How much would you charge?

Hi all,

How much would you charge if you had to design a product similar to this one here (the yellow tractor on the left side of the pic)

Client requests:

  • 3D files (for tooling)
  • 1 render of final product

Company is a moldmaking and injection company, with around 30 employes, that also manufactures and sell some products…
I am an Industrial designer, with about 5 years experience, and just starting my own design agency.

So,… what would you charge this guy?


$60-$80 an hour.

estimate the hours you’ll spend based on previous projects and experience.

present the total to the client in 3 stages, never tell him the total price, that scares them.

1st stage; 1/3 of the total upfront

2nd stage; presentation of concept (the next 1/3)

3rd stage; final deliverables (and then the remaining balance)

sometimes there are 2 stages, sometimes 17.

explain each stage in detail, showing the value you’re bringing to the project in each stage, so they’re comfortable spending “X” dollars on stage A, then “X” on stage B, you get the idea…

thanks for the details…
I have a bit of experience in all that, but what I want to know is how much would YOU charge if it was a package price.

Sometimes I work with people and they pay based on an hourly fee, and according to how many hours I work…and not a pre- agreed on price…

But here I would have to give a price for the hole thing…and I just want to see how much you all would think this costs…


$800 - $1000

Will it be your responsibility to implement draft angles, material thickness, hinged mechanisms, etc? Is there going to be innovation/design involved? I’m judging based off of a literal copy of the exact toy, more or less. Modeling wise, with a high quality render, 10 hours is about right for me/my skill level/time it takes me in 3d cad/and all that.

You need to ask yourself “how many jobs like this will I get in a year?” 5, 10? At 800 bucks it wouldn’t be worth it. You will probably be attached to this project for a month or more. Maybe not working on it directly, but addressing issues right up until they start shooting samples and after. Take this into consideration and don’t sell yourself short.

How much I would charge will be different from what you or anyone else can charge.

But it is a simple formula. How long you think it will take you to do it multiplied by your hourly rate.

You’re asking people to disclose their billing structure. And while it isn’t a big secret (based on the above formula), it is not something most will disclose openly.

ip makes a good point.

$60-$80/hr is what I would charge for ‘that’ project. in my mind I created a client who owns his own small business, doesn’t have too much $$$, and is asking for something quick… and most importantly easy. if he just wants a 3d model with rendering, that’s the price I’d give him. otherwise, there is no way to justify any other price higher (in my mind, or his) for 10 hours worth of work.

if its for a corporation, that’s a different price. if it’s for a client with a larger company, that’s a different price. if it’s a client with financial backing, different. depends on how many will be made, how many will be sold, when and if they actually plan on moving forward, etc. that’s my strategy for your particular situation. tweak it, steal it, throw it away, really depends on you.

I understand what IP says, but as he underlines, it’s not a big secret, nor this is a project that I really have to work on…but I am asking around to evaluate what would the maximum and the minimum be…

The question applies to a final design, this is of course drafts angles, material thickness, everything ready for tooling…the rendering doesn’t have to be super mega realistic…It’s just not what this type of project would be all about…

And I also mentioned a few things about the company, to adjust the price accordingly…

I am thinking 2000$ would be around a reasonable figure, but, I am not sure…Have to take into consideration all the visits to the client, details being corrected or adjusted before, during, and after tooling etc etc…so as someone here said, it would be a month long project…so is really 2000 enough?


C’mon gera-mtl…this question has been answered. This is not something you can get someone to answer for you because there is no right answer.

A guy working from his basement can probably get away with between $45 and $65/hour.

A full fledged company with a strong pedigree, or an independent with a rock solid reputation can get anything (and I mean anything) above $65/hr.

An IDEO can charge them $170/hr (guessing).

That’s the ‘fun’ part of SELF-employment… being able to make all of these fun decisions for yourself. There is NO correct answer when it comes to billing, only answers that either frustrate you or the client. That balance depends on you.

Exactly, that’s part of your challenge.Figuring out your pricing structure, realizing you underbid for some things, over bid for others and fine-tuning your craft. 2 different people with identical skills could get away with completely different quotes. While one guy who isn’t the best speaker / salesman would only get $40/hr, another who is just a better salesman could get $90 while delivering identical work. A lot about your pricing ability has to do with your ability to sell yourself which nobody else can give you a realistic estimate on. Someone said the best price is something like $1 under what they’re willing to spend on you. In these early years being on your own, you have to experiment a little.
But you should ask yourself what type of risk are you willing to take. Do you absolutely need this project to keep from being evicted? If so, play it safe. Do you have clients at your door and you’re turning them away? Up your price to make it worth your while. Do you want a potential long term relationship with the client or frequent work for them? Play it a little conservative but deliver great work, they’ll keep coming back. If it’s just some random inquiry and you’ll probably never see them again and it’s an unnecessarily last minute rush job and they absolutely need your work? Bill em like a lawyer!

