Freelance graphic design rates: How to charge your design services for profit
Choosing the right freelance graphic design rates isn’t always easy. On the one hand, you need to make sure you’re charging enough to make a profit, while on the other, you don’t want to scare clients away by asking for too much.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all rule set when it comes to pricing your services. Graphic design, which can include everything from typography development to animation, has a range of potential price options to choose from.
The good news for graphic designers is demand is still growing, particularly as new companies and entrepreneurs make their way online. Plus, with the concepts of the “metaverse” and NFTs gaining steam, talent in graphic design could open the door to a lucrative future.
Let’s look at how you can set your graphic design freelance rates.
Which factors influence graphic design freelance rates?
The first step in setting your freelance graphic design rates is looking at the various factors which can effectively influence how much you charge. Look at a freelance job board for graphic designers, and you’ll find there are many different professionals offering a variety of prices for the same job.
This is because everything from background to pricing structure has an impact.
Points to consider when you’re setting your freelance designer rates include:
Years of background knowledge in graphic design usually means you can charge a little more for your work. If you’ve got a decade of learning and honing your skills behind you, as well as plenty of evidence of past work, you can usually charge a little more than the average, everyday designer.
You’ll need to decide between setting a per-hour rate or charging for specific project packages. We’ll come back to this shortly, but keep in mind if you choose the project rate strategy, you’ll need to accurately estimate how much time the work will take.
Speaking of accurately estimating the time you’ll need to dedicate to a project, you’ll also need to think about the scope, depth, and complexity of whatever you’re working on. The more work you need to put in, the more you’ll have to charge.
If your customer has special requirements, such as a need for you to use advanced skills, or a specific kind of software in the project, you might need to charge extra for this too.
The value of the project
Even if a project might not take you a long time to complete, you may consider charging extra if you know your client is going to get significant value from the piece.
Think about the value your client will get from you, as well as the value you’ll get from the project, such as access to a steady stream of work.
Expenses and overheads
While the overheads for most graphic designers are usually quite low, you will still have expenses to think about. For instance, how much do you need to spend on software for creating the assets your customer wants? How much will you spend on electricity and heating?
It’s also worth taking a look at the marketplace. If there’s a significant demand for graphic design skills at the time when you’re taking on the project, you can charge a little more.
How to define your freelance designer rates
Once you’ve looked at the factors capable of influencing your freelance graphic design rates, it’s time to expand your research. Pricing for freelance artists is a dynamic concept. What someone might pay for a logo one day may not be the same price they’ll pay in a month.
With this in mind, you’ll need to do research regularly to ensure you’re charging a price both competitive, and fair for your services.
While there’s no exact science to this process, there are various steps you can take, such as:
Assessing the marketplace
Start with extensive research into the current marketplace, your audience, and your competitors. Get to know what kind of niche skills and abilities allow you to charge more for your services.
Find out what customers in your industry are willing to pay for support from someone like you, and solicit insights from graphic design communities.
Know your worth
Setting your rates too low is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a graphic designer. Even if you’re new to the industry, it’s important to consider the work you put in to learning how to create different kinds of logos, web pages, and assets.
Don’t underestimate yourself, and be willing to charge exactly what you need to not only earn an income, but make a decent living.
Determine when to negotiate
Although it’s important to know your worth, in a competitive environment, it’s also helpful to be a little flexible. If you quote a client something too far above their budget, you can always look into negotiating down.
Starting with a higher quote and working your way down to something more affordable can also make your audience more appreciative of you and your services.
Be ready to raise your rates
Don’t underestimate the impact of inflation. You’ll need to be ready to raise your rates, as failing to do so could mean you end up working all the hours in the day just to maintain the same income.
Keeping a close eye on the marketplace and your audience should give you an insight into the going rates.
Understand your own expenses
A lot of freelance graphic designers assume they have no overheads because they’re not paying for paper and similar resources.
However, you also need to think about the cost of your time, the electricity you’re using, the heating in your home office, and anything else contributing to your work.
Freelance graphic designer hourly rates
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make when setting your freelance graphic design rates, is how you’re going to charge. Most beginners will start with an “hourly” rate because it’s difficult to determine how long a project is going to take at first.
