How much do I charge?

I’ve been offered some ID ideation contract work by a small design firm. It’s for two pages of thumbnails and two photoshop renderings for $240. It’s due in 3 days, which would be plenty of time, except I have my day job the next 3 days. I’ve done thumbnails and 3 renderings for them in the past, and I they’ve always paid on time so that isn’t the issue. Now I’ve been out of school for almost 2 years and all I’ve gotten so far were a few interviews and freelance work. I’m just wondering how much should I be charging at this point, since I’m no longer a student, but I’ve never actually worked in the industry yet. Thanks in advance for your feedback. Here is a link to my portfolio, to get an idea of my skill-set.

It of course depends what it is but off the bat I’d say $20 is way too low. I would at least double that.

A simple formula for figuring out what your ballpark rate can be is take how much you want to make per year (as a recent grad 2 years out lets say $40k). Add on any expenses (health insurance, studio rent, whatever… lets say another 10k for a total of 50k, trying to make the math easy here). Then divide that by 1000 hours (typical work year is about 2000 hours, but half of that time is spent unbillable, pitching work, accounting, and what not). So in that case your hourly would be $50. Multiply that by three days (24 hours of work) and the fee would be $1,200.

This is just one rough way to figure it out.

In costing design work you usually charge by costing the labour/materials (overheads) and then add mark up percentage. The mark up percentage is the IP (intellectual property) value you bring to the job. Its the same way a retailer sells clothes. The value of the overheads, product cost, then the mark up of your service as a retailer providing the interface between client and product. The mark up percentage in this case is the sales and stores ‘brand’ (top shop) IP.

As a graduate design consultant, you have no prior experience to charge for the creative ideas (IP)- yet. To get the ball rolling, you need to charge for the labour of the service. The rate at which you do this is based on your technical skills. For instance, it might take you longer to hand sketch than the person next to you. Therefore your skills of conceptualising is a cheaper rate than the person next to you. In the field of computer cad work (developing) you might be faster, and therefore charge more for the service value of speed.

In a consultancy design firm, an example might be your time is 'valued’at $40.00 per hour, you boss ‘costs’ you in at $80.00 per hour. The $80.00 per hour is the IP value (credentials) that the business you work for adds to the service, as-well as your ideas.

When your starting out, its not about what you want to earn per year, divide it out, add costs that you incur. Its what service value are you worth. I would conclude that with no IP history, your rate should reflect the service, until you provide justification for your mark up value (design ideas). Your service charge would be $40.00 per hour. $30.00 is too little (go make coffee), and $50.00 per hour is too excessive at this stage (my opinion- inflating your unjustified ideas).

Once you have credentials of IP in the form of a folio of work to prove your ‘design/ideas’ you can increase your rate gradually until you get to $80.00 per hour. If your gaining consistent work at high rates, you might want to consider revisiting your business plan. Invest your design time into your own products if you have not yet started. Essentially, you have the service skills and IP skills worthy of adding $80.00 per hour to a product of your own for the cost of ‘your time’ (weekends?) and the rewards are ongoing product investments.

Food for Thought…

Liam Petrie-Allbutt B.Des (ID)
Melbourne, Victoria

Are U sure Tumlr is the way to show a portfolio? I couldn’t see sh*t there. Just one page with your face at the lower roight.


There’s work if you scroll down, but I agree I would change the first image so it’s obvious to scroll down I started clicking around the page.