The ‘Hows’ of Pricing Your Design Work

Recently I have been receiving many emails from designers asking me what’s the “best practice” for pricing design work or how much do you charge for a design.

I like to start off by saying there is no “best practice”, but there are a number of factors to consider when pricing your work and services. Below are 10 factors to consider when pricing a project and your design services.

How much experience you have

Have you been working professionally for 30 years or are you fresh out of design school? Chances are the more ‘real-world’ design experience you have the better your work is. Everyone and everything gets better over time, especially your designs and skill level.

How “good” is your work

Not only does this go hand-in-hand with the amount of experience a designer has, but requires a difficult self-evaluation… How good are you? Try to be as honest as possible with yourself, because your clients will know by the work you produce; thus decreasing your chance of referrals.

More often than not you have a pretty good idea where you stand against other designers and their work.

Also, research how much other designers of various skill level are charging and let your prices reflect and adjust.

How much time will the project take

How much research will need to be done? How many client meetings will need to take place? All factors that will reflect on the estimated time frame of the project.

How fast does your client need the project

Not to be confused with how much time a project will take—There are times when a client is on a tight deadline and requires their work to be completed on a much faster deadline that it would typically take.

How exposed is the company?

In most cases the size of the company reflects the usage and visibility of your designs and the price should reflect that. The larger the company the more hands will touch your design and the more places it will be used. See below:

How and where will it be used

Let’s say you are designing a logo for web-only use and another for print and web. While a client using a logo only for the web might require only a PNG and JPG file, someone using it for both will require many more file formats and options. All of this requires more time and planning.

How much are you in demand

The more clients want your services the more your prices should reflect the demand for it (and vice versa). It’s simple supply and demand. And don’t worry this is not untypical of standard business practices either. Every business does it, don’t feel bad.

How are you different from your competitors

Do you offer 24-7 services or personal content management training. If your services and strategies are giving clients the ‘white glove treatment’, then as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.”

How much attention will the client need

Will your client need you to show them how to use a content management system to update their website or do you need to rewrite the copy of their brochure in addition to designing it? Will your client require weekly meet-ups? Some clients will let you and your ideas roam free while others will require their hands to be held through the entire process.

How badly do you want the job

Remember good exposure can be invaluable. Sometimes it’s worth low-balling a price to ensure a job in return for good exposure that will bring work through in the future. It’s important to note that some client’s will promise good exposure in return for your cheapest price within the first minute of talking with you. Be weary of these situations, do your research and use good judgment.

Remember, pricing design work is much like pricing a new house. There are many factors to consider and each house, or project, is unique. It is essential to get as many details as possible from the start so you can provide an accurate quote without under or over charging. Be fair and courteous of your clients and they will do the same for you.

What other factors do you consider when pricing your design work?



Discussion and Comments

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  1. Excellent post Brian! This is so true, there are so many factors towards pricing for a design. It is very irksome when a client just calls you up and pesters you to give them an “approximate” pricing based just on “I want to make a 3 page website” and nothing more.

  2. Neil Gilbert says:

    It’s only my personal opinion but I don’t think pricing your work based on the size of the company you are working for is a very ethical practice. That’s not a sound economical consideration, it’s a biased attempt (based on perceived affluence) to extract more money for something that typically has a set price.

  3. [...] 7/28/09 – The ‘Hows’ of Pricing Your Design Work Related Posts:Graphic Designer Contracts Agreements Forms & Web Designers ContractsWeb Development [...]

  4. Another great business side post.

  5. Brian says:

    Neil,
    My wording on the title of “size” was inaccurate and changed it to how exposed the company is. Take for example the new Pepsi logo… Pepsi paid 1 million dollars for the new logo to be rolled out, not because it was a difficult concept (in reality it didn’t change much from the original) but simply because of the exposure of the new logo. If a logo, for example, is to be used only on the web compared to something that would be used on signage, business stationery, billboards, a nationwide marketing campaign, etc. it should be reflective.

  6. Sue Massey says:

    I discovered your homepage by coincidence.
    Very interesting posts and well written.
    I will put your site on my blogroll.
    :-)

  7. Great article, it touches on some key points that all designers face. I too hate the email that is ” How much do you charge for a logo?”…how long is a piece of string ;)

  8. Tom Lewek says:

    Definitely some things to think about before quoting a job, and many designers may forget to consider.

    I think another important factor is your location. If you’re a designer living in a small town, you may not be able to charge the same rates as someone living in a major metropolitan area. Assuming most of your clients are local I suppose. But cost of living definitely comes in to play either way.

  9. “Sometimes it’s worth low-balling a price to ensure a job in return for good exposure that will bring work through in the future.” Good luck to all who choose this path, because in all my 20 years experience, I’ve never, ever, ever had this scenario work out for me. But I’ve eaten it with a lot of promises. Be wary of promises of more work down the road, or “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

  10. ne says:

    well, that’s nice and all, but can you speak in actual numbers?
    especially for beginners who really have no clue about what makes sense.

