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What Do You Charge For Graphic Design?

What Do You Charge For Graphic Design?

Mike Lenhart

What Do You Charge?

As a freelancer, or at a design firm, there comes a time when we have to figure out what to charge for our services. We are worth payment. But, what do we do to set our rates to make sure that we’re getting what we’re worth? In our experience at Creative Core Design (.net), we go through a lot of research and numbers to make sure we’re doing it right. But, what’s right?

Cover Your Butt

First and foremost, I think the main thing we need to do when setting design fees is to ascertain how much we spend to keep the business running, or our overhead. What are the expenses we have each month that typically come up? Do we buy office or computer supplies? Do we have rent and a phone bill to pay? Well, it’s a good thing to write down all of the fixed and variable expenses to see what you spend in any given month. After you have a figure, you’ll know what you’ll need to make, minimally, in order to stay afloat. Many times, we’ll need to double that figure so we can come up with a rate that will make us money. Think of all those expenses and get a figure.

How Much Do You Work?

The next thing to do is to figure out the weekly and monthly hours we plan to actually work on design projects. When we’re in an office, that’s going to be a given figure, but, if we’re a freelancer, we need to figure this out. Are we going to work 40 hours a week? 30? Figure that out and then multiply that by 20 – the actual number of business days we typically work. Use this figure to be divided into the figure determined for our overhead exenses. We’ll then get what we need to charge per hour in order to make this figure. This is tricky, though, because we’re not working every hour in the office on money-making projects. So, to make it more realistic, we may need to figure how many average hours we work on money-making projects. The hourly figure will go up, but it will be much more realistic. Sound difficult? Try it with some made-up numbers.

What Are THEY Charging?

It’s also a very good idea to find out what the competition may be charging for the same services. That’s not an easy task, but, if we lose a piece of business, ask the client if the rates were in line with the competition’s. Many times they’ll simply tell us. After some experience with this, we’ll figure out the marketplace and what can be charged in that market. There are a lot of “it depends” on this, too. Levels of experience, how long the competition has been in existence and how good their work is, and if this is a client that we really want to work with and, thus, may offer a discount or other incentive are all variables. Sometimes we can ask our fellow designers what they charge, but don’t count on any clear answers. There are also times when we want to give good, regular clients a deal. That’s good customer relations and says “thank you” to the client. Seasonal and business cycle trends also come up when determining pricing. It’s not an exact science, by any means, but with some practice and experience, rates will be in line with the market.

Don’t Be A Scheister

Last but not least, don’t undercut the market just because we can. It does no one any good when we deliberately undercut the competition or offer rates that we know are way low. What goes around comes around and it will come back to bite us. We need to be credible and build a reputation as a good and honest designer. We all deserve to get paid and we’re not a free service. Pro Bono? Sure, sometimes, but that calls for another way of thinking and another strategy.


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