Is there any one out there with freelance experience regarding font assignments?

Kristian M's picture

I’ve just received a job – developing three different weights for a new typeface. Usually debit about 30–50 €, but since I don’t yet know the full complexity of the project the summation can easily blow out of proportions. What kind of arrangements would you suggest?


ben_archer's picture

Hi Kristian

The last time I did this - adapting two 'bespoke' typefaces for a London studio in the early 1990s - the entire job was charged out at my hourly rate. The completion of the job was the sign-off point at which the studio director was satisfied that the resulting fonts were adequate for the studio's purposes. I recall that the whole project took about three weeks.

I'm really not sure that this scenario would apply to today's practice for font production; for a couple of things, the software is smarter and chargeable man-hours are cheaper. Many other people on typophile may have better or more up-to-the-minute advice on this.

If you believe that there will be a significant difference between the time/price you estimate and what you will eventually bill for payment, it would be wise to sit down with the client and agree a 'ballpark' figure, i.e. the maximum possible invoice amount. This needs to be itemised against the deliverables on the project - in this case, three weights of (the roman only?) the new typeface.

As you don't yet know the full complexity of the project, extras like italics, small caps, screen-optimised fonts, condensed styles, extra weights, custom characters, ligatures, alternate numerals etc. etc. may get added onto the project, for which you should be able to charge 'pro rata' in other words, at your going rate.

Most designers I know now insist on scheduled installments on a project - both for supply of the deliverables and payments. Setting all this out in advance should help you and your client come to a detailed understanding of what will be involved.

.00's picture

If you are designing the three fonts from scratch figure out how much time it will take and what your hourly rate is. A discussion here a year or so ago covered some of this.

If you figure the average typeface can take 3 or 4 weeks working full time, what does that come out to, based on your hourly rate. (and please figure on a real hourly rate, one that it would take to run your business, not some figure you would be happy to get pushing pixels on someone else's workstation, in someone else's studio)

That's for the first font, now you have two more. If you haven't done this sort of work before I think it will take you longer than these time estimates.

What are the licensing issues? Will the client own exclusive rights to the work, or will you be able to offer it to others?

Don't sell this work cheap. It takes a lot of time to create a quality font.

ben_archer's picture

James is right; better not to underprice this project. Of course he points out that working from scratch, and possibly for the first time, on this will be very time-consuming and labour-intensive.

Kristian, your initial post makes it sound like the character shapes for this new typeface are already decided, and you will be responsible for generating three weights of the roman.

I should add that this is more-or-less what happened in that 90s project I mentioned – and I've edited my earlier post to explain this better. I generated just the regular weight of the romans (no italics! no extra characters!) from two designs that already existed as rubylith masters; both of them were bastardised forms of typefaces better known by other names. There is no way I could have generated the characters from scratch within that timeframe.

At a rough guess, the three weeks work at that rate was about £6 – 7k. This means that the commissioning studio had budgeted more than £3k per font; although that might sound expensive, I recall that they planned to leverage much more value of work out of these particular typefaces after the project was completed, so for them it appeared as a reasonable investment.

.00's picture

that rate was about £6 – 7k. This means that the commissioning studio had budgeted more than £3k per font; although that might sound expensive,

That doesn't sound expensive at all. Maybe for the early 90s but certainly not now.


ben_archer's picture

James I think it was a reasonable rate for the early 90s; I was happy to do the work, but much has changed since. I'm sure that you and the other typophiles have a much better idea about current pricing and workflow practices.

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