First steps to graphic design pricing

A few things to consider when setting your rates.

You have a skill

Clients hire you because you can do what they can’t, and they expect to pay good money for your help. You’re not in competition with their neighbour’s son with the copy of Photoshop. Too many designers undervalue their knowledge and experience because they feel compelled to compete with amateurs. Don’t. Clients expect to pay well for a quality service. They know that more often than not, you get what you pay for.

Pantone stairsMarly Gommans‘ staircase


It’s unrealistic for a client to expect one person to do everything — from coding and motion design to brochure layouts and illustration. If you want to specialise, do it. I’ve focused on identity design since 2005 and it’s helped me attract the clients I’m happiest working with.

Share some process

Forget those $50 logo sites. A lot of our work goes unseen, but it’s worth remembering that your job is to show people the value of what you do. If you don’t show it, potential clients might think you just jump in front of a computer, type their brand name in a nice typeface, then add a swoosh for some visual interest.

Competition, differentiation, market positioning, audience profiles… just a few of the topics you need to question your client about in order to produce an effective design.

Streamline your initial discussions

I’ll often receive a quote request similar to this:

“We need a logo and website for our restaurant. Please let us know how much this costs and how long it will take.”

Thing is, it’s impossible to give a quote without knowing more. By having some questions prepared in advance you can speed up your client acquisition as well as weed out those people who want it all for a couple of hundred quid. Here’s some advice on handling the client approach.

A few pricing resources you might find useful:

Good luck.

106 responses

  1. Morning David!
    We have experienced the same as you time and time again….people ring up and they want a figure off the top of your head after a 5 min conversation about what their website requirements are! You are right that people under estimate the planning required to get a good website design. We have a list of questions in our advice section which are designed to help people think through their project and to prepare their ideas for an initial meeting with us:
    Getting the website you want
    We will only produce a formal quote after we have had an in depth discussion with them. They are similar questions to the ones in your questionnaires. But I am curious to know if people are put off by your forms. Are they compulsary to your prospective clients? I have always thought that people can’t be bothered with lengthy forms (even when they are helpful to them). Do you get a good response to them? Also, do you find that the project develops along the lines of the info they supply in the forms or does it change as you go further down the design process?

  2. When I worked as a web designer we used to see a lot of those “quote requests”, and people wanting precise responses on the spot. When we said we’d need more detailed information before we could oblige, the response quite often would be “come on you guys must have done this a thousand times before, can’t you just give me a quote right now!!” Educating your clients is a never ending task! ;)

  3. Hi Toni, questionnaires aren’t compulsory, but I at least ask clients look at the questions before we chat. It saves time. And generally, potential customers who don’t give detailed replies tend to expect a job on the cheap.

    John, I’m wary of educating clients. They’re smart people who hire me to do the job rather than teach them how to do it. I think explaining things is a better way to put it.

  4. Thanks David, Yes I agree they are usually the ones who aren’t that serious. (perhaps they are competitors doing a price comparison check on us!!) cheers for sorting my link too =)

  5. David,
    I agree that the questionnaires are very helpful. I don’t do logos, I build websites; but I think the same system and frame of mind applies. There are three main subjects i take into consideration when calculating an estimate: 1. Usage 2. Labor 3. Time Constraint (any project due in less than 30 days is considered “rush”).

  6. I agree, Justin, there are a lot of similarities between one project and another, even when comparing a logo to a site launch. Thanks for the pricing insight.

    Zabs, you’re very welcome.

  7. I agree with all you’ve said here, David.

    One thing I do is have a “prices start at…” line on my web site. I find this weeds out people who wouldn’t hire me anyway, and saves me the time and expense of talking through a project that is never going to take place. Then I can turn my attention to the potential clients who are looking for a real price and time estimate. I recommend this solution to my clients when I do their web sites as well, and it seems to work for them, too.

  8. Very interesting post!

    As a freelance writer, I’d like to add that we also can be guilty of “undervaluing the wealth of knowledge and experience [we]’ve amassed because [we]’re trying to compete with amateurs.”

    It is extremely important not to “devalue your profession,” no matter what that profession may be and those of us working in creative fields too often seem to forget that.

    I always enjoy your blog!

  9. The Swiss_Mouse found this statement strangely coincidental:
    “he planning that goes into a website is very often under-estimated by a client. With websites, as opposed to logos, the client is more aware of exactly what they’re spending their money on.”

    Just today while running on his wheel, the Swiss_Mouse critiqued his companies website and found it lacking in numerous areas. One specific item was design and flow. When he expressed concern, he was told the work was being handed by “award winning designers”. Well, if it were up to the Swiss_Mouse it would be the spoiled cheese award!
    The key is the how well the client is versed in both look and functionality. In the case above, the “client” …has zero skills in those areas.

  10. I do agree that every job is different with different needs etc but I think there is a big gap between clients and us designers/ developers and I think you should provide a base price for an average job with clearly defined guidelines.

    it is hard to do but i think it can be done.

    I do realise that most wont agree with me :D

    • I agree. Most people simply aren’t aware of the process, or don’t take it into consideration. From client’s perspective, it could be pretty difficult to budget graphic design expenses if they have no clue how much it will cost them in the long run.

  11. Great post, David. I think design pricing is probably one of the toughest aspects of our job, for a freelancer that is. We wanna get paid, but we also just wanna focus all our attention on the design process. Wouldn’t it be nice if us freelancers made enough money to hire an assistant of some sort that handles all the pricing and logistics? Haha.

    The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook is a good one. A must for any freelancer.

  12. Leslie, perhaps something for me to do here — including a line with “prices starting at….” I get a lot of enquiries that disappear when a price is mentioned. It could save some time. But then do you find that bigger clients have a false expectation when you quote a lot higher than your starting rate?

    Dan, I’ll do that. Thanks.

    Cynthia, thanks for the compliment! Those in creative professions are more guilty than many for undervaluing ourselves, perhaps because we have a genuine enjoyment for what we do?

