How much should I charge for my services? It is one of the most common questions asked by freelance and self-employed graphic designers. It is also not an easy one to answer. With so many factors to take into consideration it can be a tough ask to decide what your correct rate should be. Below I’ve outlined a few of these factors to help you along the way…
1. Do a bit of detective work
Discreetly dig around to find out what other agencies and freelancers are charging: Call various freelancers and agencies (or ask friends and family to do this on your behalf) and ask what their hourly rate is and also maybe ask for a fixed cost on a specific project, eg. something simple like a 2-sided A5 Flyer.
2. Calculate your overheads
When determining how much to charge, consider all of your potential business costs. The cost of premises, business insurance, travel and materials for example. You’ll have to cover these costs, so your hourly rate will have to take these into account.
3. The client
The charging of a design project is not just the result on the amount of work that a designer has to put into it. It can also be dependent on the value that the finished project will bring to the client and their business. And this is often dependent on the client’s spending power. Some designers and agencies will tailor their fees with this in mind and a major corporation will expect to pay much more than an individual or small business.
4. Fixed or hourly rate?
If in doubt over any project, ensure you explain to the client that you charge an hourly rate, based on the time it takes to complete the project – rather than ‘guestimating’ how long it will take initially and providing a fixed upfront fee. This is particularly important for bigger projects, ones that could throw up all sorts of issues and amendments all through the process.
If a flat or fixed rate can’t be avoided, ensure that you include your hourly rate that you will charge if extra work is needed that is in addition or outside of any agreement you have with your client.
5. Calculate your Income
The essential thing to remember with any pricing structure is that you must be able to live on your income. So think as though you are an employee of your own company. Decide how much you need to earn per month (after putting the relevant portion of all income aside for tax) and then work out what your hourly rate for billable work will ideally be. Bearing in mind of course that not all your hours in a week will be chargeable as you will need time for admin, marketing, attending client briefings, etc.
6. Print and other Services
Many graphic designers will add on costs for external services that they manage on behalf of their clients, such as the arranging and printing of the finished product. Beware however, to ensure you get a signed approval and/or disclaimer of the final design proofs as you may be liable for the cost of reprinting in the event of any errors if the finished job does not meet the client’s requirements
It’s also important to estimate for and pass on the costs of other expenses, such as stock or commissioned photography and travel to briefings. Designers will bill these costs in many different ways, but they all have to be accounted for somehow.
7. Ask for a deposit!
Finally… In my opinion, and speaking from experience, always, always request a deposit against your design work. I always request at least 50% of the estimated cost in advance. Circumstances can change from am initial briefing through to a final approval, such as long delays in approving proofs and other decision making (sometimes there isn’t even a final approval!) which can delay payment, so it’s important to cover your costs from the outset. If a client is reluctant to agree to this, either request a purchase order (if they’re a large organisation) or else consider whether you really want to take on the brief.