Figuring out how much to charge clients for graphic design work is possibly the most challenging tasks that faces new freelancers. How do you reach the balance between being competitive but also profitable? Remember, as a freelancer, you have to account for all sorts of extra costs such as studio rent, holiday pay, and insurance. The problem is, if you’re too expensive, clients might look elsewhere.
There are two main models of pricing that freelance designers can use to guide them – hourly rates and project-based rates. Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of these two pricing practices.
Out of the two models, this is by far the most straightforward. You simply set a standard rate per hour and charge according to how long it takes you to complete the project. You quote your clients an estimate price based on how long you expect to take and then track your work.
One thing that is immediately problematic about this way of doing things is that clients won’t know the final cost of a project until after it has been done. If complications arise that make the job take longer than expected, or if they request several revisions, they might not appreciate how the price increases. On the other hand, having a set hourly rate means that you can advertise your prices and clients will be aware of this before coming to you.
From a designer’s point of view, hourly rates mean that you are paid for the time that you put into a project. At the same time, however, you are only paid for the time you put in. It’s almost as if you’re being penalised for your efficiency, and you need to be efficient because you’ve got other clients to see to.
Plus, some jobs will be far more valuable to a client than is measurable by your hourly rate. A good website can earn a client thousands but, with a rate of £80 an hour, you’d have to spend a lot of time twiddling your thumbs before you drum up enough hours to earn you the same. Worse, you can’t even increase your rate that much before clients start questioning why you’re earning so much in comparison with their in-house wage of £15 an hour.
Even though it’s a more complicated way of doing things, project-based rates might be the way to go. Using this pricing method, you quote a unique price to each client according to the needs for that specific project. After a consultation, you can agree on a price before you begin designing, which means that you can work out a solution to fit your client’s budget and they won’t be worried about the price going up.
This method gives you a much better ratio of pay to the value you add to your client’s business. Also, when framed like this, as a set rate for this job, clients are much less likely to consider it extortionate than when framed as an hourly rate.
That being said, you do have to keep an eye on how long a job takes you and the number of revisions a client is allowed to make. If a job starts getting more complicated you’ll have to let a client know that it will affect the quote you gave them after their initial consultation. For example, if your initial agreement includes two rounds of minor revisions, but your client was a full re-work, be sure to clarify that this’ll cost extra.
Project-based prices are also much more complicated to organise than when you work to an hourly rate. There are several things you need to consider in order to come up with a suitable. Some designers still base this decision on how long they’re going to take, which is exactly the wrong way to do things – you may as well offer an hourly rate. Yes, you can consider how long a project will take but there are so many other things to take into account too;
- How complicated the project will be
- What the client’s budget is
- Whether you are excited by the project
- How much this will value the client
- Whether the client is easy to work with or not
Licensing Your Artwork
Hourly and project-based fees are the two mainstream pricing models but there is something else that you could consider implementing alongside either of these methods.
You could offer a range of payment schemes according to how much your client wishes to use your artwork. This is based on the fact that you automatically own the copyright to anything you create and so, when you design something for a client, you’re really only giving them your permission to use your design.
If you like, you can offer a price for clients who have a specified use for your design (such as posters or leaflets), as well as a different price for clients who wish to use it again and again for many different projects (such as logos and typography).
Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll have a much clearer idea of how to go about pricing your own work but this still doesn’t answer one of the biggest questions in the design industry – Is It Ever Okay for Designers to Work for Free? Read all about our opinion on that subject in our blog.