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Freelance Graphic Design Rates - how to price your artwork

Updated on June 18, 2011

For the freelancer who is new to the scene, it is a pretty daunting thing to step out and sell his work to clients.

There will be many questions flying through his mind, 'Is my work what the client is looking for?', 'Will he accept my artwork?', 'What if he does not accept my artwork, can I still charge him for the services rendered?'. 'How much can I charge the client? I do not want to overcharge him (he might never use my services again) and I don't want to my artwork under valued either.'

So, the million dollar question is, as a Freelance Graphic Designer, just what should your rates be? How do you go about pricing artwork?

The rates that you can set for your graphic design work are dependant on two factors - Experience and Quality of work. There are no subtitutes for these and they can be obtained over time. Depending on where you are in your knowledge base and experience of graphic design will determine how much you can charge, what kind of work you will get and how much will come your way.

The following topics whereby if explored to the fullest, will play an important part in optimising your experiences and improving the quality of work, therefore maximising freelance employment for you and increasing the rates to your clients.

1. Knowledge of the design programs
If you are a Print Graphic Designer, it is absolute essential that you know your way around print design programs like InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. Certain freelance jobs require basic knowledge, others might need you to be able to perform at a medium to higher level with knowledge of using keyboard shortcuts, data merge, inserting tables, divide a circle into equal parts, creating index for a catalogue, correct pdfing for example. If you work from home, you would have the flexibility of coming up with solutions in the quiet of your own time. However, should you be called to go into an office environment to work on a freelance basis with a project development team, you will need to be able to contribute swiftly and constructively with your skills at the drop of a hat.

2. Knowledge of principles of good design
I know that these are basics and would have been taught at graphic design schools that you may have attended. The thing is not every design out there follow the principles of graphic design, unfortunately not every design is a good design. Ensure that every piece of work is of top quality work, opening up opportunities for more work coming your way.

3. Knowing how to be relevant to the market
I am passionate about this as I have seen lots of great designs pass my desk at in-house studio I work in but unfortunately cannot proceed or approve many of the designs as they are not relevant to the market we are targeting the product or services to. In order to ensure that the work that you do as a freelancer gets approved first time round is to make certain that you understand the brief that has been provide to you from the client. If the brief does not provide you with sufficient information regarding their market, pick up the phone and ask the appropriate person for relevant information. It is essential that you have all the necessary info at your fingertips before the start of your work.

4. Have basic business knowledge
The concept of freelancing is basically to work for yourself (self-employed), selling services to different employers without a long-term contract issued. To be self-employed refers to an individual who operates a business or profession as a sole proprietor or as partner in a partnership. Therefore, for the benefit of the client as well as for the purpose of attracting more work, it is crucial that you have a basic understanding of running a business as well as marketing products and services to the marketplace. It can only put you in good stead with the client when you are perceived to know what it takes to make businesses tick.

5. Own an outstanding portfolio
You would have heard it all before. And I can confirm that it is true. Your portfolio is the key. It showcases your talent and abilities which then helps clients visualise the possibilities and potentials for their businesses that come along with hiring your services. Always put in the best of your best into your folio, and often pieces of work that you may have done in the past which is relevant to your client's industry. For example, if you are going for an interview with a client who owns a pharmacy, ensure you include pieces of work you have done in the past that is associated with the health industry.

To find out more about putting a top graphic design portfolio together, please go to Build a Professional Freelance Portfolio. Please note that this article was written for Professional Writers, but it can be adapted to Graphic Designers as well. FYI I have no association with this website and am not in any way recommending them, but the article does give some information, if you are looking for one, regarding putting a folio together.

6. Know how to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack
What is your point of differentiation? How are you any different from or any better than the other graphic designers? What unique services can you offer your client that majority of the other designers cannot? Are you really good in a particular area, for example packaging design, web design, or copywriting perhaps, were you can really shine and show what you can do for them as a supplier? Give your clients the message that you understand them, more importantly, you understand their business. In this way, you have increased the value of your services to your clients. When clients in general feel that you are on the same page with them, more often than not, they see the financial advantages connected with working with you and hiring your design services.

Click on the web address to go to viewing tips on Building a Professional Freelance Portfolio
Click on the web address to go to viewing tips on Building a Professional Freelance Portfolio | Source

So, what sort of rates can I set for my freelance graphic design work?

The going hourly rate out here in Australia is in the vicinity of 40AUD for the graduate designer, 70AUD for one who has perhaps 7 or 8 years experience and over 120AUD for the very experienced and high quality work. I would like to clarify that this has been gleaned from graphic designers I know in the industry and what their rates are. In no way am I claiming that this is industry standard.

