David Airey is an independent graphic designer working with companies of all sizes since 2005.

Design pricing and when to talk money

money talks

Do you openly advertise how much your design services cost?

Perhaps you wait until that initial telephone or email conversation?

Or do you only arrive at a project cost after compiling enough information to give an accurate quote?

This is a topic that I expect could bring a difference of opinion, but it’s an important one that was again brought up in a recent comment by Vicki of Bionic Creative, when she asked:

“On the topic of budgets in design briefs, I’m sitting on the fence about this. I had someone write to me and they filled in my logo design questionnaire diligently, but their budget was $400. In my questionnaire I do not have a fee range (like you do) for the main reason that the fee range may turn prospects off immediately and that cuts off any opportunity to convince / persuade.

“Here in Singapore, quite a large portion of businesses are unwilling to invest in design and the culture doesn’t take design seriously as a valuable marketing asset.

“On the other hand, placing a fee range could save both parties time and that ’splat’ feeling I get when I get all excited about a prospect only to be disappointed with the unrealistic budget.

“What’s your (and fellow readers’) experience?”

How I deal with design pricing

Every project is different, so I can’t provide an accurate quote without first knowing the details.

However, I want people to know that I don’t offer logos for £50, and I don’t want to spend time responding to every person who expects such rates. I do this by highlighting a price range on my FAQ page.

This saves both parties time, and gives potential clients an idea of what to expect.

For an in-depth guide, read this logo design buyer’s guide, by Harris Jhosta on Creative Latitude. You can see how I work with clients in my .

When do you talk money?

It’s a question that doesn’t just apply to graphic designers, and I’m keen to hear from others about this – copywriters, web developers, brand marketers, PR professionals etc.

Do you display a price list for anyone to see?
Do you wait until that personal contact has been initiated?
Or do you provide a quote once all information is gathered?

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43 appreciated comments about “Design pricing and when to talk money”

  1. My hourly rate is included in a PDF of information about my services available on my “about” page, but I explain that I can quote a project fee after I know more about the job. I think that eliminates a lot of people looking for rock-bottom prices but leaves the door open for negotiation.

  2. I’ve seen some designers go with an options that allows a number of revisions… $800 for 5 revisions, $1,000 for 7 as an example… this would also allow for better feed back, but it probably has some down sides.

    David, why don’t you interview some other logo designers and get their input on the matter. It would be a nice post to see how different designers work and the type of work they do, since all designers work differently.

  3. That’s a really good question. In the past, I’ve always waited to gather information about what the project is and what the client will need. Particularly on web projects, I’m not sure if they want a simple 5 page website so that they have a presence here, or if they want an extensive and comprehensive site with a CMS; quite a huge difference in price between the two! And I also gage how I interact with the client. If I think there will be a ton of emails, phone calls and meetings, I charge more; some clients need more hand-holding and that’s time taken away from other projects I could be working on.

    I like Dan’s idea of interviewing other designers (and include those copywriters, et al that you listed above, too!). It would be interesting to see what the majority do. Hopefully they’ll stop by to comment here. Pricing is a complicated subject!

  4. Pricing is easy in some instances of web development, but definitely a touch and go situational type of deal.

  5. I run into the same problem quoting people for prices with my design work all the time. Never really found a system that works for every inquiry.

  6. I personally have flat base prices, this lets the user know how much I charge and hopefully weed out the people who want work done for cents.

  7. Do you display a price list for anyone to see?

    Do you wait until that personal contact has been initiated?

    Or do you provide a quote once all information is gathered?

    Personally, I would not rather show a price list.
    1. It might turn down client (even though they should know that this is a job which approximately rated £10 – £30 per hour).
    2. In my opinion, price for a certain project meant to be negotiable. It really depends on what we need to do. A £50 worth of product will never be the same as the one with £200 price tag on it.

    Based on these 2 things, I choose to provide a quote once all information is gathered. But it must have meet our minimum price or else, like what David has said, “I don’t want to spend time responding to every person who expects such rates”.

    Creativity is something that people can’t buy.

  8. Lillie,

    Seems like your approach is very similar to my own.

    Dan,

    That’s a good idea to interview other designers (and similar professions). Thanks for the suggestion.

    Lauren,

    I used to show a web design questionnaire alongside my logo design form, as the difference in project size can be huge! I took it down however, preferring to focus more on identity.

    Jermayn,

    Do you ever find that your flat base prices cut you short? Or do you use them as a starting point for pricing?