A graphic design hour rate allows you to set a specific price for your time, rather than focusing exclusively on different costs for different projects.
According to Upwork, one of the bigger freelance designer environments, the average hourly rate for a graphic designer is around $25. However, you may end up charging a significant amount more than this, depending on how much experience you have, and other factors.
Elsewhere, graphic design hourly rates can vary, for instance:
- Salary.com estimates an average hourly rate of $27.
- PayScale suggests your hourly rate should be around $32.
- Flux academy says average rates are usually around $31.25 per hour.
Typically, hourly rates are more common among beginners in the graphic design world, whereas advanced designers are more likely to use project-based pricing.
Hourly rates pros:
- Can be easier to compare standard rates throughout the industry.
- Ensures you’re paid for the exact amount of time spent on a project.
- Useful for beginners who aren’t sure how long a project might take.
Hourly rates cons:
- Can put a cap on your earning, as you can only work so many hours.
- You won’t be accounting for the value of the project.
- Hourly rates lose their appeal as you get faster and more efficient.
Freelance graphic design price list: Project pricing
Project-based freelance graphic design rates are a little easier to manage as you continue to expand your personal brand and skills.
With a project-based pricing structure, you’ll consider both the hours you spend on the work, as well as other factors, like how complicated the project is likely to be, and how many unique skills you’ll need to use.
Project-based pricing also gives you a lot more flexibility. The amount you’ll see different designers charging for something like logo design can differ by hundreds of dollars.
Let’s take a look at some basic pricing ranges.
Standard logo design: $100 to $1000+
The amount someone may be willing to spend on the right logo can be astronomical. Depending on your background, and how many successful logo projects you’ve created in the past, you could charge a significant amount for a logo design.
This is particularly true if the design includes revision, multiple mock-ups, and access to a range of files.
Basic website design: $2,000 to $10,000+
Similar to logo design, website design prices are often extremely varied. The amount you charge for a website design will often depend on a number of factors, including how many pages you need to create, what kind of specialist features are involved (like widgets and animations), and whether you’re working on an existing template.
The number of revisions you’ll offer will also come into play.
eBook or document design: $200 to $2,500+
eBooks, documents, and even presentation designs can all come with a range of factors which influence how much you’re going to charge for each project. The complexity of the design, it’s interactivity features, and how each project is formatted will all play a part.
Social media graphics: $5 to $25+
Social media graphics are generally one of the more affordable products on a graphic designer’s list, because they’re unlikely to take a lot of time or focus. Graphic designers on Quora say they can spend as little as $5 on a graphic.
The good thing about social media graphics is you may be able to make a long-term income with these by selling frequent packages.
Business assets: $75 to $450+
Business assets or collateral can include everything from the design of flyers and brochures to business cards for a client’s professional brand. Once again, the amount you charge will be highly dependent on the complexity of the project.
What is the average freelance graphic designer rate?
The diverse range of factors capable of influencing freelance graphic design rates, combined with the ability to charge either by project or per hour, makes it hard to establish an average rate.
Ultimately, you’ll need to consider exactly what kind of services you’re going to offer, and position your pricing with an understanding of the marketplace, and your competitors.
On average, a good hourly rate for a beginner will be something between $20 and $30 per hour. However, it’s worth looking at what other freelance designers in your area are charging.
Don’t be too tempted to charge the lowest price, thinking this will give you access to a larger number of clients. Sometimes, customers will see a lower price as evidence you’re not professional or experienced enough for their project.
It’s also worth thinking about whether you want to go for the “average” rate, or charge something slightly below, or slightly above.
A slightly lower fee (but not too low) is often a good option for beginner graphic designers who are trying to develop a portfolio and build a name for themselves rapidly in their industry.
A slightly higher fee, on the other hand, would indicate you have a higher level of expertise, specific niche skills, or something unique to offer. This could be the right avenue for you if you’ve already established yourself as a leading freelance designer.
While hourly rates may be easier to compare across the industry, project rates are usually the more popular way to grow your business.
Project rate pros:
- You’ll be able to charge more as your business develops.
- It’s easier to charge different rates based on project value and complexity.
- You’ll stop selling your time and start selling your expertise.