    Swiss Mouse, out of interest, what’s the company website? I’d like to see what award winning design looks like when the client isn’t happy with it. Also, great that you can critique on the run!

    Jermayn, I have a base rate in my head. Something to start each project at, where it’s not worth my time for less. I’ll talk about that in a later post. I agree, not easy.

    PG, just last night I filed my annual return. It’d be great to have help with it. I think next year I’ll hire an accountant, there are bound to be some tax deductable costs I’m not declaring.

  13. Hi Leslie
    Yes I agree, although we don’t have ‘start from’ prices on our website…we have started to give very rough ball park figures before going to far down the line as it does weed out the people who think they can get excellent web design for a few hundred quid!

  14. David,

    What I’ve found is that bigger clients generally realize that their project will cost more money. Of course, I have run into a few people who are hoping that “prices start at” means “price will be”, but generally I’ve found posting a baseline price to be very helpful.

    The flip side of it is that when I didn’t post any price guidelines at all, some people assumed that I must be very expensive, and didn’t contact me because of it. Once I started posting prices, I more than a few “I always wanted to use you, but didn’t think I could afford it. Let’s talk about my project” emails.

    Toni, I’m glad you’ve had the same kind of experience. I’ve tried a lot of different options (posting prices, no prices at all, lots of contact links) and posting a “start at” price seems to work the best for me.

    Here’s a question: I’m going to raise my prices pretty considerably at the beginning of next year. Since I have a starting at price posted on my site, what do you think I should do? I’m considering 3 options (although I’m open to more):
    1) Make note that my prices will go up in 3 months or so, then raise them at the start of the new year
    2) Raise my prices on the site at the start of the new year and make a note of it next to the new prices at that time
    3) Raise my prices on the site at the start of the new year and say nothing about it.

    I’d love anyone’s thoughts on it.

  15. Leslie,
    Hmmmmm, see the dilemma, I suppose any new clients you get after the new year will just accept the new price as they find it on the website, so that would be fine. But perhaps you should just let your existing clients know about the price change and let them know how it will affect them. Perhaps reassuring them that it won’t affect them so they don’t feel tricked?

  16. Excellent points, as always. Even working in-house for a furniture firm, our creative department finally developed similar forms for the various projects that were demanded of us, just as a way to demonstrate “make an ad” wasn’t going to cut it. I can’t count the number of times that we’d “make an ad” only to discover it was not going to fit the needs of the department requesting it and then, of course, we’d have to start over. Once they finally understood that we could crank things out far more quickly when the form was completed – because then we had all the information we needed – things ran much more smoothly. But getting our “client” supervisors to understand that took a lot of education!

    Since that firm went under and jobs are scarce around here, I’m anxious to read the rest of this series … maybe I’ll be brave enough to seriously begin freelancing.

  17. Hi David, thanks for the link.

    I absolutely hate pricing work. I always end up quoting then changing up then taking it down then calling a freelance designer friend to see if I have pitched it about right (he does the same with me too) . Design is one of those things its really difficult to decide time wise (much harder than artwork) – sometimes the ideas flow and sometimes they don’t. I have made some mistakes in the past where I have given the client an extra concept (as the ideas are flowing) it then comes back to haunt me and they expect that extra concept the next time for the same money.

  18. Pricing for design is a really tough job, specially when you’re living in a third-world country where design’s just a developing idea of aesthetics. We’d be lucky if we get paid $100 for a logo design work!

  19. David,

    Thank you for your great Blog! I am a young designer just starting my own company and have learnt so much from this blog!
    Hope to learn heaps more!


  20. Thanks for writing this article. I’m a business owner and hiring a graphic designer is on my “to do” list. I figured it was not easy just to quote a price because it can vary depending on the project. I look forward to your upcoming articles on this issue. It will definitely give me a better understanding of what I may expect. Thanks! :-)

  21. Leslie, interesting question, about your three price raise options. That’s worthy of a blog post in itself, ‘How to raise prices when dealing with clients’. What will you do with your retainer clients? Will their prices rise too?

    You could always advertise an end of the year sale, stating your increased prices as standard, but that those who hire you before the end of the year get a percentage discount?

    ender, becoming self-employed was a great step when I made it, and I’d recommend taking that leap. I’m sure you won’t look back.

    Tara, that’s great that you can bounce your pricing off another designer, and I know what you mean about adding an extra unpaid concept. Sometimes I just know when I can be flexible and when I can’t, and my pricing is more of a guide than a law that’s written in stone.

    Matthew, haha, stay tuned for more info, and thanks for the emails.

    DesignPinas, that’s the value of conducting business online, because you’re not restricted to the economic rates in your country. On the flip-side, here in the UK the pound is very strong, so dealing with clients around the world sometimes has the opposite effect.

    Matt, Karlien, Opal, thanks very much! Glad you found this of use.

  22. I’d love your take on ‘How to raise prices when dealing with clients’. Here’s what I’m planning to do:

    Some of my clients have been with me for years. I haven’t routinely raised prices on my existing clients, so I have clients all over the map as far as pricing goes. Which is OK with me — I feel like clients who have been loyal to me deserve something in return, and lower prices are always appreciated (although I’d like to think that their return is actually good design work.) I take them on a case by case basis. If their pricing is totally out of line, I let them know that it’s been X number of years since I adjusted (never raised!) their pricing, and that I need to do so. Then I suggest a number, and see what they say (10%, 15%, sometimes 25% if they’re really low). Usually they appreciate the opportunity to give feedback, and often accept what I’ve proposed. Sometimes they can’t afford it, so I have to decide whether to continue to do the work, or recommend another designer to the client.

    I like to offer a discount to my non-profit clients (which may explain why I have so many of them!) I try not to raise their pricing, but I do explain to them that they’re getting a discount on their work as a way for me to contribute to them.

    Sorry go on and on in your comments. If you want to continue this discussion and you think it would be better via email, just drop me a line.


