Freelance emergency rates

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by tobefirst, Apr 21, 2017.

  1. tobefirst macrumors 68040


    Jan 24, 2005
    St. Louis, MO
    I have a freelance client who told me they needed something in 2 days instead of the 8 they had given on a timeline the day before, and who then wanted a round of changes returned the same day I sent the proof. I have another client who offered two or three times my normal rate for me to do changes for her. "Emergencies" generally aren't a big deal as I'm extremely efficient with my design time, but I'd like to develop some rules for when my rate goes up and how much.

    What are your emergency terms? 1.5x normal rate? 2x normal rate? What timeline qualifies as an emergency? How do you communicate which rate you'll be charging with your clients?
  2. 960design macrumors 68030

    Apr 17, 2012
    Destin, FL
    I keep my stuff very simple. Let's say I charge $75/hour ( 4 hour minimum ). Emergency stuff is x3 standard rate. Worse case scenario for client: simple logo change ( freelance ) = $300. Typically can be completed in 1 to 2 days. Need it down NOW... $900.

    Digital signature on exact work to be done ( prevents creep ) and half up front, as normal, to start.

    Emergency is any timeline dictated by the client. It seems almost everything is an emergency to a client until you show them the x3 cost difference... then they are typically more reasonable.
  3. Anonymous Freak macrumors 601

    Anonymous Freak

    Dec 12, 2002
    "Drop everything and work on it NOW type work was always 2x rate for me."
  4. jeremysteele macrumors 6502

    Jul 13, 2011
    No longer freelance - but back when I did - for hourly work I used to charge 2x for "get it done soon" or 3x for "it needs to be done yesterday!!".

    For flat project rates - it depended on how soon it became an "emergency". If I knew right away it needed to be done sooner, I would charge 1.5-2x. It they told me mid-project that it needed to get done now, I did 2-3x - only because at that point it was usually a royal pita to fit it in my schedule and would tick off other clients.

    In one rare instance I got 4x my rate for an all-nighter emergency fix of an e-commerce site. Was well worth it to the guy - since he was losing about 5k per hour having his site down.
  5. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    Spot on :D
  6. supremedesigner macrumors 6502a


    Dec 9, 2005
    Gainesville, Fl
    I would charge 3x the amount.

    75 per hour for normal
    200 per hour for emergency
  7. choreo, Jun 16, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017

    choreo macrumors regular


    Jan 10, 2008
    Midland, TX
    I have been doing freelance graphic and web design full-time for over 25 years for over 150 corporations and small businesses. I honestly cannot remember the last time anyone called me and did not use the term "rush" or "emergency"! In actuality I have one seen "one" graphic "emergency" in all those years. I have had several corporate clients email me or call me as little as 4 hours after assigning an 8-12 hour project asking me if it was done!

    It is amazing how people (clients) have changed over time. When I first started computer design work in 1989, very few people even had computers (and all I had was a Mac SE with a 9" B&W screen). A 300dpi scanner was $10,000! The local printers where I lived could not even accept a digital file. Color Management was all but nonexistent. When people hired me, there was very little competition and no frame of reference. As time progressed, "email" was the first wrench to be thrown into the system - now clients could start firing off emails asking project status, making revisions, etc. and all those emails had to be answered (sometimes taking longer to compose than the actual projects) - today that is even worse - I have had some 4-hour logo projects that required over 100 emails back and forth to clients that simply will not pick up the phone! Texting is out of control! There were no "rush" jobs back then as nearly every print project required sending off a disk to a printer and having plates burned and then having a $300 color match print mailed back for client sign off - for every page - if there was a color or other problem the whole process would start over. So getting in a hurry just did not happen.

    Then came the invention of PDF and the "free" reader app. Now every client was conned into believing that they could proof color accurately on their entry level monitor with no color management. That led to years of explanations to clients that what they were seeing was not accurate (another time suck) - that still continues.

