How do I set my rate as a freelance graphic designer?
I don’t like vagueries. I like to give hard answers. This can be difficult to do with rate because there are so many variables. Still, I find the reason most people don’t want to give hard numbers is that they don’t want to be wrong.
I have no problem being wrong.
Is the graph below, showing rate frequency for graphic designers, 100% perfect? Almost certainly not. But it gives us a very strong approximation. And perfect doesn’t matter because we’re only looking for a starting place. The whole reason we want to see averages is that we don’t want to be way out of line with other industry professionals (at least until we’re in demand enough to start charging whatever we want). And a strong approximation serves that purpose splendidly.
A couple of things to consider:
- I’m only taking full-time freelancers based in the US into consideration. This significantly raises averages because it reduces the number of amateur and ‘Upwork-level’ freelancers in the mix.
- This is based on project frequency averages, not freelancer medians. This means that freelancers that work more will be more heavily weighted.
- While I consulted data on the subject, I also relied on my own experience.
- I’ve worked with many graphic designers over the years, evaluated thousands of candidates, and hired a good few so I have a strong familiarity with the industry.
Digital Designers most commonly earn ~$300-700 per day.
Print Designers most commonly earn ~$300-600 per day.
For starters, let’s take a look at the red line. As I’ve said before, as freelancers with a job-skill, we never want to accept less than $30/hr, even if we’re just starting out. Are other freelancers going to? Of course they are. Let them take all of the worst clients, we don’t want to get caught in a race to the bottom.
Next, let’s take a look at the difference between print designer (eg. layout, print graphics, print ads) and digital designer (eg. UX, wireframes, branding). The rate path is similar, but digital designers are more highly in demand and slightly less common so they have more leverage to command a higher rate.
Finally, let’s look at the rate frequencies and what they mean. Designer rates have 2 peaks in frequency. There is a group of designers that earn ~$300/day and there is a group of designers that earn ~$500-600/day. This is important to note because there is a very clear divide in the types of projects these groups work on, though not necessarily the designers’ talent. Cheaper designers tend to work on things like real estate flyers, grocery store circulars, and small business branding; more expensive designers tend to work on things like major advertising, digital wireframes, and product packaging. The more expensive group of designers not only earns a better living, they get to work on projects that will garner more industry credibility. So even if you enjoy designing circulars, you may consider mixing it up in service of building your career.
- Most freelancers, especially new ones, are too cheap.
- Price is only one potential competitive advantage you can have over your competition and it’s (pretty much) the only one that can affect your livelihood. This means that it’s probably the very last way you should try to provide more value than other freelancers in your lane.
- If a client can’t afford you, it doesn’t automatically mean your services are worth less than you’re charging. It’s more likely that this is just not the right kind of client for you.
If you’d like more information about rate you can check out my comprehensive freelance course, where I talk more about how different clients think about rate, mistakes to avoid, and how to defend your rate if a potential client raises an objection.