    Rafie,

    In the past I kept my pricing hidden until I gathered enough information for a detailed quote, kind of like you suggest. However, I found that I spent far too much time tailoring quotes for people who couldn’t even meet 25% of my minimum pricing. It just wasn’t a good use of time, so at present, my approach is working much better. I’m sure I can improve it though.

  9. Its a hard one, that alot of businesses face. We have similar problems, I was thinking about publishing our hourly rates on the website, but then existing customers might get upset.

    Every business/customer is different, we always give our customers the best rates, but we have to take into account average spent per month, number of users and travel time etc.

    Jamie

  10. Thanks David.

    I guess the crucial problem is that some client does not understand the whole process of it (either logo or even web design). It is not simply grab a piece of paper and start to doodle. If the client can’t meet our minimum price (and reluctant to bid higher), I guess it is not worth if we proceed. As in business, premium products will have a premium price.

    There are thousand of potential client in this world, it is just how we can give the message across?

  11. Do you display a price list for anyone to see?
    Do you wait until that personal contact has been initiated?
    Or do you provide a quote once all information is gathered?

    No, I wait until I have had contact with the client and talked over the whole project. Even though my prices are lower than full time professional freelancers , I still only give my price after the project has been fully discussed.
    Every project is different and can’t have a ‘base fee’ as such however by providing a price it does give them a better understanding or estimation on how much it will cost.
    I think a pros VS cons post of showing price or not could be a good follow up article once we hear the responses from other freelancers.

  12. I appreciate this discussion, as it’s an issue I need to resolve myself. I have not shown any pricing for a long time, but the more inquiries I get from people looking for a custom WordPress theme for a rock bottom price, the more I think I could save time by publishing at least a base rate. I like your form very much David – it’s a great model to follow.

  13. We tend to give ball park figures for web design during the initial conversation, for example you know roughly how much work will be involved in a simple brochure website and how much more it will be for a full blown content managed ecommerce website. This means that if we are out of the customer’s price range we find out early on in the proceedings and nobody wastes too much time.
    Then we can get down to the nuts and bolts and do a proper quote with a detailed spec with further meetings with the client.
    For Logo design, we can give a pretty accurate idea of how much of our time it will take and so can give a good idea of cost in an initial conversation.
    We don’t have any pricing on our website as we feel it might make it look as if we just churn out template jobs which of course we don’t.
    Toni

  14. There is a wide variety of opinions about this issue! Thanks for bringing it up, David. I like Jacob’s idea of publishing a pros and cons list, if there are enough responses.

    So far, the idea of the base or minimum price appeals to me the most; it will keep away those looking for cheap work, like many have said above, but it leaves room for negotiation. Of course, it would be necessary to explicitly state that it’s a base price and probably much lower than what the final job will cost so that the client isn’t upset when it ends up costing twice as much as the initial price they saw. Has this ever happened to any of you that use the base price system?

  15. What a great post and topic. I don’t do much in the rhelm of logo work, but as a newbie in blog design work I quickly found that posting my rates was not working. The jobs already have varied so greatly in complexity that I quickly realized it wouldn’t work!

  16. Personally when I’ve priced jobs up I’ve asked for as much details about the job as possible, mulled it all over in my own time whilst I’ve worked out how much time this will realistically take me, and provide a quote based on that. There are one or two exceptions when I have worked for friends/contacts and agreed to do things for flat prices, but this isn’t how I plan to do work going forward.

    Also I don’t like the idea of asking a client for a budget… well, I like the idea from a designers point of view – it makes pricing up really easy – but from a clients point of view I think it kind of defies the point of asking for a quote. If I am a client I will ask several designers to quote so in order to get a true guage of competitiveness I’m not letting anyone know my budget. Therefore as a designer I don’t want to put a client in that position.

  17. I attended a small business seminar recently where I had to explain to about 12 small business owners why I don’t publish prices on my website (or anywhere). I still don’t think they got it. In my experience letting a client know your hourly rate can cause problems and bad feeling. I have one client who I mentioned a rough hourly rate to early on, and every time I quote them now, they turn round and say “so we have you for x hours then, based on your hourly rate” and obviously it doesn’t work like that. There are a few instances when I am doing upgrades/repairs to websites, or retouching, or something like that, where I will just quote an hourly rate, but that rate varies dependent on client and type of work.

    Every job and client varies, and I like to work out a quote based on my hourly rate multiplied by the rough number of hours I estimate, but then I adjust based on lots of factors such as repeat business, loyal clients, one-offs, how likely I am to have to hold the client’s hand through the process, etc etc, and for these reasons, I would never want to make public a standard rate.
    If only I had a pound for every time I get a new enquiry just asking “How much for a website”!

