Rates are a subjective thing, especially for a freelance designer.
And there’s no “right way” or “right amount” to charge in the graphic design world.
At the end of the day, every freelance graphic designer should figure out what works best for themselves and their business.
But with that said, it can still be a tricky topic for both designers with many years of experience and new designers alike.
Which is why one of the most frequently asked questions I receive from new freelancers is: How much should freelance graphic designers charge?
How much should freelance graphic designers charge?
The short answer is, freelance graphic designers could charge between $15-$300 per hour depending on their level of experience and area of expertise. Many designers will even opt for a project-based flat fee that is based on their target hourly rate.
But where should you and your business fall on that scale?
If you’re having a hard time figuring it all out, you’ve come to the right place.
Below I will shed some light on this rarely discussed topic. I’ll even talk a bit about my own freelance rates, how I determine what to charge and how those rates have evolved over time.
But before we begin…
What you should know about me
I’ve been freelancing since I was 18 years old.
But for the first decade of my adult life, I never saw freelance as anything more than a side-hustle. It was just something I did to earn a little extra spending money on the weekends.
But in 2017, I walked away from my salaried corporate job to pursue a career as a full-time graphic designer and freelancer.
Today, I earn 6-figures a year and work with nationally recognized clientele such as the Centers for Disease Control Foundation.
How I determine my own rates
My rates have evolved over the years.
When I was 18 years old and barely knew what I was doing – think cringe-worthy raster-based logos with Photoshop filters – it wasn’t at all unusual for me to charge $25 for a flyer or $15 for a business card.
I was cheap.
But truthfully, I should have been cheap, because I was also inexperienced.
As the years went on and my skill level – and skill set – improved I was able to steadily charge more.
But my rates, back then, were largely based on my client’s budget and what they told me I should be charging.
By the time I quit my salaried job in 2017 at the age of 31, I was earning an average of $55-$75 per hour on part-time freelance contracts.
But I still didn’t know whether or not those rates were “too low”, “too high” or “just right.” I only knew that they were achievable.
However, I knew that if I wanted to find real success as a freelancer, I’d need to start treating freelance like a business. And quote design jobs like a pro.
This meant, like any responsible business owner, I needed to pay close attention to my numbers.
The two equations I used to determine my freelance rates
I’ve used two equations to determine my rate since becoming a full-time freelancer.
The first is a sustainability/baseline equation.
After leaving the corporate world behind, I knew that my freelance work had to bring in at least as much income as I was making at my old job to be sustainable ($75,000 per year).
I also knew this number was well within industry standards. So it seemed like a fair starting point.
How I determine a baseline rate
With that in mind, I used the following formula to determine a baseline.
(My Salary) / Annual Desired Hours = Hourly Rate
And while that equation fails to take into account other crucial factors like days off or expenses, the rough math looked something like this:
$75,000 / 2080 = $36
This tells me that I could safely charge $36-$75 an hour for my work since there was precedence from my former full-time employer and existing freelance clients at these rates and that these rates would sustain my current cost of living.
How I determine a goal rate
Next, I took a deeper dive to determine a goal rate by defining the following variables:
- My desired net income
- My business expenses
- A rough tax estimate
- Vacation time and number of hours I want to work
I then used the following equation to establish that goal rate.
(Desired Net Income + Annual Expenses + Annual Taxes) / Annual Hours = Hourly Rate
To determine your annual hours think about the amount of time – or the amount of hours – you want to work.
For example, I usually like to take an average of four weeks off per year including holidays and clock at least six billable hours each day. That gives me 233 days or 1,398 hours to reach my goal.
Annual business expenses include things like software, office supplies and health insurance.
And for simple math, we will also use a 28% average tax rate.
Editor’s Note: As a general rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to assume you’re going to paying anywhere between 25-30% on earnings as a freelancer.
After we plug in those numbers, the math looks something like this:
($100,000 + $20,000 + $28,000) / 1398 = $106 per hour
And so, I made $106 the rate I’d strive to reach.
And keep in mind, while not every freelancer prefers to charge hourly rates (many prefer flat rate projects) it’s still a good idea to have a desired hourly rate or hourly goal in mind while setting those fixed rate prices.
An example freelance graphic design rate chart
Below, you will find two charts. Each chart features a few different types of common design projects – everything from website design to logos – and rate ranges, broken down into experience level (beginner, expert) from the following three sources:
- Designers Union Minimum Design Price List
- Graphic Artists Guild Handbook (16th edition)
- My Own Rates/Recommendations
Again, a few disclaimers about the tables below:
- The following pricing does not represent the absolute minimum or maximum price that a freelancer may charge. It’s only meant to serve as a guide when determining your own rates.
- Project estimates are quoted as fixed price unless otherwise noted.
- For the Artists Guild column I mostly referred to their regional/local client/mass market suggestions.
- For the Designer’s Union column I am using the listed hourly photography rates for overall average hourlys.
- My suggestions represent the averages prices I charged when I was a beginner, and the averages prices I charge now as an expert. For clarification, I consider “beginners” as freelancers who are still learning their craft. Intermediate designers may want to consider both charts and price themselves somewhere in the middle.
- Since none of these comps were “apples to apples” in their original form, I had to do a bit of math and creative averaging for the sake of simplicity. For detailed information, I highly suggest downloading the actual Designer Union’s guide or purchasing the Artists Guild Handbook and getting your information directly from the source.
- Data was sampled in 2021.
Sample Freelance Graphic Design Rates for Beginners
|Project Type||Designers Union||Artists Guild||Morgan|
|Photography (per hour)||$40||*||*|
|Basic Website Design||$500-$1,000||*||$300-$1,000|
|Magazine/E-book (~32 pages)||*||*||$500-$1000|
|Flyer/Poster/Full Page Ad||*||*||$25-$75|
|Static Social Media/Web Banner||*||*||$20-50|
|Avg Hourly (hourly)||$40||*||$30-$35|
Sample Freelance Graphic Design Rates for Experts
|Project Type||Designers Union||Artists Guild||Morgan|
|Photography (per hour)||$100||*||*|
|Basic Website Design||$1,500-$5,000||$2,000-$10,000||$4,000-$6,000|
|Magazine/E-book (~32 pages)||$1,280-$3,200||*||$1,500-$4,000|
|Flyer/Poster/Full Page Ad||$150-$350||$300-$1,000||$150-$500|
|Static Social Media/Web Banner||$30-$100||$75-$1200||$100-$200|
|Avg Hourly (hourly)||$100||$65-$125||$95-$150|
How I quote project estimates
No two projects are ever exactly alike so it’s rare that I offer my potential clients a simple flat-rate quote.
Instead, I gather project requirements, look at similar past projects and do my best to gauge the client’s expectations and personality.
I find that a client’s personality is one of the biggest factors in how long or complicated a given project might become. And I’m not afraid to adjust accordingly.
Organized clients who seem open to ideas or know what they want are usually much easier to work with than clients who seem nervous, indecisive or lack experience working with a team (or with a freelancer).
I also like to throw out a range (like you see above) instead of a single rate. I make it clear to the client ahead of time that the numbers I am providing are just an estimate, and that actual costs may vary depending on the number of edits and/or scope creep.
All of my quotes are based on my target hourly rate, even if the actual hourly rate is never discussed.
And, my target hourly rates are in line with the hourly median for experienced designers as listed in the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook (16th edition). So I know that my prices are in-line with current industry average rates.
- Creative Director: $125
- Art Director: $125
- Senior Designer: $100
- Designer: $80
- Print Production Manager: $75
- Print Production Artist: $65
How do you determine your rates? Did you find this guide helpful? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to connect with me on social media using the links below!