How much should I get paid?

I’m a free lance graphic designer interested in going to school for ID. Recently I pick up a job doing some product design for a medium size nation wide company that also sells internationally. I’ve been working at an hourly rate and they want to take some of my designs to production. Now the question is how much should they pay me? They want me to sign a NDA I have no problem with that and they want to pay me a one time payment for each design. The amount they offered seems really low to me. Only a couple hundred dollars for a product that will be sold around the world. This is not a huge company but one that has corned a market. Any idea on how much I should get? I do not have a degree in ID so I expect I’ll get less than a ID pro with experience but I also don’t want to get ripped off.

So you’re working for an hourly wage and in addition you would receive a few hundred for each design that they produced?

I’m confused, usually hourly or salaried designers don’t have their work “purchased” again by their employer- that is why you are being paid. Is this like a royalty plan, but one time up front instead of percentage over time? Maybe I don’t understand your situation.

Last, what kind of industry is this, furniture,fashion, etc?

It is in the bicycle industry. Basically I was hired by the company to rework the visual design of a product they already have. I was being paid to come up with some drawings to revamp the product. For this I was paid and hourly wage. During the design process I came up with a new product based on their product line. They are going to take some of these designs and make a product based on them. We had no contract for this work. I want to cover myself of any liability and they want to pay me for the copyrights to these designs. I’m trying to figure out what that should be. They have offered me a few hundred dollars I think that seems low, maybe it is not. I just don’t know. I guess if they would have had me sign a contract at the beginning of the process saying that they own the copyright to anything I design then they would not be making me an offer. The clients are not being jerks and they don’t seem to be trying to take advantage of me but I just want what is fair.

Yeah, I’m confused too. Clear as mud.

Ok, as far as I’m aware, they own the rights to this, not you, as you came up with a new product while working on a project for that company - a new product which you most likely wouldn’t have conceived sitting at home watching tv.

An example of this in practice is the Bratz (toy dolls) case, in that the guy who conceived Bratz did so while working at Mattel, but didn’t push the product further until he’d left them… and he stands to lose everything because of it.

Also, if you’re working on an hourly wage I can’t see how the company owe you anything at all! That’s like saying “You’ve paid me for the work I’ve done, now pay me for the work I’ve done”. Maybe clarify this to us?

I guess I agree with you. But they came to me with this offer and I just wanted to make sure that I was not being taken advantage of. They had mentioned royalties but opted for a single payout. Here is another question, if a designer came to a company with a design for a new product then a payment for the design would be more appropriate, right? Thanks for responding so quickly,

Sorry to say I don’t think they owe you anything at all since you were paid to do the work.

In the future, consider:

A typical freelancer would probably get $2k-$20k for such a project based on hours and materials. A firm would be in the $20k-$60k range. In both cases, the client owns all work produced, and the designer hopes for steady work from them in the future.

A less common arrangement is for royalties, where the design work is done for free or for a small fee in exchange for royalties, or to license the rights to a design. This is more often done by inventors than designers.

Yeah this is what I thought. In all my graphic design work the client owns the design, logo, etc… I don’t really see why it would be different in this case. I guess they made me an offer out of kindness? Thanks for the help this website is great.

As others have said, they technically own the design. I’d take the ‘bonus’ they are offering you and consider it a great portfolio piece for your future in product design. Which is invaluable, even more if it is a success. (in which case I’m sure they’ll be calling you back)

Thats what I was thinking and they want to hire me again as it is. So all in all a good experience.

Sounds like a fat deal for them any way you dice this.
A new idea could be a game changer for a company and a few hundred bucks is truly diddly to a manufacturer. They spend more taking a client out to lunch and drinks.

In the future I would consider keeping good ideas to yourself and get a cheaper provisional patent to get pending. Treat these as ideas you developed on your own and then you can license it to them or others for a percentage of net sales. You’ll have steadier income for the long run if you license you own inventions rather than giving it away for an hourly wage plus a couple hundred measly bucks. Good ideas that are produced are literally worth hundreds of thousands if not millions.

Well I hope you are at least above US$75 per hour in your rates if not at $100 plus. You’e a professional and you need to eat, pay insurance, etc. so never discount what you’re really worth.

I have yet to agree to anything and I am going to ask for more. I also want wording that releases me from any liability and that allows me to use images of the product in my portfolio. This is my first freelance ID job so I’m learning as I go I guess. One of the things that drives me nuts about freelance is all the games I have to play with clients.

That was the point of my post - you can’t patent them - they belong to the company you were doing the work for. I talked to an Intellectual Property Attorney about this at one stage and she said that if you design something, no matter what it is or when you do it (ie on YOUR weekends/free time etc), the design is property of the company you are working for (presuming of course it is a design firm, and not Wal-Mart). I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true - in the UK at least. Check it out.

To try and ‘get away with it’, you’d most likely have to wait for years to pursue a design in order to avoid the ‘coincidence’ factor.

Basically for me it comes down to the fact that they were paying me to design a product and thats what I did. If I came to them with a design then I would expect a contract and royalties of some kind. The attorney I spoke with said that they are getting a great deal but that I was compensated.

Let your close family member claim the invention and license it and keep it discreet. Everyone will get to go on vacations from the earnings. It’s business.

Well, unless he signed some work for hire agreement stating that everything he designs in his spare time is their property I would keep future ideas to myself. I would not be so honest about it because it’s not everyday you invent something and to give it all away for a measly hourly fee is selling yourself short of potential earnings.

Also, the company has to prove things and be able to afford the time and spend the money on lawyers to sue you…which is less likely. Even with a settlement you can get more than a couple hundred for it.

I would ask for net sales or per unit sold amount rather than a one time.

The guy who designed the sugar dispenser you see in restaurants just got paid a 1 time fee while the client made zillions for decades and retired on a design he hired some freelancer to do on the cheap. Selling time and per hour is really not a good model for product designers. I mean record sales dictate a musical artists’ pay, why not designers? =) We need to change the compensation model.

Hey thought I would post the final outcome here. So I asked for more compensation, indemnity, and that I could still use the images in a portfolio. I got all three! It all worked out great and they have more work for me. Thanks for all the advice.

Selling time and per hour is really not a good model for product designers. I mean record sales dictate a musical artists’ pay, why not designers? =) We need to change the compensation model.[/quote]


so i’ve only just finished my 2nd of 3 years of a product design degree but have been offered the opportunity to come up with concepts for a product for an overseas company (i’m in new zealand). how much should i charge seeing as i have no commercial experience behind me. any advice about terms i should have or what my rate should be?