My own freelance graphic design fees are based on who the client is, what industry they come from, what kind of paymaster they are (if they pay within 30 days, I generally am a little easier on the rate) and how indecisive they can be when it comes to concept/artwork decision-making time. I also know my strengths and weaknesses, what my abilities are, what I can or cannot achieve for the client, what I am known for in the industry. I try to be fair in what I charge, always giving the customer value for money; always, yes, always trying to make a difference to their bottom line.


What is the right rate to you might not be so to someone else. Only you can decide what you think your work is worth. Having said that, review the summary below once more and know that if you have looked after these areas, you will have given yourself the best chance of maximising the rates you set as a freelance graphic designer.

  1. Concentrate on ensuring that your skill set is where it should be.
  2. Your portfolio needs to have the "Wow!" factor.
  3. Have a good understanding of business basics.
  4. When you go to the client's to be briefed, put forth what your point of differentiation is as compared with other designers. Connect with your clients, ensure that they know you are on the same wavelength as them. Oh, and here's a tip: When you give the client a quote, always give a ballpark figure, never a definite sum. In my experience, clients sometimes change their minds mid project and need to add to it. Be clear that your quote will have to change accordingly as the goal posts have moved. You have to be comfortable with what you eventually set your price to be.
  5. Your design work need to connect with the client's target market.
  6. Your design has to make a difference to your client's bottom line.

I wish you the best in your efforts in freelancing. Our greatest motivation in creating a successful freelance business is the freedom, flexibility and lifestyle choices we can make once our efforts are paid off.

I sincerely hope that achieve your goal sooner rather than later!

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    • profile image

      Benjamin Nguyen 

      2 years ago

      Hi May,

      This is an excellent resource on pricing of graphic design work. I think it'll serve an excellent rulebrick. Being in the service business as well, I know it can be hard to understand how much your work is worth to your clients; the biggest mistake is underpricing your services. Not valuing your time or work enough.

      At the same time, you have to consider the market competition so this is where you have to differientiate yourself and identify the type of clients you want. Those who are willing to pay more are typically also those with lesser hassle to work with.

      One thing you can consider however is to offer a budget base service for lead generation using simple tools like YouZign 2.0:

      To basically create a segment branch of your Freelance graphic design work. (1) business cards (2) banner ads (3) Facebook promotional graphics.

      Then advertise this as a lower price service to up-sell your clients on your hourly rate. This is currently what some graphic designers are doing.

    • redfive profile image

      Levy Tate 

      4 years ago from California, USA

      I really needed these tips. Thanks for sharing! Voted up ;-)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      A lot of freelancing company provides different kinds of job through online. Most of the people don’t know what the main key .Your article is really fantastic. It will be quite helpful for every creative person. Thanks for sharing this post.

    • Vector design profile image


      5 years ago from California

      I agree with you. these points are so good and helpful to rate your art work perfectly.

    • Rev Earl Jackson profile image

      Rev. Earl Jackson 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      This was really a great hub. I think you covered all the basis, except that there is also the option for designers to bill clients Per-Diem. If you charge Per-Diem, then the hours you put in do not matter. Your minimum charge is one day and the maximum is however many days it takes you to complete the assignment. This has some definite advantage to a per hour rate, because a job that can be finished in a couple of hours is still billed as one day. This way of paying is standard in some other industries, where sub-contract work is performed. But Great post. Voted up. Earl

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      Hello, I am new to Australia and have been here for half a year.. I work for a company as a contractor... they pay me $35 for now. I have had almost 2 years of experience prior to this job...


      1) is that a reasonable rate?

      2) can i raise my rate after a certain number of time working for this company?

      3) sometimes i have to do work at home and i don't get paid for those hours? i should charged those hours as well? (i am just afraid to discuss about issues like this, like asking for more money.... is that wrong?)

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 

      7 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      Cool. Yes, being billable in 15 min blocks when you are highly priced to begin with helps a lot. Three quarters of my work is 15 min blocks....usually web maintenance and so on. Therefore, by including the 15 min blocks, you are increasing your clients quite a lot.

    • May PL profile imageAUTHOR

      May PL 

      7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Hi Sue, yes I agree that you have to take a lot of things into consideration when deciding what your going rate should be. Thanks for your tip of billing in blocks of 15 minutes. I have never done that but sure think it is a fantastic idea in order to retain clients! Great tip.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 

      7 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      I charge $50 per hour, billable by 15 min blocks. Most clients seem really happy with that and don't want to go elsewhere. I priced it like that so I undercut most of the competition and also as I'm in the northern suburbs of Melbourne where work can be a bit scarce. While it won't make me a fortune, it is adequate enough to ensure survival.


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