Project rate cons:
- It can be difficult to accurately gauge the value of a project at first.
- Some customers are reluctant to pay per project.
How to increase your freelance graphic design rates
One of the most important things to remember when setting your freelance graphic design rates, is the same prices won’t work forever. As technology grows more expensive, inflation increases, and trends change, you’ll need to be ready to update your rates.
While it can be nerve-wracking to tell your customers you’re going to need to charge them a little more, most of your clients are likely to be understanding, particularly if you’ve developed a stronger relationship with them over time.
However, you will need to be as transparent as possible about your price increases. Don’t simply surprise your customers at the end of a project with a much higher invoice. Let them know as early as possible when and why you’re changing your pricing.
It’s also worth knowing how to define the right time to change your prices.
The most common reason to update your freelance graphic design rates include:
As you develop your experience, knowledge, and skills in the graphic design landscape, you should be able to charge more for clients to access them. You can even charge for specialist skills, like font psychology.
In some cases, you’ll also be able to prove your skills by taking courses and getting certified. The more you expand your education, the more you’ll be able to charge.
Social proof, like testimonials, case studies, and positive reviews from other companies, can really help you to charge more for your services. If you have a huge portfolio, you can consider charging extra.
If you’re noticing a significant increase in demand for your service, to the point where your schedule is booked months in advance, this is a good sign you can probably charge a little more. Clearly, you’re doing something right.
If you decide to add new service to your offering, like helping customers with choosing business names, or planning their branding strategy, then you can charge more for those too. You might even design some branding and business building packages for customers to invest in.
Remember to be confident and clear when sharing your price changes with your audience. If you don’t seem to believe you deserve the extra money, then they’re not going to believe it either.
Mistakes to avoid when setting rates
As mentioned above, setting the right freelance graphic design rates can be much trickier than it seems. There are a lot of different factors involved in choosing the right pricing structure. It’s easy to make a mistake and charge too much, too little, or in the wrong format.
Unfortunately, making mistakes with your rates could mean you place significant pressure on your new graphic design business. Your entire livelihood depends on your ability to earn a decent profit for your work, without necessarily working yourself into the ground.
Here are some of the biggest mistakes you’ll need to avoid when choosing your graphic design freelance rates:
Not knowing your value
Creative specialists have a habit of undervaluing their work and expertise. It’s common to feel a sense of imposter syndrome in a lot of industries, but you should allow this to have a negative impact on your pricing.
Make sure you take the time to think about the amount of work and effort you’ve put into building your skills. You need to ensure you’re charging what you’re worth.
Making it up as you go
As confusing as pricing can be for a graphic designer, you do need to have some kind of structure and plan. Pulling different rates out of a hat at random for each project could lead to problems with your customers.
If you want to build relationships with long-term clients, you’ll need to make sure you provide them with transparency. Knowing exactly how much you charge will also make it easier to forecast your income.
Forgetting to update
As mentioned above, the average freelance graphic designer rate will change with time. Just because you charged something five years ago, doesn’t mean the same rate should still apply today.
Keep a close eye on things like inflation and the costs of new software, and make sure you’re updating your rates accordingly.
Charging too much or too little
Charging too much for your graphic design skills can put you outside of the budget for a lot of clients, particularly when you’re still growing. However, charging too little can be just as dangerous, as it can influence how people perceive your work and the quality you provide.
Being too flexible
When you’re first building a career as a freelance graphic designer, it’s tempting to adjust your rates to whatever your clients need, just so you can take on some work. However, you need to be able to stand your ground to a certain extent.
While it’s useful to negotiate, don’t just accept anything your customers offer.
Mastering your graphic design freelance rates
Freelance graphic design rates are a lot more complex than most people realize. For many experts, setting your freelance graphic design price list, or choosing an hourly rate will be one of the most complicated things you’ll need to do.
The aim is to ensure you’re charging enough to live a comfortable life, manage the overheads of your business, and ensure you don’t have to work every hour of the day just to make ends meet.
The best thing you can do is commit to researching your market regularly and adjusting your prices based on what you learn about the environment.
The more time you spend in the graphic design landscape, the more confident you’ll become in your ability to charge the right rates.
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