Jonathan Selikoff, of Selikoff+Company

How do you charge clients?
Depends on the client and the relationship, but initially, all projects are on a flat fee, per project basis, with a defined scope. I usually ask for a third or 50% upfront, depending on the size of the fees. Hourly rates never benefit anyone. The client doesn’t get a true idea of the value of the work and risks getting overcharged. I prefer to deliver a desired outcome, not work for X amount of hours and hope for the best. If it takes too long to achieve the goal, then I underpriced it or didn’t work efficiently enough, but that’s not something I feel the client should suffer.

I do have one client on a retainer, which has worked well because they have a wide variety of projects that need to be done each month. Sometimes it’s a lot, sometimes not as involved, but for me to try to price each piece individually would waste time for both of us. In retainer work, I do work more on an hourly basis. Since the projects aren’t a defined X, Y and Z for the month, I need some basis for my fee for them. Also, I prefer to work on 3-6 month contracts when on a retainer, not month-by-month.


What payment methods do you accept?
I take cheques only right now. The vast majority of clients expect to pay via cheque, so that’s my typical MO. I’ve looked into PayPal because a client requested it, but they are really set up to support sales of a concrete product, not a service like design. As I recall, they kept asking for proof of what I was selling with inventory and pricing lists, something I don’t exactly have. In the end, they actually turned me down. I found that amusing and frustrating at the same time. Guess I should be offering some widget for sale as well.

I go with what seems to work for me. I’m a solo practitioner, which often can give people the impression that I’m not very organised. I might not be, but I try to project a level of competence, and that includes having my contract and payment terms set up front. That being said, if a client asked for some other option that sounded reasonable, I’d certainly be open.


Yael Miller, of The Dieline

How do you charge clients?
On smaller-mid sized projects I require a 50% deposit and the balance prior to release of production-ready files. On larger (longer-term) projects with several stages of deliverables, I require the same 50% deposit prior to starting any work, but break up the fee schedule based on deliverables. A retainer is usually applied to the end of the project, too.

The Dieline

What payment methods do you accept?
I accept wire (bank) transfer for overseas clients, PayPal when a client prefers this or is in a rush, and most often for US-based clients — a cheque by mail. I usually charge a small fee to cover the wire transfer and PayPal payment methods.

It spreads the risk yet gives the client (who may be a first-time client in many cases) the option of not paying everything at once to an unknown designer/studio. It’s a pretty fair process. The only added advice is that even if a client has ‘proven’ themselves to be trustworthy by having paid your deposit and even subsequent payments, you must not continue to provide work into future phases of a project before getting payments as per the signed agreement / fee schedule. I have learned this the hard way. Trust me — it’s worth swallowing your pride and overcoming any fear of confrontation and not moving forward on a project until you get payment as per your mutually agreed contract. Many unexpected things can come up — even personal emergencies or, as we now know, catastrophic economic upheavals that can upend even a trustworthy and fair client’s willingness or ability to pay you.

The Dieline

Antonio Carusone, of AisleOne

How do you charge clients?
Mostly by an hourly rate. I try to estimate how many hours I will work on the project that way I can ask for a percentage of the charge upfront before I begin work.


What payment methods do you accept?
Pretty much always a cheque.

Charging hourly seems to yield a more realistic payment over a flat rate, unless of course you work less than the total flat rate, which almost never happens. It’s also a good idea to ask for a percentage of the payment upfront just in case the client decides to bail on you. And cheques are easy to deal with and are more professional than asking for cash.


Chris Spooner, of Spoon Graphics

How do you charge clients?
Once a range of information has been gathered about the project I estimate the costings based on the average number of hours, this is multiplied by my personal hourly rate and supplied as an overall cost.

This estimate is then sent to the client for approval. When the client is happy to start work on the project an initial 50% deposit is collected. The project gets underway and design material is produced. Upon completion the final invoice for the remaining 50% is created, or total remaining balance if additional changes or features have been introduced during the project.

Spoon Graphics

What payment methods do you accept?
I accept bank transfers, PayPal, and cheques, with PayPal being the most common form of payment, particularly with overseas clients. The integrated payment system with FreshBooks invoicing app. also allows online invoice payments via PayPal, which can be handy in streamlining the process, immediately marking the invoice as paid.