  18. Im prefer to be upfront with my rates if the client wants to know straight away.
    I tell the client my hourly rate, daily rate and weekly rate or whichever relates best to the likely time scale of the project.
    At the end of the day I know how much my hours worth and letting the client know gives them an idea of what to expect and will help them appreciate the time involved once the job is priced up.
    Obviously the hourly rate becomes more cost effective to the client when the job extends to a day or a week.
    I also offer a trade rate but thats something I wouldn’t disclose to my client if they arent trade based.
    But im missing the point! To publish it or not?? Hmmm…….

  19. I prefer to show my rates, it cuts out any time wasting as consultation time and quoting time can amount to quite a lot per customer.

    I prefer to know that they are happy to pay my rates before I start any conversation with them so that they are very ‘pre-qualified’.

    I don’t negotiate at all on pricing because I don’t wish to provide inferior work for lower rates. As lets face it, the only way you can charge less than you normally do is to spend less time on the job, and that usually results in something less creative.

    I want to do quality work only ideally as it regularly improves my portfolio, which in turn leads to more work at better rates.

  20. I value my work in the time I invest in it. And I do show my rates. As Amanda said, it saves a lot of time. However, depending on the size of a project and the length I am open to offering discounts.

  21. Should you charge the same rate for artworking as creative design?
    Maybe thats a new topic?

    Lets be honest here. Not all the work one does is ‘award winning’ creative design. Sometimes it can be simple artworking jobs.

    A design agency wouldnt put its creative director on a job that a junior artworker/designer is capable of.
    Though in saying that, I hate to think just how many design agencies secure the client with their top designers and then further down the line they will charge the same agency rates for terribly simple work completed by fresh juniors on £15K a year. Sure they may be juniors under direction but when its being charged out at £85-£100 per hour and its not much more than an artwork job?
    Thats a £7.80 per hour salary charged out for £80+.

    I know that an employed person never makes what they are actually worth to the company otherwise the company wouldnt make profit.
    But as freelancers should we be making a price distinction between different levels of work?

  22. I do tend to charge a little bit less for artworking jobs, but only a little bit. In addition I don’t have many projects that don’t involve some level of creativity.

    For instance one may view a business card as an artworking job, but really if you look around you can do a business card badly and have it look like a vistaprint template, or you can do it very well.

    So even if you view it as ‘artworking’ your creative skills still come into play for nearly every task if it’s to be carried out well.

    Also don’t forget that customers don’t just pay for design, they pay for personal attention and good customer service, and they get the same level of customer care regardless of whether it’s artworking or creative.

  23. Hi David

    Great article and responses from the readers. I used to have the prices on my site but it still led to some confusion. Now I just try to find out exactly what the client needs and give a quote based on that.

    Sometimes I think it would be nice to just put up a design “menu” with prices but it doesn’t seem to work too well.

  24. It’s great to read your differences of opinion, and a follow-up to this post is certainly a good idea.

    I can understand why a potential client might not want to disclose their budget from the outset, and doing so is an optional aspect of my logo design questionnaire.

    At the very least, however, it’s a deterrent to those clients who are really looking for more of a LogoWorks approach to design. So far I know I’ve saved a decent amount of time, as prior to this price guide, I was tailoring quotes to a lot of people who couldn’t afford it.

    Thanks everyone for leaving your thoughts.

  25. Wow. Thanks David, for posting this as promised. You’re fantastic!

    I went ahead and put in a starting price for logo design in my questionnaire as an experiment. Too early to tell yet, but I’m expecting to save a lot of time as it filters out the “Can I have a logo for $100″ emails that as a professional, I’m obliged to reply at least.

    This has been really helpful and useful. Thanks again for taking the time to post this topic.

    V

  26. first, i come to your site david at least once a week.. you have a wealth of information and really dig deep into your craft. love the melting pot of ideas and creativity going on here!

    okay, as i’m just barely starting to freelance and get my own name out there, i’ve come into this same problem. the big issue i have, is that

    “people generally know what they don’t want, not what they do want”

    i usually try to get a little information from the client before i offer a price and see what the project entails (graphic design print work). some people have noooooo clue at all, which makes my job that much harder. thats when i usually use my mind-reading capabilities.. :P

    what i’ve been leaning towards is using a FLAT RATE, with a certain amount of rounds based on how much information is available from the client (homework, sketches, 3 rounds of comps, final piece), once the rounds are up,… if they want to continue on i use an HONOR SYSTEM with an hourly rate attached, or i offer the same service at a discounted rate, 30-40% off, depending on the clients budget.

    what do you think….? – GB

  27. Hi David,

    Another great post here!

