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I'm new to designing graphics for clients, I normally did things just for myself or for friends when they needed something done and I had a free minute. I've also worked at a retail store that does "desktop publishing" and offered a 24 hr turnaround guarantee.

Because of this, I've become accustomed to working really fast. I still plan ideas and do research, but I usually go with my gut feelings on design direction (usually the second or so idea I have is the strongest in my opinion) and the clients I've worked for always love the work I do for them.

But my problem is, because I work so fast and can almost pump out the designs they need, how do I should I charge?

Charging by the hour would be a huge loss for me. But I don't know what to charge for a flat rate since I don't know what the "average" time for a design should take (if there is such a thing).

When doing research, everyone always just says "It depends on the designer." But I feel I could be making a lot more money for my skills, I just don't want to lie about my time.

Edit:

I have to ask several questions to this:

  1. Is this your only job?
  2. How are you measuring your designs as really fast?
  3. Do you know the normal calculations for design areas?
  4. Do you time your designs to measure them?
  1. No, I still work at that retail store I mentioned and I'm also a full time student.
  2. When I talk to other designers in person, they mention their average times and mine are significantly less time (about 20-40% less time) to completion.
  3. I don't know what the normal rates are for my area. But when reading up on it I found that an average estimate (and when I calculated my hourly rate for myself based on a formula given to me) as $40/hr
  4. Yes I do, I always take notice of my work time. It's a habit from working at my retail job.
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Just charge for the " regular human hours" it would take since you're super human ;) –  deecemobile Sep 13 '13 at 15:27
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"Charging by the hour would be a huge loss for me" = then that means you're not charging enough per hour. –  DA01 Sep 13 '13 at 18:52
    
possible duplicate of Which is a better design pricing model? –  Scott Sep 13 '13 at 20:22
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@OghmaOsiris You didn't really read that question then. You should be using a hybrid model using your hourly rate as a base, then value-based pricing for the quote/bid. Pricing based entirely on strict hourly rates does a disservice to any creative professional. Also realize many designers will inflate the time necessary to effectively raise their rates. It may only take an hour ($40) but they want $80 so they claim it took 2 hours. A bit shady, but I've seen a lot do that. –  Scott Sep 13 '13 at 22:05
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Yes, you should have an hourly rate that would keep you in business, but if you are some insane super-designer that can design faster than everyone else, then you simply need to adjust. Base your estimates on 'normal designer' hours. If you get done faster, that's just a bonus for you. –  DA01 Sep 14 '13 at 0:17

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Charge a higher hourly rate to compensate. If you work 25% faster than what most designers do, then charge 25% more.

Working fast with quick turnaround at a premium quality is something you can use to justify the higher hourly rates.

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But if I do that, then other designers with lower rates would get my clients :/ If the design quality is the same between two different designers, then I would think the one with the lower rate would win. –  OghmaOsiris Sep 13 '13 at 15:01
    
Depends on what the client wants. If they want it done quickly, then you're still the more attractive option. –  Johannes Sep 13 '13 at 15:05
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Then give an estimate of the number of hours it will take you. It is safe to do that if you use the condition 'without any changes'. –  John Sep 13 '13 at 15:07
    
"But if I do that, then other designers with lower rates would get my clients" = only if you have clients that only care about price (and you don't want those clients anyways) –  DA01 Sep 14 '13 at 0:18

You've kept track of your past jobs, I hope? Use them to start building a database of how long it takes you to finish different kinds of projects (illustration: 2 hours, brochure: 16 hours, website: 10 hours, etc.).

Establish an average. Use that as a baseline for your "flat rate," and then create your estimates accordingly, adding or subtracting depending on the job.

Keep track of how close your average and estimate are to your final billed time. Adjust your formula as needed. You may undercharge at first until you get more data.

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I feel this is exceptionally related if not an answer in itself: Which is a better design pricing model?

Your speed means nothing to anyone but you. I also work very, very fast. In many cases if I were to stick to a strict hourly rate I'd be homeless with just enough money to cover a Motel 6 room on Friday to shower. But being fast is a huge benefit to you and allows you much more freedom when pricing.

What I would do in your situation is:

  • Figure your hourly rate. See DA01's excellent (although oddly unaccepted) answer HERE on how to do that.
  • Ignore what "other designers" are doing.
  • Calculate your average time for general projects. You should know things like the items below, not factoring in minor revisions or client changes:
    • A tri-fold brochure generally takes me 6 hours to design
    • A business card takes me 2 hours to design
    • An identity takes me 40 hours
    • A Web site takes me 120 hours to design (and code if you do that)
    • A Landing page takes me 3 hours to design (and code if you do that)
    • and so on....

If you don't know the time needed for projects, you need to figure it out or at least come up with a "best guess". If guessing, I'd guess higher and always add 1 or 2 hours to whatever you think you may need. Really only experience can help you figure out how much time it takes you to do something. If you don't know this... how on earth do you know you are "fast" when completing something? What are you basing your perception of "fast" on? I'm sorry but you may not be "fast" at all if you have no idea how long it takes you to complete projects.