Working on a 50% deposit is definitely recommended, from a designer’s point of view it acts as both protection and a deterrent against unscrupulous clients who may be tempted to skip payment. I have yet to find a client who has any issue with an upfront payment, with most being more than happy and even expecting to pay in advance. From the client’s point of view this also helps show how the designer values their service and work.

In terms of payment solutions, bank transfers are my favourite method of payment given the speed and ease, unfortunately this becomes a little tricky when overseas work is involved. This is where PayPal steps in, although the fees do tend to be a little depressing. But I suppose these are relative to the benefits.

Spoon Graphics

Steven Snell, of Vandelay Design

How do you charge clients?
I usually charge a flat rate based on the project, although I have a few ongoing clients that usually get billed by the hour. Issues like charging in advance vary somewhat. If I’m working with an ongoing client then I just charge after the work is done, but with a new client I’ll typically charge part upfront, but the percentage isn’t always consistent. This is something I should probably do a little better is to develop more consistency.

Vandelay Design

What payment methods do you accept?
I either get paid by PayPal or by cheque. Clients who are friends, family or referrals usually prefer to pay by cheque, but people that find me online and live in various parts of the US or the world typically pay with PayPal. I prefer PayPal.

I recommend having some flexibility with accepting payment because clients have different preferences. I also recommend charging upfront, although as I mentioned I need more consistency in the percentage. When I first started freelancing I got into some difficult situations that could have been avoiding by charging upfront. I had one situation where I didn’t get paid for several hours of work and a few other situations where it would have been helpful to get more upfront to get more commitment and urgency from clients.

Vandelay Design

Alex Peterson, of Pixel Air

How do you charge clients?
For large web design projects I quote a total amount based on an estimate of days required to carry out the work, which is presented to the client in a full proposal. The more a project costs the more detail I usually have to provide about what all their money is paying for. I’ll then ask for a 50% deposit or £1,000 if the project is high value. If it’s quite a lengthy project I’ll even ask for monthly installments to tie me over as we all know cash-flow is very important in the freelance game.

For clients that have existing websites and require maintenance work in the form of minor updates, new features and ironing out bugs I charge £40 per hour and round down to the nearest 15 minutes which suits a lot of clients rather than rounding up to the nearest hour.

I also try an offer packages like SEO, where I’ll offer a full site review and written report explaining what areas of their site the client could improve on with regards to search engine page ranking. I usually charge per hours for this – the SEO report outlines the areas of work recommended in hours.

Pixel Air

What payment methods do you accept?
My favoured method is BACS, but more often than not I receive cheques. I do offer paypal for convenience but this is one of the slowest methods as I then have to then transfer the money from my paypal account into my business account which takes 3 days. (Not to mention the 2% paypal commission I get charged.) I find myself chasing late payments more and more so only yesterday was have a conversation with a colleague about offering a discount for early payment or payment by BACS.

I think it’s always good to give clients as many options when it comes to charging for projects. And most importantly you have to be as clear as possible to let then know exactly what they’re paying for and in as much detail as possible so there are no nasty surprises or disagreements later. Payment options are more for my own convenience really but no harm in making your preference known to the client.

Pixel Air

Aaron Russell, of

How do you charge clients?
I have different relationships with different clients. I have a handful of clients who I work for on an ongoing basis and for whom I charge an hourly rate. As I have a long term level of trust with these clients I just bill them at the end of every month for the hours completed.

I also do lots of project work where I provide a quote in advance of the project. Early in my freelance life I learnt the hard way about doing work without any upfront payment. Having been stung once, all new clients now must pay a 50% deposit upfront. As my relationship with clients develops I am a lot more flexible about this, but certainly with new clients there is a huge risk involved — even more so when you are dealing with overseas clients and you don’t understand how the legal system can protect you.

Aaron Russell

What payment methods do you accept?
The majority of my clients are UK-based, so the best way for me to accept payment is through electronic bank transfer as it’s free. However for my overseas clients I generally accept payments through PayPal and I will pay any fees associated with that. One overseas client of mine is uncomfortable using PayPal so they insist on paying via international bank transfer.

At the end of the day, I don’t really mind how the money gets to me – as long as it works for my client and gets to me in good time.

Clients come in all different shapes and sizes and there won’t be any one-size-fits-all approach. It’s part of my ethos with how I deal with clients to be as flexible and accommodating as I possibly can be, and that includes how I take payment. It’s essential to protect yourself when dealing with new clients — and I learnt that the hard way. But all my long term clients are fantastic and always pay on time without issue, and I think that can party be put down to dealing with them with flexibility and understanding.

