Freelance rates and websites

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by macuser453787, Jul 13, 2017.

  1. macuser453787 macrumors 6502

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    #1
    I was just reading another forum that touched on this general topic so I thought I'd post this and ask a couple of questions.

    I've been doing graphic design since the mid-90s, including freelance work for some of that time.

    I haven't freelanced since 2009, except for a couple of times for a family member, and I've recently been considering the possibility of getting back into it. I didn't have an extensive client base back then, and am out of touch with those previous clients.

    My questions are:

    -- What do you typically charge clients for your time?

    -- Have you had any experience with freelance/contract websites like freelancer.com or thumbtack.com? If so, did you have a good experience with them? Was it worth it?
     
  2. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #2
    By the way, the reason I'm asking the pricing question is because some folks in this thread mentioned $50/hour and $75/hour, but I used to charge less than $50/hour when I was freelancing from 2000-2009.
     
  3. derohan, Jul 13, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017

    derohan macrumors member

    derohan

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    Nice, France
    #3
    Same here with not really having done it since 09... I'll (be) watching this space :)
    Glad to see it's becoming more viable since most websites are so poor anyway ^^
    Good luck!
     
  4. eyoungren macrumors P6

    eyoungren

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    #4
    My general rule of thumb has been $40/hr if it's not likely to take more than a few hours. If it takes more time I will try to estimate hours at that price and add in a couple of hours then round up.

    I see I have been underselling myself.

    However, I don't generally freelance a lot because most of the work is stuff I'm not experienced at. I am a graphic designer, but all the experience I have (18 years) is ad design for newspapers.

    Lastly, in another forum I visited someone suggested an inconvenience fee. After you've calculated your price, add 10%. This covers the idiot customers who can't decide what the hell they want or generally just waste your time with clueless and impossible demands.
     
  5. 960design, Jul 13, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2017

    960design macrumors 68000

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  6. lucidmedia macrumors 6502a

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    #6
    This question seems to come up on this forum a lot. Freelance rates vary widely based on location and skill. As an interaction designer working for technology companies in Boston and San Francisco, my standard freelance rate hovers a bit over $120/hr, which is considered cheap compared to many in the industry.

    I have worked with a few excellent print designers / typographers and their hourly rate sat around $80/hr.
     
  7. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #7
    Yeah, I think I was too, hence my question. I charged $35/hour, and that rate stayed the same for most of the latter part of my 2000-2009 freelancing years.
    --- Post Merged, Jul 14, 2017 ---
    Indeed. There's a particularly helpful website for answering questions like this, called payscale.com. I very recently had occasion to look up pay rates in a different industry. Maybe it will help in this case too, though I'm not sure if it lists freelance rates or not.

    If not, then maybe one could find out normal hourly rates in a given market and then add a certain percentage to it...
     
  8. fig macrumors 6502a

    fig

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    Austin, TX
    #8
    This is pretty much the correct answer. What you're going to get for web or app design in the Bay Area is a lot different than what a guy in Nebraska or Idaho is going to charge.

    I know some adjust that number per the client, which also makes a lot of sense on a project basis. An identity or website, for example, is worth far more to a corporation than it is to a mom and pop small business.

    As far as "inconvenience" pricing, when quoting a project at a project price I'll absolutely include a PITA markup if I can tell a client is going to be difficult (after a while you can spot these pretty easily).

    Really good watch on pricing design services here, they've got tons of great content on design business:
     
  9. BJMRamage macrumors 68020

    BJMRamage

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    Oct 2, 2007
    #9
    it all depends on the area as noted above.

    I kept my rates daily low for years. then upped them some more (double my original rates). Then after my company laid me off and at the same time asked if I wanted to design for them via Contract Employee...my raters doubled. Now, the marketing department was based out of Palo Alto near SanFran and if they grabbed someone out there my doubled rate was still fairly cheap.

    I lost some clients when I have increased and kept some clients. and got new clients. when you lose a client when you have a higher rate you realize it isn;t the end of the world.


    Only you can know your worth. I felt my time (away from family) was worth more. and my skill set would back that up.
    all that said, I have phased myself out of freelance because the time wasn't there. I still do some here and there but not as much as before.

    *** I know that doesn't help much but do NOT undersell. There will always be someone that will do the job for cheaper...but your skills don't mean you need to be cheap. I have soon too many $5 logos come back to bite a company in the @ss when they try to get things printed.
     
