Resplendence, a blog from Radiant Resolution about graphic design

Pricing Secrets for Freelancers


One of the most stressful parts of freelancing is giving an estimate or a proposal to a client. Every designer wonders if they guessed the "magical" correct number to win the job. Did I charge too high and lose this client? Did I undercharge, when I should have valued my work higher?

The truth is that it's just not practical to send one set price list out to every person. Every client's needs are different, and some raise red flags from the start that should be recognized before you set your pricing or submit your proposal.

Here are some pricing tips and secrets used by top freelancers who have been in the business for years. They understand how to run their business and value their work, while also being fair to their clients. There will always be someone cheaper.

You'll have to get out of the mind set of being able to offer the cheapest price to every client. Even if you are just starting out as a designer and are desperate for a job to add to your portfolio, your lowest price could still be beaten by a friend or relative charging nothing. Charge what you're worth, not what will win the client over.

Don't go by how much you would pay.

Many designers adjust their prices based on how much they would pay for their own services. This doesn't work, because a client's individual needs may be very different. Your potential client could have a huge budget for branding and advertising, opening a franchise where your logo could be seen across the country. Your price should be higher for a client who is collecting more revenue from using your designs over and over across a wider client base than just a local Mom and Pop shop's logo design. So don't ever go by your budget or needs, since they aren't the same.

Companies that say you are too expensive want to work with you.

Potential clients wouldn't take the time to tell you your prices are high if they didn't want to work with you, but don't feel obligated to lower your prices. Instead, let them know the value of what they are paying for. List everything included, such as the process, research, and maintenance involved. Offer a *small* discount if this is a client you'd really like to work with, but don't price match. More than likely, the client will return and amazingly be able to pay your price.

Companies that say you should charge more will be problem clients.

It's a red flag to have a client tell you to charge more. This means the client feels like you will be working harder than your price entails, and there will be revision after revision. Either take the client up on their offer to charge more, or switch to a revision/iteration-based pay. Or, run. Don’t get bogged down in hourly pricing.

While many freelancers suggest not charging hourly, it's easier to charge hourly for straight-forward edits such as website text updates. But punishing clients for your artists' block or breezing through an important logo can alter the hours and therefor value of your final product.

Ask who is involved.

This is such an important question that gets overlooked by most freelancers. If a client tells you "the board" will involved in all decisions, you'll have more voices and more say in the design (and also more disagreements among decision makers). This will create a longer process and more revisions for you. Your pricing should reflect this, as It is guaranteed to take more time and energy. Remember, most non-profits have a board involved in decisions, so even if they say they one person is making decisions, that's almost never the case. Think value, not hours.

It's always better to present clients with a proposal or estimate that lists the value of what they are getting, rather than just a number. Think of the same for yourself. You may charge the same for all logos, as they all take about the same number of hours to complete. But, instead think of the value to your client. If you create a logo for a single restaurant, the value would be much lower than creating a logo for a restaurant that has a chain of franchises all over the country. Be sure to ask about usage of designs before you give a quote. It’s OK to ask their budget.

Freelancers seem to think this is a forbidden question. It's OK to ask a client what their budget is for design services, because you are really asking how their company values design (and therefor your work). Explain that you'd like to put together an estimate that is within their budget, and allow for options of reducing pricing if needed (i.e. limiting or condensing pages within a website). Most clients will share their budget with you to allow you to make a more educated decision on a proposal for their business.

Remember, a client is coming to you because they have a problem they need fixed. Having the attitude that you can solve their problem and you're the best choice for their company will inspire the client value your worth. Make sure you are valuing your own worth!

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About Brittany Klein

Brittany Klein is a freelance graphic designer from Maryland. She established her company, Radiant Resolution, in 2008 after receiving her Master of Arts degree in graphic design from Savannah College of Art & Design. She has since written blogs, e-books, and articles centered around graphic design and fine art for many organizations across the country.

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