Aaron Russell

For more insight, here’s part 2 and part 3.

# # # #

November 12, 2008


Thanks for including me in this article, David – it’s great to read everyone else’s practices. 50% seems to be the defacto standard with up front payments, and it’s interesting to see a few people commenting about an increase in late payments.

By the way – great header image!! Although, I’m surprised you of all people to be using an image of a ManYoo legend!

It was interesting to note how many people receive cheques. In Australia that is not very common at all… nearly everything is now done online. Also as most of my clients are based overseas the fees involved with international electronic bank transfers makes PayPal the best option (when you charge the client the fees). Also cheques from overseas are a real pain, they take ages in the bank to clear and then even longer for you to receive the funds – let alone having to go to the bank to cash them in.

I am also going to be running an article on my site soon “Do you charge your clients PayPal fees?” – It was also interesting to note the poll results on Twitter:

David – a great idea, posing these questions. I hope you’ll find new aspects of business practices to look into with a selection of designers.

I’d be interested to hear more about level of detail in proposals. For instance, in the case of logo design, are each of you specific with the number of sketches or design options per phase…or do such details vary wildly among your clients?

Again, thanks to all participants.

I’m amazed how many Designers say they add additional PayPal fees to the bill – Take my advice, includes these into your costs!!!

From someone that outsources a lot of work, I get offended when I see this and think they are taking the mickey mouse.

You don’t separate your electricity bill which is a part of your over head costs, so why separate the processing fees?

Another great article David :)

Aaron, you’re very welcome, and yep, a 50% downpayment seems a common request. As for the George Best inclusion, I guess you chose to overlook my closing sentiments. Hehe.

Steven, my pleasure. Jeff Fisher has a wealth of experience, so it’s great he chose to join in.

Jeff, don’t mention it, and thank you.

Jacob, there are a couple of interesting comments on that PayPal poll you link to.

Bruce, where sketching / brainstorming for a project is concerned, I’d never place a restriction on the amount. I would, however, restrict the number of logo options I provide clients. This depends upon client preference and budget. Hope that helps somewhat? Feel free to ask any other questions you might have.

Chris, glad you enjoyed the read. Most of my own client payments are accepted via bank transfer (national and international). Occasionaly a client pays via PayPal, where I pick up the processing fee, so it’s interesting to read your take on the charges. I wonder how many others feel the same.

Ole, Meraj, I enjoyed piecing this first part together, so I’m glad you found it of interest too.

This is an excellent post. I was quite surprised at first that so many take as much as a 50% deposit but I think now that this is fair and necessary for a designer as they need to protect themselves. I also think that this should not really put too many clients off (that actually intend on paying) as they will have to settle the balance at some point anyway and is probably better to do it half and half. Thank you for the post this has been most informative.

That was very insightful and helpful. I’m just starting out in freelancing and I struggle with this very issue. I think I’ll probably incorporate a number of the ideas and approaches used here.


It’s very interesting to see how people charge differently for different types and sizes of clients (Jeff Fisher especially). It seems most designers charge between 35% and 50% of the full fee up front which I think is a good idea. Personally, anything below £750 I charge in 2 installments – before design and build and on project completion, but anything higher and for the clients benefit and reassurance the fees can be split over 3 or 4 installments.

The idea of a discount for punctual payment (Jeff Fisher again) is something I’ve never considered before. But to be honest, payment on time should be compulsory (although of course it never is) so no-one should deserve a discount just for paying up on time.

Looking forward to part 2 David!

Very interesting, it’s also timely as I’ve been focusing on more long term projects recently, as opposed to the quick ones (which I always require payment for in advance), and have been trying to figure out the best way to go about charging my clients.

Great collections of replies you’ve put together here David. And thanks for including me! :)

After reading them all, I was surprised at how many people use cheques. I suppose if you live in the US and get a lot of clients from the US, then it would make sense (Same with any other country of course). Most of my clients are overseas though, and my bank charges £18 to cash an overseas cheque. If I tried that with the thirds system I use, it would be £54 in processing fees! :(

(And I liked the George Best line! One of my friends has a poster in their house of him saying “People Will Remember Me For My Football.” Guess that’s not the only thing they remembered! :D )

That’s an interesting post David. Like others have mentioned, I find it strange that many companies use cheques. I know here in the UK, as you will know, cheques areseemingly being fazed-out.

