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I’m Jacob Cass, the founder of JUST™ Creative. I’m a multi-disciplinary graphic designer, working with clients all around the world. My specialty is logo & brand identity design. JUST™ Get in touch.

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How much to charge for design work?

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Often I get asked this question via email, facebook or twitter about how to price yourself as a designer. The usual phrase goes something along the lines of “how much should I charge for” …   web design, graphic design, logo design, etc.

In reply, I usually send them off to Freelance Switch’s pricing yourself section and / or refer them to my article on the fast, good, cheap pricing method however I have come across a few other valuable resources:

Danny Outlaw suggests to ask yourself 10 Questions when pricing yourself:

  1. What services am I pricing?
  2. How much does it cost me to run my business?
  3. How much money do I want to make?
  4. What is everyone else charging?
  5. How bad do people want what I have?
  6. How good am I at what I do?
  7. How long have I been doing this?
  8. Will I charge by the hour or by the project?
  9. How much can my client afford?
  10. What’s my business strategy?

Similarly, Jeff Fisher suggests some other questions to ask yourself, in his article How Much Should I Charge?

  1. What is your experience in the field of graphic design or with a specific type of project?
  2. What is the amount you are currently charging as a hourly/project rate for similar projects?
  3. What do you feel the final project will be worth?
  4. What are the exact project specifications the particular client has provided?
  5. What is the estimated amount of time such a project will take for completion?
  6. What are the methods to be used to execute the project?
  7. What do you need to charge to cover your overhead cost and expenses on such a job?
  8. How badly do you want the project?
  9. What prices will the local geographic market will bear?
  10. What are competitive rates in your local area for similar work?
  11. How much is the client is willing to pay? (It doesn’t hurt to ask if they have a budget)
  12. What are you providing the client in the way of rights to use the design for future purposes?
  13. Is the client a for-profit or nonprofit entity, and do you price such work differently?

However, one must remember when doing so that there are certain realities that you will have to face –   Steven Vandelay outlines 12 realities of pricing your design services and below is the summary of them:

  1. There’s no exact formula.
  2. Both hourly pricing and project-based pricing have pros and cons.
  3. Pricing is a necessary part of freelancing.
  4. Mistakes are a part of the process.
  5. Your prices will affect your own outlook on your services and it will also impact your client’s opinion of your services.
  6. Uncertainty is common.
  7. The variety of prices is as wide as the variety of talent levels.
  8. Losing a job isn’t always a bad thing.
  9. Pricing can be a good way to weed out the tire kickers.
  10. Some potential clients will think your prices are high no matter what you charge.
  11. Charging more than you quoted may be necessary.
  12. Starting out you’ll probably have to charge less than you’d like.

So really, there is no magic formula? Sorry, no… but I did come across an article that came close…

Here, Josh provides four steps to effective design pricing:

  1. Determine your hourly wage:
    (Expenses + Salary) ÷ Hours Worked Per Year = Hourly Wage
  2. Develop base prices:
    (Hourly Wage x Estimated Time To Complete) x Complexity Level = Base Price
  3. Develop prices for additional requirements:
    Assign a complexity level system and put them into the formula above.
  4. Develop prices for outsourced work:
    (Quote From Contractor x 1.10) = Price

But always remember… there is no exact formula.

I would like to leave you with a point that Jeff Fisher made in his article How Much Should I Charge?

The major point I wish to convey here is that all designers need to work smarter in independently determining what their talent, skill and expertise are worth and charge the client accordingly without question or apology. Being smart in determining what you should charge for your work will hopefully allow you to “work less, charge more” in the future.

Online resources (not linked above)

Books to help with pricing

  • AIGA Professional Practices in Graphic Design
  • Business and Legal Forms for Graphic Designers, by Tad Crawford and Eva Doman Bruck (with a CD of business form templates)
  • Digital Design Business Practices: For Graphic Designers and Their Clients, by Liane Sebastian\
  • Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines
  • Graphic Designer’s Guide to Pricing, Estimating & Budgeting, by Theo Stephan Williams
  • The Business of Graphic Design, by Ed Gold
  • The Business Side of Creativity, by Cameron Foote
  • The Creative Business Guide to Running a Graphic Design Business, by Cameron Foote
  • The Graphic Designer’s Guide to Clients: How to Make Clients Happy and do Great Work, by Ellen Shapiro

So… how do you set your prices?

