How to price your design work?

One of the most often asked questions by design students is: how do you figure out how to price your design work? In GWD, we have been asked this question dozens of times. Here’s a primer on how to go about it.

License your work. Don’t sell your time.

The main issue designers face is the impression that they must sell their work by number of hours spent in front of the computer.

In fact, what you should be selling is a license to reproduce your copyrighted artwork defined by geographic reach, time limit, type of media and release of rights.

For example, an print ad design license value can be determined by reach (local, provincial, national, international or world-wide); for a month, three months, a year; in a black and white newspaper or color magazine; and whether or not the client is purchasing the right to reproduce the work for that one time or forever.

As you can see, the same artwork can be worth many different sums in different circumstances.

The best way to learn to do it “for real”: go get the designer’s handbook to pricing Follow their recommendations as far as what the job is really worth. If you don’t follow such standards you easily fall into hourly rate work (or even worse, Fiver) which usually is far below what you should be earning. 

Finding your hourly rate

In terms of hourly rate, add up all your monthly expenses (rent, phone, food, etc) and divide by the number of hours you want to work. This will give you your break-even point. Under no circumstances should you be earning anywhere below or near that amount. Always 2x or more. 

For example, $2000 in monthly expenses, 160 hours per month = $12.50/h. Below that you lose money. Pass on the job. At $25/h you pay your expenses and have some profit. 

Most graphic designers work at least at $25 if not $40 to $80/h for freelance stuff. Remember you will need to pay taxes so 1/3 of the total should go straight into the bank. 

Price your part of the job by specialty

For example, how many web page screens do you need to design? Home x 3 sizes + how many other pages? This is art direction in Adobe XD, Figma or Sketch. That’s worth one price.

Actual coding is another part of the job. That’s development @ $60-$125/h. 

Writing & translation? Photography fees? Always add a markup to whatever part of the job your subcontract to other people. You are responsible for their work and you need to supervise the overall project. Add 20% to what subcontractors bill you.

Always write up a contract

Be very specific about what you are being asked to do and what you will be delivering and when. Ex: number of pages, branding, etc. Write it all down in a contract. Give them 2-3 free changes after which you start charging $XY per hour again. 

If your client wants to own the copyright to your work, you should multiply the total fee by at least 3x.

Hope that helps. Remember, you have a specialized skill. Don’t give it away for $50.