How much should I charge for my freelance design services?
April 3, 2007 2:51 PM   Subscribe

How much should I charge for my freelance design services? Have to give a quote by tomorrow, and I don't know how to determine what my time/my skills/the job/etc. is worth in order to quote them fairly.

I've been approached by a lot of people who have seen my work in the organization I work for, offering me freelance jobs. I'm entertaining an exclusive yacht club right now for some advertising jobs, starting with a newspaper ad they want me to design, and moving on to more projects. Here's the thing, I've always done this for family, friends etc. for free or a meal or whatever, and now that I'm getting approached a lot I'd like to know what I should be charging. I want to be competitive and fair, and I don't want to cheat myself or my client. I've researched Google and my local area for other companies, designers, etc. but haven't found much information on standard rates or on how to come up with pricing, or how to determine what my time and skills are worth.

Any insight would be helpful. Thanks.
posted by othersomethings to Work & Money (12 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I would run out right now and pick up a copy of The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook.

It's a great resource, you can look up a specific type of job, the type of audience, etc. It gives you a really good idea of pricing for things.

Some of the prices seem too high to me, but it is a good way to may sure you aren't aiming too low. I'd use the book to get a general idea of the price, and then do your own math and figure out how long the job will take and how much you would be making per hour.

Good luck.
posted by Becko at 3:18 PM on April 3, 2007

Where ya located? What's your market like? What's your time worth to you?

When freelancing, I have an hourly rate in mind and then estimate how long it would take to do and charge them that final amount. That way, I avoid the client questioning why it took me an hour to do x.

Also, I get a 3rd up front, before I do anything, and I mean ANYTHING. It sets the tone for the relationship, remind them that you work for money.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:35 PM on April 3, 2007

I run a website on becoming a consultant and I've been a consultant and freelancer for 10 years. The guide mentioned above sounds interesting. You may also be able to use 2x or 3x your hourly rate (in a salaried job) as a guideline. You can also do some calculations to see what your costs and income needs are. You might also want to check out this past AskMefi thread on fees. You really don't want to be charging rock-bottom prices, as you probably can't support yourself on that and it will be harder to raise your fees to something reasonable later. So start as you intend to operate.

There's a link to a full-length article on setting fees in my profile -- it's from my website.
posted by acoutu at 3:36 PM on April 3, 2007

This is going to sound like a bad idea, but I personally think it's a good idea. Ask them. Say, "You've hired a lot of designers in the past to do freelance work, what's the going rate for someone like myself to do a job like this?". I've often noticed that when asked say, how much I want to work for, or how much time would I need to complete a task, that if I turn that question around I get a far better number than I would have put forward. Make your own estimates and then try this out.
posted by xammerboy at 3:37 PM on April 3, 2007

I entirely agree with Becko. It is a very good resource...not just for money, but also legal info and such. But here are *my* loose guidelines. Note, I'm in Chicago and have been doing this professionally for over 10 years.

First: figure how much time you think it would take you to do it. Do consider adding some time for project management. I really should, but don't...but I should. Then: add 25% if you haven't worked with them as they might be flakey.

I charge anywhere from $50-$100/hr depending upon how much I like them or how much I think they can afford.

If you're starting out, I wouldn't charge less than $30/hr (imo). If it seems like a lot, remember that you are covering in that cost:
- your own self-employment tax
- your health insurance / costs
- your time to find more work (you're trying to make a living after all)
- Misc costs for running your business
posted by Wink Ricketts at 3:40 PM on April 3, 2007

I know the people posting above are trying to be helpful, but it's important to stay away from discussions of "what to charge" as, depending on the country in which you live or in which Metafilter operates, price fixing laws may come into play.
posted by acoutu at 3:42 PM on April 3, 2007

AIGA is your friend. Lot's of good info for design pros.
posted by artdrectr at 3:48 PM on April 3, 2007

IAAD(esigner) < ----yay. i finally have a reason to say that without adding an n between the two>
seconding the book Becko suggested. One rule of thumb is to estimate how many hours it'll take you, and then double it. I am NOT suggesting you double hours in an attempt to deceive your clients...I am suggesting it because at first you are very likely to be underselling yourself and underestimating the total time you will spend on the project (including paperwork, estimates, errands, invoicing, press checking, etc.) Also, write in the estimate that "any work beyond the scope outlined in this estimate will be discussed with client and an additional estimate for that work will be provided." The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook will have a better version of that copy.

If the client is unhappy with the bottom line cost, what you can do with the above estimate is reduce the price per hour, without reducing the time spent. This sends the message to the client about how valuable your time is, and that you are cutting them a break. Staying firm on the hours builds confidence in your client about the amount of work involved. If the client is *really* unhappy about the overall cost, slightly reducing your hourly rate for them is a way you can make them feel like they're getting the same effort and product, for less cost. Doubling your hours covers your butt until you get a healthy sense of how much time this particular client takes, as well as how much time this type of project takes in general. Definitely DO NOT tell your client you've doubled the hours. Also, by doing this, you won't be pissed off and bitter while you're on revision 12, when you already went over the hours by revision #6. This can really effect your enthusiasm about the project, in a not so great way.

If you come in under, offer to apply a few hours to another project, or tell them what a joy it was to work with them and how easy it was and would they like to continue working with you on another project? The next estimate will be more realistic and they will be happier. If you come in significantly under, no matter how much extra thought and effort you put into the project, you should tactfully let them know this and charge them less at invoicing time.

You are likely to get very differing perspectives on this topic. Everybody does it differently. This is just the way one woman does it.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:53 PM on April 3, 2007

Instead of quoting on the job and doubling the hours, you could also approach this by doing a typical estimate and then adding hours for all the things that could go wrong. This will probably end up double, but you can at least justify your quote to yourself. Once you've done this a few times, you can just look back at past quotes. You may also want to add another clause in your contract that says something like, "Includes one round of reasonable revisions, not to exced X hours. Further revisions charged at $X per hour."

Use a good contract so you don't get caught with scope creep.
posted by acoutu at 4:00 PM on April 3, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you for the responses. I'm in FL in a coastal vacation town where there is a LOT of money, and really I'm not afraid of overcharging them, but I don't know where to START let alone what overcharging would be.

I've been doing this on a not-for-profit basis for about 9 years but I've only recently looked at my design as a freelance business opportunity on top of my day job.

I'll pick up that book and read your links, thanks. Since I have to get that quote asap I might just go with $55 an hour, and ask for a $150 deposit. Does that sound reasonable?
posted by othersomethings at 4:14 PM on April 3, 2007

Response by poster: How would I draw up a contract, BTW?
posted by othersomethings at 4:31 PM on April 3, 2007

I can't speak to the the changing for services, but for contracts you certainly can't go wrong with the one from AIGA - the page is here (note PDF). It's got piles of supportive information about the contract, too.
posted by rmm at 6:57 PM on April 3, 2007

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