Are pricing questions allowed?

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by Philalbe, Aug 16, 2010.

  1. Philalbe macrumors 6502

    Jun 11, 2010
    Greater Boston Area
    Hi. I've been going back to school for design for roughly 5 years now (chipping away at it while working a day job with my family). I already have my Graphic Design certificate and I'm one math class away from my degree (I'll be taking that last class this fall). Anyway, I've finally started taking on small freelance jobs. I've been doing small things like newspaper and circular ads, I've designed a mouse pad and a couple of album covers for a small music business and now a friend's mother wants me to design a website. I know enough web design to create the look of a site in Photoshop then use slice tool and export to dreamweaver or rebuild site using div tags etc. The thing is I want to eventually make design my primary source of income but I'm not sure what I should be charging? Right now depending on the client or the job I've been charging in-between $15-$20 an hour. I time myself very honestly and I'd say on average I might end up making about $100 a job. And as I stated my jobs have been as diverse as newspaper ads to album covers. Does it sound like I'm selling myself short?

    If anyone wants to look at my site it's

    It needs to be updated...right now it's mostly my student work. I have some questions concerning my website too, but I'll save that for another day :)

    Sorry if this has seemed longwinded and thanks in advance.


  2. citizenzen macrumors 65816

    Mar 22, 2010
    OMG. $15-$20 an hour?

    What are you... an outsource living in New Delhi?

    I knew this day would come... Indians have now infiltrated the graphic design industry.
  3. bluetooth macrumors 6502a


    May 1, 2007
    Graphic Designers (professionals) usually charge anywhere from $30-$100+/hr depending on experience, client, job etc. etc. In terms of freelance, if you ever surf the "freelance design sites" you will find that the majority of decent small business or freelance design professionals will charge $30-$60/hr (USD) again, depending on experience, reputation, etc. etc.

    There will always be designers who will charge a lot less ie. as mentioned there are numerous "design firms" in India that you will find on these freelance sites who will charge $10 per hour (sometimes even less) but from my experience I find that these firms have very low repeat business due to the language barrier as communication is a vital aspect of doing business with a client, especially when it is done solely through email etc.

    You will also get the North American/European designers who undercut the industry pricing standard because they feel they can make up the ground and then some by doing a higher quantity of jobs (cheaper jobs = more jobs = more $) but again, repeat is very low among these freelancers and firms because the work is often rushed and both the client and project are not given the personal, custom care that one would expect when having a brochure/logo/website/etc. design done for them. In other words, an excess quantity of clients usually means low quality work.

    So are you undercharging? Well I guess that depends, do you consider yourself a professional? As stated, you have one more class to go and a handful of local projects under your belt so imo you are pretty much on the cusp of being a professional (be it one with limited experience at this point). So charging $30/hr at this point would not be unrealistic but it is a double edged sword when starting out. Clearly you do not want to start demanding $60-$70/hr which is what a seasoned, competent, senior designer would charge but if you start at $30/hr and plan on having "repeat business" then you will likely run into problems when you try raising your rates on repeat clients as you gain more experience. To them, you are the same guy doing the same work, so why now, say 2 years from now, should they be paying you almost double? If you do some searches on this site there are TONS of threads/opinions on this very topic as well as general ethical standards in Graphic Design and its relationship to pricing.

    Anyways, google is your friend for this topic, there are numerous published books as well as websites that will help guide and educate you on this topic.

    Opinions will vary, so you really need to do some research and define your own personal ethics.

    Here is one to start with:
  4. Philalbe thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 11, 2010
    Greater Boston Area
  5. Philalbe thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 11, 2010
    Greater Boston Area
    Lol!....that's what I figured. I started out not asking for much, because I was so grateful for the work/experience. I really only have two steady clients. Maybe I'll considered them grandfathered in and up my rate for new clients?
  6. Philalbe thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 11, 2010
    Greater Boston Area
  7. VictoriaStudent macrumors regular


    Jul 20, 2010

    There are a lot of designers, but not a lot of good, creative designers. Specifically, find your talent..your niche...mine was photo retouching..and go after that market...The days of making $100/hour are over..unless you are with an elite agency or are exceptionally impressive. $30/hour minimum should be your starting goal (providing you have a real creative talent on your side) for true design work..not just typography or page-layout stuff....which, imho, is hard to get any good $$ for because so many people can now do that "well enough."

    and, for the sake of the market, charge top dollar. Because, if you don't, you drag down the entire industry! If everyone providing service "x" charged very little for "x", then clients of service "x" will eventually expect to pay very little..whether service "x" is good, or bad. See what I mean? And, that crappy third world country design stuff just blows. Don't even consider that so-called competition in your future. If you find clients that say "oh, well, I can just get so & so to do the same thing for 1/2 price" then let them do that. Because so & so Indian design firm's work will s.u.c.k. You want quality clients who will pay a quality price.

    imho, develop your billing system NOW & stick with it. Be very, very clear about how you bill with every client. Also, develop a rate system for different aspects of your services.

    for instance.

