Are you Charging Enough for your Design Work?
In today’s corporate world, one of the most crucial aspects of everything we do is graphic design. Almost everything done in the corporate and business setting requires some graphic representation. If you have a website, you need design to make every page appealing enough for your audiences to want to stay. What about marketing your brand or product then? You need design to create a mood for your target customers to help them realize how what you offer fits their personality. No matter what you need to do to get attention, graphic design is the bridge between your vision and what your clients want. A good design does a lot than marsh fancy words and images together. Apart from setting the tone for how audiences respond to products, it pushes them into making decisions that serve the interests of the business. Businesses and corporations understand that designers create the needed medium to channel their vision and integrate their product with the personalities of their audience. Businesses understand this- but do most designers?
While some designers may be cashing in on this advantage, a significant number may be handling the short end of the stick which begs the questions:
- Are you charging enough for your design work?
- What do you charge clients?
- How exactly do you determine what to charge?
- When are you being underpaid?
Different factors go into setting a price range for design business, but before projecting yourself to clients, there are a couple of things you must evaluate about yourself to determine how best to approach customers.
1. What exactly is your contribution?
Before you conclude on how much you want to charge your clients, you should understand what you bring to the table. A lot of designers don’t know what to charge because they can’t value the importance of their work. It’s important because knowing the values you bring in helps to understand your importance and get a better hold on your bargaining power.
2. Brand Identity
With every project, the designer is almost exclusively responsible for how the business is seen, addressed, and responded to. The identity of a brand depends on its projection. You must understand that if you fail to give your clients an identity that describes them perfectly, you’ve failed to give them the value they paid for.
3. Brand Recognition
To be honest, it doesn’t matter how good a product is; nobody would care about it if it is not appropriately represented, coke wouldn’t be coke if you didn’t think of it every time you saw a red and white label on a bottle. The bottom line is, any business that has an unattractive design would struggle to keep customers no matter how impressive they are. The job of avoiding this fails on the designer, and as long as you can navigate this properly to make your clients almost instantly recognizable, you are giving them great value for their money. Knowing these three things, you can be sure you are an integral part of your client’s setup, and you are in an advantageous bargaining space when setting up your pricing scheme.
4. Should you price hourly or per project?
Most freelance designers love to charge hourly for starters. This is because it provides an easy baseline comparison to the freelance market rate. You can make use of time-tracking software to know precisely how much time you spend on a project as long as you have solid focus while working. While the hourly rate is awesome if you work on your projects at a moderate pace, some designers have found that it holds them back because they feel that they can complete their projects more quickly.
Pricing per project is widely preferred because when you do so, you’d be tying your charge/price to the end result of the client, which is what they care about after all. It is a little tricky, though, as everyone does it differently. To come up with what to charge is no easy feat. You need to focus on the right things, having it at the back of your mind that there is the risk of overcharging or undercharging. Here is a little strategy to go about that:
5. Be competitive
The first thing you should know about charging clients is how much others are charging. Know what others in your industry/ market charge for the same service. Check your competition, your peers, ask on forums to fully understand the boundaries that surround your expertise and base your price on it. That way, your clients have few options to turn to. As a rule of thumb, though, when you do charge over your competition, always have a justification, leverage your experience or unique tools you may be using to show clients they are getting value for money.
6. Be flexible
A lot of the time, clients are not comfortable with prices and may want to tweak things in their favor. When this happens, rigidity will get you absolutely nowhere. Having a defined price does not mean that you cannot negotiate further. Flexibility in negotiation is quite important. Otherwise, clients could turn away and get somebody else, no matter how important you are to the project. There are other ways to get more from the clients, say, promising extra services with discounts. Explore these other options before outrightly rejecting their bids.
7. Raise your rates when due
A few good-paying jobs are miles better than a thousand low paying jobs. As a freelancer, this is what you should work with. You cannot charge a fixed low amount for the rest of your design career. Evaluate your skillset at regular intervals and give yourself self a proper raise when you deserve it. When is the right time to do this? Whenever you get swarmed with work, and you are offered one project after another, you need to take advantage of that and raise your rates.
8. Set boundaries when you charge a flat rate
Make your rates clear and specific. Let them know exactly what they are paying for, especially when you are charging flat. Ask for a certain percentage before you begin working if you want. Don’t be afraid to let your client know within the parameters you are working; what you are willing and unwilling to do. This is to avoid clients loading you with tasks that you feel are not inclusive of your expertise while paying less than you feel entitled.
9. Make sure every aspect of the project is clear to the client when you charge hourly
Clients are always wary of the hourly charge, as they feel they might be overcharged. Your client must have a clear picture of the steps and clear timeline of how the job is going to be carried out. If you feel there might be delays, show them what might cause the delays. In all, be open to them and let them feel that every hour you charge them is worth it.
10. Don’t be afraid to lose clients
A lot of times, designers end up saying yes to unreasonable prices for fear of losing clients. It’s more difficult when you are starting out and building your client base, but you would do better if you learn to reject uncomfortable prices and work conditions. There’s no shame in walking away from unreasonable prices, no matter how badly you want to work on the project. If they truly understand your value, they will find a way.
11. Start negotiating high
Always start your negotiations at a high amount. Play different scenarios in your mind and think of the counter offers they will throw at you. If, for example, you’d want to charge $500 for your service, you start at $800 and allow them to lower it to $500. Who knows, you can even end up charging $600 and a $100 more.
12. Always aim for profit
Finally, don’t forget one of the major reasons for starting your journey on this path is making profits, then – make profits. It’s easy to get lost in overwhelming projects, and beginners often substitute money for the experience. This is not a bad thing, but when it comes in the way of making a profit, and then it shouldn’t be encouraged.
The truth is, clients care about themselves and their businesses, so you should do the same; take care of yourself and yours. When you give clients prices, don’t undersell yourself and don’t give a price where you lose out. Always look to cover your sweat and effort with your profit.
There is no magic formula for charging your clients for your design work. Make sure to know yourself and understand the value you are creating as a designer. Then from there, always put that value in every one of your rates. Also, have it at the back of your mind that you are paid what you are worth. So make sure it’s a price that truly represents you.