How much do I charge my client???

babyDahl's picture

I am still pretty new to freelance, but things are moving so fast now. I need an few figures from you guys on how much your would charge for something such as a letterhead, business card and logo design?? My client is starting up his new consulting company and needs this designing. He asked me how much it would cost, so I said, you give me a fair price and we can go from there, he came back with £200. I was thinking more along the lines of £300/£400. I did some work recently for his hair salon which he was very impressed by, and we also get along great. But, it has potential for more and more commissions as he likes my work a lot. I also charge by the project. I don't want to scare him off by overcharging cause he is a polite guy and don't want him to feel like I am ripping him off.

Peace guys!


blank's picture

…he came back with £200.

That’s a not nearly enough.

But, it has potential for more and more commissions as he likes my work a lot.

The only potential this has is the potential for him to tell the same bullshit to the designer who does his web site for £200, his advertising for £200, and so on. Tell him that if he wants a £200 identity, he can go buy a stock identity online. Otherwise, give him an estimate based on your hourly rate and then charge him for the work you do.

_null's picture

totally agree with James.
Also, try to work by the motto of:

"your only worth as much as you charge" - Paul Arden

Provided your honest, and you can break down your fee to a client; studio costs (software and machines need paying for), personal expenses, materials, proofing costs, and a profit! They shouldn't have a problem, and if they do...There's plenty more clients in the sea.

p.s. you got some tight handstyles going on! I have no idea where your finding fat markers in Derby tho...I always had to visit the graff store in Nottingham to stock up!

Nick Shinn's picture

letterhead, business card and logo design

This is more than the sum of the parts, it's a corporate identity.
That's why you should charge your client more for this, and rationalize it similarly.
Hopefully, your client will understand.
Also, you may find that designing an identity can be quite time consuming, more than the sum of the parts, in fact...

aluminum's picture

The equation:

Amount of money you want to make in a year to cover your salary, expenses, insurance, rent, etc DIVIDED BY the number of *billable* hours you can work a year = your hourly rate

That's a simplification, and doesn't take into consideration premium talent or service, but it's surprising how few people actually even figure that basic equation out before trying to figure out what to charge for their time.

babyDahl's picture

Well, I went back and said I would charge £350 for the project, whether it takes a week or 1 day to complete, it's the fixed price he pays. The only problem is that he knows I don't have a lot of experience with clients and my client folio isn't huge, so he is using this against me.

This is what he replied to in my email.

Hi Daniel

Dont't take this the wrong way as it's only friendly advice, as you're a nice guy. Clearly, you have talent to produce what you do without formal design education. I offered you the work just because I thought it may build your portfolio to include work for actual clients. Although I'm not a designer, I have briefed agencies myself and through large corporates from anything as small as an A6 flier, to a £2m re-brand of a global bank, so I understand that a logo with letterhead and business card should be one man-day, which makes your daily rate £350. If you had 5 years experience you could absolutely start charging £350-450 p/d (outside London). Just by way of contrast, the best design agency in Derby that I used charged their senior designer out at £400 p/day and that included their overheads.

I've had to build up myself and the best thing you can do is to start to get some real examples in your portfolio that shows you can design in different styles against a client brief. That does mean, in the early days, offering lost leads and heavily discounted rates to build up. When you have the experience you can demand the higher fees.

So I'm not undervaluing you but I don't value the logo over £200 and would find a designer who work for that fee.

Let me know what you think.

Ok, so what do you guys think of this??

Thanks for the advice so far.

aluminum's picture

"I understand that a logo with letterhead and business card should be one man-day"

This sounds like a logoworks client more than someone that actually knows the amount of work that should go into a quality logo solution. I'd say 'thanks, but no thanks'.

If they only want £200 worth of quality, you need to decide if that level of quality is worth anything in your portfolio.

_null's picture

This is my personal opinion, and it may not be the best...

• Nick's nailed it, it's a corporate identity (which would be a brand bible) With deliverables including assorted stationary.

• I think £350 is more than fair, considering your environment. You've even given him a fixed price!

• this comment of his I find quite disrespectful: "I offered you the work just because I thought it may build your portfolio to include work for actual clients." Clients will always try the "I'm doing you a favour line..." don't buy it. Seriously!