  11. Once again a thought provoking post. The subject of what to charge is one that must be constantly revisited.

    Thanks

  12. This a great post – brings certain things to light that I think could be easily over-looked like ‘how much attention your client will need’. I find this can be a huge deciding factor in the time spent on a job.

    Thanks again!

  13. Brian says:

    graphic granola,
    I agree with you completely, you do have to be quite careful and cautious. Although, sometimes a great project that you are very much interested in comes you way and in order to win over a client adjust your prices.

  14. Brian says:

    ne,
    It’s impossible to speak in terms of numbers when deciding on a price of a design by a specific designer. Next time you go grocery shopping look at the various brands of Orange Juice and see how their prices vary. It’s a number of factors that go into how each company prices their products.

    The best advice I can give is do your research into how much other designers and companies are charging. Then base the above factors into determining how much YOU should charge based on experience, skill level, project guidelines, etc.

  15. Tom Lewek says:

    Brian,
    What I think NE is asking is exactly what you’re telling him/her to do in your last comment: “research into how much other designers and companies are charging.” Obviously you would then need to factor in a number of things like you said.

    Not that I actually think you should post your rates here or anywhere on the web, but it may be difficult to attain this type of specific information. That may be why NE asks the question.

    There are general pricing resources, for example FreelanceSwitch’s Hourly Rates Calculator http://freelanceswitch.com/rates/ or the Graphic Artist’s Guild Pricing & Ethical Guidlines. But they are often TOO general to even be useful.

  16. ne says:

    Thanks for the resources. I hope it helps me get an idea.

  17. Clint says:

    I’ve been in the design business for almost 8 years now, but this is my first year out on my own. I’ve learned that it is important to remember that you and your work are perceived by what you charge. For a designer who is just trying to get work, they might try to shoot WAY below what the actual value of their designs are worth. This might seem like a good idea, but it can hurt your chances of getting the job.

    Make sure you know your client. Often times a business owner will pass on a designer who has great chops, but is charging too little. Why? Because they think they are getting a lesser service since the price is so low.

    I’ve recently quoted a job that, even though the project didn’t come through, the potential client let me know that my estimate fell right in the middle of the other 2 she had received. This was good, because I know the rates in my city (OKC, OK) and if I was in the middle, then that’s right where I want be.

    Just a thought – sorry for the long post. Charge what your worth, and don’t charge less just because you really want the job. People will respect that, in my opinion.

  18. Mike - Miami says:

    Pricing your services… the great balancing act! You certainly don’t want to lose money, but you also don’t want to scare your prospects away. You really need to understand how much your prospects are willing to pay and then formulate a proposal that fits within their budgetary constraints… but also keeping in mind that you deserve to profit. So, you should always be willing to walk away from prospects who can’t afford you.

  19. Rachel Cary says:

    Some excellent points, nice article. Some comments:

    “Also, research how much other designers of various skill level are charging and let your prices reflect and adjust.” > I find this to be rather challenging. Many designers hold this info pretty close, as well they should. Anyone have any tips on getting this info?

    “Remember good exposure can be invaluable. Sometimes it’s worth low-balling a price to ensure a job in return for good exposure that will bring work through in the future.” > in my 20 years of working in the design world, I have never found this to be true. Lowballing does nothing more than teach your client that you do not value your own work and encourages them to lowball you in the future. Clients set a lot of their impressions/expectations at initial contact and it can be *mighty* hard to change those expectations. And would ever really want to say to a client ‘well, I low-balled ya’ cause I need the exposure’… if you’re good enough, you won’t need to low-ball. Low-balling hurts the entire design industry – don’t do it!

  20. “Also, research how much other designers of various skill level are charging and let your prices reflect and adjust.” > I find this to be rather challenging. Many designers hold this info pretty close, as well they should. Anyone have any tips on getting this info?

    I’ve had a few designers call me and say straight out that they are researching pricing, and asking how much I charge. I like that refreshing honesty and I tell them. So just email or get on the phone and be honest about what you’re researching. The worst that can happen is they say No, not comfortable answering. Big whoop.

  21. [...] The ‘Hows’ Of Pricing Your Design Work (thedesigncubicle.com) [...]

  22. Jeremy says:

    Great article Brian, a lot of good information. There are numbers available out there, like you said you just have to do a bit of research. You’ll have trouble finding cut and dry hourly rate disclosures but you will run into a few sites that advertise things like per page, a pricing range, average salaries etc. If you put enough of them together you will start to come up with a rough idea. Another option is make some friends and work with a few people. Over time and you will start to get a feel for what others charge. You may realize you had it just right or you may get a big surprise.

    Bottom line is do some research, set a rate at which you value your services, take into account some of the key points above and stick to it (adjusting when necessary). Be wary of deal makers and promises of exposure and a ton of work “down the road”. More than likely you will run into some people that turn running when they hear your rates and others who agree to your proposal so quickly you would think it had a red sale tag attached to it.

  23. CJ Cipriano says:

    The trick is, how do you know when your good enough to start getting paid for your work.

  24. [...] & Tricks & Info to Build Your Freelance Business 12 Tips on Pricing your Web Work The ‘Hows’ of Pricing Your Design Work Keeping Freelance Finances Straight: Opening a 2nd Bank Account My Secrets To Successful Client [...]

  25. Kaplang says:

    really good article and I have to agree with everything you have said in it. It really does frustrate me how some clients want to whole world but also want to pay peanuts for it.

  26. [...] to Handle Them 8 Days to Become a Stress-Free Freelance Designer 12 Tips on Pricing your Web Work The ‘Hows’ of Pricing Your Design Work Keeping Freelance Finances Straight: Opening a 2nd Bank Account My Secrets To Successful Client [...]

  27. [...] The ‘Hows’ of Pricing Your Design Work [...]

  28. [...] The ‘Hows’ of Pricing Your Design Work: Another post on freelancing, though this time geared towards designers — pricing advice for all freelancers is great but the specifics can vary from profession to profession. [...]

  29. [...] The ‘Hows’ of Pricing Your Design Work: Another post on freelancing, though this time geared towards designers — pricing advice for all freelancers is great but the specifics can vary from profession to profession. [...]

  30. Taking your points into consideration is a much better idea than picking a price out of the air and then realising that I’ve massively under quoted. I must remember that next time I quote on a job.

  31. [...] consultar el artículo The “Hows” of Princing Your Design Work, publicado por Brian Hoff en The Design [...]

  32. Designer says:

    Your website looks pretty naff for a “designer”

    It is crammed, whilst coming across as wanting to be “minimal”

  33. Jared says:

    This is very good, I am thinking of starting to do freelance work, so this is useful for me. :)

  34. Hello Brian,
    Should we adjust the price based on what the client can pay??
    Do you vary your price based on the size of the company?
    Like charging less for startups where they cant afford much.

  35. Brian says:

    Satish,
    Typically a big consideration of what they pay is based on the amount of research and time I put into the project. Typically I will give clients ranges when they fill out my Project Worksheets – typically most client’s will have a budget they are trying to stay between so I work with them the best I can to achieve this budget without undercutting my amount of work.

  36. Got you :).
    Out of topic but, why dint you enable threaded comments??

  37. [...] The ‘Hows’ of Pricing Your Design Work: Brian Hoff of The Design Cubicle shares 10 factors to consider when pricing a project and your design services, such as how much experience you have and how much time the project will take. [...]

  38. Geeee says:

    I like the way you put that post into details. That’s exactly the main factors to be able to price any artwork or project. thanks for the good post :)

  39. Great post Brian. Really informative, and insightful. I think that this is one question that a lot of designers have, and that can be hard to determine an answer sometimes. Great to have a “grid” to push all the necessary questions through.

    Thanks,

    Charles

  40. Ted Goas says:

    Great article Brian! I may just make a checklist out of your blog post… many thanks!

  41. Kamal says:

    Awesome insight. Adds a few more points to the checklist which I would have loved to add long ago :)

    Thanks for sharing!

    There are a few factors though, esp the ones that aren’t directly measurable, where rules of thumb just won’t work. One has to take the time and experience to get the best out of those to cut a win-win deal! As long as it is a win-win deal, I feel the price is just right! :)

  42. Thanks for the great article, probably one of the best posts I have read on pricing a project. Most only list 3 or 4 factors whereas you have listed more or less the majority I can think of. Keep up the good work.

  43. Rhonda says:

    All of the suggestions above are very useful and well explained especially for those just starting out. I know of and hear of a lot of new designers asking around because they are not sure what to charge. I will have to point them to this. Thanks for sharing!

  44. Magnetic says:

    Thanks for the useful tips, would have been ideal when I was starting out. I think you have managed to cover the main issues, I always try to take into account the amount of attention the client is actually going to need. You can quickly tell if somebody is going to be calling you every 5 minutes.

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  46. Thanks for the post. I’m looking to get a grapic designer for one of my projects and was wodering if I was getting charged too much. I’ll make sure and ask them these questions.

  47. [...] I still provide my clients with an estimate up-front (how much I think it will cost), I make sure that they know (and is listed in the contract) this is only an estimate. Honestly, [...]

  48. This is a great post. Thanks for the share.

  49. Those tips are very useful. Most specially for website owners. Thanx for sharing it.

Brian Hoff
About Brian Hoff: Designer, Writer and Speaker

I’m a graphic designer living in Brooklyn, New York who loves creating compelling and useful websites and memorable interactions across the web. When I’m not designing I can be found writing, speaking and occasionally part-time teaching at colleges — all on the subject of design. I started this blog to share my passion and experiences with designers and clients. I'm most active on Twitter; say hello:


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