    My lead to close ratio is extremely high because of a few factors in our process for providing prices….

    - unlike a lot of design companies in our area, we spend a minimum of 30 minutes speaking with the person inquiring about a logo or web design, and then after that 30 minute conversation on the phone, (if we choose to work with the person) we set up a face to face meeting (if they are close to our location). We allow about 1 hour for this meeting.

    - At this point , the person feels like we have taken the time and made the effort to learn about their goals and objectives with this design project

    - We have also built a relationship with this person already, even at this early stage. Experiences together is what builds trust, and as a result of our first phone conversation, and now our in person meeting at a comfortable location, like a cafe or restaurant…the person subconsciously trusts us and feels much more inclined to do business with us.

    - After the meeting, we leave and say we will provide a quote for the project. We email the quote within one day of the meeting.

    - The quote may be higher than some people are expecting, but it is evident that even if they had a budget of $300 or less at the start…they now feel that we are still the right design studio for them, as a result of the phone call, and in person meeting (even if the quote is somewhere around $2000)

    We have had many comments from people that tell us that we were the only company to call them or meet them to discuss their project in detail, rather than just send a reply to their email with a price.

    In addition, I would say that about 85% of people that inquire about our services, end up being a client. This is a result of many different processes we have in place, but our main goal is this:

    Show the potential client that we want to learn the most that we can about their project before we provide a quote. This way they get the most accurate quote and we save them money in the long run. We also show them that we care about each client, and each client’s success.

  28. Vicki,

    Thanks to you for asking the question in the first place. It’s one I hadn’t really covered here, and I knew that everyone who responded would give some great opinions.

    Gary,

    I appreciate your visits, and kind words on my content. Thank you. Be careful with a flat rate, because it can severely limit you towards a precise client, and of course no client is the same.

    Awebtech,

    It’s great that you can meet face-to-face with your clients. For me this is rarely possible, as the majority of my clients come from overseas. Face-to-face is without a doubt the fastest way to build a relationship.

  29. Hi David,

    Well, I disagree that you think there is no benefit to using the anchor text as my name on my posts. This anchor text shows up under “What Googlebot sees” in Webmater Tools, so it is clearly something that Google utilizes to figure out what my site is about.

    In reality, because this page currently has 0 page rank, isn’t a predominant page on your site, you are right, it is not hugely beneficial to have a backlink on here at the moment with anchor text. However, if the page rank goes up and the page becomes more important in googlebots “mind”, this backlink will not do any harm. Regardless, it gives my site a backlink from a page with related content, it shows up when i look at what backlinks Google finds for my site….so I believe I do benefit from it. But anyways, this post isn’t about SEO , so we’ll leave it there.

    I understand what you mean about the anonymity of the post using this name, and I do not want you to feel like I am purposely writing posts just to get backlinks on here…..so I will change it to my real name, as I have enjoyed your blog since findning it, and would not want to cause any problems that would restrict me from commenting on some posts here.

    Thanks again for the enjoyable and interesting posts.

    cheers mate

  30. Hi Brian,

    Ah I see. I thought that as the comment URI links were ‘nofollow’, that they’d bring no search engine benefit, and I’ve read how other blog authors become wary of the commenter when they use specific anchor text with no name.

    That said, I appreciate your responses, and it’s nice to be able to reply mentioning your name.

    Glad you enjoy the blog posts, and if you have any ideas or suggestions feel free to get in touch.

    Bye for now.

  31. I also can’t meet face to face with my clients and so am forced to build relationships via email.

    One reason is that they are all around the country and travelling for visits would hike my prices up too high for a sme, and some obviously are overseas. But the biggest reason is that I have children with me all day, so definitely can’t do even local meetings :)

    I don’t tend to give the price in the first email unless they specifically as for the price. Instead I focus on getting to know the client and their aspirations so that it’s clear that I’m not a ‘wham bam thank you mam’ type of service ;)

    Later on I discuss prices for ‘the job’ but never ever give my hourly rate unless specifically asked. I agree that this can make them think “How much!?”

    I don’t want those thoughts running round their minds and I don’t want to have to justify my hourly rate in detail by giving them a run down of expenses and service factors and what not.

    Out of interest someone did ask very recently, only last week I believe, which I think is the first person to ever ask, and when I told them they did seem to feel my prices were high, but it didn’t stop them going ahead anyway with quite a sizeable project.