  23. No need to apologise. I’m glad you can express thoughts here. ;)

    I’ve added your question into a draft blog post, and hope to write more about it very soon. Sorry I can’t address specifics at the minute. My brother’s coming to stay this weekend and I have loads to do before he gets here.

  24. Pricing is always tricky. When you offer an extra idea as a value added service, the client may expect more of the same treatment the next time. I can empathize Tara’s situation and I’m sure all of us have experienced that from time to time. When do we charge? When do we offer free? When do we offer a rock-bottom price? Call me emotional and not business-minded, but there are times I offer a discount simply because the client treats us with respect.

    Allow me to share a very recent experience:

    I got this feedback from a newclient: “Once again, I know our budget for the logo isn’t much, and to see the amount of time that you and your team puts into it fills me with gratitude and appreciation.” It is true, the value we put in exceeded the amount he paid many many times over. I decided to give him a rock-bottom price because I respect him even when he was just a potential client.

    This overseas business owner contacted me through my blog and that began a 3-week email correspondence on his expectation of his new store’s logo. He treated the questions I asked with respect and returned with clarifications, some doubts and more questions. He made it a joy to work with, even before quotation is signed and actual work started. On that account, I’m willing to knock down the price. When I shared the info with my design team. Paraphrasing my art director said, “It’s always more fun working with people who respect us and cooperate fully to get the best out of us. I can finish the job faster. You can go handle another client quicker. So what’s so bad if we offer a special price?” Of course, I’m taking a calculated gamble here that he will come back to us with more projects, and maybe even retain us.

  25. Hi Vivienne, when a client treats you with respect is most certainly helps build a lasting relationship. Far too often, potential clients don’t appreciate the learning that’s needed for effective design work to be accomplished.

    That’s kind of you to share your recent experience, and I can empathise with allowing a more favourable rate for those clients you enjoy working with. When someone truly values what you do, the end result is often much more worthwhile.

  26. Hi David.
    pricing is always become a major problem for me everytime we meet the clients. your articles was very helping. It giving me a lot of knowledge and answering my questions.
    Thanx a lot

  27. Thanks much! A great article, quite informative indeed. Now I just need to figure out how to keep clients from stealing rough drafts and taking my ideas elsewhere for cheaper finishing.

  28. hey i was wondering do you charge hourly rates or one flat charge, and if hourly, what would be the rate for a starting graphic designer.thanks :-)

  29. Andre,

    I used both methods (flat rate and hourly). I normally quote a flat rate once I’ve received indepth project info, then any additional tasks / alterations can be charged hourly.

    As for starting rates, it can depend on how strong your portfolio is, and how good your communication skills are. Where you are based globally also has a bearing.

  30. Hi David, I’ve just found your website and find your topics very reassuring and extremely helpful.
    I’ve been working for over 16 years, as part of an in-house team, as part of a design consultancy team and for the last 4 years as my own boss.
    I’ve found that my site (, which I try to keep business-like, formal and as polished as possible, attracts a lot of traffic, but rarely does this traffic turn into emails/telephone calls. My client list is varied, but has a few high street names amongst it and I’m now beginning to wonder if the site is projecting a slightly unapproachable feel (for unapproachable, read ‘expensive’!)
    The calls I do get are often from ‘startup’ companies who ‘love the work that you do and want something just like project X that you’ve worked on’, but want a special reduced rate just because they don’t have the budget – they still want the quality, but for lower fees!
    I’m loathed to put guide prices on my site as suddenly it turns from being a proud designer portfolio to more of a market place, but spending time working on quotes for people who ultimately have no budget is beginning to impact on my schedule and my head! So I’m interested in what other posters have said on this matter – perhaps it does sift out the less-serious clients.
    Pricing is a mine field as there is so much competition and the dreadful ‘design competition’ sites to contend with. With design professionalism, training and experience in one hand and a mortgage payment due to be paid in the other, the bottom line figure is never an easy one to come to.
    A written quote generally shows a flat fee, based on time, materials, expenses, stages of development and re-issue, the nature of the job and who the client is. It also outlines the design stages and what kind of format the presentation will be in (mounted visuals, pdfs etc.) and where it will be presented location-wise. Further development over and above the quoted stages is then conveyed to the client at an hourly rate.
    Apologies if I’ve rambled and I fear that I may have mixed several topics, but even after many years, pricing is difficult – with an ever-looming thought of ‘is it better to earn something than nothing’ or to hang on to your principles and your self-worth and keep looking for that elusive client regardless of your bank balance.

  31. Hello Paul,

    I understand where you’re coming from when you say you loathe placing guide prcies on your site. Ultimately, I needed to show a minimum price, in order to prevent enquiries from those wanting logos for $50.

    No need to apologise for the length of your comment. I hope you don’t steer towards the ‘is it better to earn something than nothing’ thought, because your clients should expect to compensate you fairly, and for the amount you believe you’re worth.

    All the very best.

  32. hi david,

    I just came across your blog when searching for info on pricing a design job. Its great to hear your informative and helpful thoughts and those of other designers.

    Thanks for sharing!

  33. Hi David,
    Pricing is always a sensitive topic. Competition and other designers rarely divulge their pricing, and it makes it difficult to know that you’re being competitive. Someone mentioned that only with experience did they start to get a decent understanding of pricing, and I think often that goes hand-in-hand, as the more work one does, the easier it is to estimate the time and effort it will take, and in turn the value one will return. I’ve been designing websites for a while now, and I’ve generally gone with a flat page-by-page pricing model.

    Recently I’ve begun to start rethinking whether that process is that helpful or accurate with regards effort. It’s started me asking some good questions, of which I don’t have any specific answers, but I have found that giving clients a general, well first page costs x, every other page costs y and any development or out-of spec work costs z or z/hr tends to satisfy the clients need for a general estimate (usually given during the initial meeting) then, when I give the official quote, I still have the freedom to add in extra functionality, etc without the client being too shocked (usually) – I try to be very modular with my quoting, in the hopes that the client will be able to add/subtract areas to get the quote to better fit their budget. the one problem I have found, is that all too often the client doesn’t understand the modular aspect, and can blankly turn down the quote (when they expected the full monty, but was only expecting to pay the minimum).

