Freelance Graphic Design Rates: All Factors to Consider [+ Tips]
You want to be a freelance graphic designer and you are not alone. Or do you want to employ a freelance graphic designer? Either way, you are going to need some ballpark figures on rates. This is the business aspect of design, not the creative flair that you possess, but it is just as important for obvious reasons. Rates set too low, and you are not going to make enough money to make it worth your while, rates too high and you are going to struggle to find the clients you’ll need.
The world of freelancing might be advantageous, giving you greater control and flexibility over your location, working hours, and life in general. But it is also full of risks, a world where your creative talents alone might not be enough to see you through. Freelancing means you have to combine your creative skills with business skills, and making the decision on what you are going to charge is one of the hardest choices in this highly competitive market.
There are many factors that you have to take into account, and perhaps many justifications you are going to have to make to the client. Working rates in this field are as varied and various as the types of projects you are going to be working on and where you pitch yourself is vital.
There are average rates and figures flying about Upwork, the freelancer platform has designers quoting from as little as $15 per hour to over $150, with an average of just over $25. But hitting the right note is a much more subtle process than blindly focusing on the stats.
1. Factors to Consider
1.1. Status and Reputation
Especially in the beginning freelancers have a very tricky problem when establishing rates. You need to get things moving and get some work in to keep the wolves from the door. You also need to build up a portfolio and you need to start building a client base.
There is an obvious tendency to start the ball rolling by offering cheaper prices and we can’t say this is wrong. But be careful of undervaluing yourself and creating a rod for your own back later down the line. Some clients will actively search out newbies in order to get cheaper prices, but these clients may well move on to the next cheap starter when you start raising your prices. In addition, they are unlikely to become long-term clients and can be difficult to deal with. But as long as you are aware of this and take it for what it is- very competitive rates are one way of getting clients through the door.
These clients are also a good way of boosting your portfolio. A portfolio containing real clients, with real demands and project outlines are much more effective in attractive new client than simply a portfolio of your own chosen works. Now you are in business it is about providing a valuable service for others and fulfilling the brief.
You need to build up a reputation for quality work, which meets the brief and the deadlines set.
1.2. Experience and Specialism
Typically more experience freelancer graphic designers can charge more. This is not just down to the years of knowledge you’ve built up. Greater experience and longevity are a sign of strength in this hugely competitive industry. If you’ve been around for 10 years, you’ve obviously got something to offer. You also know the ins and out of the business and can probably work faster and more effectively with clients. Experience attracts clients and the more client you have knocking on your door, the more choosy you can be when decided what projects you want to take on, and for how much.
And, not all graphic design is the same. From web design to company branding, from logos to layout, billboards to business cards -there are different types of graphic design. You may offer everything, but beware there are very different technical skills involved so don’t fall into the trap. One poor design can reflect poorly on your whole image. Different types of design take different times, take different skills, and therefore you should be contemplating different rates.
1.3. Scope of work
The amount of work required has to be one of the main factors in your pricing policy. The actual creation is one thing, and that takes plenty of time. But what else do you need to bear in mind? Do you need to do research? How many concepts and drafts do they want? What is the process between you and the client? Everything takes time and that needs factoring in.
Depending on how urgent the work is or how quickly the client needs the work, then your rates are likely to change. Timelines and deadlines are important in business and clients should expect to pay more if they want something completed in a shorter time scale. How quickly you can produce the design will depend on other factors not just your creative abilities. You need to have a definite brief, all accompanying materials in place, and a process in place for revisions, adaptions, and changes.
Lots of graphic design can be done remotely these days. New communication and collaboration software is making it easier and easier to deal with clients from all over the world. However, it is a fact that location still has a bearing on your rates. It is relatively normal for freelancers in Western Europe and the state to charge more than eastern Europe and Asia top charge more. This can be justified due to higher overheads and cost of living. Depending on where your business is located it may make sense to employ a freelancer from these more expensive locations. You can benefit from more straight forward communication regarding language and time zone issues, and there may also be a quality of work issue.