    About that same time the Fed-Ex Overnight phenomenon was born, and instantly people became nervous wrecks and the most mundane print project had to be received the next day or the world would end! I had one major client that spent over $250,000 with me in 2004 and $120,000 of that was FedEx reimbursements to me (not an uncommon ratio). In almost every case, if I went to their local office, I would see overnight shipments I made to them still sealed up in the boxes unopened weeks after receipt. People will sometimes haggle over design/printing prices, but will spend ANYTHING to ship it overnight!

    Then came the invention of the Mobile Phone (just when you thought it could not get worse). Clients now try to color proof my designs on a postage-stamp-size screen while driving down the freeway at 70mph! "Could you make that teal a bit more green?" to which I would respond, it is "blue"! God forbid if you ever have to get in a corporate meeting with that circle of dim-bulbs - nothing like driving across town and sitting around a table with six people that don't look up from their little phones for 45 minutes and spend the whole time responding to text messages and tweets! I have not been to a single corporate meeting in years where a single thing gets decided of any consequence, but they are all on salary and all they do is have meetings to make it look like they did something that day.

    Then the creme-de-la-creme, the advent of Social Media. Now I no longer design for "a client" - no matter what I design 9 times out of 10 the client has posted it to Facebook for the whole world to make comments and suggestions. If just one anonymous person makes a comment, the client has a full on fit! Most clients place more stock in what some unqualified stranger says than the professional they hired! This is now true of everything today - few people are left that can actually make a decision on their own, so design really drags out (and most designs usually get worse as they look like they are designed by committee before it is all said and done).

    So such is the life of a digital freelancer today. I just assume that everything is a rush from the outset and charge accordingly, knowing full well that the actual "design" work will take less time than the emails, phone calls, overnight shipments, revisions over time they log in another opinion, etc. One thing I have learned for sure - after a lifetime of taking and teaching countless seminars of concepts such as Color Theory - save yourself some time and effort and just have your client go ahead and ask his wife what her favorite color is from her sorority days, because that is the color(s) you will end up using regardless of how many VP's are involved!

    If you can get hired as a true "designer" on a retainer basis where you have the final say, then that is great, but most people looking for a Freelancer today where they can rent a few hours don't usually just accept your first (or best) design. I have also noticed the past couple years another new wrinkle in that more and more clients have purchased subscriptions to the Adobe Creative Suite, most of whom have no idea how to actually use any of the apps. So they are trying to hire me to create work to their specifications and demand my native files so that they can learn how I do what I do which opens up a whole new can of worms. Therefore, I have been turning down more and more of those jobs.
  8. 960design macrumors 68030

    Apr 17, 2012
    Destin, FL
    Damn, I feel for you. Luckily I'm still in the 'magical' world of code, but those days are quickly coming to an end. I can see the day where clients will want a function refactored because it has two returns or and object recreated because the components are not in alphabetical order or grouped by whatever category.
  9. TheTruth101 macrumors regular

    Mar 15, 2017
    As a Project Manager myself there is an equation: quality = time vs money.
    If something takes 16 hours to do and I have 2 days to do it I charge normal rate. If I have one day to do it, the extra hour (besides the 8) is double or even more.

    Depends on the client, if the clients send me work all the time and this one is an special case I can work late ours this time and you have to let him know upfront so next time you will charge.

    I like to charge, I do not work for clients with no money, there should be at least a benefit for myself in the transaction.
  10. TheTruth101 macrumors regular

    Mar 15, 2017
    And let me add something.... if there is an emergency I can deliver I take it. I would set up very clear rules. I do not want people complaining later that "it was not as expected". Usually I turn down the request, why? because 100% of the people who ask you for emergency are really disorganized and for sure they will ask you to do a job they have no idea for sure how they wanted it in first place and now they are looking for another idiot to clear their mind. 100% of the time they will tell you "that si not what I wanted" and won't pay you. First they will cry to give you a fair price because "we didn't expect this to be so urgent" and "if you do this we could do more". And then they will change the mask.

    So... always pay yourself first. The deal has to be convenient for you first. Do not cut your vains.

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