    As I’ve said – it’s still a work in progress, but I think it’s one of the most important aspects, both for the client and for the designer, so getting it right is really important, it’s unfortunate it’s such a difficult thing!

    PS – thanks for the blog, I have been subscribed for a few months now, and really enjoy your articles.

  34. tahir, Cameron,

    You’re both very welcome. There’s a specific comment you made, Cameron, which I fully agree on:

    Someone mentioned that only with experience did they start to get a decent understanding of pricing, and I think often that goes hand-in-hand.

    It’s not until you’re practicing in the industry that you learn how much you should be charging. Someone can tell you what they charge, but you won’t be offering the exact same skillset.

    Thanks very much for subscribing.

  35. Hi David,
    A timely article! I am loosing jobs because some (probably less experienced) designers are giving the work away for nothing (almost) Very frustrating. I have decided to take a stand and contact all of my clients with an editorial I wrote on ‘Evaluating Graphic Designers’ in the hope of selling them on expertise and years of experience. I can’t compete by dropping my price down and down. We would all be out of business befor we knew it. ‘Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten’ (Gucci slogan). Unfortunately, many of the clients are junior marketing manages who are instructed to spend as little of the budget as possible, but don’t understand that in the long run they may be damaging their brand image and ultimately the business. In many cases they are accepting amateur, sub-standard work. Anyway, I enjoy a good rant and would like the moral support of a few designers out there. Feel free to give me a shout.

  36. I couldn’t agree more with you Wil.
    Design has no value to those looking to ‘buy’ it cheaply or for free.
    The designers that are producing this work are generally very inexperienced or are trying to build portfolios by doing work for free*. Ultimately the client thinks they’re getting a great deal with ‘unlimited revisions’ and the ability to get them to churn out a few more options, but at some point the hourly rate must get used up and so must the quality! (If there was any quality there in the first place!)

    I find it difficult to put a price on the design ‘service’ as so many other companies do, as I believe that every project should be considered on its own and not on a blanket ‘£150 for 3 logos’- type pricing structure.
    I’ve asked some people on a forum about this and most expect to see a price and won’t pick up the phone to enquire!

    Rant over!

    (* I know some new designers need to do this to get something in their book, but it’s still taking away the paying customer.)

  37. Two statements are worth reiterating from your comments, Wil, Paul.

    Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.

    Design has no value to those looking to ‘buy’ it cheaply…

  38. As a printing professional for the last 30 years or so, I have been doing some logo design, DTP and the like for the last 15 years or so. I am now self employed as a printing broker, but offer layout and design services too. Pricing design has always been a sore spot with me. I have seen clients physically wince when I tell them what the price will be to “fix” their art, or totally redo it. It is true, they think that the design has no value. I just keep saying to myself, “My time is worth money” and “I am offering a valuable service.”

    I have always underpriced my work, and I am determined not to do that anymore! This blog is really helpful, and I thank you for it.

  39. As a client, I’ve read all designers’ posts re cheap and vague clients with great interest. It would be interesting to get your take on the following situation:
    Needing to redesign an ecommerce site, I’ve contacted a freelance graphic designer living in Eastern Europe whose work I liked to do a .psd mock-up. We exchanged a couple of emails and had a lenghty phone conversation with mostly him talking althoug he was very laconic in his emails. The job requred no coding, no shopping cart integration, logo and brand identity already in place, IA resolved, content (copy and photos) ready, competition research done, art direction clear (colors, etc.), timeframe set….. Every graphic file, inspirational photo, digital doodling, you name it, delivered so that he can have as clear as possible picture of what’s expected of him to help him come up with an estimate.
    After all that, no word from him. A few days later, I called to inquire if he got the files in the first place. Yes, he got them but he doesn’t want to invest too much time in looking at them. That’s fine, 30 minutes info scan will suffice. Then he asks me what is my budget (he never asked before) which, frankly, rubbed me the wrong way at this point. If I am asking for a specific service, why does it matter what is my budget? Shouldn’t he know how much his service costs given all the circumstances? If I come to a restaurant asking for a specific dish, does it matter how much money I have in my wallet? Oh, I see you have a fat bank account, so I’ll charge you more?!
    Then he asks me if I’m going to provide photos although I emphasized several times that we need a design that will support well our own custom photos and provided a link to the album. To my amazement, he proceeds to lament the fact that it’s an ecommerce site wich shouldn’t make any difference to him considering the fact that all we need is a freakin’ mock-up with IA in place!
    Two days after that, I get an email saying it will cost me $1500- $2000 depending on the number of revisions.
    Form designers’ perspective, what do you think about all this?

  40. Hello david.
    Jesus, you are a busy boy! You know its interesting how often one doesn’t include the time it takes to analyse and write a proposal.
    I sat down recently with my partners and took a long hard look at not only how long our work takes to create but how much time we spend talking about it, research, writing proposals etc.
    But if your readers are working as full time designers they will need to get at least 15-20 jobs a year to make it go round.
    You have rent to pay new hard and software to purchase. Even a one man organisation needs to budget for annual renewals and upgrades.
    If you start with these then add how much you want to earn plus tax and insurances there are very few that need less than 85 Euros an hour for 160 hours a month! Otherwise it is just a hobby!
    If you have a portfolio of clients then put it up for all to see. Then you can gauge what the punter needs.
    But I have to say it is extremely difficult to cost design work. But fortunately we do OK.
    Thanks for your post. Great as usual. The Baldchemist

  41. Just a little add on. Picasso, when asked why he charged so much when the materials only cost 50 dollars. replied. Here’s 50 dollars….. you do it!
    The reason punters come to you in the first place is because they don’t know or can’t do what you do. Is there any reason you shouldn’t make as much as they do in an hour?
    Do it for them and they can get on with what they do best. The Baldchemist

  42. Swiss mouse. You ain’t here to win awards but to create a winning sales site for your punter.
    Sorry about taking up so much space David…. afterthoughts y’know. ( smiling)

  43. Hi Fiona,

    The ‘budget’ question is a hard one to gauge, because as you say, it rubbed you the wrong way when I’m sure that was the last intension.