I make it a practice to take on projects that have at the very least a US$10K+ budget. I figure you’re going to be spending around a month or more on it if you’re doing sketching, CAD, renderings, making edits, etc. Also you’re creating and improving it for them and they will end up selling and profitting from your ideas for years to come. If you don’t get that fee at the very least as a freelancer you may as well be working in any old day job where there are health benefits, vacation time, sick leave, bonuses, etc. I say charge as if you’re making US$100K and up a year so if it is a one month thing, charge US$10K at the minimum. Belive me, when it is all said and done your hours spent will likely be pretty high or higher than anticipated. Going to meetings, fielding emails and phone calls, all the other hand holding and unforseen events will usually be more than your expected hourly rate wuld cover. We don’t jsut do 1 design but usually several design options for them to select so it ends up being 3 or more designs of which they pick one as final. I had clients who paid for 1 design but used all the other non-selected concepts later. They ended up producing and profitting from several concepts for a song.

We lay awake at night thinking and solving their problems yet if we look at fees most of us charge, it is low. We end up doing it for less than if we worked at some mindless, non-creative desk job. If you add it up, some freelancers make less than a robotic clerk or secretary getting FT employee benefits. They don’t have the deadline pressure and responsibility of creating products that can make a lot of money for the company either. The marketing guys used to get bonuses for products that sold well. I felt the reason it sold well was largely due to it’s design but the salesman is teh one who closed those deals and get’s the profit sharing, commissions, and bonuses.

If more of us up our prices and make it the norm we all benefit as designers. Why is it accepted that some professions are highly paid by defualt yet design is all over the map?

We have to set the expectations so that people understand the value we provide. If they make 1,000,000 units of something and you only charged $5,000, how much per unit did it cost them for the design? Do the math and you will see the more they produce and sell, the cheaper your design fee is and after a period of time it cost them close to nothing to exploit your creativity. It’s literally pocket change.

I wish we designers didn’t sell hours. It’s really not the right way to make money.

If I came up with a brilliant idea in 1 hour that means even at a decent $100 per hour, it would cost the client a measly $100 for that spark of ingenuity and they go off and make zillions while you may get a pat on the back. What a rip off.

Something like the Post-It comes to mind…

Post-It’s were an accident some company cant remeber who, 3M maybe, was trying to come up woth a better paper glue. one of the “wrong” formula’s resulted in the Post-It

The only way I’ll work on an hourly basis is with a minimum that’s essentially what I’d bid the job at as a flat fee for exactly the reason you state.

A lot of people seem to be willing to pay more per hour for a car mechanic than for someone who can make them a bunch of money. I’ve pointed that out to a few who choked when I told them my hourly rate when they pressed me for it.

Plumbers make more than designers yet plumbers don’t have to create anything that can make millions for clients.

The scenario you describe, the only person that is to “blame” for this is the designer.

  1. If you quoted an hourly rate for a 1 hour program that could is likely a multi-million dollar product you have no one to blame but yourself. You know at the beginning of a project the magnitude of the product.

  2. There’s a rub, you quote a fixed bid. You’re held to that. You are at the whim of the client. You, generally, have to have a significant amount of padding in the price to account for changes, missed details in the quoting.

  3. Get over it. Whether you’re a contractor or a full time employee, you’re nothing more than hired help. You’re paid for “sparks of ingenuity”. Otherwise, put up the ten, or hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a product off the ground and make the money yourself.

Re: 2. An allowance for changes should be built into that quote, but I always have a clause stating that if there are substantial changes or the scope of the project increases significantly (Yeah, I know. Subject to interpretation, but at least it opens the door for negotiation.) an increased fee will be quoted.

Re: 3. Ford’s Mulally is hired help, too, but he got $22 million in 2007 while the company lost $2.7 billion. I guess that’s for “sparks of ingenuity” in management that may or may not pay off in the future, but if they don’t he doesn’t have to give the money back. And I doubt that he would be receptive to the idea of putting up the money to get a new product line into production if he wants to make that kind of salary and bonus.


I am not sure what you’re point is other than maybe to reinforce what I was saying. People bitch about not getting paid (enough) for their work. The only person to blame for that is the person quoting.

Like you noted, you build in out-of-scope clauses into your bid. That’s smart.

Letting someone pay you $100 for a piece of IP that is worth millions of dollars…uh…not so smart.

At the end of the day you have to build trust. In the beginning that has to be earned through lower rates and longer hours (more likely than not).

My point about Mulally is simply that not all hired help is judged by the same standards. If Fortune 100 CEOs make such boneheaded moves that they get canned, they still make out just fine with their severance package. Jim Cramer of “Mad Money” wore a great t-shirt on his show one night with a picture of Bob Nardelli (formerly CEO at Home Depot, now at Chrysler) on it with the caption, “I wrecked Home Depot and all I got was this lousy t-shirt………and $210 million."

I couldn’t agree more about selling cheap not being so smart, but it’s what a lot of designers trying to get started do. You even say, “In the beginning that has to be earned through lower rates and longer hours (more likely than not).” How are you going to compete with that?

If I really want to get my foot in the door at a company and they balk at my prices, I may give them the proverbial “special introductory offer” but I make it clear that it’s just that and that when I’ve proven the value of my firm any future work will be at my regular rates. If that isn’t established at the outset, it’s easy to get stuck working cheap forever.