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93 JUST™ Creative Comments

  • Taz Reply

    I have a base price that I will NOT go under if I want to break even. However, I do increase my rate if the project is going to significantly add to the company’s profits (and they can afford it) — I’ve also even tripled my base price in order to scare off the client because I already had enough work on and the project didn’t really appeal to me. Only it backfired and they said, “OK. Done.” :)

    I think the important thing to remember, especially for those still at uni or new to the industry is to NOT undercut the market. It may feel strange to charge someone something that comes so easily for you and that you actually enjoy doing. I still get that feeling sometimes, but you need to know that they approached you because no matter how easy it is for you, they wouldn’t have a clue where to begin.

    In saying that, I strongly believe that charging any less than $40AUD/hour is bad for the industry.

  • Osvaldas Reply

    Pricing question is always glamorous as well as painful because an unambiguous answer does not exist here. It’s like a philosophy – every different situation has its own quote.

  • Kerberos Reply

    When it comes to website design work and a flat project fee, and I cannot emphasise this enough, PLAN AND SIGN OFF EVERYTHING!

    The amount of times I have been involved in a fixed cost project that just never ends because the customer changes their mind and adds on new requests is simply ludicrous.

    If you’re going to charge a fixed fee for anything complicated, plan it in detail, get the customer to sign for it. You’ll thank yourself later.

  • Andrew Gregory Reply

    Excellent article! My guidelines are similar to Jeff Fisher’s. I typically use an hourly rate (discounted based on the scope of the project) so when those last-minute revisions come in after the client has signed off (we’ve all been there), I don’t eat the cost on the extra time.

  • kat neville Reply

    I would love someone to actually come up with a calculator based on Jeff Fischer’s article… that you’d score it from 1 to 10 and it would adjust it. Get on it, developers!

  • Michael Maguigad Reply

    found this article in twitter. thanks. this is gonna be very useful for me. i just started freelancing. gonna bookmark this page. again, thanks =)

  • Steve Reply

    As a good friend once told me when I asked him that question, “Charge as much as you can.”

    Sounds trite but it’s true. You should know what the going rates in your area are and you should have a good idea from talking to the client what the job will entail. If you have done your homework you should have a base rate of what you charge per hour and know how long it takes to do certain jobs. Factor all those things together, decide if you really want the job or not and give the client the quote.

    They may accept it or not. Know what the minimum is if you’re plan to take the job in case the client wants to negotiate, but never go below it.

    “Charge as much as you can.”

  • DTG Magazine Reply

    Ahhhhh, the age old question. Asked in tens-of-thousands of places on the web, and more before the web. Answered twice as many times. :-)
    Answered it in an early issue of DTG, maybe 1989. One answer, one formula, which never goes out of style or time.

    http://www.graphic-design.com/DTG/Business/how_much_to_charge.html

    http://www.dtg-forums.com/forum/showthread.php?t=719

    … when one simple answer often sufices:
    “What ever the market will handle”
    or, to be more specific
    “What ever the client is willing to pay”

    Knowing that number is the key.

    ;-)

  • gaspard Reply

    Base daily rate is 500€ when we are considering consulting or particulary diffcult job, it can raise to 750 or 1000€ per day. On some long-term works (more than 50 days, I generally make a 10%-15% “discount”.

  • Roger Reply

    Charging by the project, or a fixed fee, if you are designing as “per project bases,” such as a Website, a logo, a business card and etc. It is like you are going to a shop, you would not say “how much will you charge for this, you say “how much does this thing cost.” The price itself is about the project itself, and of course how well will you do the job, which shouldn’t really charged by the hour rates so to speak. You wouldn’t ask a shoe maker about how long they’ve spend on for making their shoes and pay them by the hours, would you?

