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What price should I charge for design services?

I was called for a job interview and I was hired. This will be my first job as a designer.

How much should I charge for designing 300 business card templates? They are going to be used on an website in which clients can use and just add their text. This guy said he wants to pay me $500 - $200 in cash and $300 on stocks just to start off. I guess I'm too young (20) to understand about stocks.

Can anybody explain what is normal practice?

  • 1
    So I guess none of these were helpful? graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/search?q=how+much+to+charge
    – Scott
    Jul 17, 2012 at 3:06
  • If you got hired you should have a salary and hours that you work. You don't need to charge anything. Unless I misunderstood your question.
    – KMSTR
    Jul 17, 2012 at 6:24
  • 2
    If you don't understand about stocks, do not accept them as payment! I guess it is just about possible that they are $300 worth of publicly listed shares, i.e. you can read their price on a finance site, take a certificate to a stockbroker the next day and sell them for $300 cash, but it seems far more likely they are options (i.e. a right to $300 of shares at some date in the future) and/or in a pre-IPO company, which don't really have any value unless the company does complete an IPO.
    – e100
    Jul 17, 2012 at 10:45

2 Answers 2


A similar way of thinking about it: how many days' work will it be to complete the work? Assuming 4 cards a day if you're working hard and quickly but aren't yet very experienced, that's 75 working days. Assuming that's full time, that's 15 weeks or about 3-4 months' full time work. Maybe 2-3 months since you'll get better at bashing them out fast.

So, three crucial questions:

  • Can you live on $200-$500 for between 2 and 4 months? That's going to be somewhere between $50 and $250 a month, or around $12 to $55 a week.
  • (assuming that there are very few other jobs going) Would that small amount of money realistically improve your life much over how it is at the moment? How much?
  • The crucial question: if you're bashing out business cards at this rate, how many of them are likely to be good enough to go in your portfolio and improve your employment chances?

Think about the opportunity cost of taking it: what you could be doing for those 2-5 months if you weren't bashing out piles of business cards every working day. At that rate, for that time period, you should probably think of this as more like an unpaid internship than employment or a freelance job. That amount of money weekly is close to the few $ a day most unpaid interns get for travel and lunch expenses.

My suspicion is, that taking this wouldn't improve your financial situation, and would worsen your future prospects because, instead of being able to take up other ways to get practical experience such as self-initiated or small-scale projects that improve your skills and portfolio, you're stuck soullessly bashing out business cards at a rate where it's simply not possible for them to be better than mediocre. Also, in general, beware of exploitative clients who don't value your time - they sometimes try to avoid paying at all.

Plus points are, it's something on the CV/resume (but, be aware that employers more interested in your CV/resume than portfolio likely to be instinctively sceptical of any employment shorter than 6 months, and will employ few if any designers anyway) and you'll get good at fast working, keyboard shortcuts, workflow etc (assuming the experience doesn't put you off design work for life...).

Relevant book recommendation: How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul. Has lots of great practical tips about getting started.


500$ for 300 business cards. That's 1.66$ per card! Best case. Worst case (only counting the cash) is 0.66$ per card.

So let's say it takes you 2 hours per card. Which would mean you make 83¢ per hour. Worst case 33¢.

Are you sure you want to work for that salary?

If you think you can do it faster, try. But keep in mind, to have a decent salary, you have to make about 20-30 cards per hour. Thats one customizable template every 2-3 minutes.


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