  10. opeter macrumors 65816

    opeter

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    #10
    For these of you, who don't freelance anymore, what do you do? Do you have a "real" job, are you employed somewhere, have you retired etc.?
     
  11. BJMRamage macrumors 68020

    BJMRamage

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    #11
    ^ I have a "real" job in design. gives me a 9-5 peace-of-mind, some stability, terrible insurance, discounts on company products, a new Mac every few years...

    I don't like being a salesman (for my services) or the accountant side (billing). The idea of freelancing with two younger kids seemed a hassle. at least getting out is nice.
     
  12. eyoungren macrumors P6

    eyoungren

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    #12
    I've had a real job since 1999. The industry I work in is a niche industry. You don't find many people doing it and as such it tends to be invisible in the design world.

    I work for newspapers. My first job was as an Ad Compsitor for the Desert Sun in Palm Springs, California. That's a Gannet daily. After that it was jobs for small, family owned papers in Arizona (Arizona Capitol Times, Scottsdale Times) and now 14 years with Pueblo Publishers (Glendale Star/Peoria Times) in Glendale, AZ.

    I'm the one that puts together all the ads you see in newspapers. Some are camera ready national ads, some camera ready local ads, and some are actually built by me for any size business. Ad design for newspapers is a free service that you get when you book your ad space. And when you pay for the space you own the ad and the materials in it.

    This, and the fact that I don't have the standard relationship with clients that most designers do means I am often breaking design rules/typical policies every day.

    For instance, if you send me a camera ready ad and tell me to change something in it I have the right to substitute your font to make that change if I don't have the font and you don't give it to me. I have a deadline to make so talking to customers is left to the ad reps who sit between me and the customer.

    We don't have to match your colors exactly. As long as our printer gets in the general area consistently then that's pretty much all you can expect. You do get a proof before the paper prints, but you can't really take what you see on your monitor as being exactly what you will get.

    Ads are built based on a layout usually sketched either by the rep or their customer. I go by that. Very little of my time or experience is spent actually 'designing'. And often customers simply want you to rip off new trends and ideas so they can keep up with the Joneses.

    We also don't adhere to the usual spelling or grammar rules depending on what the ad calls for.

    But my work sees print every week. I've touched every ad you see in the paper in some form. I can take a badly designed PDF and repurpose it because it's what I do. It requires prepress skills and tools.

    I do a lot more than the ad design as well, but I'll leave that alone for now.

    Freelance design then is an every once and a while thing. Because of what I do I really have no experience in logo design, ad campaigns, etc.
     
  13. BJMRamage macrumors 68020

    BJMRamage

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    Oct 2, 2007
    #13
    I started at a newspaper. they were using Quark and an application called Multi-Ad Creator...built for Newspaper ad designers.

    I have had similar experiences with the customer base wanting a full-sheet flyer in a business card size ad. or Camera-Ready but not really, not at all sometimes because they'd also supply changes. the best were car ads where the salesman would bring in either a camera at 4:30 for a press run that night OR a multi-page car add from a former newspaper designer who went freelance full-time...his stuff was always RGB. or somehow wrong. each and every ad he'd submit.
     
  14. eyoungren macrumors P6

    eyoungren

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    #14
    Yeah, that's what I started on as well.

    I had to read up on XPress 4.0.3 very quickly because the XPress version I had learned coming out of school was 3.x something.

    And the Desert Sun also had Multi Ad Creator as well. But they used QXP so that's what I was using.

    I got all the way up to XPress 8.5.1 before I switched to InDesign. Fortuntately, because of the size of the paper I work for I have complete autonomy in the back where I work. As long as the paper gets out on time and correctly the boss doesn't care what I use or how I use it.

    So, I switched us to ID because I realized I was never going to learn it on my own. Getting paid to use it (on the job training) made it worthwile.

    Still stuck on CS4 though as I have to maintain compatibility with one other person who uses a PowerMac G5.

    Oh the stories I could tell about customers. Some of the most brainless, stupid people in the world are small business owners. Especially the ones who treat their business as a hobby to occupy their otherwise empty lives.
     
  15. opeter macrumors 65816

    opeter

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    Slovenia, EU
    #15
    Thanks everyone for their response.

    Interesting. Well, so your work is than similar to this?

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    I'm freelancing about 18 years now.
    Sometimes its hard. Especially, because people like to forget to pay.
     
  16. eyoungren macrumors P6

    eyoungren

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    #16
    Pretty much.

    This would be exactly…

    Glendale Star 7_20_2017.pdf.png
    People don't like to pay. A part of our ad reps jobs are pursuing customer payments. There have been a few times where ads have had to be pulled before publication because the customer didn't pay.

