingly beautiful artwork FOR FREE, or worse, in exchange for a “shout-out.” (Yes, I consider “shout-outs” to be worse than zero compensation, especially if they’re being offered by obnoxious pseudo-celebrities who could do more harm to your personal brand than good.)

Graphic designers deserve to be compensated for their talents and their hard work, period. If you disagree, you can stop reading now (or you could email me and I’ll draw you a stick figure for free, shipping charges billed separately).

However, coming up with the right rates can prove tricky, especially when you’re a freelancing noob. Should you charge by the hour? Or is it better to have a flat rate for your projects? Would your clients need to pay a deposit?

Fret not, here’s a basic cheat sheet to help you get the paycheck you deserve:



Image Credit: iStock

Hourly vs. Project-Based Pricing

Generally, hourly rates are ideal for beginners. If you’re, say, fresh out of a graphic design course and are used to working at a moderate pace, around AU$15-25 per hour is a good place to start.

Hourly pricing is also good for projects that won’t require a lot of turn-around, and it’s great for clients who are wary of getting revised pricing estimates down the line. You can start to raise your hourly rates once you’ve built up a considerable portfolio and/or are starting to get more clients or projects.

On the other hand, charging your clients by the hour can be disadvantageous if you’re more experienced and are able to finish your tasks more quickly. In this case, project-based pricing might be more suitable, and in consideration of the following factors:



Image Credit: iStock

Licensing and Rights Management

Look, you inherently own the rights to anything you create, but you’re bound to encounter some clients who will want those as well, essentially making them the legal author of your work(!).

Licensing the rights to your work for a certain period for a substantial fee is a good compromise in this scenario, but if your client wants to fully buy them out for perpetuity, they should be prepared to cough up a ginormous amount, such as the equivalent of your rent for an entire year at least.

Read each contract thoroughly to make sure that your rights as the author of the artwork will remain intact after the project, unless you and the client have agreed otherwise for the right sum.



Image Credit: iStock


Obviously, you should charge a premium for projects or clients that require immediate results and/or super fast turn-around. Apart from the extra effort these will entail, the premium should also compensate you for having to bump back any other existing projects.



Image Credit: iStock

Market and Industry Rates

Log onto your favorite freelancing hub and sniff around for how much your fellow neophytes are charging for their services, and then adjust yours accordingly.



Image Credit: iStock

Client Budget and Value

Factor in how much your client is willing to pay, and just how much value your work will bring them. Layouts for an advertising campaign that a multinational conglomerate intends to use worldwide should cost a whole lot more than the cover of your local high school’s yearbook, for instance.

Lastly, get a feel of your client’s personality. Do they know exactly what they want or do they seem like the wishy-washy type that might need extra guidance or additional advice? If they’re likely to be the latter, feel free to charge a little more for the added hand-holding that the client might require.



Image Credit: iStock

Contracts and Deposits

Written contracts are well and good, but they can be more trouble than they’re worth for smaller projects. You may want to set a baseline for projects that you would require a contract for (e.g., those that would cost a minimum of AU$800), and rely on other safeguards for those that don’t measure up to that.

Deposits are a different story. For your own security, I would suggest requiring a down payment of 50% of the project cost before you even start work on client deliverables. Your client can negotiate for a lower percentage or for a staggered payment schedule, but getting a partial payment up front scares away any potential scammers who are just out to waste your billable hours.



Image Credit: iStock


Whether you choose to go for hourly rates or project-based pricing, don’t forget to make room for contingencies so that unforeseen issues don’t eat into your earnings.

For instance, specify guidelines for the project scope, such as the client’s expected output (e.g., ten pages of web design, two or three logos, etc.), the number of revisions included in the estimate, rates for major revisions, if any, and any additional fees such as penalties for late payments or any overtime charges that may apply.

It’s very important for designers to quote respectable prices. Not only does this make your freelancing career more sustainable, but it also sets industry standards so that clients will know better than to try and low-ball your less-established colleagues.

After all, the only thing better than getting paid to do something you love and happen to be good at is paving the way for other people to do the same.


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