Setting rates as a freelance graphic designer can be tricky, especially since, for some projects, it can be difficult to know how much time it will take.
Once, not too long after I finished my journalism degree, I was asked to design a logo. I had taken a graphic design class, and a Flash class, and I thought I could handle it. I quoted a price that I thought seemed reasonable for a logo, was accepted, and then got to work.
Unfortunately, I'm not exactly the most talented when it comes to design — and I didn't know the software as well as I thought I did. By the time I finished the job, I felt wrung out, and realized that I had been working for less than minimum wage.
I made the decision never to take on graphic design work again. But the experience taught me a little bit about setting rates as a freelance graphic designer:
Hourly vs. Per-Project
Setting freelance graphic designer rates starts with the classic freelancing dilemma: Hourly or per-project? One of the advantages of setting hourly rates is that you are paid for the work you do. With a graphic design project, it's easy for things to get out of hand, and for you to work more than you expected.
Unfortunately, most clients want you to give them an actual quote for the project, rather than an hourly rate. As you get better at estimating how much time it takes to accomplish certain tasks, you can translate your preferred hourly rate into a flat per-project quote. For instance, if your preferred rate is $75 an hour, and you are fairly confident that designing a flyer will take you an hour and a half, you can quote $112.50 (or round it up to $115 to make it look neater).
Even when you are pretty sure you know how much time something will take, you should consider building in a little breathing space. Perhaps you quote $125 on the flyer project, just to cover the possibility that it takes you a little extra time to tweak some of the design elements. You might even quote $150, in case you end up working two hours on the project.
When you do get a client that will allow you to work on an hourly basis, consider purchasing a timekeeping application. Some freelance graphic designers charge more than $300 an hour (although $75 to $150 an hour is much more common, and there are those, at the low end, that charge $25 to $50 an hour). If you are going to charge hourly, and get your preferred rate, you had better be working on the client's project for all of the time charged. No messing around on Facebook for 15 minutes of the hour.
Another option is to provide a graphic design menu. There are some projects, like creating logos, that are fairly easy to do. (*Update* I've received a lot of flack for saying creating logos are easy. I don't mean to devalue the work, and real graphic designers insist it's hard work. Read the comments for a better idea of what it's like to work as a freelance graphic designer.) Peter Anderson, the awesome designer that created the Planting Money Seeds logo, has made it kind of a specialty. He's a great logo guy (and he does good work on other things, too). If you have a specialty, you can consider creating a menu for your work, and allow clients to choose what they are looking for, and base your fee on that.
Freelance Graphic Designer Agreements
As you work with your clients, and set rates, you want to make sure that you know exactly what the client expects — and that the client knows what he or she is paying for. When you create an agreement for work, here are some of the things to include:
- Number of revisions you will perform on the project.
- What, exactly, you will do.
- Provisions for additional charges if you go beyond the original scope of the project (usually subject to approval before you proceed).
- Some sort of pre-payment if it's a big project. If the project will be large and expensive, you can work out a payment plan, or ask the client to pay half up front and half later.
- Consider spelling out additional fees, such as a premium for rush jobs.
You don't have to have a formal contract for each job; an email explicitly stating terms, along with a reply that the client accepts, works as an agreement.
As you consider how to charge as a freelance graphic designer, make sure you think about how long a project is likely to take, as well as the degree of difficulty involved. It can be a little difficult at first to accurately gauge what you should charge, but experience should help you more accurately quote prices in the future.
Image source: Bummelum via Wikimedia Commons