    Once the first project was half way through, she started signing up for more. Clearly feeling that the hourly rate was justified.

    I don’t think we should fear too much revealing prices or rates, few customers buy on price alone, there are many other deciding factors aside from this.

  32. For years at Creative Latitude we wrangled with putting prices on sites. We felt it was just meaningless really, as every project was different. Even logo projects seemed to have quirks in the pricing by the time they shook out.

    Instead of putting set prices, a drop down range on an online form would work. Then right away you know if there’s a fit. Or not. And no one wastes their time.

    Of course, first time clients never seem to know what they can afford. So having a ‘don’t know please advise’ option would be beneficial too.

  33. Amanda,

    You mention that you don’t give the price in the first email unless the client specifically asks. It’s good that you prefer to wait, but on the other hand, how can you give a price so fast without knowing much about the project?

    I totally agree with you about the many other factors that should persuade a client to hire you. Price is only one piece of the design puzzle.

    Cat,

    That’s a great idea to add an extra option to the ‘drop-down’, one for ‘Don’t know, please advise’. I’ll have to implement that. Thanks!

  34. Hi, am very glad to come across this post as I have just implemented a design survey on my blog and the last question is about price. Although I am very much just starting out in designing, but I feel that it is important to at least get the message across to people that they have to think about the design (i.e. no specs sort of work is not welcomed) and also to know that I will be charging for it.

    Had my design survey done through Wufoo, glad to know if there is any better survey template around. Mine is on this page
    http://cluelessclay.com/blog/design-survey/

  35. Mei,

    I had a look at your design questionnaire, and notice that you don’t charge any more than $1,000 for a job. I think you’re ruling out larger projects by limiting yourself in this way. Do you agree?

  36. Thanks David, agree with you just that no one has paid me that much yet as I am pretty much doing pro-bono work for organizations that I volunteer with and for the church. Will research a little to find out what should be a suitable price range to put in the drop down list. Thanks!

  37. No problem. Good luck with it.

  38. Gee whizz. This is my BIGGEST issue. Pricing.

    I am extremely new in this whole business thing, in fact, I just got my business number about 2 weeks ago. I have, in the past, done projects for people as a freelancer – luckily i havent had problems, instead i’ve had really positive feedback. BUT….

    I’ve been put into a position (moving interstate) where I’m finding it really hard getting “work” work. As in, full time, part time work. Which is why I have started up my own business. But previously always working for someone else, and really, being quite peeved off with my salary, I just didn’t/don’t have a clue where to start. I think I have heavily underestimated my own worth, example being I did 4 coffee cup designs including a logo re-set… (2 were just, “put-this-here” on this color) the other two were “whatever idea you want lass”. I ended up charging AUD$200 Which is probably something ridiculous when it comes to pounds where you are……

    Your posts and all of these replies are really helping me figure out how to price jobs. Although being in such a desperate time for money, I think I am also down-pricing because i really *need* the work.

    Thanks for an AWESOME site. You have already helped me heaps ;)

  39. Cazza,

    You’re very welcome! Best wishes with your new self-employment. I hope it all goes excellently, and I’m very glad some of the content here has helped.

  40. Another great topic! Thus far, I’ve been working for people as though I were a contractor — I get an idea of what they want, estimate for myself how much time it will take me, and give them a flat fee “bid” on the job based on my hourly rate, which they never see. I do let them know that I want a certain amount of money per hour for revisions over and above the work they’ve commissioned, though.

    I’ve been thinking about putting up some kind of outline on my website about my fees, though, as I also get a ton of emails offering me $50-100 for a logo, and it’s tiresome replying to these emails with my reasons why I can’t afford to work for that price.

  41. I can empathise, Ann. I’ve found that showing a range of prices on my website results in a lot less enquiries from people wanting cheap work.

  42. I’m new in the design field and have done a bit of freelance work. However, I love your site AND. . .
    I have a question about logos. I have had several clients who had pre-existing logo designs that were either not done in vector OR the only sample they had was rasterized. In any case, how much should I charge for re-doing the design (not changing it) in vector?
    Also, I personally think that its best to charge hourly simply because the client can change their mind about things several times and thus, extra work. Per job just seems to make one get overworked for the same price.

  43. Whatever you think your time is worth, Dawn. No one knows that better than you. And if you’re getting overworked when charging by the project you either need to charge more, or be more specific when defining what the client will receive for his or her money.

Anything to add?

Comments may be edited or deleted if I don't like the cut of your jib, but that's quite unlikely.