• He makes a point of £200 for the logo, this could be fair. Solely for the logo. I would take that, and tell him to find another designer to produce the stationary. The latter is the labour intensive part, liaising with printers, proofing costs and the general logistics involved. Also, the logo will take you further than the stationary folio wise...

• If your doing it right, corporate stationary shouldn't be done in a day...what exactly does he think his £2m global bank rebrand went on? The one day designer doing the whole thing for £400, is your average kall kwik mac monkey - which goes back to James' point about off the shelf...

• Lost leads is just stupid. Only work free or cheap if it's something close to your heart.

• Don't be afraid to say no...because you'll be laughing your socks off when you see what he gets for £200.

Nick Shinn's picture

letterhead, business card and logo design

This is more than the sum of the parts, it's a corporate identity.
That's why you should charge your client more for this, and rationalize it similarly.
Hopefully, your client will understand.
Also, you may find that designing an identity can be quite time consuming, more than the sum of the parts, in fact.
Quite apart from measuring the value of your work based on time and expenses, there is the value of the brand you are creating as intellectual property to be considered, which could last for decades and ultimately be an important part of the value of a large company.

.00's picture

Its amazing to me that design schools don't get into teaching the business of design. Such a shame.

I did a week-long type design workshop at a major design school in Philadelphia last year, and they were proud of the fact that they offered their students nothing in the way of business courses. Stunning!

When I was teaching I'd always make sure we spent at least one class going over the basic calculations (presented here by Aluminum) of hourly rates, markups, how to calculate a price for work and the like.

My students were shocked to hear that marking up bought services for your client was an acceptable business practice. I'm going through a studio renovation and the General Contractor is quite up front about the 20% mark-up he adds to electrical, plumbing and painting. I certainly have no problem with it

.00's picture

I remember getting some really great pricing advice from a NYC Illustrator back in the mid 80s.

...remainder redacted...

babyDahl's picture

My reply to him was:

I totally agree with what you are saying. This wasn't just for the logo, it was for
everything including business card design and letterhead. I guess I have learned a
lesson from this, never tell the client what past experience I have. As for design in
derby, derby has nothing much really to offer and the standard is pretty poor. I don't
charge per day either, I charge by project. Every designer has their ways of charging,
I'd rather charge by project. If it took 2 weeks to get right, you still pay the same as you would if it took 2 hours. I fix the price based on the average timescale I can do this in.

His latest reply:

Hi Daniel

I'm only trying to help. The offer is there If you want to build your portfolio and earn
some money, let me know.

£200 for logo, letterhead and business card design.

You need to get more commercial experience Daniel before you start to charge full
commercial rates.

My business brain is awful!:-(

You people seem to know what your talking about and I really dunno what to do. I totally agree with you all, I can't see him finding better for £200 as mentioned. He seems to think that because I don't have commercial experience I can't charge a good price regardless of the standard of work I produce. I really think I am going to refuse from the comments I have read.

blank's picture

The more crap like this I see the more tempted I am to just cut my losses with design and get a job doing something else. I’m getting really sick and tired of having to compete with the chop shops.

aluminum's picture

"Its amazing to me that design schools don’t get into teaching the business of design. Such a shame."


One story that has always left a thorn on my side was being newly out of school working at a firm and volunteering for a local AIGA portfolio review event. In the evening, they had a panel of respected professional designers on stage so students could ask questions. When the questions petered out, I offered one up to keep things rolling along the lines of "When should a person start thinking and talking about salary with a potential employer?"

Now, I thought that was a really good question, as in my years of college, the topic never came up. In fact, the first time it came up with on my first interview where the president of the company asked me what I wanted. Which, of course, is the worst time to suddenly think "oh crap! I never thought about that!"

Well, the panel seemed unanimous in saying that it was an absurd question and salary should be the last thing talked/worried about.

Sadly, 10+ years into my career and a half dozen jobs later, I realize they were right. It's still the norm for salary to be discussed at the tail end of a job negotiation.

Maybe I'm way off base, but I just find it completely backwards. It's naive to think we all work because we love the work. We may, but we work to make money.


Anyways, so yea, stick to your guns. You are worth what you are worth and nothing less and you don't want a client that is going to try go talk you out of that simple fact.

