What rates should a graphic designer charge?

One of the questions I get asked the most by clients and other designers alike is about (surprise, surprise) money.

scuffed British coin in blue

So what is the hourly rate for a graphic designer?

Ahh, there’s the question. If you’re fresh out of college, I would say (and don’t blame me if you can’t pay off your loans) around about £9-12 ($14.50-$20) an hour.

If you’ve got a few (3 to 6) years agency experience under your belt and a nice looking portfolio I would say you should ask for £18-£25 ($30-$40) per hour.

If you’ve been hard at it for years and have a few regular clients under your belt it starts to get more complicated. You may decide to keep to an hourly rate that maybe starts at £30 ($50) an hour or more but it is more likely at this stage that you will be quoting a flat rate for jobs.

Dollar prices correct at time article was posted (see below).

Charging a flat rate for design jobs

20 dollar notes in blue

This is where the fun really begins.

Usually, I get asked how much I would charge for a brochure, a website, a poster, a flyer, a business card, a presentation, an HTML email, an advertisement, etc. In which case an amount is quoted and will be received regardless of how long the job takes to do or how much cost is incurred.

This is harder to work out than an hourly rate and after doing it for a few years you get very good at asking questions around the brief to spot potential pitfalls before they occur. Here are a few of the questions I ask:

  • Is the text to be supplied? Do they have it now? Is it finalized? Do they need any help with it? Sometimes clients will provide very poorly worded or inaccurate text and will be grateful for any improvement offered but, if so, this should be factored into the price.
  • How much text is there? This is a very good pointer to how big a job actually is. For example HTML emails can be relatively quick to do if there is little text and imagery, but they can be incredibly complex beasties with loads of text, links, product images and sections. Nail down the scale of the project before quoting.
  • Are there any images to be supplied? Do they have excellent quality photography already or should a price for purchasing more be worked out?
  • Do they have a logo? If the answer is yes and you’re doing a print job make sure they have the logo in vector format (an Illustrator EPS or AI file). If no, then they will only have the logo as a small web image which will be no good for print reproduction and somebody will have to re-make it. This is a pitfall that is always happening! Also a job with no logo will 9 times out of 10 need one and that means the cost of a new logo should go into the final price.

stack of coins in blue

Here are a few caveats or qualifications that is always good to mention when quoting for a job.

  • How many options? I always specify a certain number of options will be supplied for a brochure cover, website homepage or anything that I’m designing. This is the most important stage of the project and getting it right is crucial but it’s important not to let this process drag on indefinitely. If you don’t get it right after a few goes then the project can go stale anyway. So always have a caveat of a finite number of initial options.
  • How many revisions/amends? After the last design option has been finalized and you’re ready to create whatever it is you’re doing, it is only fair that the client will want to make little changes to the text and layout. However, it is always good to put a number on these.
  • The extent of the job. Specify exactly at what point the job will be finished. So, for example, if it is a print job, it finishes when print ready artwork has been provided to the printer or when the printed product is delivered to the client’s premises; if it is a web job, it finishes when the site is tested and live or when a certain file has been sent to the client. It is always necessary to agree this first with the client.

General points about graphic design prices

Above all, don’t get greedy. The forces of supply and demand are hard to work against. Charge the correct and honest amount. If you’ve been working for a while you should know what the going rate is. After a while you’ll get happy clients returning to you and others contacting you having received glowing recommendations!

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Comments

  1. says

    Getting a quality logo file (i.e. vector not raster) from the client is ideal but can potentially be very tricky. It’s good that you’ve included this in your list, especially the need to factor in re-drawing the logo if EPS or AI format isn’t available.

    • Ian H says

      When I’m having trouble getting a high res logo from a client I often trawl through their website, looking for a downloadable PDF (for whatever). More often than not they’ll be a vector logo within it that can be pinched.

      Great article btw.

      • says

        That’s a good bit of advice, Ian. It can be really difficult getting a logo off a client and sometimes getting it the way you suggest is quicker and easier than asking for it! Thank you.

