Freelance graphic design rates 2021: How much should you charge?


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Rates are a subjective thing, especially for a freelance graphic designer.

And there’s no “right way” or “right amount” to charge. 

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 even for experienced designers starting out on their freelance journey.

Which is why one of the most frequently asked questions I receive is: How much should freelance graphic designers charge?

The short answer is, freelance graphic designers may charge between $30-$200 per hour depending on their level of experience and area of expertise. Many designers will even opt for project based flat-rates that are based on their target hourly rate.

But where should you and your business fall on that scale?

Below I will shed some light on this rarely discussed topic. 

I’ll even talk a bit about my own 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 freelance full time. 

Today, I earn 6-figures a year and work with nationally recognized clientele such as the Centers for Disease Control Foundation.

I also operate a Patreon account where I coach other freelancers on how to super-charge their freelance business.

Read Also: Can you make good money on Upwork? How I made $500,000 in 4 years

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) 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 skills improved I was able to steadily charge more. The rates 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. 

But I knew that if I wanted to find real success as a freelancer, I’d need start treating freelance like a business.

And so, I started plugging away at the numbers. 

The two equations I used to determine my 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). 

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 lifestyle.

Next, I took a deeper dive to determine a goal rate by defining the following variables:

  1. My desired net income
  2. My business expenses
  3. A rough tax estimate
  4. Vacation time and numbers 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

For reference, 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. 

For simple math, we will also use a 28% average tax-rate. 

After we plugin 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. 

Spoiler alert, I blew that goal rate out of the water in no time. Today I only accept new clients at $120 per hour.

Read Also: Freelance rate negotiation email sample: How to ask for a higher rate

Quick note – while not every freelancer prefers to charge hourly rates (many prefer fixed rate projects) it’s still a good idea to have a desired hourly rate or hourly goal in mind while setting those fixed prices.

The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines is like a bible for graphic design freelancers. If you don’t have this sucker on your bookshelf, remedy that situation immediately. It features detailed rate sheets, marketing tips and even client communication templates for things like late payments

An example freelance graphic design rate chart

Below, you will find two charts. Each chart features a few common sample project types and rate ranges, broken down into experience level (beginner, expert) from the following three sources:

  1. Designers Union Minimum Design Price List
  2. Graphic Artists Guild Handbook (16th edition)
  3. 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-rate unless otherwise noted.
  • For the Artists Guild column I mostly referred to their regional/local client/mass market suggestions.
  • 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.

Sample Freelance Graphic Design Rates for Beginners

Project TypeDesigners UnionArtists GuildMorgan
Logo Design $150-$350*$50-$200
Photography (per hour)$40*$50
Simple Website$500-$1,000*$300-$1,000
E-Commerce Website$1,000-$5,000***
Magazine/E-book (~32 pages)**$500-$1000
Flyer/Poster/Full Page Ad**$25-$75
Packaging****
Business Cards/Letterhead**$20-$50
Static Social Media/Web Banner **$20-50
Avg Hourly (hourly)**$30-$35
*Comparable price not listed **Project not recommend for beginner-level designer

Sample Freelance Graphic Design Rates for Experts

Project TypeDesigners UnionArtists GuildMorgan
Logo Design $450-$2500$1,500-$7,500$400-$1,500
Photography (per hour)$100*$120
Simple Website$1,500-$5,000$2,000-$10,000$1,500-$4,000
E-Commerce Website$2,000-$7,000$3,000-$40,000$4,000-$10,000
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
Packaging$200-$400*$400-$1000
Business Cards/Letterhead$75-$200*$100-$200
Static Social Media/Web Banner$30-$100$75-$1200$100-$200
Avg Hourly (hourly)*$65-$125$75-$120
*Comparable price not listed

How I quote project estimates

No two projects are ever exactly alike so it’s rare that I offer my 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 averages.

  • 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!

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