Along terminals great pricing story, the one I always liked is: Call up your local licensed, highly recommended plumber and ask them their hourly rate. Charge at least that much.

"I can’t see him finding better for £200 as mentioned."

That's the route I'd take. Let him find a solution for that price. He'll either a) love it, in which case you'll learn that he wasn't necessarily interested in quality anyways or b) he'll come running back to you asking you to fix it for him.

aluminum's picture

One last analogy:

Pretend you are a chef. Your menu should consist of fine wines, wondrous steaks, elegant pastries, etc.

A customer walks in asking for a burger and fries for $3.99. You could accommodate him, and he may be very satisfied, and you did make $3.99, but did it really further your career to any extent? Probably not.

I'm not saying it's not OK to make $3.99. I've built plenty of cheap designs for clients that just wanted that...a cheap solution. But don't feel compelled that you have to, or think that it will do much for the portfolio.

babyDahl's picture

Hmmm, aluminum your last line just made something click, I don't need this job for portfolio work, I can just do a personal project based on the same subject if I wanted to and it wouldn't be for a client. I know for a fact, I can produce work as good as any designer in my area and if he wants to settle for a quick job at £200, so be it. I one day will see the crap he gets and I will smile with joy.

Sharon Van Lieu's picture

When prospective clients start putting you down to get you to lower your price, that's the time to walk out. EVERY time I have had this happen and tried to work something out, they ended up wanting more concessions and more and more and more. It is a dispiriting relationship that will NEVER enrich your portfolio because it will affect the work you do for them.

As Tom Rushlow, an incredible salesmen I worked for said - "Get them to say yes, or push them off the cliff". Now's the time to mentally push them off the cliff. Wish them well and forget about it and go on to your next project. Don't waste any more time wondering if it will work - it won't.

I said that all very firmly because I have experienced this same behavior in clients and I think it is absolutely the worst relationship you can enter into. But I'm not you, so you'll have to make your own decisions and have your own experiences.

BTW - I love your site, your work, and your creative ideas. You are definitely worth your price.


fi's picture

Does anyone else think that guy comes off as really slimy?

"You need to get more commercial experience Daniel before you start to charge full
commercial rates."

I thought you just had to do commercial quality work to get paid at a commercial level.

Did you notice that he threw in your first name in the middle of that sentence just to patronize you? "Daniel let me tell you how it really works my son"

I don't charge commercial rates for my work because I know its weak sauce, but your work looks top notch.

.00's picture

I had the opportunity to know and work with John Peters, the late great magazine consultant.

...remainder redacted...

boardman's picture

I just want to second all of the excellent advice here. Charge at least what you're worth and try hard to stick to your guns. It's not easy when you're starting out. My first job was for $100.00 and I did a great job - but the client still wasn't happy. You might tell the client this: "While I appreciate your advice and your concern for my career, I will seek out clients that value my services appropriately." Short and to the point.

acnapyx's picture

Maybe I'll put the things short and frank. Getting the job done - with desired quality! - is one thing, negotiating the price is something waaay different.

One of the hardest things I have to do is explaining clients exactly why they should pay such price. At least in my experience, the client most of the time does not care how big is your portfolio, neither is so much interested in high quality, but prefers to make a 'winning deal' - i.e. getting best results for nearly nothing. If the quality is most important factor, client should accept your quote and discuss specific quality requirements, not drive a hard bargain.

How you define how much your work is worth paying for? Well, my principle is never to underestimate yourself. If you're satisfied with £300, ask £400-450, so you can have the chance to lower your price to accomodate the client's needs (if it's really worth it). I do not believe this is the case though.

So, when dealing with slimy guys trying to sell you bullshit in the manner of 'I'm doing you a favour', let them rot in their slime. Such relations with the client are simply not worth it, and unsurprisingly often lead to subpar designs. Unless I desperately need these money, I would turn down his offer, and even ridicule him for the last mail you quoted - quite close to his own manner of patronizing. My reply would be 'So you still cannot find someone to do it for such price? Keep looking, good luck in finding one'. I'm not the most polite guy, when my effort is underestimated.

