You’re your own boss as a freelance graphic designer — which means you have to price your own services. The question is: how much should you charge?
You will probably have a hard time coming up with an answer to that question. It’s not that what you do isn’t valuable. However, visual arts are, by their very nature, subjective. Many clients don’t really appreciate the amount of work that goes into creating a good design. They look at a logo, see some geometric shapes with a nice font, and think, “Well I could’ve done that! Why am I paying for this service?”
Even worse, since you’re working online, your competition probably includes amateurs doing substandard work for cheap prices — even cheaper if rent is due.
However, you have no obligation to price your services at so-called market rates. It should be about how much you value yourself as a graphic designer. At the same time, try not to bite off more than you can chew. If you’re just starting out and have no experience, don’t expect to find clients who value your services and respect you as a professional. It takes time to build a solid reputation, but if done right, you will be able to re-evaluate your rates and earn a higher income later on.
DETERMINE THE VALUE OF YOUR SERVICES
As stated earlier, your first step should be determining the value of your services — but you can’t magically grab numbers from thin air. Instead, consider showcasing your designs on places such as Behance and Dribbble, where you can get critiques from the community and see how well your designs fare against others. If your designs are deemed to be good quality, you can be comfortable charging more for your services. If not, think about setting a lower price for now while you improve your skills and knowledge.
Besides getting feedback, such sites are great for reaching out to other designers. More specifically, you should talk to the more experienced ones and get advice on how much you should charge. In addition, take a look at designers who are around the same skill level as you and see how they price their services.
In any case, once you have some numbers in mind, use them as a benchmark to map out your pricing strategy. Remember, never negotiate on rate — only on scope.
ALLOW FOR SOME FLEXIBILITY
As stated earlier, check out your competition and see how their rates correspond to the quality they provide. If they’re offering the same services at lower prices, it might be worthwhile to adjust your pricing strategy so as to remain competitive.
Graphic designers have different approaches in that regard. Some offer price packages with upgrades and extras bundled in; others provide services with tailored features based on the client’s budget.
PUTTING YOUR STRATEGY INTO PRACTICE
Once you have decided to take up a project, it always helps to get the price out in the open sooner than later. In negotiations, the first party to say a number is usually in an adversarial position. As such, ask for the client’s budget as soon as possible, without stating your rates. Once the client has given you a number, you can then tailor a package accordingly.
As an alternative, you can provide price packages on your site. For example, you can offer a basic logo package with 2 concepts and one round of changes for $100, and a premium service at $500 which includes 5 concepts along with unlimited revisions. This way, you can cover all your bases while catering to a wider audience.
If a client is looking for higher quality work, be sure to explain that it requires more hours and effort, hence a higher price tag. If their budget isn’t really worth your time or effort, explain that to them and offer them a more basic package.
DON’T GIVE IN TO PRESSURE
Keep your chin up. A flock always has a few black sheep. There’s nothing you can do about clients who want everything for cheap. Such clients will only exploit your services in the end. Instead, be glad you don’t have to work with them in the first place.
Also, don’t fall into the trap of undercutting the value of your services to pay the bills. It never works out well, unless a project really appeals to you. You will devalue yourself as a graphic designer, and taking on such projects will only make you feel bitter and underutilized. In fact, clients will respect you more if you can get them to see you as a professional, and that they’re paying for good service. Ultimately, it’s about trust between both parties and charging a fair price that is in line with the value of your services.
After your skills and knowledge reach a certain threshold, you will find that it’s much easier to acquire clients who are willing to pay for good work.
REMEMBER THAT MONEY ISN’T EVERYTHING
Every client has a different budget. For example, you may value your services at $300, but your client is a startup with a tight budget of $200. Should you pass up on the project?
Sometimes, you have to look beyond the dollar signs. If you focus on providing good service, the client will likely give you more projects in the future, or even refer you to their friends and colleagues. In fact, achieving success in the long term isn’t always determined by how much money you make — it’s also about building good working relationships.
It can definitely be hard to price your services and convince clients that such prices are justified. However, if you have a good strategy and believe in your value as a graphic designer, then you should have no problem keeping your prices competitive.