    The only time I’d use it is if I’m unsure just how serious the potential client is, but I try to avoid it, and by showing a range of costs on my questionnaire form, the client has an idea what it may cost before spending time communicating with me.

    You’re right, a designer should know how much their service costs. I’m no web design / development expert, far from it, but I do know there are a lot more variables involved, compared with identity design. What your prospective designer should’ve done was detail the costs involved for revisions, and break-down the total cost into elements to give you an idea where your money is going. Otherwise, they’re just having you ask the question in ‘another’ email. I hope that’s of some help?


    I agree. Costing design work is very difficult, especially when you’re just starting out, and don’t have much experience with it. Loving that Picasso addition, and thanks for stopping by again. It’s been a while, so I hope you’re keeping well.

  44. Hi David and all designers!

    I have recently also received allot of trouble from cllients expecting a quote in 5 minutes while I’m talking to them. Some of them are very intimidating and I feel that if I dont give them one immediately they might think / feel I dont know my industry.

    The fact is that all clients are different. You get one client who you quote a normal logo price (for example) and he is wonderful to work with and guides you to what he/she likes. Usually the time spent does not go over the time quoted.
    Then you get another client who absolutely takes you for granted and does not realize that every single little change to a website or logo takes time and time adds up.

    My question is: How do you prepare your cllient that extra charges can be added? Do you add a terms onto the quote stating how many hours are included in this quote or what?

    I am so confused and kind of lost. Some clients dont hesitate to pay what I ask (most of them are returning clients) and others are soooo tight!!!

    Thanks for a great blog!

  45. Hi Karlien,

    When quoting / invoicing, I state a number of revision rounds that are included in the price. Make sure you tell your client upfront. That way, there are no unexpected charges.

  46. Hello again.
    Karlien. Give ’em what they need as an authority. Don’t ask what they want they don’t know!
    Take a little bit of the high ground. Tell ’em the design process and why it costs what it costs NOT HOW MUCH IT IS!

    Design, is not simply a trademark, a slogan or an easily remembered image. It is a studiously crafted personality profile of a corporation, product or service. You have to create it in such a way that people feel it deep down. Because if they don’t feel it; there’s no action or re-action. Charge firstly for that stage . take stage payments after taking a hefty deposit.
    Then you are always sure of getting payment for your time.

    Design Principals

    Designing visual media communication that works with objectivity in mind requires the principals of Emphasis & Contrast, Figure & Ground, Balance, Rhythm & Unity. They serve not as strict rules but as guidelines. However, designs are always result orientated to your clients audience and not for your artistic ego. Then charge for this stage!

    This is where you give structure to your concept and the work gets done. This is the physical part of the design process. Your tenacity and flexibility are as important as your artistic skills at this stage. Willingness to work until you get the results you aim for the most important attributes. Then charge for this stage!

    Works with the form until all of the problems are solved. The end result is the product. Only the product is seen by others, but its success is dependent on very careful planning and production.
    Concept Validation

    Only when the form meets the expectations of the concept is the process successful.

    Take your punter through these steps and then you can justifibly take proper payment!!

  47. Greetings fellow David and Graphic Designer.

    Just wanted to extend a big thank you for this article; it is an invaluable resource for me as I begin my own freelancing. Reading through the comments here are also a great help. Thanks again.

  48. david,
    great article..gonna bookmark this one under “pricing” anyhow, im fresh out of college and cannot for the life of me find a design job. i have applied to every design firm in america and no dice, so freelancing is my only hope for survival…or there is always Mcdonalds. what is your take on elance? it looks pretty rock solid but my God people are doing logos there for like 30 bucks!

  49. Hi David,

    One of the posters above has talked it it briefly but do you charge extra for projects that have an ultra short time line and are required by the client almost immediatley?

    I’ve had a few smaller projects recently where the client has simply given me a small brief which the expectation that I complete the project with 3-4 days! (I’m talking about a high quality detailed graphic brochure design).

    How do you handle such a request when your all ready pretty well snowed under with existing work, without passing on the request and losing the client?

    How do you explain to them well if you want me to prioritise your work it will cost more etc?

    Any hel pwould be great

  50. Hello Troy, clients should expect to pay extra for “ultra short” deadlines. Explain that you need to work overtime, during hours you would normally be relaxing / spending time with the family etc.

  51. Ultra short deadlines don’t exist! The creative process, design and implementation take time. Otherwise you finish up creating a piece of rubbish that will do neither you or your client any good whatsoever
    What was the reason that the prospect wants work within 3-4 days? Why the rush? While you are rushing around allowing prospects to dictate to you how you do your work you will NEVER command any respect for your craft!
    If you can produce fabulous work in 3 days everytime then good luck. But remember this, they will want this everytime! Be careful!

  52. Hi David and Ray thanks for the feedback, just thought I might let you know how this story panned out. The client I have worked for previously over a 10 year period, always really happy with the work I produced and have given me the appropriate time to complete the work in, all was happy.

    Recently their main manager has changed and they have brought in a new marketing manager who I have not worked with before (I used to work directly with the old main manager), the new marketing person got in contact with me some time last week I think it was Thursday, emailed me the brief and without my knowledge at all they have had an all new identity and name change created (I was thinking all the work I have done over the period I might have been considered for this job, but anyway thier money they can do what they please…)

    so a meeting was set for the Monday for the new marketing manager to run over what they wanted done, they explained they wanted to get the work finished by around Wednesday / Thursday I said well considering all the previous work I have done for them I’d help out (and put my other work aside) and explained to them that as I have never seen any of this new identity (it was a logo only, no identity guide or any other branding elements to use or to run off) it may take some time to get this right and to get the appropriate feel and to bring things up to a high quality and that it would depend on their input and feedback on which direction you want me to go as I forward through concepts and ideas etc and they were happy with that. (work was for a few very large posters and detailed A4 brochure)

    Tuesday comes around still I havent recieved any artwork for the identity from the manager, mid Tuesday after lunch the EPS turns up and I started working on ideas and concepts and forwarding them on. I get one email saying I’m on the right track and liked the direction I was going. Next morning I continoue working on the ideas and forwarding them through and mid morning I get an email saying to stop work as they are awaiting 2 quotes from other designers and that I have a good week!!! Nothing was really finished or finalised, and I wasn’t aware that I would be in competition with other designers! I just thought I was the selected designer and that I would be working together to get the result like I had done on previous work!