In fact you in my opinion have made already two mistakes: letting him to quote a base price you can discuss later, and demonstrating you have 'not that huge' portfolio. My policy is always to give my quote first, and then negotiate. Unless, of course, you desperately need the money...

babyDahl's picture

wow, thanks guys, great to read these replies. Just to say that my portfolio is pretty big with around 40 designs printed at a2 on 225 gsm somerset enhanced velvet paper. I am very proud of it. The only down fall is that most of my work in there is personal projects and not varied enough. Thanks to Sharon and fi for taking the time to look at my work, and I appreciate the confidence boost to believe in myself more.

This guy obviously doesn't value his new business to much if he is willing to spend £200 on these jobs. After all, his logo, etc will be representing his business. After much thought and reading on here, I did tell him that I wasn't interesting in a reasonable way, but I was very tempted to tell him my real heated feeling.

My reply.

After much more thought and loads of advice from fellow designers, I have decided to
reject the offer of £200. For some reason you seem to think that cause I lack commercial experience I have to charge a low price no matter what my standard is. For £200, you will not get a a logo, letterhead and business card designed to a high standard. You must really undervalue your new business pretty low if you are gonna trust some poor designer to design this stuff for you at a price of £200. If you want to pay that for a logo alone you will be lucky to find a stock logo. You know the fact I don't have commercial experience and use that to base the price on which is totally undervalued. Jason, I like you and were pretty much on the same level when it comes to knowing where to take a design, but I can't work at this offer. Also, it isn't a one day job, the logo will take days to research, etc and that's excluding the business cards and letterhead. Would you really want me to do all that in a day?? Good design takes time.

I don't think you realize how much effort went into that flyer I designed for eye candy. I spent so much time on that and I really hope you appreciate it. It also should show you that I can produce work for clients.

You have your rates for your salon and I have my rates. If I walked into a hairdressing
salon and knew a stylists didn't have much experience, it wouldn't matter in the
slightest, if he/she did a good job, I would pay a good price regardless.

gohebrew's picture

My rule of thumb in pricing is based upon the capitalistic theory of "whatver price the customer will bear", and "perceived value".

The higher the price, the greater is the "perceived value".

Since people like a bargain, I always "discount" a very high price. Like "a 50% off introductory offer".

Say I want a $2,500 for a job. I'll price it at $5k, and offer "a 50% off introductory offer".

I'll list the cost of the various item, totalling well over $5k. I'll write that the group discount for all the items brings the price down to $5k. 50% off is $2,500.

In this way, the customer thinks he got a bargain, and you get the amount you want.

My teacher and mentor in college taught me, "shoot high" - for you can always lower your price. If you start out too cheap, and raise the price later, you'll lose the customer forever.

If you start out higher, you will be perceived as high end and quality. If you start out too low, you will be perceived as cheap, not so good, and barely professional.

In your specific case, estimate howw many hours it took to do the job, and add any additional hours that the customer would think it should take at most. Multiply all the hours by a rate per hour that you think you're worth. Double it, and quote the job. Mention that since this is the first time that the customer gives you a project, he's entitled to an introducy discount of 50%.

He is happy, and so are you.

paul d hunt's picture

Its amazing to me that design schools don’t get into teaching the business of design. Such a shame.

Amen! I wish the MA at Reading would have had a (small) business module.

clashmore's picture

The whole "Do it on the cheap so you can build your portfolio" routine is such a pain in the ass. The sad thing is that it probably works on some people. Don't be a sucker.

bemerx25's picture

All this discussion makes me happy that my college offered a "business practices for artists" course and (I believe) made it required for all BA/BFA students. Yes we do this because we love it, but part of why we love it is that it pays the bills.

.00's picture

I would rather do a job for free than for a price I felt was too low. I would tell this to my students, who were constantly being taken advantage of under the guise of "Your a student, do this job for peanuts to build your portfolio."

If a beginner truly needs the work for a portfolio, doing it for free allows them to maintain all the control. You can't be pushed into places where you feel uncomfortable, because your response is "I'm doing this for free".