Most of my work comes from a very large retainer client based in England, and they email me Remittance Advances and pay me via BACS 3 days after. This is by far the simplest method I’ve found, with no extra hidden costs to myself.

Hi David
It’s interesting to see that most people are charging 50% up front. I’ve generally been asking for 25% before I get going on any designs. Having said that I’ve usually spent quite a bit of time working out what the client wants. Very helpful article, thanks.

I am a strong advocate of requesting a 50% deposit up front from all new clients. If we have worked together in the past, I may reduce the deposit to 25% based on our history (on time payments, etc.). What I do find interesting is that people are including the PayPal transaction fee into the overall bill, as this is an ongoing argument I am having with my project manager and accountant. I consider this a function of business, no different that if I have a merchant account and would have to pay fees to the individual credit card companies. Some would argue that the fee should be passed along to the customer, but I differ. I don’t believe that a client should be penalized for being able to pay with a credit card by having them pick up the fee for using said card. I actually hate when a retailer does this to me. There is a gas station that is 3 blocks from my house that passes along the credit card fee to the customer. I have decided to purchase my gas from a station that is 10 blocks away because the prices are competitive and they do not pass the fee along. This is how I like to conduct my business.

Just another point of view.

Hi David, thanks for a great article, and thanks also to all the designers who contributed.

For me, one of the biggest challenges to date has been dealing with Government agencies who have their own set of rules and can be inflexible on things like up front payments. At the same time they can be very reliable as clients so it’s a balancing act.

The other big challenge is pricing, which is always tricky. It helps to get the perspective of others on flat rates versus hourly rates, as your contributors have discussed.

Don, George, bubble, glad you enjoyed the first part. More contributions published tomorrow.

Nathan, the prompt payment discount is an interesting one for me too, and you’ll discover that Jeff isn’t the only one using this method. I do agree, however, that prompt payment should be compulsory, and it’s a good idea to charge interest on late transactions.

Michael, it’s rare for me to receive cheques too, but I do offer it as an option. As for George Best, sadly he became known for the wrong reasons, even if it didn’t stop an airport being named after him!

Andrew, yep, BACS is perhaps the simplest form of payment for national clients. More and more of my international clients are preferring wire transfers, whereby I provide IBAN / Swift numbers.

Jennifer, you’re very welcome. Might this prompt you to ask for 50% in advance, rather than 25%?

Erik, like you, if I’ve been working with a client for some time, I’m more trusting about the downpayment. Similarly, I’d never write it off completely, as it’s a good motivator for both parties.


I’ve also found that the larger the client, the less straightforward it becomes receiving your preferred downpayment. A big name in your portfolio is always worth the extra effort though, and I have one or two I’m happy to be working with at present.

Thanks everyone.

I’ve had great success in creating contracts with clients that include payment and delivery schedules on both small and large projects.

Like most of you, I typically get 25% just to get started. Depending on the complexity and length (time) of the project, I’ll divide things into phases. I’ve yet to have a problem with slow or late payments, even with big corps.

The PayPal fee discussion is interesting. I like PayPal because it usually means someone pays more quickly (it’s just dead simple and fast for individuals and small biz). However, I state that if they pay via PayPal *with a credit card* then I charge a processing fee. If it comes from bank funds, there’s no fee for me and I don’t pass one along to them.

My feeling is that if they’ve got the funds at hand they’re rewarded by zero fees. If they’re borrowing to pay me and there are several payments on a schedule, I lose quite a bit to PayPal.

I feel strongly that this is different from overhead (like electricity). They do have the option of paying me by check which costs them nothing. It’s really their choice.

Great answers from everyone here and I learned a lot about other approaches. Very valuable insight. Thanks!

David, I just starting reading your blog. I love it. Articles like these really help a guy who’s just getting into design. Very helpful and informative.


A big thank You for the article. I really think every designer can gain a lot from the knowledge.

I’ll just add: including the PayPal costs isn’t really that big of a deal, for instance Bank Transfer for oversea clients is much more expensive. I rarely use PayPal (mostly for abroad clients), mostly Bank Transfers, Cheques or cash (when the client is local, usually the price is more attractive for this type of payment).

