Hiring Affordable In-House & Freelance Designers in 2022

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Tips for Hiring Freelance Designers & Full-Time Employees For Less

How to Afford a Quality In-House or Freelance Designer in 2022

Graphic design
May 13, 2022
10 minutes


Getting quality design has never been more vital - or more accessible! There are many skilled professionals on the job market and quality freelance designers looking for their next gig. How much to pay freelance graphic designers or full-time employees? How to make sure you’re getting the best rates? We’ll guide you through the hiring process.

The graphic design market is huge: it’s estimated at around $13,3 billion in the US. It’s had a steady growth of about 1.2% per year since 2017, and in 2022 it’s expected to grow by 1.9% (IBISWorld). The global graphic design industry is also ranked in 9th place for all Global Business Activities.

These statistics are a testament to the importance of graphic design and the vast opportunities you have to hire graphic designers at affordable prices.

Let’s dive right into the numbers and tips for 2022!

How to hire an affordable freelance designer?

Good news! There’s no shortage of quality candidates since 90% of designers work in the field of freelance graphic design.

With a wealth of opportunities, it can also be challenging to figure out what is a fair price for freelance work. A further difficulty is spotting the best candidates in a sea of creative designers.

How much to pay freelance graphic designers in 2022?

Clients and designers often disagree about the cost of graphic design. More often than not, clients misunderstand graphic design as an upgraded version of Paint. Graphic designers, on the other hand, know that even the slightest details in a design sometimes require immense knowledge, research, and skill.

Before you go into “haggling” on the cost of a design project, make sure you know some ballpark figures. So, how much do freelance graphic designers make in 2022? Here are a few numbers on average graphic designer hourly rates on a few different platforms for freelance graphic design jobs.

Don’t forget that designers might also charge varying rates based on their location. So, a lower rate doesn’t necessarily mean less experience and lower quality work. It’s simply that the costs of living in a particular city or country are lower, so designers can charge less.

Tips for hiring a freelance designer

So we’ve answered the question, “How much do freelance graphic designers make?”. Now it’s time to share some actionable tips for ensuring you don’t compromise on quality when getting the best freelance graphic design rates.

1. Determine the scope and length of a project

Is getting graphic design freelance a viable long-term option? Yes and no. Are you ready to spend quite a bit of time finding and vetting candidates, communicating requests and revisions, etc.? Then, freelancers can be a terrific investment.

It can be very easy to get carried away with freelance graphic design. Whether trying to secure an even lower rate, a better candidate or simply adding more and more projects, it’s essential to keep your design production on track. Here are a few tips for doing it:


  • Build long-term relationships with freelance designers: Found a quality freelancer that charges affordable rates? Nurture that! It’s fine to play the field a bit. But as you keep working with someone, they will get to know your brand and style, which can significantly ease the process.
  • Set up your KPIs: Before you confront a designer about a project you don’t like, be sure you can provide constructive feedback. Find a way to measure the success of graphic design in your branding/marketing campaigns, or set up an internal quality control process.
  • Keep track of admin hours: It’s a common pitfall with freelancers. If you spend hours providing training, communicating, or tracking their work, the investment is not worth it. Even if you aren’t paying the price upfront, think about how much time (and therefore money) you’re wasting by not doing your own work.

Designer's Work Tracking Checklist

Learn how to work effectively with designers: from writing a brief to giving feedback and tracking work.

2. Compare rates on different freelancing platforms

Aside from general freelancing platforms, a great place to look for graphic design freelance are also specialized portfolio sites. Behance is possibly the most important one you should know about. You can find complete projects, from interior design to web design, and make sure a candidate has a style you like.

Dribbble is a similar platform that offers snippets of designer’s work (or complete projects if it’s something like ad or logo design). The platform itself has a fantastic interface that allows you to browse through design projects easily.

When it comes to securing a reasonable freelancer rate, here are a few things to note about different platforms:

  • Processing fees: Each platform charges these, ranging from 2-5% of the amount you’re paying a freelancer. Since the differences are usually pretty slight, this shouldn’t be your paramount guiding factor. However, this might make a financial difference for huge and expensive projects. On the other hand, a few platforms charge fixed processing fees, such as Freelancer. There you’ll only pay up to $3 for fixed-price projects. Commissions for hourly rates are 3% of the project’s total cost.
  • Vetting system: Going with a reputable freelancing platform means that there are at least some guarantees of the freelancers’ quality. Usually, the more rigid the vetting system, the higher the rates. For example, average freelancer rates on Upwork are around $25 per hour. In comparison, designers on Toptal usually earn over $70 per hour due to the company’s rigorous vetting process (including video interviews).
  • Reviews: It’s an obvious one, but when choosing freelancers over a platform, you should check out reviews from past clients. If you can’t find any reviews there, you might want to see if they have a profile on a different platform. Or ask them to provide references directly.