You'll get the results you want, under the time constraints that work for you. And let's face it, getting $200 for a $3000 job, and relinquishing all the power in the relationship is no way to stay healthy.

blank's picture

What I want to know is why these people know to look for young designers to sucker in this way. Nobody pulls this with young electricians or plumbers (then again, they have good unions). Is ripping off designers chapter two of Starting a Small Business for Dummies? I’ve also noticed that this tends to come from certain industries: small service-oriented businesses, mom-and-pop shops, and photographers seem to make up 90% of these requests. I’ve never seen a plumber, electrician, lawyer, or restaurateur trying to screw designers like this. Even non-profits are usually good about just asking for pro-bono work up front instead of the “it can be for your portfolio…” scam.

babyDahl's picture

Lol, James, you speak straight to the point and I like it. Your so right!!:-))

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Jeez… 305 pounds is around 500 euro, right? That's what I charge friends for a simple Identity (logo, letterhead, business card, one more item) with no more than 2 colours. Mind you: real friends, not casual acquaintances.

Anecdotal: A famous advertising guy in the Netherlands (no longer amongst us) had great advice regarding pricing: the amount you charge for any service must be a little painful for the client, but not enough to make him bleed.

When I did serious work (I am semi-retired now, or on an extended sabbatical) I always asked clients what they had budgeted for a project. Sometimes it took some convincing before tehy would tell, of course. That budget I would divide in two. One half for creativity, the other for execution (printing etc.). And I would include my mark up in the latter half. Worked pretty good…

. . .
Bert Vanderveen BNO

oprion's picture

I've posted this before, but here goes.

A typical conversation I've had with clients when I was stating out:

Them: So, you are a that like, you work with computers and stuff?
Me: Well I do, but it’s just a small fraction of it, a computer is just a tool..
Them: Year, right, so, what is it that you do? A Designer of what?
Me: Well, what you see around you, posters billboards, books, signage, packages..websites (on rare occasions)
Them: Ah ! So you are a webdesigner!
Me: Well not so much, I dabble on occasion but..
Them: Hey, you know what, my daughter needs a logo for her band, I still have a few minutes before I have to head back, can you make one for her before I leave?
Me: Well, see now, designing a logo takes a lot of effort, and it’s not just a mark, what we do is create identity systems..
Them: Don’t be ridiculous, I see logos every day, they are tiny things, you can make a dozen in five minutes. I’d do it myself, but I can’t draw, tell you what, just draw me a picture and I’ll put in the text and everything, My cousin showed me how to do shadows and other cool things in Photoshop!
Me: Identity design is probably the most difficult discipline within the field of graphic design, it requires one to sift through countless concepts to arrive at a finished, concise form that embodies a whole score of ideas, is unique, and pleasing to the eye. You have to appeal to the target, and after all, a logo is just a tip of the iceberg. A logo by itself is just a mark, what makes it magic, is an expansive and detailed identity system, that establishes a particular style to all areas of visual communication, from architecture to the color of your toilet paper.
Them: Well, that's just a load of corporate nonsense isn’t it? It’s just a way for you guys to raise your price. All I need is a simple little logo. I don’t even mind if it only has two colors, and I can add the shadow myself. I was going to order it from one of those online logo places, but they are charging $50! Isn’t that ridiculous? 50 bucks for a tiny picture. Who’d ever pay that? If you want payment, I can give you this gift certificate for $35 at Quick-E-Mart. How about that?

And then you accept their commission, because they are distant friends of your relatives and you can’t say no, or for that matter, ask for a fair price:

Me: Here are three directions that we can take to develop your identity.
Them: Oou! It looks pretty good, but I don’t like the green.
Me: The green is there to blah-blah-blah... but it doesn’t matter. What we have to decide, is which of the three do we pick and work on further.
Them: Oh, I think the left one is the best of the bunch, but I thought about it some more this past week, and I think we should have strawberries. I’ve asked my friends and my partner, they all agree, that strawberries are a good positive image.
Me: Eh?
Them: And here is a font that I fond on the web, it’s modern and forward-looking.
Me: But..
Them: So, if you could just take that design on the left, put a strawberry on top, and write the text in ZZ_Type_Kool, we’ll be golden.
Me: Hang on a minute... /Writes up a 2-page essay explaining the value of quality design, the difference between kitsch and avantgard, the meaning of professionalism and the role of a designer as conceptual communicator./
Them: /After skipping through to the least sentence in the essay/ Stop being difficult! I am paying you money, and should be entitled to get what I ask. I even found you the font (ZZ_Type_Kool) so you don’t even have to search for one. My insurance company needs a pink strawberry on top of a shining golden spear, and I expect to get it. If $100 I paid is not enough, I can add 20 more for your troubles.
Me: So why do you even need a designer?
Them: I can’t draw strawberries. Look, I’ve worked with other designers before, and it was always very easy, I tell them what I want, they do it and get paid. See what they did for me? /shows a juggernaut of piss and glitter/
Me: But that’s horrible!
Them: All designers say that about the work of all other designers! And it only cost me $50.
Personal Art and Design Portal of Ivan Gulkov