    So when would be a good time to charge by the hours? Extra works, long meetings, changes, something rather time consuming and takes awhile to get it done, and something unexpected such as new things to be added which got requested by the client. New requests, new contract.

    Another thing I am going to point out is that if you can, try not to work for the family members and Friends. It’s ‘always’ tougher to set the prices for them than setting for a new client which you’ve never met before. Of course, the friendship rates. If necessary in this case, the ideal is to make it the maximum of 10% discount (or between 5% and 10%) from the final price tag you are going to set. Anything beyond this is plane wrong plus you are literally selling short of yourself, further, it would be harder for you to raise the price later if some of your new clients knew how much you have charged from the person you had worked for. You can bargain with me but 8% to 10% drop is my final line, that is the end of line.

    “They get what they paid for” simple as it sounds and deadly true when comes to IT businesses. If you want to be a professional, start act like it.

  • Kristi Reply

    questions you didn’t cover:

    –how far have my stocks fallen?
    –how many people are out on the streets?
    –is there now free software available that can do for virtually free what I used to charge a fortune for?
    –when’s my rent/mortgage/health insurance premium due?
    –is there a stimulus plan available for my industry?

    • backfire Reply

      Kristi
      Stocks may fall. Just really effects people who invested in the wrong stocks.

      People are out on the Streets. Always have been, you just have not been affected. Always will be, because Unions are undermined and individuals will always undercut each other.

      Free software. That’s the spirit. Someone develops something, does not charge for the time, so that when you use it, you can make money without paying a thing. Welcome to reality, someone is always paying the price!

      Rent, Mortgage. Mine is due first so I will undercut you until you are thrown out and I can rent your place cheaper. How is that?

      Stimulus. Can be afforded by societies that have somewhat of an income. Charge nothing for your work and buy stuff from China and receive a stimulus. Paid for by whom?

      Just have half a brain and you will find some answers!

  • Rahul Reply

    Being a designer that too a freelance designer is one thing and setting a price for your design work is another. Freelancers have to be quite good if not better at pricing else they will end up working more than they have been paid for.

    Freelance Switch has a really cool cost calculator. Any resource that will help you to calculate your design charge will definitely help.

  • Jaz Reply

    “is there now free software available that can do for virtually free what I used to charge a fortune for?”

    There will never be free software that can replicate designing (research, concepts, colour theory…), if design is what your talking about. You charge a fortune cos you’re worth a fortune. The free software is great if someone wants a crap logo, but there will always be a market for businesses who want a good logo. Same goes for website development, photography, etc. People will learn (often the hard way) that you get what you pay for.

    On another note, I thought it was interesting that none of the experts mentioned factoring in your schedule into your prices. Do you charge more if you are busy? or would you rather not take the job at all?

  • Roger Reply

    “Do you charge more if you are busy? or would you rather not take the job at all?”

    Needless to say, both. ;)

    If the job is worth your time, and you are interested at it at the same time, but you’re extremely busy, accept it and charge more for it. While at the same time, the Designer needs to work really hard to get it done in time.

    On the other hand, if you have got enough to handle, while this is just a so-so kind of project to you, plus the client does not willing to pay more for it, don’t even take it.

    It’s a pro and con, depending on the Designer themselves really. Once accepted, charge more is a definite answer.

  • Nathan Beck Reply

    Good article JC, sorry I’ve not commented on here for a while, been quite busy.

    It is so difficult to charge appropriately, there are so many variables, many of which you’ve covered well. Chances are you’ll rarely change the same even for a similar project.

    A lot of people contact me asking how much I charge for a website. Well it depends on so many variables that it’s a ridiculous request to try and respond to without a good chunk of research.

    I also generally charge a little more for each new project, even if it’s very similar to the previous simply because my skills are increasing – I get faster and better with each new project so I charge to reflect that.

    Taz also made a good point that it can almost feel like steeling to charge so much to do something you’re good at and enjoy doing but that’s business baby!