  2. says

    Hi Tracey, yes, how many times does it happen that the client thinks they’ve had a logo designed and it turns out to be raster only? It’s happened to me many times.

  3. says

    My charging policy is this: I work out how many hours the project will take, and times-it by my hourly rate for most projects. If I do work for charities, organisations and small business, I just reduce my hourly rate, but let these clients know that I am offering a discount.

    I also offer a 5% discount to projects paid for in full before the project starts. Just had a client who took me up on this policy, and it’s good to get paid in full before a job, however, it does add to the stress of it a little!

    Great post Rob, just Tweeted it out there for you :)

  4. says

    Thats what i call a great post or in danish: God artikler ven!.

    So now i have addet your blog to my feed reader, rob – thanks your great!

    • says

      Hi, Andrew, me too. I roughly estimate a design job by the time I think it’s going to take. Sometimes I get it wrong! Thanks for the tweet. You really have taken to Twitter better than I have. I just can’t seem to get into a tweeting habit!

      Mange tak, Paw. I hope you enjoy the articles you pick up through the feedreader.

  5. says

    In response to the comment about vectorized logos it is very simple to take almost any size image and vectorize it in illustrator simply by using the live trace tool. sometimes the design is slightly altered by for the most part it doesn’t take much more then a couple minutes and isn’t such a headache if you some patients.

    • says

      Hi Abdul, I write extensively about Illustrator’s Live Trace feature in this website however I would caution against using this tool for a logo. Logo’s need to be spot on so if you are re-creating a logo in vector you should go back to the font that was used in the logo or re-trace it manually. Live Trace, although brilliant in recreating images, will not be exact enough for a small logo from the web. It may be OK for a huge bitmap logo 5000px wide at 300ppi but then what would the point of re-tracing that be? Thank you for the comment.

  6. says

    Live trace is cool, but nothing replaces being able to handle the pen tool and bezier paths correctly. I have found over and over that bezier paths, in Illustrator, Photoshop or even InDesign, and of course Fireworks, has been key in my ability to do high quality work. It’s absolutely fundamental. Artists need pencils and graphic designers need the “pen tool”…

  7. says

    Hello Douglas, I agree being able to use bézier paths well is an absolute mainstay of graphic designer’s arsenal. I use both, live trace and the pen tool and a cool way to learn the pen tool is to try to edit the result of a live trace once it’s expanded. Took me ages! I would say hardly a day goes by without using paths in some way!

  8. says

    rate for a graphic designer $30-$40 per hour??it is right?? wow, that will be high payment…i really love it..aim to be a good GD in one day =)

  9. Gainor says

    Thanks Rob. How much should be charged to supply a client with vector graphics? I charge clients at the end of a design job for an archive CD containing raster images of say 4 hi res logos x 3 (formats:jpg,tif,eps) x 4 (colour-ways:BW, RGB, CMYK, PMS) x my hourly rate to process all 48 items. I’f I was to hand over the vectors how would I charge for them?

  10. says

    Hello Gainor, this is a very tricky question. I have seen many, many ongoing discussions about this area as some people charge extra than just the hourly rate as you are giving up the chance of further work. Personally I would just charge the hourly rate plus expenses. However, it’s usually best to get an understanding of this in writing before the job starts.

  11. says

    Cheers for the article but I fear you’re slightly undercutting our profession. I wouldn’t recommend any budding designers to work for less than £15 per hour. What we do is a skill and by charging clients minimal fees you’re doing yourself and your profession an injustice. Also you’ll find it very hard to maintain your motivation on the 6th of 7th version of a logo design when you’re being paid £9 per hour!

    To put it into perspective I work for a London digital agency and my flat rate they charge clients is £100 per hour for my time and when they hire contractual designers this can sometimes double.

    P.S Don’t EVER EVER EVER use the live trace tool to replicate a clients logo on a professional job. It’s just not…. professional!

  12. Jennifer Bartoli says

    Hey Rob-
    My question is about promoting yourself . If I have an online URL to my portfolio or a web site, do the pieces I bring to an interview have to be totally different or can they overlap? I’ve been in the industry for 12 years but held 2 very long-term jobs and online portfolio’s weren’t as big at the time of my interviews so as I begin to redo all all of my branding I am struggling a bit with what to put online and which should be stronger, the online vs the in person material. Do you have any thoughts on this? Thanks!

    • says

      Hello Jennifer and welcome to the site. My experience with the online portfolio is to keep it short and sweet. Pick the items that are most visually appealing. Pick cutouts rather than square or rectangular items. Split them up into a few categories (3 or 4 – not too many). The thing is most people who visit your site will only spend a few seconds on it so quality is more important that quantity.

      And I wouldn’t worry at all about presenting the same material at an interview. A designer’s website is judged on a lot more than just on the portfolio, unfortunately. It needs to load quickly and should be easily navigable.

      Hope this helps.

    • says

      Are you referring to the student rate, the few years experience rate or the experienced rate? Did you see this post was over 3 years old? How much do you charge/pay? Yes, I am kidding, thinking I’ll receive a reply to these questions. :)

  13. Jenny says

    Hi Rob,

    Great article. I have a client who wants me to supple the packaged inDesign file so that they can use the artwork to create other marketing materials. I dont mind them having it, but I feel i should charge (its my design, my copyright, and essentially by giving it to them, im doing myself out of ore work) What percentage of the original job would you suggest I should charge for this?

    Thanks :)

    • says

      Hello, Jenny, this is a good question and a difficult one. There are many different opinions on this. My own opinion is, and it’s not very popular, it that you should charge them but not very much.

      Giving files to someone doesn’t mean you’re giving away copyright (I know you’re not saying that but I just thought I would make this point). Copyright is specified in contracts and usually makes very little difference to the payment of a freelance graphic designer.

      Yes, you may be doing yourself out of work but what sort of work would it be if they can do it? Very limited, and not the sort of work any designer would be aiming to be doing in the long-term.

      As a designer, focus on the bigger, more creative, more interesting jobs that pay more as time goes on – as I’m sure you’re doing.

  14. Jason says

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for the article. I was just wondering if you could either post or tell me what sort of rates i should be charging currently for the different experience levels. I graduated a year ago and have so far done a few freelance projects on a voluntary basis in order to increase my experience.

    Thanks,

    Jason

  15. Susheel says

    Hi Rob,

    You are really encouraging to any beginner. Your ‘just do it and things will improve’ approach is so motivating! Thank you for all that you share here.

    I am from India and want to start my own website and blog to begin my freelance graphic designing and content writing business online. I do not have any formal training in these fields nor do I have much of an experience. I am basically doing this out of interest.

    I want to know how much should I charge for graphic designing and / or copy-content writing work to the local as well as global clients. Should I charge what designers from our part of the world charge (which is VERY less compared to what western designers charge) or should I charge as the western designers do?

    For instance, Indian designers/design companies usually charge around $100 for a logo whereas US or UK designers seem to charge $500 and above! So how do I decide? What are the criteria or parameters?

    Thanks again for all the information on this website.

    Susheel.

    • says

      Thank you, Susheel, I’m glad this site has helped and motivated you.

      And thank you for your questions which is very interesting. The answer isn’t simple. Since you are starting out you could start with your prices just above the usual “Indian” rate. As you improve you can begin to put your prices up. I would also consider the client, not only where does the client come from, but also, is the client part of a large organisation or a “one man band” – you can legitimately charge those who can afford it a little bit more.

      You will develop a sixth sense for this. The more prices and quotes you give and the more responses you receive from potential clients – the better you’ll get with your pricing strategy.

  16. Susheel says

    Hi Rob,

    Thank you for your guidance. The ‘sixth sense’ part is really interesting and I do agree that it is the best way to approach this rather perplexing issue.

    One more thing I would like to ask you is, considering that I am just starting out, should I keep fixed prices for projects such as a logo or a webpage layout, a website, etc. and put a ‘rates-card’ on my website or will it be better to quote for individual projects depending upon the size and scope of the company.

    In any case though I will need to have a fixed hourly rate, I guess, based on which I will have to calculate the overall project estimate.

    Thank you.

    Susheel.