Miss Tiffany's picture

I'd be very careful about posting verbatim email on this forum. Google loves Typophile. You'd be surprised how many clients (potential clients) have tracked down threads such as this.

On the other hand I think you do need to stand up for what you are worth. It is a very nasty thing to take advantage of someone. Especially based upon some pre-conceived notion of lack of experience.

innovati's picture

I can understand the challenge of charging what you're worth when starting out - that's where I am right now, but what the experienced people have said is so true, if you settle for less you really are restraining yourself, not the client or the design.

I'm glad you rejected the offer, I was on the edge of my seat reading this thread!

victor ivanov's picture

i just wanted to give my two cents to people who are starting out.

Always ask for a deposit, because you will get bad clients. My 1st freelance job which was a website, I have priced very generously, and on the last stages of development the client has disappeared. Thus I have waisted my time doing something for him and gained nothing. Now I don't start the job until the deposit is in my bank.

jupiterboy's picture

It is always the charity priced jobs that stiff you it seems.

victor ivanov's picture

it makes sense in a weird sort of way. By offering a low price, designers only bring down the value of their own work, causing the client to have less respect for it.

Randy's picture

I second Miss Tiffany's advice about Google.

To that I would add: if indeed your posts here are verbatim what you sent to your client, consider adding to polish to your writing style. Addressing a client in the same manner as your mates doesn't help the point you're trying to make. 'cause, gonna, stuff, etc gotta go, yo! If he is one of your mates from the pub, carry on.

Chris Kelly's picture

Advice i was given (but is easier said than done) is ask the client what their budget is, even if you have to push them for it. if they wont tell you (and they usually wont) then you suggest a very high sum. they will recoil in horror and reveal a price, apparently this tends to me more than what you would have offered. Dont rip people off. Every client is equal. Dont work for free. Know what clients to turn down.

Oprion: great quote, for better or worse, a familiar story :-)

Nick Shinn's picture

This thread isn't quite right.

To all you professionals who think Daniel should charge more, let me ask (if you have a formal training)--was your education worth nothing?

Daniel is a novice designer with no formal education and little experience.

Surely if a "client" is starting a business and wants to save money wherever possible, it's OK to hire, and nurture, a talented and cocky, relative amateur and pay him a minimal amount for what y'all think will turn out to be a "juggernaut of piss and glitter"?

His client's advice is quite realistic. Daniel hasn't had the opportunity to build a portfolio of student work (at his own expense), so the client is doing him a favour by offering to pay for helping develop his portfolio with a real-world project, whereas if Daniel had gone to design school, he would have had to pay for developing a portfolio of imaginary projects himself.

When you buy services, don't you pay according to your perception of the provider's worth, and save money when you can? Don't you ever use bundled fonts, freeware, stock photography?

As Maynard James Keenan put it, "Before you point your finger...

pattyfab's picture

What gets my dander up is that the guy thinks he's doing you a favor (for your portfolio) by hiring you at all.

My experience (and at this point I have quite a lot) is that no job is ever as simple as it seems. I still make that mistake - taking a little less than I want just because I think I can do the job quickly - and then it turns into a nightmare and you start to really hate the client and the job. Based on his condescending notes to you, my guess is that he'll be hell to work for.

On the other hand, you could take him up on his offer, do exactly one day's work, take his money and tell him to shove it. I wouldn't advise that course though.