So from here you can easily determine your base cost for a project.

For example, a landing page: [hourly rate] x [time to complete] = [base fee]. This is the minimum you would charge. So, let's say the formula works out to this: $40 x 3hrs = $120.00. That's your starting point when biding/quoting a landing page.

From here pricing becomes more art than science.

If you know the local market or your client will average a fee of $350 for a landing page, you know that you have a great deal of room between your base price and the market. You could safely charge $120 for the job. You're covered. But you are priced well below the current market rates. So you may find you start getting much more work than you can handle. At this point you raise your prices in order to turn away some customers. In general, you do something like [base rate for project] + 20% = bid/quote. Work will start to go elsewhere. You keep doing this until you are at a rate which acquires enough customers to keep your workload where you like it. What that actual price is doesn't matter as long as it is above your base of $120 for the landing page. You may find that your optimum pricing is a steady number which falls into a formula like base rate + 50%. If that's the case, you may want to consider increasing your hourly rate rather than always adding 50% to base project fees. In fact, if this is the case you should increase your hourly rate to ensure clients demanding hourly billing are still paying the same general rates as other clients.

Now, imagine you are at the current market rate of about $350 for the landing page, but you still have way more work than you can handle. This is where you completely disregard the market rate and set your prices higher. Yes, you may be more costly than most other designers in your market, but there's a reason. If you are getting too much work at average rates, your rates need to be above average.

There's an old adage stating, "If you get hired for every job you bid, your prices are too low."

Using this basic structure you actually reward yourself for being faster and more proficient. Clients are happy because they are paying what they expect, and you're thrilled because you're making more money while working less hours.

I don't ever tell a client "This will take me X hours. And I bill $XXX per hour." I tell a client, "This will cost $xxx and I'll have a initial proofs for you on [Date]." If I'm directly asked what my hourly rate is, I don't lie or cover it up, I tell them. But I also explain that I don't bill hourly because it's unpleasant when they receive an invoice for more than what was expected. And explain that the per-project pricing ensures they know what the project will costs without any sticker shock. Clients appreciate that. If they strictly want to pay by the hour, then I'll invoice that way and ensure I track every single minute I'm working on that project. But I have yet to come across a client who prefers strict hourly billing.

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I think this is a very hard question to answer and you may be lacking a lot of information. Flat rate and hourly are both based on your living situation which is no where discussed in this. To get an accurate account you must calculate worst possible output time with the best possible output time.

But my problem is, because I work so fast and can almost pump out the designs they need, how do I should I charge?

I have to ask several questions to this:

  1. Is this your only job? I say this because workflow can change for an individual that does it part-time/seldomly VS a full time designer.
  2. How are you measuring your designs as really fast?
  3. Do you know the normal calculations for design areas?
  4. Do you time your designs to measure them?

Charging by the hour would be a huge loss for me. But I don't know what to charge for a flat rate since I don't know what the "average" time for a design should take (if there is such a thing).

I disagree with this because you dont know how to measure flat rate so how can you consider that your hourly rate is at a loss? This also factors everything I've asked above and what this question is lacking. You need to do a lot of number crunching to get an idea.

When doing research, everyone always just says "It depends on the designer." But I feel I could be making a lot more money for my skills, I just don't want to lie about my time.

It does though. If you can knock a design at a better pace than someone that does it seldom it does effect the pay.

Example:

Take this illustration as an example:

enter image description here

Designer Scott does illustration daily and has been doing it for years. His output of completion for this is bid at a flat rate of 120.00. So he is charging $60.00 an hour and he knows that will take him 2 hours to complete based on his skill set, time allowed for edits, and communication between client and designer.

Designer John Boy just started in illustration and has no experience with time or the program. His output for the above based on his experience turns out to be 10 hours and he said he will bill hourly @ $12.00 an hour.

That hourly rate is considered by the output. Both may be able to do it but the time measured makes a difference. Scott knows it will take him 2 hours which he will make 120.00 for the illustration but John Boy is new and it may take him all day to do the illustration.

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Illustration at $60/hr is a travesty. –  Scott Sep 13 '13 at 21:07
    
@Scott too high or too low? (don't know much about US prices) –  user568458 Sep 17 '13 at 10:11
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Well... that's for you to decide. :) –  Scott Sep 17 '13 at 10:26

I've decided to go with the flat rate route. I think it's easier to set up package deals or price items individually. If you're fast then the size of the project doesn't matter unless you and the client set up other arrangements. For instance you can do each logo from $100 on up. Get 10 logos do a logo a day and there you go $1000 in 10 days. A flyer $150ea. or whatever you feel your work is worth. Do a price guide and schedule a time frame for completing the project.

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Anyone churning out "10 logos in a day" isn't making "logos". –  Scott Sep 24 at 6:55

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