Working as a freelance graphic designer can be a great side hustle or a full-time gig. Though, when you’re just getting started, one of the hardest things to do is price your services. Like any business, if you set your pricing is too low, you won’t make enough money to stay in business. If you set your price too high, you might just scare away customers.
So, the question is, how much should you charge for graphic design?
As an entry-level graphic designer, you should plan to charge between $25 and $50 per hour. However, once you gain some experience and build a strong portfolio, you can easily charge $75 to $150 an hour. In general, you should base your rate on both your experience and the complexity of a project.
This may seem like a wide range, and you’re probably wondering where you should start.
Well, that’s exactly why I decided to write this article.
For the rest of this guide, I’m going to delve into a number of factors and considerations you should take into account when figuring out how much to charge for graphic design.
Let’s get started!
Setting Up Your Graphic Design Business
Before you get started working, there are a few basic things you need to do to set up your business. Fortunately, graphic design requires very little overhead to get started.
Graphic Design Software
At minimum, you will need a computer with a graphic design program to create your designs.
There is a wide range of programs available. We won’t get into them specifically, but there are some general guidelines to follow as you evaluate your options.
You may prefer a program that you are already familiar with. Perhaps you took a graphic design class in school and are comfortable with Adobe Illustrator. If you have never used a graphic design program before, you might do some research on which are the most popular or easiest to learn.
Check out some online graphic design communities to get a feel for which programs other professionals are using.
Cost is another factor to consider.
While there are some free or inexpensive programs available, you should select the one that has all the features you need.
In the end, you get what you pay for.
Cheap programs may be missing essential features or have poor technical support.
The last thing you need is to be forced to change programs down the road because you decided to base your decision only on cost.
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Website Or Digital Portfolio
Your new clients will want to see examples of the work you have completed before selecting you as their graphic designer.
There are two basic options – a professional website or a digital portfolio.
Both allow you to display your designs and previous work. However, a website may require a little more work to set up.
You can always switch to a more permanent website as your business grows.
You want your customers to have an easy way to contact you.
Therefore, be sure to set up a professional-looking email address (no, your clients will not take you seriously if your email address starts with fratboy123).
Also, you should have your contact information printed on business cards that you can hand out to prospective clients.
Track Your Setup Costs
As a word of advice, be sure to take your setup costs into account. It can be easy to spend a lot of unnecessary money when you’re getting started.
However, the more you spend upfront, the longer it will take you to become profitable.
With that in mind, one of the best things you can do early on is establish a budget to make sure you don’t overspend.
Decide What Services You Want to Provide
The next step is to determine what services you want to provide.
And truthfully, many freelancers make the mistake of trying to do everything. They believe that if they don’t offer every possible service, they might lose out on opportunities. If you take this approach, you will set yourself up for failure.
Instead, focus on what you enjoy doing and what you are best at.
For example, if you are a pro at designing logos, that should be your focus. Otherwise, you could hurt your reputation by trying to do things that don’t fit into your wheelhouse.
To put it simply, when you’re just starting out, stick to what you know.
How To Advertise Your Services
Once you are ready to launch your graphic design business, you will need to find clients. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to get more freelance clients if you know where to look.
Online Freelance Platforms
The benefits of these platforms are that they are easy to set up and already have a steady stream of potential clients.
The biggest challenge is that it may take a little while to get your first client.
Freelancers who have a strong ranking will show up higher in the search results and get more orders. But don’t let this discourage you. Once you get a few orders under your belt you will start to see more activity.
The other downside is that these platforms charge a percentage of your sale price.
So, make sure that you fully understand their pricing models before you sign up.
Network With Local Businesses
Any business or non-profit organization in your community is a potential client.
At some point, they all need updated logos, marketing materials, or other graphic design services.
Therefore, start by contacting any business owners that you know personally. After you have connected with everyone in your network, starting cold calling other businesses in your area.
This might seem scary at first, but the more people you connect with, the faster your business will grow.
If you want to jump-start your graphic design business, use your existing social network to promote your services.
Like cold calling, this might be a little nerve-racking at first, but you might be surprised how effective this can be.
After all, your family and friends may have friends in need a graphic designer.
Also, offering your services at a discounted rate to people you know may be a great way to get some examples for your portfolio.
Setting Your Pricing
There are many factors to consider when setting your pricing. It can be a complicated process that requires a little trial and error. That said, over the course of time, you will be quoting jobs easily.
But first things first, you need to decide whether you want to charge clients by the hour or per project.
There are pros and cons to both options.
Hourly rates ensure that you are getting paid for the time that you put into the project.
This can help protect you from a needy client that comes back with revision after revision.
That said, an inexperienced designer getting started may work at a slower pace, so an hourly rate could make you unaffordable.
Per-project rates are very popular in the design industry.
