How to make more money as a graphic designer

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In the last blog we talked about networking and on building and maintaining a relationship with your client. In our Discord community and in a broader sense, the graphic design community, a problem we see is that a lot of freelancers are underpricing or undervaluing their work. In this blog we will give a couple of examples or guidelines on how to price your work so you can make more money as a graphic designer. Because we see a lot of freelancers pricing their work far below what it’s actually worth. If this sounds familiar to you, scroll down below for five tips on how to start pricing your work.

Make an overview of your costs

Make a list with all the monthly costs required to keep your business running: pay your rent, buy your groceries etcetera. Things like your Adobe subscription, electricity, internet, rent for a desk or your own office. Let’s use a real world example. 

  • Adobe CC subscription €63,-
  • Cinema4D and Octane €70,-
  • Office rent €500,-
  • Internet €60,-
  • Groceries €200,-
  • Appartment rent €400,-
  • Insurance €7,-
  • Total €1300,-

The total of €1300,- means that we have to earn at least €1300,- in order to work as a freelance graphic designer. This is without any money allocated for hobbies, going out, clothes or any money put toward a savings account. So let’s add €700,- for all things above. The total then adds up to €2000,- in order to make a respectable living. In Dutch terms, this is actually a pretty reasonable income.

Don’t charge by the hour

Use a set form of pricing, don’t charge by the hour. We’ll explain why using the €2000 from the previous example. Let’s say that we have to do four commissions each month. That means we have to charge €500,- for each commission which we’ll convert to an hourly rate of €12,50,-. In the Netherlands this is a pretty low number, it’s usually what a freelance student charges. The neat part is, this doesn’t have to be a low number. As your skills improve, you learn to work faster. If one €500,- commission takes five days at first, it may take you only three days after you gain more experience. That free time can be spent on generating passive income (like selling assets) or learning new skills (like learning animation). Eventually you’ll be able to charge more for freelance commissions because of your skill-level and the amount and scope of projects you’ll be able to take on. It’s a win-win situation for both yourself and your clients, because you will be able to make more money in less time and your client doesn’t have to outsource stuff and gets a faster turn-around.

Make solid agreements upfront

When using the method described above it’s very important both you and the client have a clear view of what’s going on. You agree what deliverables they will get and in what time frame so there is nothing missing upon delivery and there’s no unexpected waiting times. This is what we call “Debriefing”. You loop back the briefing to your client so that you’re both on the same page about the project. 

The cool thing about using a set fee as a freelance graphic designer is that you can also include making a mood board and emailing back and forth within this set fee. The reason for mentioning moodboards is that you can show clients exactly what you’re making for them so that they have a good impression of the deliverables. This is also a good resource for yourself, so you have a preview of what the final design is going to look like without even starting on the actual design. The final benefit is that it’s very clear what kind of inspiration and aesthetic you’re after. If the client disagrees with the final design, you can call back to the mood board and charge extra for any revisions. Other things you can include in your debriefing are the possibilities for extra deliverables like social media banners or an animation. All these things of course have an impact on your set fee.

Avoid the race to the bottom

Learn to say no to people when they’re trying to undercut your prices. It’s not worth your time and once you start lowering your prices the more clients will pay you less and less. You’ll drown yourself in work and won’t make enough to pay for your monthly costs. Be honest to yourself and have the courage to say “no” to clients who try to undercut your prices by saying “I can get the same type of album cover for half the price”. Just say okay and let them go because it’s not worth your time. Once you start lowering your prices it’s easy to end up in a downward spiral wherein you drown yourself in work and end up not getting paid enough.

Now we’ve talked about the main points on how to price your work, here are some additional tips:

Up your prices every now and then

Be sure to up your prices, especially when you notice you get more and more clients. This way, you end up with the higher paying clients.

Compare your pricing to others

Here’s a giant spreadsheet containing pricing of a range of creative professionals:

Take a look to get a good indication about the fairness of your pricing.

Double your time

We got this tip from Jon Contino: if you don’t know how long a project will take you, allocate the time you think you need and then double that amount. Stuff always gets in the way. Doubling the amount of time you think you need means you won’t end up spending an unexpected amount of time on a project.

We hope these tips help you to make more money as a graphic designer. If you have any tips we haven’t shared here feel free to share them over on our Discord!

Prefer listening over reading?

Check out the video down below: