HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU PAY A GRAPHIC DESIGNER?
This is quite an open ended question, but one that most small to medium business owners will need to know when setting up and running a business. I will try to answer it in as straight forward a manner as possible, however, there are many variation, so please take this is a GUIDE only.
It basically comes down to the type of designer that you choose and how they charge for their services. Generally, there are two ways that graphic designers will operate 1. Hourly Rate and 2. Flat Rate.
Most freelance designers, studios and agencies will work out their quotation estimates based on an hourly rate, regardless of how you see the final bill. However, some designers choose to charge purely by the hour for the actual time they have worked. They will usually provide an estimate before commencing, however if the job goes over the estimated time allowed, you will be charged for that time.
In some cases, this can be a little scary for clients, as budgets can quickly blow out if you decide to make a lot of revisions and changes once first design concepts have been presented. On the flip-side, it can also save you money if the time taken turns out to be lower than was estimated.
This goes without saying for any design project, however if you are going to work with a designer on an hourly rate, make sure that you really do your homework when providing your clear and concise creative brief and ensure that your content is provided in full and error free, so that the designer is fully armed with all of the required information to provide a kick-ass design that fully answers your brief without needing extra rounds of revisions that will ultimately cost you time and money.
HOT TIP: Keep communication lines with your designer open throughout your design project so that you don’t unknowingly blow your budget if the hours end up higher than estimated.
FLAT PROJECT RATE
Many freelance designers and smaller studios will offer flat rate fees for design projects. Although these rates are based on an estimated number of hours, the client pays the one rate no matter the hours worked, so long as the terms of the original quotation are met. This means that flat rate fees will usually come with terms that cover items such as:
- the number of concepts that will be submitted
- the maximum number of revisions included
- the time frame allowed for the project to be completed
- deposits and payments
- cost of stock photography, if required
This is a great way to work for the designer, so long as they stay within their estimated working hours for the project – sometimes the designer will win on this and work less than the estimate, and sometimes they will lose and it will take longer, however the important thing is that the client is delivered with the work as agreed, at the agreed price. Its also great for the client, as they know their budget will not blow out, so long as they stay within the terms of the project partnership.
In my business, I will usually quote a fixed rate for a project, which I have determined based on the number of hours that I think it will take. These rates are based on experience with similar projects that I have worked on in the past.
HOT TIP: Take note of the number of revisions allowed for within the quotation, as additional rounds will end up costing you extra, outside of the agreed quote.
SO WHAT SHOULD YOU EXPECT TO PAY?
This will depend largely on the type of project, what you need to get out of it and the type of designer that you engage with. Most designers will loosely fit into 4 price categories (yes there are more and there is a lot of cross over, but for the purpose of giving a rough cost guide, I am simplifying it to just these 4). I have shown the various price ranges as hourly rates in order to show a fair comparison.
The following is a guide only, and is aimed at general business graphic design for branding, marketing and advertising purposes. It does not cover designs that require transfer of rights and licensing where the client will be on-selling the design in one or more applications for profit, as that is a whole other ball game and quite a complex topic.
1. LOWER PRICE RANGE
Otherwise known as ‘cheap’, but not necessarily nasty, this is often your student or fresh design graduate who is wanting to build up their portfolio and range of experience. It may also be someone who is self taught or working from home, so that overhead costs are low and they can pass on savings to clients. Don’t disparage the self taught or home based designer though, as I’ve seen many whose skills far surpass those with high qualifications and years of experience. Some people are just naturally talented and as the graphic design industry is not officially regulated, anyone can claim designer status. The important thing here is to make sure that you check out their current portfolio of work, so that you know it is up to the standard that you require before hiring. Also keep in mind that from this hourly rate, these designers need to pay for their own superannuation, hardware and software costs and other costs associated with building up and running a business as a sole trader, so please be kind and don’t try to drive their prices down even lower…also keep in mind that as they gain more experience in the design trade, their prices will more than likely increase in line with that over time.
Hourly rate range: $20 – $60 ex gst
2. MID RANGE PRICING
Now we start to move into the first of the professional price range brackets where you are looking at a designer with several years of experience under their belt and/or tertiary qualifications. Designers that fall into this category (such as myself) will usually be freelancers/sole traders or work in the smaller creative studios and agencies. You will usually be working directly with the designer that is working on your project, so there is no middle man or account manager to go through. The designer can become a close member of your team and get to know your business and its needs really well over time, making them a sound investment.
Hourly rate range: $60 – $120 ex gst
3. TOP RANGE PRICING
This category covers creative and advertising agencies and also the very highly experience senior designers and creative directors that may work on a freelance basis. In the case of an agency, you are not just paying for one graphic designer to work on your project, but a team that may include an account manager, market researchers, creative directors as well as the design team, so prices are always going to be much higher than working with an individual, even though you may be able to achieve the same quality result in the end.
Hourly rate range: $120 – $350 ex gst (this can vary widely from agency to agency)
4. SUPER CHEAP PRICING
I’ve left this one until last, as I think its a bit of pot luck as to the result you may get when going with the super cheap designer, so I don’t really see it as a serious, risk free, ongoing design solution for businesses. I’m also a huge believer in shopping locally for both personal and business and at these prices, it is highly unlikely that these designers are local to Australia (although you may be lucky!).
These designers are often found online via websites like fiverr.com and design competition sites and they are very cheap as they will often live in countries where there is lower employment rates and wage opportunities in comparison to Australia. This is not always the case and I’m certainly not disparaging anyone’s right to seek work overseas via the internet, however I do think that for serious businesses, this is not a great option to run with. You may get good results for a one off project though, so if you are on a particularly tight budget, it may be worth a try!
In my research and experience with speaking to business owners who have tried sites such as fiverr.com for graphic design work, they have received sub standard work, that was often a direct rip off from a stock image library or of someone else’s work, causing copyright issues and so the work was unusable. I have heard the odd success story however, so if you’ve got the time to try it out and don’t mind that you may not receive what you wanted and are happy to take the risk, then by all means, give it a go!
Hourly rate range: $5 – $20 ex gst
YOUR DESIGNER IS A PART OF YOUR TEAM
They key foucs points when choosing a designer are:
- that you love the style of their portfolio of work
- that you get along with them and they are a good fit for your business and open to a two way dialogue with you
- you can see positive testimonials from previous clients
- they can follow a brief
- you have allowed the right budget to achieve your desired outcome
- they can carry out the work with your timeframe
Your budget may a major determining factor in choosing a graphic designer that is right for you, however one thing that I can’t stress highly enough is that a designer WILL become a huge asset to your business if you find the right one, so make sure that the person or agency that you choose is one whom you think you will be able to work with on an ongoing basis, and that their style resonates with you, as they really can become part of your team and be worth every dollar (and more) than their fee represents at first glance.