  • ProjectCenter Reply

    People probably expect a simple answer, but you just can’t do that when it comes down to what the market will bear.

  • Jacob Cass Reply

    Taz,
    It does make you think… could you triple your prices all of the time? Could you be charging more? And yeah, you are paying for one’s skill, knowledge & expertise when you hire a professional and I guess that’s why we call them professionals.

    Osvaldas,
    True, however there are some guidelines in which to follow to help you set each projects quote.

    Kerberos,
    Thanks for the tip and I know this has happened to me once before… but my lesson has been learned.

    Andrew,
    Always the last minute revisions / questions, but you just have to expect this, it’s almost natural.

    Kat,
    If only it were that easy!

    Michael,
    You’re welcome.

    Steve,
    Some wise (but trite) advice your friend told you… something I think more people should implement. I’ve done research into what others charge and it is quite astounding at how low some people’s rates are.

    DTG,
    Yeah, google turns up 60,400,000 results for the phrase “how much should I charge for design work”. The simple answers are simple in theory but it’s finding out these answers, that make it not so easy. Also, thank you for the links to the other pages but they both didn’t work when I checked it.

    Gaspard,
    Do you find charging on a daily rate easier? Haven’t heard many people do that before.

    Roger,
    Thank you for your comments Roger, and your shoe analogy is quite correct… one with more experience could finish the job in much less time than someone just starting out.

    Also regarding family and friends, I am not a fan of this either, getting them to sign agreements and getting payments is just plain awkward, let alone mates rates. And 10% is a good boundary I suppose, I’ve never thought about that before.

    Kristi,
    Thanks for the other questions you have suggested, quite left field but still some questions to consider.

    Rahul,
    I also enjoyed Freelance Switch’s calculator, a great resource.

    Jaz,
    It reminds me of this article by Kirk Nelson, Who Needs Skills, We Have Software! and you are right about the market, but it is also our job as designers to educate clients. I think Roger answered your last question quite well.

    Nathan,
    No reason to apologise, it’s not obligatory for you to comment here and I know how busy it can get but thanks for apologising none the less, haha.

    Anyway, yes it is difficult to charge appropriately, which is why it is one of those age old questions that always comes up. And the most common question I get asked is “how much for a logo?”.

    Personally, I have nearly quadrupled my fees since starting my blog 1.25 year ago, but then again I’ve learnt so much in this time, that it really does justify itself. Supply and demand I’ll say.

    ProjectCenter,
    There is definitely no simple answer.

    • backfire Reply

      Catch a fish with bare hands.
      It’s quite a good analogy. You might be lucky one time. You can charge as much as professionals!
      Getting the next one will the challenge. Professionals can rake in the next one, because they have experience, their work reflects their skill. One off is easy, but it is hard to sustain that level (of luck). The market (going fishing) will level itself out, that’s why some people make it and others never will. It’s based on skill, which comes with time and experience, or pure luck (and a natural skill).
      For all the once who never caught a fish. Keep trying or die hungry!

  • DTG Reply

    Jacob … links work fine!

    The bottom line on many of the other comments like
    * who needs skills
    * how much has my stock fallen
    * etc.

    The discussion “how much to charge” assumes you have some unique quality or skill that is worth charging for.

    We normally get anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred portfolios and resumes a month from people wanting to be reviewed.

    Many say “out of work” or “business is bad” etc.

    Many of the portfolios don’t offer much more than people can indeed get from their own software, some of the hack shops (like the $25 logo sites), or students.

    If you don’t have enough to get jobs and at least begin forward motion — perhaps you should look into another line of work.

    :-)

    as Ben Franklin once said:

    “Write something worth doing … or
    do something worth writing.”

    It holds true for the design profession as well.

    :-)

  • Jacob Cass Reply

    Thank you for the follow up DTG, and nice quote from Franklin! Oh and the links worked this time around, must have been down when I clicked them before.

  • Josh Reply

    My old design teacher once told me long ago “…I’ll do a design for $100 and I’ll do a design for $1,000, but I won’t do a $1,000 design for $100.”