    I think this is the first time I have ever really been treated like this and will be bringing out the old Paul Rand quote, “I’ve done the work for you, you don’t have to use it, but you will pay me.”

    I guess I must have just had a good run with the previous clients I have worked with.

    Can anyone relate? Ideas thoughts…

  53. Hello Troy.
    Hmmm…a tough one. It does all sound familiar…a new marketing manager will want to prove his/her worth/position by shaking things up a bit and this inevitably involves the ‘get 3x designers working on it and we’ll pick the best bits’ ethic.
    The existing designer (yourself by the sound of it) is brought back in, but not brought up to speed. You then proceed in good faith (based on your previous relationship with them) only to be treated with little respect leaving you with a sense of ‘unfairness’!
    They’ll no doubt treat it as ‘business’ and I imagine that you’ll find it hard to get any money out of them unless you have some kind of existing agreement between you.
    I’ve been in similar situations and I’d suggest just being polite and upfront with your feelings and how you understood the process and decide whether you want to try and keep the client or just walk away.

  54. You know, we are all to blame for not putting our work where it belongs, with the accompanying status it deserves.

    I’ve said it time and time again, while you see yourselves as just price and are prepared to stand in line, then you will NEVER command respect for your work!

    You must start putting value into the work. Create new brand, sales, market strategies not just a pretty logo or image! Be the difference for your clients!

    Stop asking what they want and attempt to advise on what they NEED! If you put yourselves in a position of servant and cheap then you get what you deserve!

    Of course they are clients, Of course they want service, quality and reliability but stop being walked over! This costs!! If you want to be around long enough to give service, value and get the respect you want, then you MUST take payment! Note I use the words TAKE PAYMENT.

    When you get a brief, give it thought. Never, ever, ever design ten or more choices when “we are waiting for more quotes”!

    I’ve seen so many times competitions where young designers submit hours of work and designs amongst thousands of others in the hope of winning 50 dollars or quid ( depending on where you live). Don’t get into competitions of any sort!!! You are being used!
    Make two or three that you have given thought to and you can justify with a good marketing, branding or sales argument. WHAT it will do for the client!
    It’s not about your artistic ego but what it will accomplish for your client and makes them stand out from the confortable mediocrity that abounds!
    That’s what you client wants!
    If you don’t understand that then get busy and read up at least a little about business and how to survive. Otherwise, sad to say, go and get a job.
    There are far too many calling themsleves “DESIGNERS” without the necessary background.
    Now, take good care and get as much joy as you can everyday by TAKING payment and giving all the genuine artists and designers out there RESPECT!!

    Ps Sorry David, We need awake up call. Thanks for allowing it on your fabulous site. Best regards. Ray

  55. That is a shame, Troy, and Paul gives a good overview (thanks, Paul). When you deal with someone new, even if you’ve been the preferred designer for many years, it’s best to clarify the working arrangement (I’ve learned from similar mistakes). Unless you have an agreement in writing, you leave yourself open to abuse when supplying work before payment.

  56. Thanks again guys, food for thought there. Have you guys had your own solicitors or lawyers draw up / go over your terms of agreement? I know I have many template agreements I have bookmarked that are lying around my PC, I think it’s about time I get something together and get them into action.

  57. Troy, I have just recently had my ‘proposal’ and terms and conditions re-drawn up(!) and can pass the details on to you or could post here if that’s appropriate (David?)

  58. Yeah Paul that would great, I’m based in Australia. I’ve just jumped on your website and can pump you through an email if you want to keep it private.

    I’ve just got a few templates from Sitepoint and various other sites which I had been hoping to build my own off of at some stage but yeah that would be greatly appreciated.

  59. Ask yourself this; what do lawyers and soliciors know about the design process?
    While we are agreeing to ridicuous deadlines, standing in line with several others to and submitting designs free of charge while the “client” makes up his/her mind, no agreemet in th World is going to get you payment is it?
    By all means have a basic legal agreement . My experience tells me that every new client needs a special scope of work and time schedule agreement with stage payments and ALWAYS 50% on commencement!
    Bloody hell David, what have you started here1 ( big smile and of course my best regards)

  60. You kow new designers are a little like musicians. They are so passionate about their chosen art that they will “perform” for a few beers sometimes while attempting to get established. I understand well the frustrations and needs to get in.
    It’s all too easy fro me to say say no sometimes and to encourage othersto say so also. but really you do have my best wishes.
    I well remember how much we charged when we first got started. Enough to cover the rent!!!! And I also remember how bloody hard it was to raise the costs afterwards. I just want to pass on my 50 years of experience so that hopefully the new blood can avoid the same mistakes. But then again I am well aware that the new blood wants to find out for themselves.
    Good luck to you all. ( That’s my lot on this subject now David! Cheers)

  61. Hi guys,

    Excellent comments here from all of you. It’s been great learning from your experience. I’ve realised what an idiot ive been by turning around jobs within 3-4 days when I would normally require a week or longer. Thank you David and Ray for sharing your comments on this area.
    Sadly, I STILL quoted the same price when I should have charged more. Probably worried that when I totalled up the cost if i charged more, the client would have ran a mile!
    What a Wally !

    But thats the worry, you’ve got a client and a good project to work on but dont want to lose it by charging more. Thankfully, I did put my foot down for a few other jobs when a client wanted a quick turnaround. I now explain the design process and it helps the client to understand it too. Which is vital.