Unfortunately, I’ve learned that having a spoken agreement is not the good way out (when you’re at the starting line you try to catch every possibility, but they don’t always mean cash for you), so I always sign a contract, describing what has to be done, specifying the due dates and the way of delivering the end product. I always take a upfront deposit, from 25%-50% depending on how big the project and it’s nature. E.g. web design – 50% upfront, 25% before coding, 25% before uploading and testing the site on my clients server.

After seeing that some of my designs where a bit altered and used by the client without my permission, I’ve decided on taking deposits. Somehow strange but introducing the deposit, made me more credible and brought in a few serious clients. If the company is delaying signing of the contract or the deposit, but is still asking for sketches, ideas and concepts, don’t bother, they’re not worth your time.


Government agencies / companies are indeed a pain, especially when it comes to payments and deposits. They are a good client though, really reliable and trustworthy, oh and they know what they want, rarely changing their mind in the middle, or a the very delivery of the project. Had the chance to work with a couple gov. institutions and it was grand, everything you need is a good conract (which they like to have as well) and patience.

Wow, thank you so much for this great series! As someone fairly new to the freelance graphic design field, deciding how I want to deal with clients and fees has been my biggest struggle. It’s so nice to get some good examples and advice from the pros in the industry. I’m signing up for your rss feed immediately!

David, thanks! Big big thanks!
Interesting “school” this article!
It’s very difficult today; I think this is best:
“all new clients now must pay a 50% deposit up front.”
Global economy is down now and people are facing an unprecedented worldwide severe economic winter.
The customers ask ask ask …. discount, lower prices, and more more more and we must to have big “aereal”!

Great post!!

I’m planning on conducting a similar research with web design or web development companies here in the Silicon Valley/Bay Area (San Francisco, Palo Alto, San Jose, etc.) after I got a few questions regarding one of my blog posts where I say that we always pass the PayPal fees onto our clients because we consider it as a convenience fee (they could obviously pay by check, but by paying online with PayPal the client allows us to allocate the resources right away).

By the way, our own payment terms are very similar: I charge a 50% retainer upfront, then another 25% retainer once the first one is depleted and then the remaining 25% at project completion. I change it from 50%, 40%, 10% to %50, %25, %25 because it gives the client a little bit more confidence that his project will stay a priority until it is completely finished.

Thank you so much for this post. I receive alot of inquiries from people who see the $69 logo sites and expect those prices from a graphic designer, so now I feel confident in setting my prices, and have reasons to share with clients why price is not going to be $69 for a customized logo.

As for Paypal, I’ve had a total nightmare experience with them. They put my account on hold and are holding some of my clients’ payments, giving me a different reason each time I call and have said they would hold my funds for 180 days. No Paypal for me!!! Thanks for providing info on payment methods. People, BEWARE OF PAYPAL. Google “Paypal nightmares” before trusting your money with them.

Peter, Sonia,

Thanks very much for sharing your own stories, and Sonia, that’s a shame about your issues with PayPal. I’ll certainly be more wary about leaving too much money in my account.

Great post. Very informative.
I am freelancing from several years and yes asking for upfront payment is always good practice. You never get in trap if someone is just fishing around. I always ask 35% upfront, 35% when I get the mockup done and final 30% on delivery.

This is great information.
I should have used this system with a new client last year, a very slow payer (4 – 5 months!) and that was with a lot of time spent chasing him for payment. I should have known better. Next graphic design job for him will be 50% up front, then the balance on delivery of files.

thank you for this piece of valuable contribution.
*Hugs David

i totally AGREE with what was posted, really helpful
and trust me, there really are unscrupulous clients who skip payment especially during the job ends, this happened to me and the client just denies of anything. It became the expensive lesson I paid for.

I feel more confident now and have more idea of design charges.

Once again, Thanks!

This is so helpful and timely for us as we really try to solidify what our policy is going to be on collecting money. We really have played to the clients wishes for a good five years now, and we’ve never been content with how we’ve been handling this. There is too much wiggle room for the client to put off final payment for, basically, as long as they want.

Thank you for putting all of this wisdom in one place for us. This was incredibly helpful. THANKS!

Hi David,

Thanks for this post. It’s always a tricky area for me when deciding how to bill a client. I know asking for a deposit is the best way of securing payment, but I’m nearly too shy to ask.


I really like the idea of charging a base rate for web designs. The first question a prospective client asks is always “how much does a website cost”. And, of course the answer is that it depends on what they want but…

I like to give the person at least a ballpark figure of what the minimum amount is going to be and what that consists of.

