"I just throw a number out and hope no one winces."
You’ve been there (and maybe still are there). A possible freelance graphic design client asks you what you charge for, say, a website or logo design. So, how do you price yourself as a freelance graphic designer? Perhaps you just throw out a number, hoping the client doesn’t cringe, or worse, tell you that you’re crazy for charging so much!
I remember just graduating as a graphic designer (and even before graduation day), having a few people approach me for projects here and there. I had absolutely no foundation on how to price my freelance work so I either didn’t charge them, or if I did, I arbitrarily came up with a price that sounded “reasonable.” I feared pricing my work too high and hearing them say “no” or “wow, that’s just ridiculous!” I did all I could to avoid any push back or discomfort from my price as a freelance graphic designer because I believed I had no way to justify it. So I made sure to price my work just a little below what I thought the project should be.
I quickly realized I needed to create a system to price myself as a freelance graphic designer so that I could:
Justify my price if the client pushed back.
Charge my worth. If I based my price on the reaction of the client, I’d be at their mercy, letting them decide what I’m worth.
Get comfortable with the word “no” if someone doesn’t want to pay me my freelance rate.
Learn to negotiate. If I didn’t know how to price myself as a freelance graphic designer, what leverage do I have in negotiating in the first place?
Value my work. If I don’t value my work, no one else will either.
Here are 6 truths to confidently price yourself as a freelance graphic designer:
1. Know your work is valuable
You studied to become a designer. That means you invested in the design culture, paid for the education, as well as poured many hours of training on how to design. So just because you don’t have as much experience as other designers with years in the field, does not automatically make your work worthless. Remember: your clients either don’t have the skill set or time to do what you can do.
2. There is no magic pricing formula
How much do graphic designers charge? Sure, there are methods (some better than others) for coming up with rates as well as price points that seem unreasonable within the market (ya know, like pricing a logo design at $10 million). 😉 But in general, there are no rules to pricing as a freelancer. This truth gave me the freedom to create my own rules and develop my own system to pricing my work as freelance graphic designer.
3. Everyone values design differently
Clients place their own arbitrary value on what design should cost.
I did an experiment. I once gave two proposals to two different clients on the same day. Each for the same project: a logo design. One, I priced at 90% lower than the other. The client who I gave the higher price didn’t even flinch. She paid the deposit and was comfortable with the price. She was one of the best clients I’ve ever had. On the other hand, the client who I quoted the lower price said that was WAY too much for a logo and she did not end up continuing with my services.
Of course this is just one example, but it illustrates how different people put different value on design. You as the graphic designer need to be the one that determines your value, not others. If you change depending on everyone’s reactions, you will be over-worked and under-paid (not to mention completely confused and tossed around by everyone’s opinions).
4. It’s more important to be confident than to be “right”
This may sound counter-intuitive, but confidence works when pricing your freelance work (as with many things in life). If you constantly strive to reach the unattainable goal of pricing your work “correctly” or “perfectly,” you’ll be paralyzed and never move forward in your freelance career. It is much more important to just go for it.
Figure out a system to determine your price, price it, and tell the client what you charge with confidence. Confidence is respectable. The more you get out there and try, even if you end up undervaluing yourself, the more you learn. And the next time an opportunity or project pops up, you’ll have a better understanding on how to improve. Progress, Not perfection!
5. It’s ok to hear “no”
If you have developed a system to pricing your freelance work, hearing “no” or having someone tell you that is too much money won’t freak you out. You now have a reason for pricing your graphic design work. If someone doesn’t value your work the same way you do then that’s ok. Some clients truly can’t afford your price. In those cases, you can try to make it work for them if you think it’s an amazing project, or walk away from the opportunity. Which brings me to my last point:
6. Be willing to walk away from any opportunity
I’ve been told to go into job interviews with the attitude that they need me more than I need them. If I was not desperate for the job then I would be much more relaxed and confident. Side note: don’t confuse confidence with pride and arrogance. We want the former, not the latter. This same advice goes for working with clients. If you are not desperate to get the project, you will be more likely to value your work at an appropriate and worthwhile price.
Most aspiring freelance graphic designers think that if they can just get their first client, they’ll figure out the pricing. While that is somewhat true, they’ll quickly run into the anxiety that comes from getting a client and then not knowing what to charge.
Author: Melinda Livsey
Melinda is the co-founder of Pre-lance and her experience with notable names like Oakley, Paramount Pictures, and Loot Crate, coupled with her passion for creative thinkers and entrepreneurs, creates the perfect cocktail of impeccable workmanship, exceptional brands, and happy clientele.