    David, I just wanted to say thanks to you and for your excellent site helping me on me on many, many occasions in the past and for helping me get the inspiration and advice a designer needs.


  62. I’d just like to add that for some services I have been on the client side of this and completely understand it. I’m sure some clients really are just being a pain, but not always… I was looking for a photographer for my band, and had a good idea of who I wanted, I like their work, and wanted to have a rough idea of what it would cost to hire him for some promo shots. e-mail for a quote was the most information available.
    all I was looking for was something along the lines of:
    £XXX per day
    + travel expenses
    + other expenses
    £XXX per 8×10 print

    it still isn’t a guaranteed price, because travel expenses could be anything as could the other expenses, but at least it would send me towards the right figure, as it was i had to e-mail for a quote just to find out how much money we had to raise to get them taken, just to e-mail for another quote once we had the money.

  63. the x’s represent whatever that person decides their time is worth, which for a photographer, 1 day is literally all it would take to take the photos, so a few hundred quid would be enough (in most cases) although a logo might take anywhere up to a month or so (or maybe as little as a week) so i would expect it to be a lot more, etc, all i’m saying is a rough guide would be enough for most people to judge whether they can afford that persons services, whether there might be room for a lower quote or whether they’re prepared to pay that much for that designer.

    so for a logo designer you could list your hourly rate and say you normally spend so many hours on research, and allow so many hours for meetings with the client and so many hours on the work although in some cases you may go over this timescale… (or come in under it)

  64. Hi again David,

    Just wondering how do you price a peice of design that may vary in its development length?

    Such as what Chris says about logo design where it could take anywhere from a few days up to a month or so, how do you explain that to the client I presume you must use the what is your budget question and then show them what they would get for a few days compared with a month etc?

    Also say Man United or any other world wide sporting team or brand came to you, how would you price that logo design work (knowing it will be used on hundreds of products and shown to millions of people) compared with logo design work for a small local barber shop that your local neighbourhood only knows?

    Interested to hear what other designers thoughts are on the subjects…

  65. good question too, and if you’re completely up front about the pricing, how do you justify any differences? as a risk factor for you???

  66. Hello Chris and David ( is this your site?). A good photographer usually has between 15 000-20000 pounds worth of camera equipment( at least). He goes to the job takes perhaps 1-200 pictures. Takes them home downloads them to his/her Mac pro with Adobe CS4 ( another 5 grands worth) choses 10 of the best pictures, then edits, reworks & crops and goes back to his client with the results and explains why the pictures will work.
    Thats 2 days and why we take 1500 quid a day plus expenses.
    Start thinking like a business instead of an artist only.

  67. like I said, the X’s represent however much that designer thinks his time is worth. I’m not going to decide for you, but in most cases it would be useful to know how much before I get in touch about some work…

    but i do have to say, an 8 hour day (assuming you’d spend 8 hours with a client on the day) at £187.50 per hour seems a little steep, I know a few photographers who deal mainly with bands and their rates are normally between 100-300 for the shoot, (about £50-£100 an hour) so to almost double that, and then say it’s going to take 2 full days (instead of a few hours for the shots, then a few hours to edit) seems a little steep… although I would happily pay that much money for the photographer of my choice.

  68. Hello again David and Chris. You know, designers, photographers, and so on there are a million of them out there.
    Everyone has a camera of some sort these days but to get the designer or photographer that really knows his/her stuff and produces the business. you need to have the right tools.
    We spend on average about 20 grand a year on new equipment. Lens, cameras, new programmes, maintenance, office rent. research tax etc. Because no-one works 40 PAID hours a week in this business you need to cover the whole of your existence. As I have said many times there is a fair proportion of anyones time that is not invoicable.
    I can tell you that a photographer taking 2-300 for a shoot isn’t making any money as a contribution to his business.Taking into account all I have mentioned above.
    But let’s not get into an argument I am only attempting to point out some realitise of business.
    After all the deductions from that 187.50 quid, how much do you think is left? And how much are our skills( yours and others ) worth?
    If you can justify your fees with solid benefits and value then charge them.
    Take good care my friends. And don’t be afraid to charge with justification.

  69. Hey David, great article, it definitely helps me get a perspective on some pricing issues. I realize I’m a bit late here as it’s already 2010, but I’m only just starting out and I was wondering if there were any guidelines for starting prices.

    I know prices should be based on your quality of work, experience, etc. But I have absolutely NO idea – I’ve only just finished my course, although I do have previous experience doing jobs (favors for friends and family). The thing is I just don’t know where to begin for pricing. Design and development for a basic 5 page CSS site? $200? $400?
    Not looking for any solid numbers here, but perhaps just a point in the right direction :)

    Thanks in advance,

  70. Hello David. Its been a while. As you are still sending me the comments I guess it would be rude not to put in 2010s contribution for Ed.

    Ed. there is no such thing as a “basic” site. To do the job it costs what it costs!

    As you are taliking dollars (which aren’t worth a lot these days) don’t even think about starting any site for less than 1,500! But make sure you can give value for money and the site does what it needs to do.

    If you are only charging 200 then you need no more than 3 hours from start to finish! What can you produce of value for 200 or 400? Nothing worth having!

    Take good care and good luck Ed.

  71. Thanks for replying to Ed, Ray. If you don’t want to receive the follow-up comments you subscribed for, there should be a link at the foot of each email to unsubscribe. If you can’t see it, but were looking for one, I do apologise. Let me know and I can remove your email address manually.

    Ed, when I started, I found it of use to think of the hourly rate I wanted to earn, then multiply it by the number of hours the project would take. I don’t advise using hourly rates, and believe a set fee is much more appropriate, but at the start, it’s how I found my feet.

    Good luck.

  72. Hi David,

    I read your post with much interest. I too am a graphic designer and I work with another guy who is a web developer who is working in PHP/Joomla etc. etc.

    As a small company based in Slovakia, Central Europe we are often approached by foreign investors who tend to assume that because we are based in Slovakia that we can offer bargain basement rates, but still offer a fast turnaround with full professional attitude.