For example, I charge $500 for a basic site which includes 5 html/css pages with only text and images. This price includes a contact form/ uploading / debugging 1 month after site is live / and 3 rounds of edits.

Then, I itemize any additional features they may need based on a hourly rate, such as logo design, flash intros, slideshows, animated buttons, lightbox, copywriting, illustrations etc…

This seems to work fine for me because even though $500 is a small amount to pay for a site, the total amount is usually closer to 1000-2000 depending on what they need.

David, i must be honest. Your posts are wow and highly beneficial to rookies and pros. I just discovered your site and i’ve been locked to it ever since. Going through your posts and contributions make me feel like i’m running an online logo and graphic design course. Thanks DAVID!

Such great examples – answers so many of the questions I have.

Awesome content here for anyone starting out as a freelancer or trying to take the leap. Thank you David!

This has been very helpful. Thank you very much. I have been trying to find info on this topic for quite a while. I have a few large clients now in Texas USA including a major University that I do ads for. Was curious if it is more common to charge by the project or an hourly rate. I have priced it both ways before for different clients and while doing pricing by the job is always dependent on the work involved I was curious if there was a “standard” rate or close to it that most charge hourly for smaller jobs (possibly with a 2-4 hour minimum involved). I have had to be very flexible with pricing styles and while I know my worth don’t want to be overcharging people that are coming to me for projects that are outside of my normal element of projects. Any advice would be helpful here just as some close figures to help me with basing my numbers off other accomplished graphic designers.
Note: I don’t do web design. Only graphics for things that will be printed but of every sort within that type of category.
Thanks you all for your helpfulness. You are all wonderful.


This is very valuable information. I am glad you thought of it. For all of us. I am also glad that you received the kind of replies and information to share on this topic. We need to thank all of the participants who contributed. It’s good to know that a certain kind of practice and method of working with clients turns out to be the best way to ensure payment
from them. Tried and true.


David and others,
Just a question for you all: I recently put in an estimate to design and produce an annual report (40pp full colour) within a certain time frame for a certain price. I got the job and completed it within the estimated time, however, the client was very late in getting all content to me ( I made it clear in my estimate that I needed to receive all content by a certain date to achieve their delivery date).

This meant I had to work most of a weekend to get the bulk of it done and to resolve the majority of design decisions for all of the full page spreads. I also had to put put pressure on the printer to deliver on time.
In a case like this, would you charge more than your estimate (a loading of some kind) because you had to sacrifice most of your weekend and work quite a few late nights?

Paul, I certainly would try, and I would communicate it with calm conviction (“sell it”). But the very worse case is you’ve learned something valuable – that such cases as these, rare as they may be, are instructive to the boilerplate parts of your next contract draft.

Paul, unless there was a mention in your terms and conditions that the timeframe for completion was subject to receipt of content at a particular time then I’d just use it as a learning experience for your next client terms.

Bruce, I’m glad it’s of use, and thanks for following.

Great reading, it really helped answer a lot of questions I have. I’m just starting out as a freelance graphic designer and am very intersted in learning more. I’m bidding for a chance to redo the newspaper advertisment for a grocery store and was wondering how would I charge for this? It is extremely difficult figuring out what I should charge for different projects.

My only question is… why doesn’t anybody take cash? I’ve been doing this independent design thing for a few years, and I ONLY take cash. For my convenience. Paypal, at least where I’m from would be a pain in the ass. Unless I’m charging an amount that would be difficult to get such as 10 000 I would take a cheque. Well that’s how I work. :)

Thanks for the helpful tips! I have been doing freelance for a few years now and have been trying to work out a good system. I’ve been tracking my pay on which really helps because I charge hourly and then usually get paid through Chase QuickPay if the client has it. Thanks again for this great article!

Being a rookie at billing customers for web design this really helped.

I was thinking of just charging a flat rate then a yearly fee to host and maintain or just one flat rate much higher for a one time payment. This doesn’t include hourly rate if they need changes.

Any thoughts on this method?

Excellent! Thank you for sharing this information! I charge by both project fee and hourly, but I prefer hourly for the same reason others mentioned… it’s more fair. When you charge project fee, scope creep seems to be a constant hazard. Many clients are so focused on getting more for their money that the project suffers and so does the designer.

This is a great post and I’ll be sure to refer others in my circle to it.

Cheques are a pain, I stopped taking those a couple of years ago. Bank transfer is the easiest, and cold hard cash is never turned away. I’ve never thought to use PayPal, I may have to give it a thought now.