Clients can feel confident that they know what the final price will be rather than an open checkbook for projects billed at an hourly rate.
This also rewards designers who work more efficiently.
If you can get the project done quickly, you will make more money for your time.
The only downside is that if the project takes longer than expected, you won’t be able to charge extra.
Ask Your Client For A Budget
Your client may already know how much money they have in their budget. Some clients don’t like to share this information while others are happy to be transparent.
So, in the event that you just can’t figure out what to charge, it never hurts to ask.
By knowing your client’s budget upfront, you can tailor your services to meet their financial goals for the project.
Cheap Doesn’t Equal More Work
Some people make the mistake of thinking cheap pricing will attract a lot of business.
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Setting your pricing too low may actually send the message that you produce poor quality work.
I’ve actually known many freelancers that report seeing an increase in sales by increasing their pricing.
It may seem counterintuitive, but in many cases, it works.
For most people, your price is a direct reflection of the quality or your work. So, don’t be afraid to charge a little more than you think you should.
Compare Your Pricing To Other Designers
When in doubt, check out what other designers are charging for similar services.
Just be mindful that the market is full of budget designers.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to keep up with those that are underpriced.
They likely aren’t making much money.
Experiment With Your Pricing
The good news is that your pricing doesn’t have to be set in stone.
You can always adjust to find the right balance.
Try not to change your pricing too frequently, but you should most definitely evaluate your prices every 3 to 6 months.
Reduce The Number of Revisions
After getting your pricing right, you need to focus on working efficiently and reducing the number of hours that you put into each project.
While you may have secured a good-paying gig, multiple revisions could quickly turn a profitable project into one that costs you money.
Luckily, there are some great ways to reduce the number of revisions you have to do.
Always Produce Top-Quality Work
This may seem like a no-brainer, but not putting your best foot forward significantly increases your chances of revisions or rework.
Think of it like this: would you rather put in an extra hour to make a design look perfect before you submit it to a client, or spend 3 extra hours working on a revision because your client was frustrated with your sloppy work?
Make it your aim to produce top-quality work from the get-go.
Not only will your clients be happier, but they might even recommend your services to a friend or colleague.
Can you say repeat business?
Be Ultra-Clear On Expectations And Scope
Graphic design is open to interpretation.
In other words, your client may have one idea in mind, and you have another.
So, in an effort to make your business run as smooth as possible, do your best to align on the design expectations upfront.
This will ensure that you are working in the right direction and reduce your chances of major revisions.
Provide Regular Updates
Sending your client drafts early and throughout the process will ensure that you are on the right track.
The last thing you want is to come up with a print-ready design that the customer hates.
Grow Your Business
As you get more and more clients, you want to think about additional ways to grow your business.
But how do you do that?
Well, here are a few things on which you should focus your effort.
Don’t stress about perfection.
You won’t get everything right from the beginning and that’s ok. Just pay attention to the feedback you are getting from your clients.
Treat negative feedback as an opportunity to improve, and let positive feedback reinforce your hard work.
Pay Attention To Special Requests
If you get regular requests for a service you don’t currently offer, you might be missing out on an opportunity to provide other services.
If needed, take the time to learn the new skills required.
When you feel confident enough, send a note out to all your clients letting them about your new service.
This is a great way to generate new orders quickly.
Keep Current On Market Trends
If you produce outdated designs, your client base will eventually dry up.
So, make sure to subscribe to industry publications and participate regularly in online graphic design communities to keep up to date on trends and new design ideas.
Spend More Time Acquiring New Business
The more time you spend working on projects within your business, the less time you will have to find more clients and earn more money.
Therefore, if you want to grow your graphic design business, it’s essential for you to improve your company’s efficiency.
Whether that means outsourcing business-essential tasks like bookkeeping, or hiring additional graphic designers to help you with your workload, the more efficient you are as a business, the bigger (and faster) you will grow.
Show Off Recent Projects Completed
Use your social media and/or website to show recently completed projects.
In some cases, a client may be interested in your services, but not ready to kick off their project.
By having a robust following, you may spark interest and inspiration for work down the road.
Offer Add-On Services
Think about ways to upsell your services.
For example, if your client is looking for a simple logo design, you might offer to create several variations that could be used for brand consistency across all mediums (web logo, packaging, business cards, social media profiles, etc.).
How Do I Find the Right Graphic Design Software? Each graphic design program offers different features, price points, training and certifications, and technical support. Make a list of your requirements to help you eliminate the programs that don’t meet your needs. Online reviews also provide a lot of information to help you make your decision.
Do I Need a Business License to Get Started? In most cases, you don’t need a business license to get started. You can typically just add your revenue as personal income when you file your taxes. Check with your local municipality for requirements on setting up a sole proprietorship. When in doubt, seek advice from your accountant.