Sye's picture

i agree with nick.

while i totally believe you need to charge what you are worth, you need to take into account your perceived worth.

i do turn down clients when they won't pay what i'm asking (and my rates are actually quite low), and yes, it has cost me some potential work, but it's also saved me heaps of stress for work i am not proud of and that does not cover my expenses.

i often have friends asking me to work for free, and most of the time i don't, so when they come to me one of my first questions is 'are you willing to pay for this?' if they say no, then i say thanks, but no thanks.

daniel, i think you did the right thing to be upfront about your rates and stick to them, it makes life easier working with people who value you and your work, and not having the stress of working for people who don't.

all the best!

Nick Shinn's picture

...his condescending notes to you...

I don't see that Patty.
He's telling it like it is.
From his perspective, it could be a nightmare bringing a novice up to speed, but going through that is a price he is prepared to pay, if not in money.

...getting $200 for a $3000 job...

James, do you think Daniel can provide $3000 worth of value?
What client in their right mind would pay him a professional rate?
Isn't he the "uneducated kid with a computer" who drags down the value of design work?

It seems to me we should be educating clients about the value of working with trained professionals, not dissing them for underpaying people with no qualifications or experience.

Daniel, I should say that even without training or experience your work may be brilliant and worth $3000, and that's another factor in Simon's idea of "perceived" value.

gohebrew's picture

Rule of thumb:

If you feel that you must do it cheap, and you feel (I hope) that your effort is worth more, I suggest that you put a higher price written on the invoice, and credit the client with an introductory discount (if he's a first time customer), or some other phraseology.

Ask you accountant, for there also may be tax implications as well, to take the amount that you discount off you taxable income.

babyDahl's picture

I am not saying I am not agreeing with what the client is saying, cause I am, but even by my standards I felt £200 was low. Yes, I don't have training but why should someone have training, are you telling me that every top designer is trained. What's wrong with being self taught. I appreciate my client for being upfront, and I have learned so much from the experience and have taken all advice for next time. I am a shy guy and don't have a great deal of intelligence, had problems at school, but have designed since I was 15 and now I am 23. I do own a lot of books in graphic design and have mainly learned from these, and loads of practice.

Nick - I do have a portfolio to a high standard of work, but it could be a lot better in the sense of being more varied. At the moment I am teaming up with a fellow designer to launch our own online design agency. He has the intelligence which will lend itself to me. I guess I just need a little TLC. I also do photography and own a very good DSLR, I also take my own shots for projects, I use commercial fonts and have all the software.


gohebrew's picture


Many very good graphic artists and graphic designers are self-taught. As you point out, you have 8 years of design training and education, plus actual practice.

As I tried to stress, customers often pay according to perception and years of paid experience.

You are young. That is a blessing in itself, worth much more than getting paid a lot for a job.

Unfortunately, age does work against you; if this is one of your early jobs, customers feel that it is worth a smaller amount than you, like a certain £ amount per hour. So, the total of £200, divided by the number of hours the customer thinks you needed to do the job.

Even though you may feel its worth a higher amount, I found after many years of paid experience, reputation and recommendation is valuable more than the money of one job. A happy customer recommends you over and over. A good name goes out far and wide. This leads leads to endless more jobs. As time goes on, your age and paid experience increases, and you will receive more and more for every job. The most important factor is a happy customer.

Nick Shinn's picture

What’s wrong with being self taught.

James Montalbano (Terminal Design) and myself are both self-taught type designers.
My question about the value of a design education was to graphic designers, not so much a criticism of you but of client-bashing.

I'm a member of a professional organization, a Registered Graphic Designer, and have been working since before digitization. So I'm very familiar with the refrain about uneducated kids with computers undercutting the profession, and the characterization of their work as "piss and glitter"--so I find it strange that when someone such as yourself, who would appear to fit that profile, comes along, that the response here is that you should "charge more", as I don't see a logical connection for that advice.

This thread is all very abstract until we actually see your work, and know how well it's performed.

.00's picture


If he is just a guy with a computer trying to get some design work then f#@k him. Just another chuckle head in a world of chuckle heads.

...remainder redacted...

jayyy's picture


As was said before here, your value is all about perception first. This may or may not even be influenced by the quality of your work to date, depending on what client you are working with and how design savvy they are.

In reference to this perceived value you have made a couple of huge mistakes. Firstly, you asked HIM to tell YOU how much to pay you! Secondly, your correspondence to him was quite unprofessional. This further goes to downgrade your perceived value.