    • says

      Hello Susheel. Maybe “sixth sense” was slightly misleading. What I meant was you develop your own internal law of supply and demand. In other words if you are giving prices and not getting any work you should reduce them, similarly, if you are inundated with work you should increase your prices. You’ll also pick up on clients language, reactions, etc., when you suggest prices.

      Yes, have an hourly rate because that makes it easier to come up with prices. Personally, I wouldn’t publish your hourly rate nor any fixed prices.

  17. Susheel says

    Yes, i guess, by sixth sense you mean a combination of common sense and experience. Thanks for your valuable advice, Rob.

    btw, your dog is quite energetic! :)

  18. Mike says

    Thanks. Very informative you really gave us insight of the very confusing and scary question of graphic designers.

  19. says

    Hi Rob,

    This is absolutely an EXCELLENT post.

    Thank you for referring this to me, I have bookmarked it. You know working with clients via Internet is still pretty NEW to me. I’m used to working face-to-face. And when I accept a contract here in the valley…it’s not by the hour but by the “fixed rate”. I think you can make more money on the fixed rate rather than doing it by the hour.

    For one, if I can do a job in 15 minutes, and the client thinks it would take me 3 hours…I would rather do it by the fixed rate.

    Anyway, your advice here is pretty good. I will keep it. Anyway…I wish you have a great weekend. Until then…

    Angela

    • says

      Hi Angela. The client is paying for your expertise, experience and your ability to take pain away from them and buy them time. All these things are worth money to you and them!

  20. says

    Hi Rob,
    Very Nice and opened views in this post.
    So many comments already in this box and good to know every individual opinions. Very difficult to decide and understand hourly rate of design for me because rate has included only pre-decided software based exercise. There is no rate included about the concept/ out of box visualization/ unlimited re work/ experimenting layout.. colors….look and feel ..etc..etc.

    In the my knowledge hourly rate is OK only for pre-decided layout and that is not job for qualified/ experienced graphic/ creative designer. That type of job could be done from Job work center/ DTP center or with anyone else who has knowledge about software.

    If we say DESIGN that means the proper process of development for a good looking concept and design for effective communication about services or products.

    I liked ANGELA’s comments. The rate already should be fixed with all clarity of design input like, text amount, visuals, photographs, illustration, logo etc. In this case you have flexibility to decide the actual efforts and time to complete the design.

    This is purely my opinion and nice to feel to shared with you.

    — Sadanand

    • says

      Thank you, Sadanand. I like the way your differentiate between the hourly rate being for people who know how to work the software whereas the full price is usually give to a bigger design job.

  21. says

    Hi Rob,

    Yes, I enjoyed this article and I just tweeted it.

    You being an entrepreneur is an accident…however, me being a freelancer was also an accident. It is not something I really wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to work-for-hire where I can have benefits and have a permanent job.

    But what is permanent job so to speak? There is NO such thing as “permanent.” This is a deception of reality. You can lose a job any minute even if you work there for many years. That’s how some company does. They’ve got the power. So why give the power to them to CONTROL over you? So yeah. I’m glad I’m not working for anyone but myself.

    Angela

    • says

      Hi Angela, I agree. Me too. And I do think working for some companies is downright dangerous because they can go out of business and leave you high and dry.

  22. Paul Booker says

    Hi

    Great article thanks. As a self taught, 10 year user of Coreldraw, I often do poster and vinyl banner design work for people. Although I am self taught I am fairly proficient at using the software and am getting better all the time, however, as I am not professionally trained in use of every aspect of Corel or other softwares, I don’t feel confident in charging as much as some people say I should. Consequently I tend to charge £10 per job – jobs which often take 4-5 hours.

    If my work is good, and of a high standard, am I justified in raising my rate, despite being self taught.

    Thanks
    Paul

    • says

      Yes, Paul, raise your rates!!!!!!!! I’ve never put so many exclamation marks in a comment so I hope you realise the importance of this. I’m not professionally trained either! You should be charging 10x more but I’ll leave it up to you by how much you want to raise at first.

      (I would try to learn Photoshop and web design if it interests you).