How Much is Design Worth? How Should You Price Your Creative Services?

Here’s a great article from Cameron Moll on the topic of pricing and hourly rates in the graphic and web design industry called More than a mechanic, less than a lawyer. “What is the average hourly rate?” “How much can I charge for X project?”

There is one tried and true axiom howerver that he forgets to point out, which is, if you are contantly booked and working more than 40 hours a week your hourly rate is probably too low! Enjoy, and thx for the linky love Cam.

There won’t ever be a standardized hourly rate that everyone charges. And there certainly won’t ever be the ideal client/agency situation we all hope for.

What’s more, there are two sides to every coin. Step back for a minute then, and examine the second side of the coin: Pricing decisions faced by the client. Take a look at this example: University of Hawaii logo critique at HOW Forums. The short and the long of it? The university paid $82,000 for logo redesign, and the islanders despised the work the mainland agency produced (among other things). Frankly, after seeing the logos, I don’t blame them.

Contrast that with CD design from Disc Makers. The exact opposite of the premium pricing charged by the unnamed agency above, one might argue that Disc Makers’ “low-ball pricing” scars the industry. But is it really low-ball? After trolling through their portfolio you might be inclined to instead call it a darn good deal.

Let’s face it, crew — the design industry isn’t perfect. There is no flawless pricing model. And perhaps there shouldn’t be. Examine the car repair industry, for instance. I pay $82/hour when I take my ’95 Land Rover Discovery in for service. Yet when I take my ’88 Jeep Cherokee in for service, I pay $40/hour. A 205% markup in pricing for essentially the “same” service? What gives? Why not pay just one labor rate for both? Perhaps I should take both to the same shop. Why don’t I? Good question.

But wait, $70/hour for graphic design by Jill Y? And only $20/hour for the “same”design by Joe X? What gives? Why not the same rate? And why go for $70/hour when I can get $20/hour?

Seems there’s an interesting dichotomy at hand. But honestly, I welcome the dichotomy. If a client’s top priority is price, I have no qualms about referring them to (I’ve done so before) or If that’s all they think their budget can afford, I waste little time convincing them otherwise. However, if price is only one of several priorities on the list, I’m all ears.

So at the end of the day, you charge what you need to charge. I’ll charge what I need to charge. Let others charge what they need to charge. And allow the market to weed out those who fail to differentiate their services and justify their pricing.