Pricing your design work right is one of the hardest things a freelancer has to do.
As a freelance graphic designer, setting rates for new clients is challenging, especially when you're starting out. There's no one-size-fits-all philosophy here — every freelancer’s talents and rates are unique.
As a newcomer, you may think you need to set lower prices to build clientele, but this isn’t the case. Instead, strike a balance between fair compensation and quality work that both parties are happy with.
What’s the average hourly rate for a freelance graphic designer?
Many freelance designers start their careers charging hourly.
When charging clients, they multiply their hourly fee by the estimated number of working hours and send them an invoice with the final quote. But how much do freelance graphic designers make?
According to Upwork — a popular freelancing platform — graphic designers earn between $40-45 per hour, with an annual salary of $90,000. The same survey shows that 60% of this demographic of graphic designers leave traditional 9-5 jobs to pursue full-time freelancing. Many designers start freelancing as a side hustle to develop a portfolio before switching to a career as a full-time freelance designer, so this salary likely represents established, experienced designers.
How to determine your rate as a freelancer
The rates above are merely a starting point. You'll need to examine additional factors before adjusting your rates to reflect experience, workload, and client demands.
The projects you undertake also affect your rates. If you're charging for complex projects, it may be better to charge by the hour than give your client a project-based rate.
Research the field
Look at the average market pricing for your niche and examine designers with similar profiles and experience. Websites like PayScale, Glassdoor, and Thumbtack show average pricing for various industries and occupations. To find out what other designers charge in specific fields, inquire on freelancing platforms like Upwork and Fiverr public forums.
Find out how much people charge based on their experience, skill set, type of work, and project specifics. Project specifics play a significant role in design pricing, depending on the number of deliverables required and their complexity. For example, if you’re a designer who specializes in interactive graphs, you can charge a different rate than a general designer. And if you’re making one graph, you’ll quote a different rate than if you need to make a series of eight.
Know your worth
As an entry-level freelance designer, starting with low hourly rates seems logical. You've never done this before and you don't know how to pitch yourself to a potential client. Quoting lower rates might seem like a good way to avoid losing clients before you’ve started. But make sure your inexperience doesn’t cause you to sell yourself short.
Reinforce confidence in yourself by researching the market and comparing your work to others with similar portfolios. Understanding your work's value empowers you to ask for fair compensation and be paid what you're worth. Set prices you feel are worth your time and ask satisfied clients for testimonials to help with future negotiations.
The objective is to find a balance that suits both you and the client. If you can’t agree on a rate, it's acceptable to move on. Sometimes, it's better to let difficult negotiations go if it means finding more meaningful work elsewhere.
Determine if you prefer an hourly or a project-based rate
Many freelance graphic designers opt for hourly rates. But there's another approach: project-based rates. Both pricing models are widely used in the freelance graphic design community, but which is right for you?
Let’s start with hourly rates. Hourly rates guarantee compensation for the time invested into a project. If you’ve quoted a project to take 15 hours and it actually takes 18, you can bill for the extra time spent. Plus, many online forums discuss earnings based on experience and skill, allowing you to find a rate that best fits your level of expertise.
However, hourly rates become taxing when monitoring multiple projects. You have to estimate how long each project will take and quote clients accordingly — and if it requires specialized skills, clients might be deterred by a high hourly rate.
As you become better at designing and improving your workflow, you'll likely find that hourly rates begin to lose their appeal. After all, you shouldn't be paid the same amount — or less — as you get better.
That brings us to project-based rates. As the name implies, instead of charging hourly, you charge per project. When you bill this way, it's easier to set different rates for various projects, depending on their complexity and your projected time investment. Generally, project rates enable you to grow as a brand and become more profitable because your rates are directly proportionate to your growth. You’re selling experience, expertise, and quality instead of time.
However, project rates are a little confusing, especially for entry-level freelancers. Setting an appropriate project rate is more challenging than setting an hourly rate, as inexperienced designers may struggle to predict how much a project is worth.
We recommend starting with hourly rates as a beginner and switching to project rates to offer more accurate rates as you grow your freelancing career.
Tips to increase your rate
Setting rates means determining the most appropriate pricing based on the information you have regarding the client, project, and complexity of the task. Negotiation also plays a key role here — modifying your pricing structure is always possible if you’re absolutely keen on a project.
Keeping this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you bump your freelancing graphic design rates up as you develop your skill and experience.
Set prices after a new year
Increase your rates annually. They shouldn't remain constant, even if they're adjusted for inflation. Consistent practice and work inspire growth and experience, which makes your work more valuable.
Improve or learn new skills
Varying levels of experience and expertise allow you to charge more. Enhance your current skills and learn new ones through courses or certifications. Many free resources are available online, like Webflow University, Udemy, and Coursera, to give you extra tools to work with.
Set new prices when you increase clientele and receive recognition
As you grow a freelance business, demand will increase alongside your credibility and reputation, affecting your availability. At this point, clients won’t simply pay for your services but for the association with your brand.
For example, if you offer logo design services and find yourself bombarded with requests from small businesses, it's a sign to increase rates to ensure you’re providing services worth your bandwidth — and to those who can afford them.
Common mistakes when setting a rate
It's common for entry-level freelancers to limit their earning potential due to a lack of experience. We've highlighted a few mistakes freelance graphic designers make when starting their businesses.
Charging too little
Don't doubt your skills and experience. Imposter syndrome is common in creative professionals but has no place in the rate-setting process. Your services offer genuine value to clients, and you should be paid fairly for them.
Freelancers have varying levels of experience and reputation, but so do clients. It's not necessary to strike deals with the largest organizations in the beginning. Instead, start small and work your way up by improving your skills, gaining experience, and exceeding client expectations.
Forgetting to take equipment costs and taxes into consideration
Unlike salaried employees, freelancers are responsible for their business expenses and taxes. This adds to the cost of your job. If you take up design jobs, you need appropriate hardware to handle software like Photoshop and Figma. You’ll also have to pay for the software yourself, and some are subscription based, meaning it’s a recurring expense.
Salaried employees receive benefits like health insurance and have specific amounts taken out of their paychecks to cover taxes by the company. Freelancers don’t receive such benefits. You have to closely track your expenses and remittances to properly deduct them from your taxes when tax season comes around and pay your own employment taxes.
Keeping the same price
Maintaining the same price limits earning potential, whether charging hourly or by the project.
You can also increase rates after learning a new skill or acquiring a certification. For example, let’s say you offered only logo design at first but you have since gained the skills to create social media assets, branding guidelines, and more. You should increase your prices to match the upgrade in your services. If you’re worried about losing current clients, consider offering them a grace period where they keep the old rates for a set period of time.
Grow your freelancing career with Webflow
Raising your graphic design rates assures clients that your services come with higher value. To back this up, you’ll need the necessary skills, experience, and a portfolio.
As a graphic designer, you have an eye for visuals, but developing a website portfolio requires a different level of expertise.
With Webflow, you don’t have to worry about coding a website — our dedicated visual web development tools do the heavy lifting. Learn more with Webflow University’s courses and tutorials to take your freelancing career to the next level.