    1) typography - $20/hour
    2) business card spec. - $15/hour
    3) logo creation - $60/hour
    4) ad copy creation - $50/hour
    5) photo retouching - $60/hour
    6) etc.
    7) etc.
    (those rates are just pulled out of the air, btw)

    don't just have a single rate. This will screw you at the end of the day. Some services are clearly more valuable than others.
    also, I suggest billing in 15 minute increments, or 10, or whatever. I like 15. If I do something that takes 5 minutes, I'd bill for the full 15. If I do something which takes 17 minutes, I would bill for the full 30. Why? Because we are always giving away our time for free. Even if you are spacing out while doing something, just thinking about it...that counts, too. Sure, I literally only typed & layed out your business card for 10 minutes, but I also thought about my work for at least 10 minutes, too..
  8. VictoriaStudent macrumors regular


    Jul 20, 2010
    yes. I know people in the health field who do exactly that. My favorite acupuncturist, the only one I will ever see, did exactly this for me. I saw this fellow over 6 years, and he kept me at the same rate the entire time. Not only was his original rate fair (for him & me), but it also kept me extremely loyal even though his rates increased $20/hour over the 6 years he treated me. If you start out charging a profitable rate with your long-term clients, both you & they should be happy if you keep them at that original rate even as you increase your rates for new clients. They will appreciate that & be loyal for it.

    As an aside, and because I've had too much saké and am rambling...

    As an experiment..for a couple of years..I ran a not-for-profit design service for groups/peoples/co-ops/anyone with a legitimate need for design services..Specifically co-ops and businesses with green/ecologically oriented intentions.

    At first, I tried charging nothing. I had NO takers for clients. Literally not a single one. It wasn't because my resume sucked, or my work blew (although you might think differently if you've been reading certain threads in design & graphics I've contributed to). I actually, and finally, had one person who wrote me and said, "Your work can't be good if you aren't charging for it." ding ding ding. The light bulb went on.

    So, then I started charging about $20/hour. My clients increased form Zero to a few. And STILL I had a couple of a people write & say, "Your work must be poor if you are only charging $20/hour for it."

    Even when I wrote back and stated, very clearly, the intention of my low rates...very few to no takers.

    So, don't charge too little or people will think you have no skillz.
  9. Philalbe thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 11, 2010
    Greater Boston Area
    Hi. Thanks for the pricing advice. That makes a lot of sense. I've had others tell me basically the same thing; that if your prices are too low, people may assume you are a hack. I just didn't know what I should set as a base. It sounds like I should start with a minimum of $30 an hour with future clents.
  10. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    I am sure I am missing stuff but here's business basics 101:

    Here's how you get your fee, estimate these:
    Desired annual salary $? (be realistic)

    Annual Costs
    - Office supplies
    - web site / advertising costs
    - Health insurance costs
    - Equipment costs (Consider your upgrade cycles such as 2 years, etc.)
    - Software costs (Consider upgrade cycle)
    - Office rental cost (you don't need to rent an office, but you can consider you are renting from yourself)
    - Other costs

    Expected projects per year
    Average hours per project
    (Hint: You are not going to work 5 days a week, 8 hours per day.)

    Here's what to charge
    (Salary + costs) / (Projects * hours per project)
  11. Rt&Dzine macrumors 6502a


    Oct 8, 2008
    I used to use different rates for different tasks and different clients. It caused various problems so now I use one hourly rate for everything. And I raise my rate every few years. There's never been a problem doing that. The 15 minute billing increment works well. Also have a minimum job charge. For instance it could be 1.5 or 2 times your hourly rate.

    The only exception to my fixed hourly rate is book layout. Publishers usually request a job bid and an hourly rate doesn't give them much to go on. I use a combination of a per page, per photo, etc., rate combined with an hourly rate for tables, corrections, revisions, etc.
  12. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Coming at this from a slightly different angle (I'm a photographer, not a designer).... but the door was opened with the comments about non-profits. I also sit on the boards of two non-profits.

    Doing work for non-profits/charities is a good way to increase your exposure and visibility with very little cash outlay, especially when you are time-rich and cash-poor. You are essentially investing time, and not money, when you work with a non-profit/charity.

    If you want to do some work for a charity or a non-profit, don't advertise for the work. Go and introduce yourself to a group that appeals to you, and start with some small projects. Generally they don't need basic stuff designed. It's already done. But they will likely have a fund-raiser or a project that is coming up. Work with them to make it stand out in the crowd. Like every other non-profit/charity they are trying to make their presence known.

    You can simply ask for credit somewhere. So, if you design a booklet or a newsletter, get a credit line in it. If they like to mail out cards or brochures, design it and get the credit line. How much would it have cost you to print and mail something to their entire mailing list? You get that access for whatever time you have given them.

