My graphic design company gets requests from freelance designers frequently about advice on how much to charge for design jobs. Accurately bidding on design jobs is easily the hardest part of this business. I’ve been doing this for quite some time now with what I consider to be pretty good success. Bidding on jobs gets easier the more you do it, because with each prospective client you get a little better at feeling out their individual needs. Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule that can be used over and over again. You’re not going to get every job you bid on and you probably don’t want to. However, no designer can afford to spend large amounts of time putting together proposals that don’t get accepted. I’m sure any freelance graphic designer with a mortgage can verify this. Sure, part of accurately bidding on design jobs comes from experience but there are some things you can do to help streamline your bidding process to weed out time wasters and land more real clients.
The first thing you should do is know what the other advertising agencies, design companies and freelance designers in your area are charging so that you can establish a guideline for what is a fair and acceptable hourly rate or flat fee. You don’t want to charge too much but you don’t want to be known as the cheapest in town either. I would personally rather bid too high than too low.
When you speak with a client about a new job make sure that you get as much information from them as possible. From this information you should be able to ballpark the time involved based on previous projects. Yes, I know every job is different, but at least this gives you a place to start. It’s been my experience that the majority of clients want to know a hard cost for the finished work and not an hourly rate. Sometimes an hourly rate can even scare potential clients off simply because it’s too open ended. To bid a flat rate effectively, set an hourly rate for yourself based on what is competitive to your area while allowing you to operate your business profitably. Compare your hourly rate to the actual time spent on a flat rate proposal for a good way to know if you’re profitable in the jobs you’re bidding on.
One thing that I do that really helps land a job is to determine price ranges for specific types of jobs like; logo design, post cards, basic website design, e-commerce sites, etc. I’ve found this to be useful on two levels. First, I have established a slight buffer for myself when working on the project. Second, I have found potential clients to be more receptive of a price scale, because they feel like you are open to working with them on getting them to that lower end of the scale. This, of course, is entirely up to the client and how they affect the flow of the project and approval process.
The key to coming up with a reasonable price scale is to use the information that the client provides you about the job. This information will help determine where they may fall in your price range. Use your own design experience to help determine the potential hours that may go into a job. For instance, a client wants you to bid on a logo, letterhead, envelope and business card design package. This could take you anywhere from 6 to 16 hours depending on the client and complexity of the job. So, you estimate the job at 16 hours and a rate of, we’ll say $65 an hour, which equals $1,040. Hourly rates and design fees are going to vary from state to state and location to location, but here’s what your client proposal may look like;
Example: Company Logo / Identity: $800 – $1,200
• Will provide at least 2-3 initial directions for your logo and letterhead system and work chosen direction to your satisfaction.
• Will proceed with development after verbal or written approval on directions.
• Concepts will be presented via email and / or other specified method.
• You can expect to see initial directions within 2 weeks.
• If major changes or reworks are requested after an approval design is subject to hourly rate of $65 per hour.
• Art will be provided to you in print ready format (Set up for print production)
*If you choose to proceed with us our payment terms are 50% deposit to start and 50% upon completion.
You will notice that I threw in some extra information in that example. I like to make sure that I’ve covered all of my bases just in case a project does take longer than expected. It’s been known to happen. I always write my proposals in contract form and have the client sign two copies when beginning a project. One for me and one for the client. At that time I collect a non-refundable 50% deposit. I recommend that every graphic designer implements a policy of retaining a deposit to begin work. You will find this useful if for some reason a client backs out of the project or drags the project on longer than expected. That’s has also been known to happen. The other point that can come in handy is stipulating that reworks after approvals or unending revisions will be billed at an hourly rate. Sometimes you will get a client who wants work done beyond the scope of a project and you should make sure that you’re covered in that event too utilizing your hourly rate to back you up.
Here are a few more examples for your reference only (based on a $65 per hour rate). Remember these are guidelines to help you. You should evaluate each client and the information your client provides to determine your own price estimate structure. These examples are estimates on design work only. I suggest providing a separate estimate for printing if you are providing printing services.
1) Logo Design Price Scale: $350 – $800
• Price scale reflects amount of conceptual design, type of illustration
and detail of illustration used.
2) Tri-fold Brochure Price Scale: $650 – $1,000
• Text and images provided by client.
3) Post Card: $175 – $350
4) Basic Website Design: $850 – $1,800
– Site could include:
– 4-15 page site with CSS Optimized for Search Engines
– Contact Form
– Stock Photography
– Simple Content Management System
– Populate site content from “text” information provided by client
– Please visit our blog at www.pixelproductionsinc.com/blog to view our article about using a website design contract.
Like many things the key to an effective design estimate is to be clear! Specify a fair price and include the services you are going to provide. This could be anything from stating that you will provide 2 to 3 initial directions to your time frame and terms of payment. Be specific! The less questions you leave your client with, the more professional you appear and the greater the chance of securing the job at a price that works for both of you.