Design work is vital for growing businesses, making graphic designers a hot commodity. A graphic designer’s hourly rate depends on several factors.
In the modern marketplace, a business’s growth relies heavily on a beautifully designed website, an attractive logo, and other brand-reinforcing visuals. This makes graphic designers indispensable. They create the striking visuals we encounter daily, and they deserve fair compensation.
But when it comes to setting appropriate rates, many new graphic design Independents need help. A successful career in freelance design requires hard work and dedication, but that matters little if you aren’t getting paid what you’re worth. We’ll discuss the major factors for determining a fair graphic designer’s hourly rate.
Why hourly rates? ⏲️
An hourly rate is the simplest starting point when pricing your design services. Many jobs break work down into hourly pay, making it an easy way to conceptualize payment. There are pros and cons to using hourly rates versus project-based rates — consider your particular work preferences as you set yours.
Some benefits of an hourly freelance graphic design rate include the following:
- Ease of comparison. Hourly rates are common when charging for services, so it’s easier to surf various graphic designers’ sites and put your pay in context. Contra’s Discover feed is a perfect place to do some comparison shopping.
- Paid for unforeseen issues. Sometimes, a project unexpectedly grows beyond what was discussed at the outset. In project management, this is called “scope creep.” Charging by the hour ensures a designer is paid for any extra work.
- Widely accepted. Hourly rates are a common way of charging for services and paying employees. An independent designer will likely be asked about their hourly rate at the outset of a project. As their level of experience increases, the answer to this question may change.
- Good for beginners. It’s wise for a graphic designer to charge hourly while they get a feel for how much time and effort different types of projects require. This information will help them set and increase hourly rates down the line.
Important considerations when establishing rates 🤔
Talking about money with a prospective client might sometimes seem uncomfortable, but it’s important to be explicit about it from the jump. No matter what sort of work you do, maintain clear structures and expectations around payment.
Here are some factors to consider when establishing rates:
- Experience. Qualifications and years of experience are tremendous assets to a graphic designer and should be factored into their rate. Still, even newbies deserve fair pay. Entry-level designers may feel self-conscious during negotiations and price their services lower than the average, putting them at risk of under-compensation.
- Work and life expenses. A freelancer must consider all potential costs, not just those relating directly to their work. Independents don’t generally have medical benefits or retirement plans, so these cost-of-living factors should be factored into their rate.
- Scope and time frame. Some projects run the risk of growing and expanding outside of the initial parameters. An hourly rate ensures the designer is paid for unexpectedly long hours. If a project is on a time crunch, they may consider charging a premium.
- Project expenses. Some design projects may necessitate specialized equipment or software. Freelance job platforms may also charge a commission on earnings, which should be factored into the rate. Larger projects may require outside assistance, increasing the cost of production.
Looking for a platform that won’t take a cut of your earnings? Contra offers a 100% commission-free platform for Independents. Our easy-to-use payment system guarantees a minimum rate of $25 per hour for all our Independents. In addition, our helpful blog and robust community offer a wealth of knowledge, meaning Contra is an ideal platform for graphic design professionals of all experience levels.
Average hourly rate for graphic designers 💰
With all this taken into account, how much do graphic designers make an hour? As of May 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 204,040 graphic designers are practicing in the United States with a mean hourly wage of $28.83 — approximately $59,000 per year. Although these statistics are a good metric for understanding graphic design wages, a designer's individual expertise and circumstances play a much more influential role.
The same statistics note that the top 10% of graphic designers can earn a remarkable $98,000 annually, which breaks down to roughly $47 per hour. Making well above the average graphic designer’s hourly rate, this contingent likely comprises experienced designers with many years of experience and connections to big-name clients. The lower end of the scale sits around $15 per hour or just over $30,000 per year.
When should I increase my hourly rate? 📈
Another uncomfortable financial discussion can occur when an Independent decides their time and expertise are worth a little more. How do you talk to a client about increasing your graphic design prices, and when is a rate increase a good idea?
Factors to consider when thinking about a rate increase include:
- Greater expertise. A rate increase makes sense once a designer completes a course or certification that assists in their work. Ensure the new qualification is highlighted on your website or profile, so prospective clients know what they’re paying for.
- Experience. The longer an Independent pursues a design career, the better they become at navigating the intricacies of the industry and the more their work improves. Your compensation should rise as your skill level increases.
- Strong portfolio. As a designer completes projects, their portfolio will become a critical tool for setting hourly rates. If a designer can show potential clients a range of successful projects, they can more easily justify asking for a higher rate. Contra’s Portfolios is perfect for building a professional showcase of completed projects.
- Demand. If work requests come in quickly from many clients, it’s an excellent time to consider raising your rates. Being an in-demand designer is a promising sign; it means your work and experience speak for themselves and generate new leads and opportunities. Be sure to pace yourself and avoid burnout.
Guarantee a good rate with Contra ⭐
Contra’s services put freelancers first. Our Independent-driven platform promises clients and freelancers the best opportunities to achieve, grow, and prosper. Our blog — The Contrarian — is filled with valuable advice to build a graphic design career, with guides on everything from using cryptocurrencies to asking clients for recommendations. Clients looking for a designer will find a range of experts on the Discover feed.
Looking for hands-on guidance? Our Slack community is full of supportive industry colleagues with advice on graphic designers’ hourly rates, new design techniques, inspiring stories, and so much more.
How to Price your Freelance Services by The Contrarian