How much should I bill for a brochure layout?
March 5, 2008 5:06 PM   Subscribe

I designed a tri-fold brochure for an existing client who needed it in such a rush (requested it Thursday, sent to printer on Tuesday) that they didn't even have time to approve the final layout.

I already designed their logo(s), pallets and branding "look" as part of a separate contract and am in the process of building their website. The brochure is not part the contract.

Some key facts:

All major graphic elements were already designed (by me) for the website.

The copy was already written by someone else, though it had to be edited.

I had to send a person to take quickie photos at their three sites (not a professional photographer, strictly a rush job).

This was a rush job. Other things had to be dropped to finish this.

I normally estimate proposals based on $75 / hour, then negotiate the contract after that.

Total design and editing time (excluding previously created graphics) was probably five hours.
Total communication time (conversations with the printer and the client) about 1 hour.
Total photography time (including travel) was about one and a half hours.

Based on hours alone, I come up with $412.50, which seems a little rich for their blood for a small one-off print piece, and I don't want to give them sticker shock since this will probably be an ongoing relationship.

Other info, if relevant:
They are a small, retail chain.
We are in an urban, southwest city.
They have never used professional design services before.

I would in particular appreciate any insight from small design firms.
Thanks much!
posted by nedpwolf to Work & Money (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
$400 seems like a pretty good deal for a trifold brochure to me -- especially a rush job. I work in a 3-person shop with mostly a non-profit client base, and would most likely end up billing more than your quoted amount.
posted by ScottUltra at 5:20 PM on March 5, 2008

You might feel it's too rich for their blood but you are already short-selling your work if all you're doing is charging for the time involved and not even taking into account the rush.

If they've never used professional design services before I would present the invoice and have ready some data from the GAG handbook so they can have some frame of reference.

I'd be careful taking a cut just because you're starting an on-going relationship, you'll end up resenting it when they start to demand more and you're not being fairly compensated.

$500 minimum.
posted by jeremias at 5:21 PM on March 5, 2008

What did you say you were going to charge them when you started the project?
posted by salvia at 5:28 PM on March 5, 2008

I don't do print design, but I've been in similar situations. Since you didn't agree on an hourly rate before doing the work, the time you spent matters only to you; the price for the work can only be whatever the customer is willing to pay you for it. On the other hand, if they're not willing to pay you a fair price, why would you want to keep working for them? Bill as you normally would, but with the realization that your failure to negotiate a price or rate ahead of time may force you to give them a discount. If you do have to drop the price, do so graciously because this was largely your mistake.
posted by jon1270 at 5:31 PM on March 5, 2008

I don't want to give them sticker shock since this will probably be an ongoing relationship.

This is a bit of a double-edged sword -- if you undervalue yourself and your work in this case, it may lead to more work in the future with this client. However, then you'll be getting work from someone who has an expectation of undervalued work.

All other things aside, I would consider the rush to be the controlling factor here and you should feel OK about charging them above normal rates, especially if you put aside other work in order to finish it.
posted by camcgee at 5:31 PM on March 5, 2008

All the designers I know charge more for a rush job. Sometimes a lot more.

Don't undervalue yourself, or your work. If you do, don't be surprised if your clients follow suit.
posted by rtha at 5:44 PM on March 5, 2008

Salvia: Yeah, yeah, I know. You're right. I should have quoted them ahead of time.

They were in a rush, and I wanted to help out.

What I really should have told them is that I would advise them to wait because it wouldn't be worth it for them to have this done. It would cost X, and the value to them is only Y.

But I didn't, though I knew it was the case, and I guess I just feel a bit guilty because I didn't.
posted by nedpwolf at 5:58 PM on March 5, 2008

Write up a detailed invoice (with a rush charge - 25% or so) and send it in, business as usual. If they don't balk, you win. If they do balk, work through it. If you can't resolve it, maybe they don't value your efforts enough and you should spend that time on other clients who do... so you win.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:59 PM on March 5, 2008

Ned: I understand the situation better. You might omit the rush charge and attach a note that because you didn't provide an estimate ahead of time, you've made the invoice as conservative as you can while still being fair. And next time, do that estimate and warn them about a rush charge.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:02 PM on March 5, 2008

They were in a rush, you delivered. They are using your work. Why shouldn't you bill your going rate, plus a premium? Maybe you should have provided the estimate and waited for them to ok it, but you didn't. They should have gotten the job to you early enough to allow time for layout approval. They didn't. Chances are they are happy the job got done and won't bat an eyelash. If they do, you can work something out then.
posted by Good Brain at 6:27 PM on March 5, 2008

Why ask, you have the answer
I normally estimate proposals based on $75 / hour, then negotiate the contract after that.

