How much should a freelance designer make?

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Since I’ve been answering a lot of reader questions lately, I’d like to turn the tables today and ask you a simple question:

How much should a freelance designer make?

I recently had a facebook fan ask me how much he should expect to make if he made the switch to freelance design.

Of course, I told him it depended on a lot of things including:

  • Country of residence
  • Experience and expertise
  • Business Goals
  • Financial needs
  • and more

But then I got thinking

But after I gave him this kind-of lame answer that didn’t really contain an answer, I started thinking. Is there a certain amount of money a full-time designer who switches to freelance should expect to make when starting out?

I mean, other occupations don’t depend on your personal financial needs: a doctor makes six figures and a janitor doesn’t. (PS: they’re both admirable jobs, there’s just a clear salary difference.)

What about 5 years down the road?

So, today, I want to turn the mic over to you.

Leave a comment and offer your opinion and help me and this fan – How much do you think a freelance designer should expect to make?

And have a GREAT weekend!

About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

Comments

  1. I guess a person living in a big home with expenses surpassing an average living standard in any country will want to make more money to keep and buy more of what he wants, compared to someone living a simple life and wanting to free up more time to their family and friends. Both are talented designers, however their needs are different and that can greatly effect the prices they offer.

  2. Preston this is a hard question, as you told him it really depends a lot, and I don’t think a lot of designers will feel good about showing how much do they make, it depends solely on the experience, the focus on their business plan and the clients they use to focus with.

    Depending on all of this I find my self making between 2000 – 3000 a month and I feel like I should be making 5000, obviously we should have in mind that there are downtimes, witch suck…

  3. I think a freelance designer should make as much as he/she needs to make in order to pay the bills and live comfortably. If you’re stressing out over bills and buying food every month, you’re not making enough. I don’t believe you should ever put a ceiling on the amount you can make, but in order to take the plunge and go it alone as a freelancer, you should be confident you won’t go too far into debt between the time you fire your boss and you’re making the money you need to make to live comfortably.

  4. Design is typically more expensive than Web Development for the time put in because the level of creativity and talent required is much higher.

    The key dependencies for expected income, from my perspective, come down to:
    – talent
    – clients
    – hustle

    You’re not going to get paid the same to design a personal blog, as you are if you were outsourced talent for a small company, or even more so if you were designing the logo for a big corporate entity like Walmart.

    If you’re not exceptionally good at getting the best clients, and you live in a place where access to those clients is very limited then your life as a freelancer is gonna be tough.

    A good client is one that actually pays you. An amazing client is one that pays you on time. A super client is one that doesn’t treat you like shit while also paying you on time. A perfect client is one who does all of the above and doesn’t insist on shitty design practice making you personally ashamed of the end product despite client satisfaction.

    You need hustle to get good clients, talent makes you an easier pitch. So it does depend on a lot of factors which can fluctuate month to month. There are only so many opportunities out there.

    If you do it right, you can expect to make $1500 – $4000+/month, but as with freelance anything you should expect to have to take a second more stable job somewhere so you can have some security, there will be months where you make $400 and months where you make nothing, and they may be your first 6 months as a freelancer or your last.

    • Can I quote you? Especially:
      “A good client is one that actually pays you. An amazing client is one that pays you on time. A super client is one that doesn’t treat you like shit while also paying you on time. A perfect client is one who does all of the above and doesn’t insist on shitty design practice making you personally ashamed of the end product despite client satisfaction.”

      LIke!

    • I too, LOVE “A good client is one that actually pays you. An amazing client is one that pays you on time. A super client is one that doesn’t treat you like shit while also paying you on time. A perfect client is one who does all of the above and doesn’t insist on shitty design practice making you personally ashamed of the end product despite client satisfaction.”

    • What would be the hourly rate for a freelance graphic designer in Charlotte, NC?

  5. There really is a lot of factors to take into account when it comes to this big question. But It all comes down to your customers and how much they can really afford. If your targeting small mom and pop shops then going over 500 dollars might not happen. If its a company then charging them over that would be ok because they will be asking for more things.

    I find selling yourself with packages is best for my area. I offer them a certain amount of pages, images, etc.. for a locked price. If they ask for more then I charge more but they know upfront what they are getting from me. Rather then scaring them with charging them per hour. Just my two cents.