    You'd also be surprised how many customers think that classified ads are free. They aren't.
     
  17. tobefirst macrumors 68040

    tobefirst

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    Jan 24, 2005
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #17
    My first job was as a page designer at a small newspaper, printed for two smallish towns a total of three times a week between them. The page designer before me had a journalism background, so they were over the moon with just about anything I "designed," which was mostly the front pages of specialty sections. After a month or so, it only took me about 20 hours to do what the previous guy would spend 40 doing. I was essentially overqualified and left 6 months later. I still remember it fondly though. There were a lot of things to like about it.
     
  18. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #18
    This is an excellent foundation for being a designer, which in my experience requires creativity coupled with technical ability. There are designers, and there are prepress technicians, and there are those who can do both. Having both skill sets can greatly benefit one as a graphic designer IMO, because designing effectively includes the ability to think about the production process and execute the design and file setup accordingly.

    I don't recall versions 3 and 4 being too drastically different. Was there a learning curve...?

    I did very similarly, working in an offset litho printing production environment and handling native INDD 2.0 (not CS2, v2.0) in the early 2000s-ish, and then using it more extensively with the first CS release and onwards. So glad I did too. I much prefer INDD.

    These days, we rarely even use QXP. We have a PM G5 with v6 installed in case we ever need it, but the owners didn't see the need to upgrade past that version. There were a handful of occasions in the years between v7 and v9 where it would have come in handy to have the current QXP version, but seeing how things are now, I kind of agree with their decision. But then, we're setup to handle supplied PDFs rather than native files (though we can and do use native files sometimes).
    --- Post Merged, Jul 28, 2017 ---
    Naturally. I suppose trying to make newsprint look like on-screen colors would be very problematic. I imagine there's a certain freedom in not being constrained by trying to color match. Nice. :)

    What linescreen does newsprint run at these days? Last I kept track, it was something like 85 lpi IIRC.

    We print at 250 lpi here, but that's mostly on coated stocks.
     
  19. eyoungren macrumors P6

    eyoungren

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    #19
    I've learned a lot because it was do or die. Except for my first job all my experience has been at small papers where I am not only the composing person, but my own IT department and tech support.

    Lots and lot of web searching. :)

    I like to mention to those who will listen, the story of the $40/hr Graphic Designer in the advertising department at the Desert Sun. She provided a full color ad to the Production Manager (my boss at the time) for publication. My boss went ballistic and went downstairs to tear her a new one. Her sin? Full RGB color at 72dpi. And she got paid $40/hr.

    There was for me. I only have an AA degree and the design part in school was done on a graphic design certificate. There was about five years between that part and the general ed stuff I needed for the AA degree. I was working at UPS at the time so not employed in my field until much later.

    The upshot was I learned about Peachpit Press and their Visual Quickstart Guides. Made it very easy. I also set out to learn every keyboard shortcut I could to memory.

    When I first started at my current job I walked into Pagemaker (Pagewrecker) on PC. I was taking over for the designer leaving and the first thing I did once she did leave was use QXP 4.11 on one of our G4s. That Mac is being used as a print server now.

    The company did have InDesign 2.0 so I am familiiar with your reference.

    I am still a fan of QuarkXPress. It's the program I learned first and love most. But I did what I did to learn InDesign because how good is a designer who only knows how to use one tool? Especially when that one tool is no longer the industry standard?

    I figured learning it would keep me relevant to my employer.

    Because of the nature of newsprint there is NEVER any way to guarantee the EXACT color every time. All you can do is get close. Even the start and end of the print run is different. Paper stretches, the first copies are the worst, etc, etc.

    When we were doing the printing our linescreen was 75lpi. Our press is an archaic Goss Community 300 that was bought from a TRW technical manual printing division in the 1950s. We were limited to the number of pages and where color could go. And we had an involved process to get 11x17 laser printer prints to plate. The family that owns the business realized at some point when finding film was getting very hard and our print quality was getting very bad that they had to do something.

    Going direct to plate would have cost some serious money. So, we took the only alternative and went with the largest newspaper printer in our market. Valley Newspapers prints for almost every newspaper big or small out here. They have a 150 line screen so for the first time I can let raster ads slide because the quality is good enough.

    But I prefer if the customer provides me with a correctly made PDF.
     
  20. BJMRamage macrumors 68020

    BJMRamage

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    #20
    This has been a fun read...back through time.