Total design and editing time (excluding previously created graphics) was probably five hours.
Total communication time (conversations with the printer and the client) about 1 hour.
Total photography time (including travel) was about one and a half hours.

$412.50 is cheap, are they happy with the work?

That's what things cost. Itemize the invoice and you shouldn't have an issue.

You gotta eat
posted by mattoxic at 6:32 PM on March 5, 2008

Yikes, in the future you might want to consider absolutely getting a signature on a final proof from the client. If there is a typo they find later, they will blame you and probably try and deduct the cost of a reprint from your invoice. Dump the responsibility of the final proof in the clients lap so they can't come back to you. Your price is reasonable. It isn't your job to undercut yourself because they've never hired a designer before.
posted by 45moore45 at 6:40 PM on March 5, 2008

Even with the 25% premium, that's dirt cheap. I've been in marketing for 15 years and I don't think I've ever paid anyone that little for a trifold.

But did you calculate correctly? 7.5h x $75 is $562.50. Add a 25% markup and that's $703, which sounds about right to me.

If they freak at the price, you can say that's your rate, but that you'd be happy to provide estimates in the future.
posted by acoutu at 7:06 PM on March 5, 2008

Yeah, I'd never send anything to a printer without approval from the client. In the future, you really need to do that... they could stick you with the printing bill if there's a problem. Honestly, I'd sooner miss a deadline because the client didn't approve something in time.

Is the design market especially tight where you are? $412.50 is not an unreasonable amount for designing a trifold and I live in Cheapsylvania and work at a three person firm... that's pretty darned near what we charge for a typical one (though, to be honest, our hourly rate is lower here).

Even if the graphics were already done for the web site (in high resolution for print?), you still had to arrange them in a pleasing manner and adapt them into a different format and make sure everything is production-ready. And you aren't even billing the two and a half hours of coordination with the printer and client and the photography? You need to.

I hope I don't come off as too much of a hardass here, but have some pride, for goodness sake! When I see a designer undervalue themselves like that I want to shake them by the lapels because that makes it just a little harder for all of us. Clients can and will take advantage of you if you give them an inch, because that's business. Everyone's looking out for themselves and you need to do that, too.
posted by MegoSteve at 7:12 PM on March 5, 2008

Quote them your usual rate and follow seanmpuckett's advice: attach a note that says you cut them a deal on the rush because you didn't follow your normal procedure (giving an estimate at the beginning). They feel like they got a deal (which they did) and you get your normal rate (which you deserve). Everybody wins.
posted by wemayfreeze at 7:12 PM on March 5, 2008

Nthing seanmpuckett's advice. Your price is absolutely fair. Make it higher, then knock off the rush charge. It's hard to argue with a bill where they've already discounted you.

And don't shortchange your work. Our web design shop started charging *more* for our work, and we actually got busier.

Exposure for designers is great -- but you can die from exposure.
posted by liquado at 8:16 PM on March 5, 2008

I say charge them $750 and include the rush charge. Otherwise you're rewarding them for being disorganized, and teaching them that a crazy fire drill is how you like to work.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:16 PM on March 5, 2008

I'm not a designer, but the price you set for your work is a statement by you about its value. If your clients don't agree with that statement, you need different clients.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:15 PM on March 5, 2008

At least, at least $500. And the first time you get badly burned by a typo without a signed-off proof, you will understand why this is a no-exceptions rule.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:31 AM on March 6, 2008

Thanks, everyone. This is pretty much what I thought, but didn't want to admit, because I knew I should have quoted in advance. These are good points.
posted by nedpwolf at 6:08 AM on March 6, 2008

Salvia: Yeah, yeah, I know. You're right. I should have quoted them ahead of time.

Aw, I didn't mean to sound like that. I just wanted to know if you'd given them any information that would have shaped what they were expecting.

posted by salvia at 8:26 AM on March 6, 2008

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