Designer’s Dilemma: Pricing your work

You are a great designer. You have some years of experience or even a fresh degree from a design school where you have dazzled many professors with your work and ideas. The world is your oyster and adding to the list of validations, you have just been approached by a potential client. They love your portfolio that you have tirelessly put together and are considering you for their next design project.

You are excited, sitting at your desk, sipping your favourite Starbucks latte, listening to your favorite playlist and putting the pitch doc together. It’s all good, until… you are faced with the question your design school did not prepare you for: “How much do I charge?”. The room has suddenly gone dark, Spotify in the background is fading, it’s getting chilly and you feel a sudden rush of panic and adrenaline setting in. “Am I going to overcharge them and potentially drive them away?” or “Am I going to underprice my service and appear inexperienced and desperate?”. These are just some of the questions you are asking yourself at this point. Don’t worry, you are not alone or the first one to be faced with such bewilderment. Let’s look at some factors that can help us out of this pickle.

Think of it as an opportunity!

Let’s be very clear! Unfortunately, there is no set rule or formula for pricing Design services, but the creative industry is considered lucrative for a reason. Opportunity! You are in a position to set your own price and can hit that perfect balance where both parties can be happy. But you have to be careful, as this can also backfire. Know who the client is, where they are compared to their competition and where your work can take them.

Set the minimum

You are unsure how much you can charge, but you certainly know how much is too little! Ask yourself, at what point does this become something that is just not worth it? You certainly did not pay a high tuition fee and buy that high-end MacBook Pro to make minimum wage, did you? Most clients also understand this (believe it or not) because them reaching out to you for professional help says a lot about their perception of your unique skill-set.

Per hour or lump sum

Speaking about a lack of pricing standards or formula, you can actually create one. How much would you charge for your time? Put an X amount to each hour and by doing simple math, you have your number. The other option is to look at the scope of work and create a rough estimate of how long it can take you to do it. As long as it is more than your minimum, you can put a number together and slap it on the quote.

But be careful. Any experienced designer will tell you that not every project is done within the quoted time and things always change on the fly. This is where the hourly system can fail, leaving your clients feeling less taken care of and robbed of money every time they have small changes. To save money, they might compromise and sign-off on work they are not completely happy with and later regret, which can result in losing them forever. Lump Sum can fail too if your estimate is off, resulting in you quoting less and ending up doing extra work for free.

The solution here is to do both! Understand the scope of work, ask your clients questions about expectations and their desired outcomes. Put a lump sum figure for the project and always add extras in the price even if your clients haven’t asked for them e.g. multiple rounds of changes, multiple file formats for web, print or mobile, willingness to speak to third party vendors on client’s behalf etc. Set half-hourly rates to cover this so the client is fully aware of potential costs. Half-hourly rates help you and the client the best when there are small edits.

Don’t be afraid to upsell

Believe it or not, many clients (good ones) have an expectation that the freelancer or agency will suggest better solutions as opposed to following direction blindly. They are always looking for the best opinion from you, and even if it appears that they can’t pay for the best you have to offer, you should absolutely and always put it on the table. Worst case scenario is they reject it and go for the cheaper option you gave them, but in future they will always have it in the back of their mind that you have more to offer.

Published By

Kashan Nazir

Originally published at



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Kashan Nazir

Passionate Multimedia Designer with over 13 years of experience in branding, marketing, web and print designing.