    Just to think back. My first job I was on a Mac with Photoshop 5 (think, unless it was actually 4). I don't think it had the Effects option so any shadows had to be done by hand. and I had no History Palette, so if I made a mistake once, i could undo. if I went a couple steps in I could not reverse that sequence. others had 5.5, 6, and a contract employee had a nice new Mac and 7. I had to plead to even upgrade to a history palette version. We used Quark there.

    Going to a check printer. We were running Quark and had the Creative Suite. I asked when we'd switch to InDesign and so I was the Guinea Pig for InDesign (Mainly because QXP would sometimes crash on our designs meaning I had to start over anyway). we made the switch...InDesign was speedy and had lots of options.

    Today, when i have to design in InDesign (instead of Illustrator for one-piece designs) I found that InDesign seems to run painfully slow. That's on a new Mac, and CC2017, and running from the desktop not the server.

    My first design experience "on the job" was being the art director for our High School Newspaper, where we'd run wax-ups and blue lines, and when a photo needed enlarging, it was done on a machine that looked like a camera suspended over a plate. this took place at the newspaper where i landed my first paying design job. it was funny to see the changes in 4-5 years time.
     
  21. eyoungren macrumors P6

    eyoungren

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    #21
    We had Photoshop 5 at the Desert Sun.

    One of the old cranky men who worked there taught me a few things that still stick and are pretty much the rules in newspaper ad design.

    Never more than two fonts. One serif, one sans-serif. And unlike editorial copy, most people prefer sans-serif as the body copy in ads.

    When I'm working in Photoshop and have a layer I absolutely do not wish destroyed I will duplicate it and work off the copy. Despite the fact that non-destructive layers were the norm a long time ago.
     
  22. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #22
    LOL yeah don't we all :)

    Or I should say, shouldn't we all :)
     
  23. opeter macrumors 65816

    opeter

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    #23
    Well I also started with Pagemaker (on Windows) and learned a bit of (Corel) Ventura ...
    The local small newspaper, where I lived also used Pagemaker and Corel DRAW. Sometimes I had the opportunity to watch the guy, who "put" the newspaper together.

    Than I went to highschool that had fine art education programs like "classic" graphic (you know litography, etching, etc.) and typography. Here we learned and did everything by hand (and sometimes used Letraset). :)

    Anyway in the last grade/year the tipography teacher showed us his Mac (Centris if I remember correctly, that was written on the case) with QuarXpress 3 installed.

    Than I went to college, where in the later semesters had the change to use some older Mac computers. They had Quark, but I realized, that InDesign 1.0 is the way to go. And I slowly learned it, because it was more similar to Pagemaker.
     
  24. eyoungren, Jul 29, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2017

    eyoungren macrumors P6

    eyoungren

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    #24
    Here is my timeline…

    In 1989 I graduated highschool, but I had a job that I'd gotten in highschool. Since I was a lazy bum the job was enough to provide me spending money while my parents paid everything else and I 'attended' the local community college.

    Eventually that job was too boring for me so through the community college I was able to get a night job at UPS in August 1992.

    College fell through, but by the end of '92 I enrolled at Platt College in Ontario, California to get a graphic design certificate.

    Because I came in that year it seemed to have been a transitional period between the old ways of mechanicals and pasteup (which I learned) and the new digital ways (Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand, XPress). The last part came in 1996 as I tried to finish up by turning my graphic design certificate into an AA degree (which Platt College had not previously offered).

    By this time I'm making to me what is decent money at UPS, but I am only part time. I get told in 1994 as I'm about to receive my certificate that the kind of money I can expect is less than what I'm making at UPS. This makes me very depressed because what was the point of this education and student loans if I'm going to be making more at manual labor? Which led to the gap of time between my certificate and my AA degree of about two years while I just focused on working at UPS and trying to become full time (which didn't happen).

    I eventually get married in 1997 and move out of my parents. But by 1999 I'm tired with UPS so I decide to go back to Platt College and add a multimedia certificate to my AA degree.
    Which, honestly, I've never once used those old 1999 skills I gained.

    However, my AA degree got me my first job at the Desert Sun in 1999. But by this point anything I knew in QuarkXPress is hazy 1993-1994 information. So I had to learn real fast.

    All of the jobs after that used QuarkXPress so my introduction to InDesign was very delayed.
     
  25. fig macrumors 6502a

    fig

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    Jun 13, 2012
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    #25
    I've freelanced fulltime off and on, currently working as a senior designer for a tech company while doing some freelance on the site.
     

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