Freelancer Battle: What do I charge?

Posted by | September 19, 2014 | Reference | No Comments

This is always a tricky little task to conquer as a freelancer. ‘How much do I charge?’ It’s the golden question, really. When I started freelancing I found it hard to understand the ins and outs of it and really who wants to pay eighty dollars an hour for someone they haven’t even heard of.

So there is three things I will suggest and this is only based on the past years experience. But I think I have figured out some sort of system to this great abyss of pricing.


This is generally the starting point for most freelancers and may stick with it if they feel it is most comfortable. Every designers hourly rate pricing may be different depending on your experience, specialization, and past credentials. At the end of this post there is a few resources to figure out your hourly rate on an annual basis.


Depending on the situation of course. I ask myself this: Should you charge a larger and more established company the same amount you would charge a single person start up? I don’t think so. Although other people may have different views on this but realistically when you look at business models and plans — a larger corporation that brings in millions of dollars a year will have a larger budget for deign work, where as a startup may think of design work as an after thought.

So first you should list out the hours it will take to produce all the projects you hope to work on. Whether it be an identity system (logo, brochure, business card, and stationary), or a 5 page website. List them all.

Then take the lowest price you will work for per hour and multiplying it by the minimum hours you think it will take to produce each design (having past projects as examples is a good idea — I have always kept a log of all projects and the hours it took including revisions).

And walla, do this for every type of design project you would like to work on. Also note specifications like: for an infographic — specify how long (how many sections the infographic will have) and if it will have illustrations etc. Be specific so your client is not in the dark about anything.

Now do this twice — create a second price list for the higher-end customers by basing it on a (reasonable) higher-end price point.

Note: When you start work with a new client, make sure to have a signed contract that states the max number of revisions allowed. And if you go over the max revisions; specify what your hourly rate will be. I will be sharing my contract in a future post — so stay tuned folks.


Understanding your worth. 

When you become more established as a freelance designer you start to understand and compare your work to what is available in the industry. What you bring to the table is priceless because everyone has a story to tell.

Now, lets say you have a great understanding of print and prepess but also can develop websites. Or your a business-savy designer with a true passion for promotion. Whatever your story may be your trying to seek out clients that will see you as an asset to them.

This is one form of value, when you can sell your USP (unique selling proposition) to them, while showing them samples of what you have done in the past — you become valuable to your client.

What is Value Based Pricing’?

With value based pricing there can be a lot of negotiating because your price points become much higher. Lets look at an example:

Ask your client ‘what is their annual revenue for ‘item x’ per year’ – that you plan to redesign. When you base your pricing on e.g. 1% revenue (for example $3000) for this item. You are giving them value when you propose you are going to increase sales with your design by 2% ($6000 dollars in their pocket). This just informs your client they are making an investment that will increase profit annually with your design. This makes you valuable and appealing.

Looking at it from the business side can help you understand value based pricing and increase your income drastically. When doing this you have to put on the ‘salesperson hat’.  Stay confident and stand behind your work.

So pricing can be a tricky thing. Especially when you are trying to establish yourself. You never want to see clients move on just based on a quote you have sent them. But using your judgement is the best practice in my opinion which has generally lead me to the right decisions.

Lastly, a little resource: Here are a two sites that offer a ‘pricing calculator’. It is definitely a great starting point to know where you stand, as well as a breakdown of costs on an annual basis.

Hourly rate calculator on MOTIV

A simplified version: YourRate.Co

Added November 2014: Another breakdown site I found that also takes into consideration if you are working for large small or independent client! nuSchool


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