Let’s Talk About Pricing

28 Sep

The most difficult part of freelancing so far has been determining how to price my work. The reason it is so difficult is because not only is it entirely up to me to decide what my price should be, but there is also very little concrete information out there about industry standards. Every designer prices differently based on experience, and very few are willing to tell you what that price is.  This is not a topic that was covered in school, and in general it is just shrouded in mystery.

My strategy so far has been to price myself very reasonably, until I gain more experience/clients. I went to a talk given by David Baker once, and he said something that really resonated with me. This is not a customer service industry, it’s an expertise industry. Of COURSE I want my clients to be delighted with the work I do for them. However, I want my clients to hire me for my ideas and perspective, not for my ability to use a designer’s tools. I want my pricing to reflect that.

That being said, I think a lot of people have no idea how much designers charge. Since it’s not something that can be easily calculated (the price totally depends on the nature of the project) there’s not a lot to compare. Many people think that design is the least important part of a project – and it reflects in their budget – but a good design can make the difference between looking like a trustworthy operation and having customers dismiss you because it looks like your kid made your logo.

In my  experience, it is very hard not to be insulted when a potential client tries to bargain my price down, or drops off the face of the earth once we start talking numbers. It’s also hard not to second-guess my numbers, or under price myself when I really want a project. But that’s not fair to me, or to the many other designers out there trying to make a living. To quote from a Design Sponge Biz Ladies post, ” underpricing devalues creative work and makes it harder for creative professionals to make a living.”


I have found some great posts online that take a little bit of the mystery away from pricing. I encourage you to read them all, especially if you aren’t a creative professional.

Biz Ladies: How To Price Your Work

This is the same post that I linked to a couple paragraphs above, but it’s an extremely comprehensive guide to several different pricing approaches. It shares the thought process behind creative professional pricing, although it is geared more towards people selling handmade products.

Estimating and Billing

This article is less specific about actual pricing, but talks more about the factors that go into freelance price calculation.

The Dark Art of Pricing

This is the best article on pricing that I’ve seen on the internet so far. Jessica Hische walks you through her views on pricing, and actually throws in some real numbers. She also discusses things that you might not think about immediately, like licensing and rights management. If you only read one of these articles, it should be this one.

How Much Does A Website Cost? & Other Pricing Questions

This article shows real designers’ price ranges in terms of concrete numbers. It’s a small survey, but the numbers are not surprising to me.

Are there any articles I’m missing? The Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook Pricing & Ethical Guidelines has been another invaluable resource as I try to navigate the tricky waters of freelance pricing. I would recommend it to any graphic designer who has pricing questions.

4 Responses to “Let’s Talk About Pricing”

  1. You might enjoy the video “F*ck you, pay me” by Mike Monteiro if you haven’t seen it.

    • Alison at 10:43 pm #

      Yeah, I’ve seen that around! I keep meaning to watch it, but I can’t seem to find 45 spare minutes…

  2. Shelley Easter at 12:25 am #

    Great list! I’m reading the “How Much Does a Website Cost?” one right now, such good info. And I’ve experienced the same thing with dealing with potential clients, it’s always a bummer. It’s probably a good sign though, because if everyone thought you had a great rate, then I’m sure your rate would be too low for a fair value for yourself.

    • Alison at 9:32 am #

      Thanks! I agree with you, and on the other side of the issue, I’ve found when a client bargains me down, and I go with it, that person usually ends up being a much more …challenging client.

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