  6. Freelancers can expect to make as much or as little as they want–that is the beauty of owning your own business and living in this wonderful country! If you are just starting out and have a lot of personal expenses, I would reccommend working at least part time until your client base yields enough work to support your life style. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a Graphic Designer is $50,000/year and an hourly wage of $25 – $40 per hour. There are only 24 hours in a day so unless you are quite savvy in the area of running a business (oftentimes the least favorite thing to do for artists) I think it’s safe use those numbers as a guide.

  7. I think the point about financial needs is relevant to some extent. When you’re your own boss, you can turn a job down if you want to, so you’re in charge of your own work-life balance in some respects. Likewise if you’re saving up for something, you can choose to work longer hours than usual (assuming the work is there, of course!) whereas someone in a salaried job may not have the same “overtime” options.

  8. I’d recommend reviewing the 2011 AIGA|Aquent Survey of Design Salaries. Depending on your experience level, most solo designers made between $40K-$80K last year.

  9. I think that I should be making at least US$ 25,000 a year. If this sound to little for you, it is because I leave in Peru, a much cheaper country.

    On an average month I make US$ 1,600
    Best month last year I made US$ 5,000
    Worst month I made US$ 0

    Country of residence: Peru, South America
    Experience and expertise: Branding, Editorial, and Web Design with over 15 years of experience. 3 years as a full time freelancer.
    Business Goals: US$ 30,000 year
    Financial needs: about US$ 20,000 year

  10. With little experience – a new graphic/web designer should be bare minimum $40,000/yr, or $20/hr. This is what a junior level designer with average benefits might make.

    An experienced, professional graphic/web designer ought to be up in the $45-60/hr, and a web/database programmer ought to be in the $75-85/hr range, depending on the level of your programming skills, knowledge of secure sites/e-commerce, etc.

    I live in Oregon, USA, but most of my clientele is out of state (or country). In my experience Canadians will afford the lower end of the scale, and Californians will easily pay higher. In my home state of Montana, you’ll be lucky to pull off $45/hr, but then your living expenses are much lower, so it’s not as necessary.

    Most importantly, you need to base your hourly rate on how much you need to make in order to survive, both personally and professionally. Living in NYC, $45/hr probably won’t cut it, but living in Mississippi, you’re upper class!

  11. As much as you can! Lame answer, but it’s really up to the individual. That’s what I think anyway.

  12. A freelance designer should expect to make whatever dollar amount s/he wants. Perhaps that won’t be tomorrow, but with the proper goals in place, consistency in effort, mentoring and business plan, you really can make whatever it is you want to make. That is one of the greatest parts of being a designer! Want a more exact $ amount specific to you, right now, check out http://www.creativegroup.com/SalaryGuide

  13. This is a tough question that I struggled with nailing down during my early years as a freelancer. I figure that finding the amount I’d like to make a year and working out the hourly based on that. For flat rate I estimate the time it’ll take and set a value to it, usually less than hourly as an effort to get the work and keep myself working. Considerations of client budget are important. The best bet is to also weigh in what others charge if you can find this info. Essentially, it takes time to really get a hang for pricing. Keep at it.

  14. I asked the very same question at a Wired Sussex meeting last year. I live in Brighton in England.

    The response from the guest panel of local worthies responded with about £160 a day for a new arrival and settling at about £240 – £360+ upon recognition and experience.

  15. I asked the very same question at a Wired Sussex (http://www.wiredsussex.com/event-calendar/) meeting last year. I live in Brighton in England.

    The response from the guest panel of local worthies responded with about £160 ($250) a day for a new arrival and settling at about £240 ($380) – £360 ($570)+ upon recognition and experience.

  16. There is not a week that goes by I don’t see a article about Freelance Pricing posted on one of the design blogs I read.

    There is no straight answer. No one is going to give you a actual figure. Why, because even though we all want to help one another, we are all still competition to each other. It’s a very thin line.

    Your initial answer was actually probably the best advice given.

    In my experience, research is the key. I looked at at least a hundreds of websites for freelance designers and studios and firms, etc. I found rate sheets, price lists, etc. I then sat down, and came up with my ‘unofficial’ price list. I saw unofficial because, I price everything by the project vs. the hour. If your price by the project you’ll know what you will make by the end of the project and you have a figure you can plan with.

    If your afraid to go to freelancing because you’re not sure what you’ll make. Start freelancing part-time. Take on some small projects, work on your pricing, contracts, etc. See how those few clients react to it all, adjust your stuff as needed. You’ll eventually find that price, but you have to do the research, you have to answer that question on your own.

