My Precious Time and Gettin' Paid

Matthew Lujan's picture

I'm a bit of an idiot and am looking at getting my freelancing feet wet in the very near future. I am wondering if anyone may have some resource suggestions regarding both the average, going rates of design these days, as well as something on turnaround time, be they good books, websites or anything in-between. I have never worked an official design job, don't have any designer friends and the few projects I have done in the past have been for people I know well, so worked pro bono or very, very cheap, and deadlines were never very strict, giving me the luxury of taking the scenic route: I wouldn't know what to tell a stranger who needs a logo or tri-fold how much it would be, nor when they would have it by.

I know I've seen some books on the shelves that may cover some of this information, but whenever I've had money for a book I'd buy the pretty ones with lots of slick pictures of different work, never the one that could maybe help me on my way, oh, no, of course not. Well, it's time that changed, so if you may know of one in particular that'd be a great help – and start.


blank's picture

What you want is the Graphic Artist Guild’s Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, available cheap at Amazon or most bookstores. You aren’t going to get many people to respond with their own hourly or per-project rates in a web forum (for legal, ethical, and competitive reason) and because prices vary wildly by locale, your best bet is to make friends with some local designers who can advise you.

aluminum's picture

The first think you need to do is sit down and figure out what a living salary is for you. Based on that, you can work backwards towards finding a valid hourly rate for your work.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

In addition to the Pricing and Ethical Guidelines James mentions above, here are some other books you might want to try... They might even be at your public library.

Books on getting work in this field; professional practices, etc.

Starting Your Career as a Freelance Illustrator or Graphic Designer [Revised Edition], by Michael Fleishman

Careers by Design [A Business Guide for Graphic Designers], by Roz Goldfarb
(Roz Goldfarb runs a temp agency in New York City.)

Breaking into Graphic Design: Tips from the Pros on Finding the Right Position for You, by Michael Jefferson
(The author sometimes repeats himself and doesn't always strike a professional tone, but I found some good tips in this book.)

Talent Is Not Enough: Business Secrets for Designers, by Shel Perkins
(Published in association with AIGA.)

Speaking of AIGA, they have a book titled AIGA Professional Practices in Graphic Design [Second Edition]

The Designer's Commonsense Business Book, by Barbara Ganim
(An oldie but goodie. Very, very cheap on Amazon!)

Books on print production and other minor details ;-)

Forms, Folds and Sizes [Second Edition]: All the Details that Graphic Designers Need to Know but Can Never Find, by Poppy Evans
(Indispensable. This second edition has new chapters on designing with grids and designing for the Web.)

The All New Print Production Handbook, by David Bann

There are other books on this subject, but you get the idea.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

P.S. And James is right about getting to know some designers in your area: network! Check out any talks or presentations by graphic designers, for example. Your local AIGA might be a place to start, but check out other possibilities. You're not screwed unless you give up before you start. :-)

EDIT: Also, if you've had a chance to do some work, even for people you knew, that is an advantage, especially if you can put that work in a portfolio.

Jackson's picture

I second the method of working backwards from a salary. There's a little math and a lot of unknowable factors at first, but I've found it will give you a much better understanding of how much your time and work is worth.

Matthew Lujan's picture

Thanks all, for your input. I appreciate it greatly and will definitely study on up...

its_betty's picture

Lurker here, who finally found a question I can help with...

One website I like for freelance info is Check out the forums. They also have a nifty rate calculator: Warning, the rates calculator does not account for taxes, which can be as much as 45% (or more) of your gross income.

jabez's picture

I graduated in the middle of last year, and recently started work at a small agency.

During that period, here's what I did whenever I was asked to submit a quote for a job:

1. Estimate the number of hours it'll take for me to complete that job
-This takes some time to get right if you've never really paid much attention to it.
2. Multiply that by my hourly rate*
3. Gave a 'promotional discount' if it was my first project with the client.

*I worked it out from the calculator on freelanceswitch.

Check this out if you're in the US:
It's a survey of design salaries commissioned annually by AIGA.

Chris Dean's picture


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