    It’s all about the time you’ll spend. There’s nothing worst then burning the midnight oil for a design you under sold on.

  • DTG Reply

    I’ve known designers who place their pricing at about double anyone else in the area. It works. They are good — and if the client wants that level of work, then they know it’s going to cost.

    In today’s market this might not work. But it’s something to think about.

    • backfire Reply

      Fish and Chips
      I can do for $25, just copy the first line and it will be worth my time. Today’s market works on the same principals.

  • BenSky Reply

    Very detailed and somewhat complicated way of looking at it i think, i use the simple philosophy of how much do i think its worth for me to carry out the project & include other factors like if the client is providing extra work etc, a simple evaluation process. I dont think you should neccesarily start going into how much you think you can get out of the client, because then you start going down the road of trying to give people as little as possible for as much money as possible.
    The other option is ask them their budget and build them a calibre of website & spend the time that that budet should achieve fairly.

  • John milton Reply

    Hi..
    That totally depends upon the project, and how much work i do for the project and also include other factors like extra work if given by the clients, Or just ask the clients about their budget and do the designing as per that.
    Thanks..
    John..

  • Paul Morales Reply

    Excellent article. I’m getting focused on increasing my design skills. In the beginning, I charge cheap because of the fact that I don’t have much experience.

    Once I do have more experience and quality of my work is better. I will plan on charging higher prices for the actual work it takes to get things done.

    I think charging can be whatever price the person working wants to be charged. Obviously, if you don’t want to work for pennies you shouldn’t.

  • Jacob Cass Reply

    Josh,
    Nice little quote you have there!

    DTF,
    If it works, I suppose why not?

    BenSky,
    Even your description sounded complicated but yeah leading down that road is another question to ask… for example can a logo design really cost millions?? Apparently so.

  • Stella Reply

    its hard to find a client today..btw nice info..

  • fellowcreative Reply

    Congratulations on a great post, there are certainly many things to think about when pricing a project and I can’t think of a single important thing you haven’t covered – Theo Stephan Williams book ‘Graphic Designer’s Guide to Pricing, Estimating & Budgeting’ was certainly a great help to me when I setup and I’d highly recommend it to any creative but I would like to offer one piece of my own experience and advice which as far as I can remember Theo also highlights in her book:

    DONT BE AFRAID TO APPEAR BOLD. To avoid wasting everyone’s time (designers and clients) *always* ask the clients ballpark budget during the initial discussion because they nearly always have one – even if they are asking for a price to aid their budgeting they always have a figure in their own mind because the design fee is always part of a bigger plan which they will have already costed in a rough project plan and already chosen/decided to take a financial gamble on.

    Over the years I’ve wasted many weeks of my time writing strategy proposals and pricing projects only to be told that my price was ‘much more than expected’.

    So many people are reluctant to ask about available budgets from the off in case it reflects negatively on them, I understand that such a direct question can be viewed by some as ‘rogue trader’ behavior but designers sell services not products and in my opinion a designers role is to deliver the very best service within the limit of the budget – how can you prepare the most applicable approach and suitable design cost if you don’t know the budget and realistic limitations from the outset.

    I wish all designers and creatives reading this blog the very best of luck in their future project pricing.

    Positive thoughts and Paulo Coelho proverbs
    Carl @fellowcreative

  • Jacob Cass Reply

    Thank you very much for sharing your tips Carl, much appreciated!

  • nienna Reply

    I havent read everything in your site but im liking this site more by the minute! your stuff is very informative and i sure will read more. I’m glad I stumble here. Keep it up. :)

  • Tim Doyon Reply

    Based on the article, I truly believe that, the charges should be equivalent to the amount of work being done. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am with the service I have received from Logo Design Creation. At first, a logo seems like such a small thing to a new business; but once created, you realize that the entire image of your company starts to take shape around it. I am excited to say that the work the guys have done for me over the years has always been top notch, I seriously could not be more pleased with the results! Adding to their great service is the turn-around time. From the moment I contact them for the final design, it has never taken more then a few short days and their rates are always so low that I have actually felt guilty paying the bill! I seriously could not be more pleased with the job they had all done for me.