  17. How much should a freelance designer make? Well, how much do you want to make? It all really depends on your skill set, your passion, and your drive to succeed. If you’ve got some serious skills, you could charge what you want really. How many hours a week do you wanna work? Then you can work out how much to charge per hour, and roughly work out how much you should charge per project. Sure this is a pretty vague answer, but maybe the question should be, “How much CAN a freelance designer make?”…

  18. One thing no one mentioned is that if you base your desired income on the salary that you can expect if you work for another company, remember to add in the cost of the benefits that your employer pays for that do not show up in your paycheck, such as taxes, insurance, vacation, sick time, etc. Remember too that you will be doing tasks for your business that are not directly billable to your clients, such as marketing and bookkeeping, and other administrative tasks. Oh, and also remember the cost of equipment, software, supplies, etc.

  19. I also agree that there are lots to consider on how much a freelance web designer make. One of it is the skills and experience. Skills and experience are bases on how you will effectively do the tasks and meet the client’s desire output. There are also some freelance designer bases their cost on how difficult the tasks are. Another thing to consider is the country your freelance designer from. In the Philippines the cost of the living is considerably lo compared to UK and US. That’s why designer in the Philippines cost low. Take a look at this info graph regarding web designer’s salaries all over the world.
    http://www.staff.com/blog/web-developer-salaries-infographic/
    It can give you more information on how web designer’s get paid in other countries.

  20. Danai Panagiwtopoulou says:

    I think payments are subjective.. They can depend on many factors.. I am a freelance web designer and i charge about 400$ per project..

  21. Zeeshan Ahmed says:

    Nowadays, due to the outsourcing business model, one cannot expect to make as much. However, if you’re the outsourced designer living in a place like Thailand or India, you’re probably making a pretty decent living when you convert the dollars to local currency.
    Traditionally, graphic artists are like other art professions, where the going is tough in the beginning. Patience and building a consistent client base will pay off well in the long run. Start early while you’re still a student and living at home (alas, if only it were that easy to convince)

  22. We are talking about on average here, not about how much CAN a freelance designer make. We want to know what the average freelancer makes. I can make a million dollars selling flowers but how much do people typically make selling flowers?

  23. In this day and age bugger all unless you are very good and unique. Everyone wants to sit on their arse doing little or nothing and get paid for it so everyone thinks they can do a job like this.

  24. Ken Carter says:

    I may suggest a good resource, though you have to pay little money, there is a great guide online on pricing standards for creative people, and it tells you everything you need to know about how much to charge to your clients as freelance graphic designer.
    I got the guide last year and it worked for me as it also includes 12 price lists: corporate identity, corporate literature, web design, 3d and animation, product design etc.
    The guide is called U-Charge and you can find it here http://www.u-charge.com How this will help you.

  25. I’ve been trying to figure this out myself and came across this article in the process. Through more searching I came across a very useful ios app that’s helping me quite a bit with getting a better idea called MyPrice.

    I realize this article is over a year old but hopefully this will help others also researching rate guidelines.

  26. I’ve been doing this for a long time and feel like I should be making a lot more.

    While I’ve had some really good months in the past, say consecutive 4,800-7,000 USD I find that there are always those bad months that dip below $2,000 and sometimes $1,500. Those are usually the months where you spent too much time watching TV or wasting time. I my experience, hustle + smarts = $$.

    You can go from a bad month to a good month within a few weeks just by picking your ass up and getting more intense about what you do. In the end, it’s really not that hard to do 3-4 k a month if you’re doing the right things.

  27. Here is a pretty accurate guide to setting your freelance salary:
    Generally speaking, you probably have a good idea about what you would like/should be making in a salaried position in your geographic area and position. Take your yearly salary divide by 2000 (the approximate # of working hours in a year) and double that number. This is the approximate hourly rate you should ask for as a freelancer.

    The reason you double a salaried positions hourly rate is to account for having no benefits (paid vacations, paid holidays, paid sick days, healthcare, unemployment benefits, disability, retirement, etc.), for the cost of overhead (computers, paper, printers, personal website, etc.), for the cost/time of marketing/selling yourself (you have a whole second job going on here), the cost of other “unbillable” work that you would be paid for in salaried envirnoment (downloading files, phone calls, technical computer issues, dealing with that paper jam on your printer, etc.)

    Happy freelancing!

  28. I Have 25 Years of Experience in Advertising & Art Design Filed. I need Joint Free Lance Graphic Work.How ?

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