How much to charge your client is one of the most talked about topics in self-employment, so here are some points to consider when setting your graphic design prices.
Marly Gommans‘ staircase
You have a skill
You’re offering clients a service. You have a talent they don’t, and they’re willing to pay good money for it. You’re not in competition with the client’s neighbour’s son who has a copy of Photoshop, and if you ever think you are, please read carefully. Far too many designers are undervaluing the wealth of knowledge and experience they’ve amassed because they’re trying to compete with amateurs. Don’t devalue yourself. People expect to pay well for a quality service.
I’m not the first nor last to say it, you get what you pay for.
Your range of graphic design services
Let’s take a look at what services a typical self-employed graphic designer will offer. There are two main categories: online and off.
Online projects range from full blown ecommerce websites and communication strategies to image preparation and simple blog headers. Traditionally, this work would be left to the web designer/developer, but more and more we’re seeing an overlap where the majority of print-based designers are learning web code. There’s still a huge print industry, and many designers specialise, but it’s shifting.
Offline projects include brand identity design and the full range of print promotion (reports, magazines, billboards, advertisements). Here’s where your knowledge of the printing industry comes into play. Commercial printing is where just one typo can instantly cost you thousands of pounds. Here are 12 money-saving questions to ask on commercial printing (and some excellent thoughts in the comment thread). Offline projects are also usually formatted for online use, because a brandmark is seen across the board, and reports/newsletters/leaflets can be made available for download from the company website.
It’s not unusual for a client to expect all of the above from just one graphic designer. That requires a lot of expertise, and you deserve to be compensated for it. Traditionally, the role of the graphic designer was incredibly specialised, but today, a designer needs many hats.
Let’s take a look at a few individual projects:
Brand identity design
Forget those $50 logo websites. There’s a lot of work involved, and it’s your job to let your client know how much. If you don’t, there’s a chance they’ll think you jump in front of a computer, type their company name in a nice font and add a swoosh for ‘visual interest’.
Competition, differentiation, market-positioning, audience profiles… these are just a few of the topics that need researched in order to design an effective identity.
The planning that goes into a website is also often under-estimated by the client. Here the client is more aware of exactly what they’re spending their money on. A cowboy designer could sell a stock logo without batting an eyelid. It’s much harder to do the same with the development of a website.
“David, just tell me how much it costs!”
I’ve not mentioned any specific monetary values yet. There’s a good reason, too. Almost every few days I receive a quote request similar to this:
“We need a logo and website for our restaurant. We’re behind schedule so need a quote ASAP. Please let us know how much this costs and how long it will take to complete.”
Thing is, it’s impossible to give a quote without knowing project specifics. Potential clients need to be made aware that a quote is formed on the back of a Q&A session.
Here are a few pricing resources that I hope are of use:
- How 20 designers charge their clients
- Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines
- The design pricing formula
- “Nobody bought the cheapest option.“