    Tim Doyon

  • Clau Reply

    It’s true that most people didn’t understand how much they will going to pay for the designer. Taking time to think on the work done is still important.

  • AJ Reply

    When I first began with design work, I definitely undercharged. I also went far above and beyond what was agreed to in the price. Add this, add that, an extra script or effect there. And guess what?

    The more value you try to give people, the more they want to take advantage…get more work, pay less. That’s human nature I guess.

    But now I have a set rate for a basic package, what that includes is clearly explained on the design page, and in a fillable pdf that I send to the client, asking for preferred fonts, color pallets and so on.

    I think that I’m still undercharging compared to what they get. I’m always booked at least 5-6 jobs in advance, so I think the market could easily stand a price increase. But I always keep it in the back of my mind, the customer could go to Bangladesh or somewhere, and get a design done for 1/4 of the price.

    They wouldn’t get anywhere close to the same quality for that price, and I make it clear to potential customers that I will not be beaten down to compete with that price….not if they want a top quality design.

  • Arifur Rahman Reply

    Great information. But that only depends on how hard I work for it.

  • Boris Reply

    Good Designs always would cost a bit more. If it doesn’t a good tip is in order.

  • Divith Reply

    Its very helpful Jacob. truly i am impressed… got an idea to quote the design.

  • resistance wire Reply

    Over the years I’ve wasted many weeks of my time writing strategy proposals and pricing projects only to be told that my price was ‘much more than expected’

  • Saadullah Aleem Reply

    I think it becomes easy once you come across a reasonable client who is willing to listen to your pricing method and knows the difference between bad design for cheap and good design for a reasonable price.

    IMO pricing isnt as hard as finding your first reasonable client who is willing to listen.

  • mark rushworth Reply

    I’m coming across this issue at the moment. It seems that people dont want to pay what they once did and securing new work is becoming difficult once again.

    im a big fan of the overhead x 2 calculation which in the long run gives you additional revenue for profit and more importantly to reinvest in equipment, outsourcing, self initiated projects and the like.

    its important not to work in a profitless situation.

    As always the issue is with the client. Do they value what you do enough to pay for the time needed to do something right. For example i asked Chris one of our designers how long it would take to design the ui for an app. he said 1 day. i asked him to think of past projects and how clients come back with feedback, amends to the spec and other iterations… his eventual response was … ok at least 4 days which is 4x the original estimate.

  • bugie Reply

    hello Jacob,

    i have spent the past two days devouring all the invaluable wisdom and advice in all the posts, links and references i found on and through your blog. i almost feel guilty im getting all these for free. thank you and God Bless you.

    with regards to your ‘pricing’ advice, im based in Nigeria where im afraid freelance graphic design hasnt really attracted the value and worth it should. a few larger agencies have been able to attract ‘fair-budget’ patronage, but the larger percentage of freelance designers still dont a commensurate value for the efforts that go into graphic design,particularly logo creation.

    i presently charge averagely between 200 to 400 dollars for logo creation, which has actually cost me some jobs because i refused to lower the value i place on my work.
    in finding a way to maintain that margin while also ‘seeming to give the client more value’,i have had to come up with a ‘brand identity package’ that include me designing all the necessary materials they’ll need the logo on-business cards, letter-heads, envelopes, tshirts, etc
    please do you bill separately for those materials, and with your experience do you advice i continue this practice?

    thank you for your anticipated response.

  • Cari Uang lewat ekiosku Reply

    nice, im a big fan of the overhead x 2 calculation which in the long run gives you additional revenue for profit and more importantly to reinvest in equipment, outsourcing, self initiated projects and the like.

  • Raja Reply

    I like Josh’s 4 step system above, especially step number 2 where he takes complexity into account just like I do. If the client is asking for copy changes as compared to programming I would charge less.

  • Rafal Zielinski Reply

    None of your links are good anymore. Envato changed things up as well as some of your others too. Boo. I could have really used the resources


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