    We have one client that provides pharmaceutical conferences and events and they have asked us to lower our bills where possible. To give you some idea of what we do for them I’ll explain below.

    I personally work on all their graphic design for every event, normally comprising of the following:

    – 4 Page Brochure of the event.
    – A series of advertisements.
    – Animated and static banner files.
    – 2/3 Page PDF files for marketing and selling each event.
    – Finally numerous updates to the programme averaging about an hour or two for each update that is expected on the same day.

    On the web side we are working on.

    – Single webpage for the event complete with a link to online payment, delegate username and login area’s and request agenda links + numerous updates to be done immediately.

    Up to now are monthly bills have been averaging around 3,000 Euros a month which are client is extremely dis-satisified with paying.

    For all of this our clients are wishing us to work on 10 Euros per hour and they expect us to work on this 9 hours every day of the week and “prioritise” all of their work.

    My client even suggested to me hiring as he put it “a young college boy” to do the lot for 1,000 Euros a month or less. He also hinted to me “I was in the driving seat to hire a cheap guy who would do anything and be happy with the money and some meal tickets”.

    You can appreciate that we are not very happy about this, especially given that we want to run a professional business but we have decided enough is enough!

    We value the business as it helps us a lot since we are a growing business and it wouldn’t help us to loose the business however we can’t afford to work long hours and not get paid for it. Slovakia has similar costs of living to the UK now and I have to teach English part time just to make ends meet! If I was to work solely for this client I would simply not be able to afford to live!

    Any suggestions on how to handle this “difficult” client.

    We would like to work with them on a more professional level of 20-30 Euros per hour, and also offer them 12-24 hour turnaround times to manage things from our side.

    Thanks in advance.
    Jonathan Hill

  73. Firatly you will not be losing the business. Secondly at the rates your client is suggesting there is nothing valuable in the business.
    Ask yourself are you being approached because you are cheap or because you produce winning campaigns!
    Nothing of value can be produced in the turn around times your client has suggested.

    If I may suggest take them through the creative process. When something fabulous is produced and it looks simple often punters have no idea how much thought goes into it all.
    I know David well remembers the Picasso retort when asked why he charged thousands for something that cost only 50 dollars in materials. Pablo whipped out 50 dollars and said, “here you do it”!

    They obviously have a very high regard for your work and it meets the objectives otherwise they would have hired the 1000 a month novice themselves.

    If people don’t understand why things cost (not how much you charge) then walk them throught it!

    I’ll bet your client hasn’t the feintest idea how php or joomla works.

    But this warning you MUST heed; if you lower your charges you will be forever stuck with them. Its easy to do things cheaply.

    How much did your computor cost? How much did you pay for CS4 Photoshop? How much is yor rent, social costs, heat, light and all the other overheads?

    How long did you study? How much did it cost? Now I don’t want the answers but you do.

    My company can’t do anything for less than 120 dollars an hour! Thats not bragging but a reality.

    We invest around 25k per annum in new equipment etc Just that is 500 a week!
    12 dollars an hour! Now I dont know how much you invest but you should point this out to yor client.

    Doing things without profit means that you go out of business much much quicker.

    Don’t lower your charges but increase them by 10% and then give justification!

    Punters always want things for cheap. If they dont see the value then you haven’t done your job correctly when you pitched it.

    You are there to advise. To tell them what they need. Not to be dictated to.

    Take care my friend. Let me know if this works for you.

    David thank you again.

    Ask them how long it takes to produce their medicines. Why they cost so much.

  74. I just re-read some of the comments, and very constructive too. Leslie mentioned soneone who had said when I didnt see your prices I didn’t think that i could afford it! And that is exactly how it should be.
    If they are afraid to ask then you haven’t missed much.

    I’m a believer in attempting tpo ake the pitch interesting enough to make contact and DISCUSS what is required, Then, you can justify your charges.

    Its bot about too expensive or cheap its about putting value, care , thought and benefits for your punter. Not about artistic ego1

  75. Very well, thanks, Ray.

    You can pick up a copy here.

    Jonathan, your client clearly doesn’t see the value in what you’re doing, and believes design is a commodity to be sold as cheaply as possible. If you ever think you’re underselling yourself, it’s probably because you are.

    Remember, as the seller of a service, you can always negotiate the price down, but never up.

  76. Hi David.
    Disapointed to report that one of our Swedish designers seems to be attempting a copy of your site!

    I just came across this ad on the side of my gmail that you sent to me!

    You love your customers
    Get them to love you back. Get a real graphic designer.

  77. Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines isn’t a functioning link on this page. I’d really like to find an online source for pricing. Thanks. Teresa

  78. Hey David,

    Thanks a lot for this article! I’m at the (very) starting point of my career as a web designer/graphic designer, and I’m now at a stage where I’m meeting a lot of people who are asking me how much I charge to, say, design a website for them. That’s definitely a sign for me to start creating a pricing structure, and it’s something that I’m struggling with right now. I’m almost tempted to throw an arbitrary price out, but I know that’s not the way to go. Anyway, thanks again — just need to give this pricing thing a bit more thought, figure out what my dollar/time ratio is and just test some numbers.

  79. Oh, and of course there are market surveys that’ll help me (that I also need to just sit down and look at) and I need to tighten up my overall business plan.

  80. I love creating identities for small businesses and start-ups. When potential clients ask me for a quote I usually tell them what my hourly rate is. That is enough to satisfy their curiosity and set up a meeting to determine their needs and what the overall cost of the project will be. I’ve found that this works best for me in establishing their trust as well as getting my foot in the door. Otherwise, I think too much anxiety builds up inside the customer about the cost of the project.

  81. i need your assistance in providing a quote. turning single non moving webpage, into a graphic webpage. We envision it having flipping pictures, or changing words, and just a longer display in general to show our porfolio of events. How much is this expected to cost, no rush, but based on time and talents of potential designers, and this brief description on what we want, which again is based on their talents, more so than our wants.

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