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How to Put a Price on Design

How to Put a Price on Design : A letter to an up-and-coming freelancer


Dear up-and-coming freelancer,

Now that you’re entering the freelancing world, figuring out how to price yourself fairly can be extremely challenging. Design work is complicated—and unlike most jobs—cannot be priced simply on hours exhausted. It is gauged from a culmination of multiple factors:


  1. Who is the client?
  • Do I personally know them? I typically charge less for friends and family.
  • Are they a successful business/organization? Be weary of their negotiation tactics.


  1. Am I going to get a nice portfolio piece (that I’ll actually use) out of this? Am I going to learn a new skill?
  • If I’m just going to make something that I know I’ll never show off, I either won’t spend as much energy on it or I will charge more.
  • If the job they’re giving me is going to help me learn a new skill or is a passion project, I might cut them some slack.


  1. Do I want to work with this client again?
  • If the client is fabulous and I want to work with them again, sometimes giving them a package deal or charging a little less can help entice them to work with me again. However be careful, they might expect the same low price the next time they work with you so don’t heavily low-ball yourself. Yet, sometimes consistent work and pay may be worth that.
  • If the client is a jerk, don’t be afraid to charge them at the top of your range and don’t worry about trying to work with them again.


  1. Hourly wage comparison.
  • Estimate how long it will take you. The sooner you begin to accurately guess how long something will take you, the better off you will be later on.
  • Compare what you’re charging to an hourly wage. If it’s less than what you would take at working a salaried or hourly-waged job, up the price. That price should increase as you work longer in the field, and as a freelancer, your hourly wage would be higher than employees’ rates on staff, due to the fact that you will likely have to pay for benefits out of pocket.
  • This is a long, but very helpful video. Gives a different perspective on how to charge rather than hourly. This is something my office circled around a while back. Money Talk: Everything You Want to Know About Money But Were Afraid to Ask



  1. Time-frame.
  • Trust me, you will likely not want to get stuck doing a long-winded project. I once made an illustration for someone and he didn’t have a hard deadline or an approaching deadline. Because I wasn’t getting paid much, I kept putting that at the bottom of my priorities list and it never got done. The project went on for almost a year and just having that in the back of my mind took a lot of energy from me and made the project unenjoyable. When you decide on taking the job or not, write a contract with deadlines and expectations so people don’t keep coming back and asking for revisions for free. This is helpful to have as motivation for yourself. Keep an invoice of your hours (you can download a sheet pretty easily online) and show them what they’re paying for at the end when charging them. Also, don’t deliver your files until they pay you!


  1. What are the deliverables? Are they reproducing your work?
  • If you’re handing off your files to be reproduced and they plan to make money off of it, definitely charge them more. Sometimes even a percentage may be appropriate.


  1. Is it worth selling yourself short?
  • Honestly ask yourself this question.


  1. Am I relying on this paycheck to support myself or my work?
  • If you’re a student and you’re still being supported by your parents or something, then I wouldn’t charge as much. On the other hand, if this is the only or one of the main ways you’re supporting yourself or your family, charge more!
  • Honestly look at your expenses and see how much you need to be making/how many jobs you need to take on in order to live a comfortable life. That’s how much you should aim to be charging.


  1. What is the going rate for this type of work?
  • You can’t normally ask others what they are earning, but you can do some research online. Salary.com may be helpful to use as a point of reference. AIGA at one point had a reference for freelancers. Do some digging around.


  1. How will you handle overages?
  • It’s good to be prepared for any scenario. What if you made 10 thumbnails, 2-3 roughs, and 1 final and only after the final they realized they didn’t like the design at all and what you to start over? What’s your policy for that?
  • I like to charge a flat rate + an hourly rate for any revisions or changes. Usually the hourly rate is high so that they are more inclined to avoid asking for many revisions after it’s too late. The flat rate is what you feel comfortable charging with little revisions. I usually include a specific number of revisions in the flat rate. Make that clear in the contract.


I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions or concerns about what I’ve written above.


Best of luck,


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