Wow, great article… not least because now 8 years on I’ve got some value out of reading it.

I run a small (growing) animation and film company in the UK. Trying to work out the best approach for project payment as despite being successful in winning business cash flow can be a real killer for a startup.

Loved the input you received. I’ve been thinking of doing something similar and asking larger design agencies how they do certain day-to-day things so that I could start implementing that into my freelancing.

I have been designing websites for years and at the end of the day if a client refuses to pay me I send the account over to a commercial debt collection agency. That is Tucker Albin & Associates.

It’s interesting to see how other people work as a comparison. We’ve always done a 35% deposit, and broken the rest into instalments on bigger projects. I think in the design industry it’s important to take a reasonable deposit. It makes the client take it seriously. I’m also suprised about the cheque being so popular as a preference.

Interesting article and perspectives on how payments are processed. I had no idea cheques were so popular, I rarely get cheques but when I do it has to be over a certain amount, it’s tedious for me to go to the bank and lodge a cheque while trying to handle work as a solo professional, plus when I do contract other professionals to help on projects it can also be even more tedious to go and process or even wait for a cheque to do payroll.

I found it very interesting though, the reasons for the preferred method of payments, all are valuable experiences and I’m sure are based on bad experiences had in the initial days, which usually induce changes in payment methods.

Like many others I’m sure I utilize pretty much all forms listed here for receiving payment, it all depends on the clients and whether the project is worth the haste. For me I can’t use paypal as withdrawing the money to my country is virtually none existent unless you wait for a cheque for a very long time to get mailed here.

It’s good to see different business approaches though, to the creative field and how different professionals with similar experiences handle the business side of it all.

I pretty much have the same approach as Jonathan Selikoff, it’s hard to get a client to equate creative work to monetary value, they will most likely never understand it. Which is probably the reason that hourly rates are so popular among freelancers and even creative companies instead of being a guide for estimates. However when you offer a bespoke service, while you make estimates on time, it’s a lot easier to simply define the process and charge them a premium cost for the whole. Especially in brand development, you want clients to make a proper investment into the project, instead of charging for every detail as some of it can be free or subsidized on a service platform than a commodity, this allows you to focus on the project as R&D is very important for me.

I’m currently slowly streamlining my platform and services, probably be ready on my new website when it’s done.

That being said, it all comes back to client type and project type. Sometimes it’s easier to charge by the hour for a small project.

I will add this bit, it’s always good to be or even appear organized and structured to clients, it creates trust and confidence in your services.

Good stuff, cheers!

Very helpful examples! I heard about an online payment system where clients can automatically download the print files once they pay the bill. Does somebody know the name of this system?

Very useful information. Thank you all!

I’m in Canada and I always bill all my international clients in USD and require payment via wire transfer. Unfortunately I have not found a way to link my Canadian Bank (BMO) USD account to Paypal. So if I client pays me via Paypal, the money is converted in Canadian dollars and deposited in my Canadian dollar account with the consequent fees both from Paypal and from the currency exchange. So I prefer the wire transfer which goes straight to my USD account and it costs me $14 regardless of the amount which is rarely under $1000 anyways.

If any of you are Canadian designers and found a way to link a Canadian bank USD account to Paypal, I would love to hear from you.

BTW, has anybody dealt TransferWise?

I’ve always freelanced on a part-time basis through a publishing company. It was pretty straight forward, they basically paid per page. Now I’m venturing into new markets. What happens if your client doesn’t like your first designs, for example, a brochure design. Do you charge for that time? I’m writing a proposal and wondering if I should indicate that there’s no charge until design is approved.

Hi Tina, if your work isn’t liked, it’s probably because the brief wasn’t right, or expectations weren’t clear enough at the start.

Definitely don’t write a proposal where there’s no charge until design is approved. Always get paid a percentage in advance. Otherwise the client isn’t properly invested in the process.

Great article but I really don’t understand how designers know precisely beforehand how much time a project will take – unless they’re overcharging just to be sure to cover everything? Or unless they have a very limited set of skills and never have to do research into new software, they just repeat the same tasks all the time? And how do they know beforehand how many revisions they will have to provide?
I feel that only if I time myself every day for, say, a week whenever I do work for my client (work includes research, learning new things frequently, etc) do I really know how much time each new job will take me – and bill at the end of the week.

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