    Before taking on a job, even for free, layout in writing what you are going to do. Treat them as a client, so specify: How many hours you are prepared to put into the project; How many revisions you will accept; What you expect the client to provide; What deadlines both you and the client will meet; Etc etc. Then be prepared to be very flexible. If it's a small group especially, because everyone working there is either a volunteer or an extremely over-worked and over-paid staff person. But having the agreement in writing will allow you to say "no" as more and more stuff gets added. Instead of doing 10x more than you had planned on it will only be 2x. And do say "no". They will understand - and if they do give you a hard time move on. There are lots of groups that are fun to work with.

    The other alternative is to charge per hour your going rate (at most discount it 10% to 20%) and then donate it back to the group. Often non-profits/charities will be given a grant to complete a project. They will actually have money to spend on getting it up and running and need to spend the money that has been budgeted for admin - which can include design work. This keeps their demands in check, because they still have to work within the budget, but they still get to keep the money - it just goes to a different bookkeeping line. This may not be your best option, however, as you have to book the job as "revenue", less the charitable donation which is not always 100% written off. Get tax advice on that scenario.

    What you should get from this, aside from a warm fuzzy feeling. You should get a credit line somewhere, mentioning your business name. You get something for the portfolio. You should take the opportunity to attend a few meetings of the Board and/or committee and meet the members and network. Don't push your services, but do have some business cards and be prepared to talk about your work, if asked. Many Board members are also business people, who may need design work. You are part of the family now.

    If you make a charitable donation, do so under your business name and ask to have the donation listed in their annual report and/or donor recognition blurb. A couple of medium sized jobs (for which you have donated the payment back) should put you into the 'noticed' category of donor levels. Your business name will be noted by people who care about the cause, and will 'connect' to you because you care about the cause as well. Again, think about how much it would have cost for you to put your name in front of those people and do so with a positive endorsement.

    A good non-profit/charity knows that they can't keep counting on people to do something for nothing. They don't have alot of money, so they will give you what they can... which is exposure and connections. Good Luck.
  13. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    As my old lecturer said "What kind of professional does not know what to charge clients? Answer, one who will be on the unemployment line very fast."

    Not to be rude, but really what are they teaching you at uni if you don't know professional pricings :confused: ... It was one of the last things I lernt when finish up all that time ago while I was at uni, and it's still one thing I use at least once a week. It's an important part of the business

    Freelance, you don't work 9 till 5... For instance, if you are earning $30ph, the "real" amount is $10ph by the time you buy new equipment, reinvest in yourself, pay the operational bills, tax, sick leave, etc.. you are in essence working for 33% of your hourly wage.

    My hourly is $90ph, this allows me to be able to get the latest and greatest software, reinvest in myself, pay tax and live :)

    But find included some links you might find useful.
  14. THX1139 macrumors 68000


    Mar 4, 2006
    In my experience, the cheaper the client, the more demanding they can be. I did a simple web job awhile back, and as a favor to a friend, I charged below my regular rate. I told them they were getting a good deal and why... but they still tried to take advantage of me. On another job, I got a referral to a non-profit and I offered them a really super low rate to do some design work. Their response was that they they wanted to see my resume and portfolio and have a meeting to see what my ideas were BEFORE committing to pay my low rate. On yet another job, I had a client string out a $300 simple project into a 90 day ordeal. I have more horror stories like these... it took me awhile to learn my lesson.

    So, who are the clients who I've had the best experiences with? They are the ones who are willing to pay the going rate and know what good designers/developers are worth. For example, I was doing a freelance job for an agency a few years ago. The producer approached me to see how the job was coming along and how I was doing on the deadline. I told him that it was a bit more complicated than I originally planned and it was taking me longer than I hoped. He just said... "That's okay, just make sure and bill us for the extra time you are putting in!" Love clients like that!

    Don't be afraid to bill for what the market will bear. If you don't think you are worth it, then you shouldn't be doing it professionally (yet). If you sell yourself short, you'll wind up hating the work you do and the clients (that you) are allowing to take advantage of you. You're better off not taking the job than doing it cheaply. Why? Because if you're not careful, you'll wind up being super busy - and super broke, wondering how you got yourself into the mess you are in. Better to have nothing coming in and that will force you to find a day job to hold you over until you can bill a decent rate and make a decent living doing the job you love. Certainly, don't bill cheaply just to get the work and then expect to make a living doing that! That's a false reality that will get you in the end. Don't quit your day job.
  15. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    I agree, charging a little more also scares off the "not so serious" and McScrooge bosses. The cheaper jobs tend to cost me more stuffing around than the big high end jobs.
  16. latech macrumors newbie

    Aug 22, 2010
    Actually they have...the paper I used to work for which is a major paper in Tennessee outsources their ads now to India.
  17. c.s. macrumors regular


    Nov 11, 2007
    The most valuable asset you have to sell your customer is your creativity and skill – not your time. Charge by the project.

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