I agree with Nick's comments too - you have no formal design education and a small portfolio so you cannot charge $3000 for an identity system because you cannot provide that level of service and experience to deliver value on that.

What I would have done in this situation is go right in with a price that will pay you for your hours. Figure out what a decent hourly rate would be, say £15 per hour (which is $24), and lets say you determine that it is a weeks work for you (£15 x 40 = £600). Quote him this price and let him know what your rate is and that there is no way you can complete the project in less time, nor would you work for less than that per hour. Give him a comparison of a professional rate, say at £35 per hour would be £1800.

If you always try to compete on price, there will always be someone who will undercut you. You must compete on value and service and be competitive on price. If someone purely wants to talk price, get out.

timgarnham's picture

freelance switch
has a quite useful tool for working out what rates you have to charge- by working out your own costs.

Also, if you think that your portfolio is a bit thin on the ground, then do some projects for your-self.
These will hopefully be executed to the best of your ability, since you should enjoy them. And they will also be easy to discuss, because you enjoy them.

If you need the money, take the work, if you need the work, you will probably be better of doing something for yourself, as opposed to a client who under-values your ability.



innovati's picture

oh hi there Nick, when I saw Registered Graphic Designer the first thing that popped into my head was RGD? I was in toronto on Tuesday for DesignThinkers, it's a shame I hadn't realized you were in toronto or I could have met you!

But you raise a number of great points about education versus experience. I was going to point out the RGD as an example of quality assurance.

In Ontario Canada, where Nick and I live, we have an organization called the RGD, Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario. No, you don't need to have any formal deign education to join the RGD, but you must pass a test proving your knowledge is at a certain level on-par with our current college design education.

It's relatively easy and possible for somebody trained elsewhere besides Ontario, to come here and take the test and pass and become RGD, just as it's painless for somebody with life experience to take the test and become and RGD.

What having that title allows you is a bargaining token. It doesn't matter whether you went to school or not, if you're RGD they have some assurances that you do *know* your stuff, and you can use that by saying: hey, I'm RGD, what's that worth to you to have a tested and proven designer working for you.

I'm not surewhat similar groups or organizations exist where you are, but that might be a sort of proof of your skill, as well as some insurance that could make potential clients feel reassured that you do know your stuff, even if you don't have an extensive portfolio to show them.

As for getting a portfolio, I recognize your need to eat, and I don't want to discourage you from professional work, but I will share a little secret with you. I have done professional work, school work and personal work, and the work I find is often the strongest is the personal work. Why? Because I'm more passionate about the charities and causes I'm providing the work for.

I have been involved in a number of open-source projects who are starving for designers, you can literally take your pick, but the oppurtunities and experience I have gotten in 3 years of open-source development were equal to 3 years of professional work in jobs I couldn't get yet. Game design, UI design and software user experience design.

I would strongly recommend you go find a church organization, a charity, a student group at a local school or an open-source project that you identify with, and one you feel passionate about, and design a few posters, identities, web layouts or whatever they need.

I hope this advice helps, I'm a young designer myself and I'm sure my advice is worth pennies compared to some of the greats on this forum :-)

amingo's picture

More than anything, we need to move away from the idea that design is a service and see it as a product. We are not selling time. We are selling objects of value that, if done well and taken care of, will outlast us all. Every time we agree to sell our product for less than what it's worth, we drive down the value of design for everyone and give more business to the $50 logo clowns.

There is nothing wrong with giving a price break from time to time but your estimate should reflect the application of that discount so that the true value of the product is known and future expectations are set. Set up a standard discount for start-up companies or non-profit organizations and stick to it. Establish a top-of-the-head average price point for basic products so that you can speak confidently about it when asked.

Keep in mind, too, that every hour you spend working on an undervalued job is an hour lost that could be spent on something of value. There is nothing worse than giving up a weekend to a client that doesn't respect your time and talent.

Finally, check out one of the many pricing guidelines available. My personal favorite has been the "Pricing & Ethical Guidelines Handbook", published yearly by the Graphic Arts Guild. It will answer just about any question you can throw at it and will give you the insight and confidence you need to talk about pricing and process with clients.

Good luck!


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