The latest figures from FreeeUp show that expert-level graphic designers from the US earn up to $75 per hour, compared to $50 per hour for an expert from India. Glassdoor and Payscale show similar differences in rates and average salaries.
2. Hourly vs. Project-Based Pay
There are two basic choices when setting rates of pay as a freelance graphic designer. You can charge per hour or for the completed project.
Hourly rates are a popular form of payment in this area. You can vary the rate depending on the job and open negotiations. Many freelancers on sites such as Upwork already quote hourly rates of anything from $20 to $200 per hour. Where you set your rate will be affected by your skills, experience, reputation, and various other factors. There are some issues with hourly rates. Clients are often wary of the unknown. They need to budget, and hourly rates may seem cheap but risk spiraling out of control. You have to give your client a guideline of the estimated time. Also, many clients do not fully understand what goes into the design and the amount of work it takes. You may have to spend time justifying yourself and your timeframes. What can seem like a very reasonable rate, can mount up. Hourly rates, in general, lead to more negotiations and potential conflicts.
Many freelance graphic designers prefer to quote per completed job. Your graphic design hourly rates are negotiable. In these cases, you still have roughly calculated the time you will need and worked it into your quote. The clients will expect a timeline and value for money. Clients are focused on what the end result is rather than the process.
3. Tips for Setting Rates
One of the most important things to realize as a freelancer is that you are in a competitive market. You need to research what other freelance graphic designers are charging for equivalent services. You need to honestly assess where you fit in this field and find a guideline to where you will pitch yourself. Check out designers not only in your specific field or specialism but also in your geographical area. You can find out what other designers are quote on freelance sites and also check out average salaries on sites such as Glassdoor and Payscale.
There are tools to help you, especially if you are setting hourly rates. Sites like Rimuut, Beewits, and Clockify all help you calculate rates by adding information about your field, location, costs, experience, etc. If nothing else these tools are a great guide.
3.3. Work out your Costs
It’s important to work out your costs and factor that into your rates. What may seem like a reasonable hourly rate for a working hour, may not seem quit as good when you take into account your additional costs. Full-time professional freelancers should be aware that there is not always a steady flow of work, indeed at first, you are likely to go for times when you have little or nothing. Your rates need to cover these costs. You also have to factor in things like taxes, pension payments, and health care provision as well as your overheads such as heating and utilities and technology.
3.4. Be flexible
You don’t have to stick with a set rate. You are going to need the business skills to think about when it’s right to push your rate and when it’s worth working for a little less. Sometimes a short-term loss can mean long-term gain. With experience, you should be able to raise your prices and hopefully, your reputation will mean that you can be selective in what you take on and who you turn down.
3.5. Avoid Undercutting the Market
Yes, freelance graphic design is competitive and yes you might be desperate to get the work but! Be wary of undercutting the market. We’re not saying never do it, and we’re not saying don’t negotiate down if you think that will do the trick but as a rule, if you seriously undercut the market, you will not build the reputation or clientele that is going to suit your aims in the long run. Certain clients will search out less experienced designers with the absolute aim of getting something on the cheap. If you take these on, fine but do it on your own terms and get what you want out of it. You know this isn’t a sustainable business model. You need to be valued for the work you do.
Working as a freelance graphic designer has its obvious advantages usually regarding control and flexibility. You are doing something you have a passion for and in an ideal world doing it on your terms. However, you still have to eat!
The gig economy is growing and more and more clients are looking for freelancers to complement their businesses. Clients are fearless about who they will work with and where they are based. Technology has broken the boundaries of communication and collaboration and create a truly worldwide market place. In many ways, it’s never ever been easier to become a freelancer. And this is the exact problem, a vast swathe of freelancers coming on the scene.
Pitching yourself at the right level helps you gain clients, and build up those business relationships that are vital to success. Once they are hooked on your professionalism, creative ideas, and great end product, then you’re in the game. Slowly but surely your rates can rise and the clients will be happy to pay because the work you do creates a value that surpasses the cost. You feel the benefits of the freelancer’s world.