3. Plan your budget meticulously

We’ve touched upon this already. But why is budgeting for freelance graphic design so challenging? For two key reasons:

  1. Creating a long-term budget (quarterly, annual) is challenging if you pay per project or hour.
  2. Revisions often cost extra, adding unexpected expenses.

If you commit to the graphic design freelance route, you’ll need to sit down and decide how much you are actually willing or able to spend on design. That means planning your marketing campaigns well in advance, along with any and every piece of design you will need for it.

How to hire an in-house designer profitably?

Hiring in-house is a clever tactic if you’d like something more predictable. Many business owners hesitate to take this step, considering the amount of design they need.

Sure, regular salaries and attached costs are never a tiny investment. But a graphic designer is, whether you’re a huge corporation or a tiny business, an integral part of your success. Here are a few reasons why graphic design is essential for any business:

  1. It helps you deliver your message and connect with your target audience.
  2. First impressions are design-related.
  3. It helps you distinguish yourself from the competition.
  4. It can help you improve sales.

Find out how to build a strong and unique brand

Download our guide to learn all about branding and visual identity

Let’s dive right into some specifics on hiring a full-time designer.

What are graphic designer salaries in 2022?

If you are looking to hire a graphic designer, there are two critical aspects to consider:

  1. What skills and level of experience are you looking for?
  2. Where should the designer be based?

Both of these have an immense impact on the cost of hiring a graphic designer. For example, the average annual salary of a graphic designer in the US is around $60,000. A designer based in the Philippines earns a fraction of that annually: around $7,000.

Similarly, a senior graphic designer or art director in the US earns around $115,000, much more than the median wage.

So, there’s no direct answer to how much you have to pay for a full-time designer. Still, to give you at least some idea, we’ve compiled the annual median wage data for several countries/regions:


Since the covid-19 pandemic, more and more businesses are switching to remote work models, so hiring someone from another country no longer seems like a hurdle. It can be a terrific opportunity to save up on hiring a designer full-time, so long as you establish a few ground rules, such as communication, team collaboration, etc.

Remote work is not an ideal option for those who like to stay completely involved in the design process (I’m not saying micromanagers, but you get the idea).

How to get a quality designer for your business?

Perhaps we’re biased, but hiring a graphic designer isn’t the same as hiring any other employee. We’ve already explained that graphic design is integral to any business’s success. Therefore, choosing the person to implement it shouldn’t be a decision you make lightly.


1. Assess portfolios

Although formal training might be important, you should always start your search with a portfolio. Nowadays, even complete newbies in graphic design should have online portfolios that tell prospective employers about their style and capabilities.

The most popular portfolio platforms are Behance and Dribbble. But, depending on the type of designer you’re after, you might also want to check out places like Dieline (a platform specialized in packaging design) and Awwwards (web design).

2. Inspect their CV

Do you need a degree in graphic design to be a professional designer? Absolutely not. But, it does help. Self-taught designers can often produce high-quality work. However, if you want to stay on the safe side, look for someone that will definitely possess a deep understanding of design theory and skills in different design software.

Speaking of software, this is also something that a CV can tell you about. If you’re hiring a full-time designer, you may already have a design software in mind that you’d like them to use (probably one you’ve purchased already). Therefore, proficiency in that particular tool can be a useful asset to look for.

3. Give them a paid test task

Like many creative occupations, there’s no way of knowing whether a candidate will perform well until you’ve seen them in action.

A paid test should be small (possible to complete in 1-2 days) and exhibit a specific skill that’s important to you. Whether it’s the use of design software, a type of design, or a particular skill like wireframing or illustration.

Paying for the test task isn’t just fair. It also means designers will be more inclined to put more effort into it. Not only is that a way to find out what they’re capable of, but you might actually end up with a finished design that you can use later on! That means that even if you hire someone else, all the candidates doing test assignments could potentially provide you with designs you can use. Talk about a money-saving tip!

  1. Interview

An interview is your opportunity to vet candidates in two main areas: their design process and soft skills.

Remember, designers never work alone. Whether a business owner directly requests design, a marketing manager, or an existing head of design, they will always have to report to someone. Moreover, designers collaborate closely with other people on your team, such as copywriters, content writers, and developers, so they must have good communication and take constructive criticism.

Hiring a full-time employee also means that, ideally, you want to build a strong team. So whoever you choose should fit into your company culture and the other employees.

Find out how and where to outsource your graphic design needs

Download our guide to find a solution that suits your business

Is there a third option?

We hope this provides you with some guidance on hiring quality candidates while paying a reasonable price, whether for graphic design freelance or in-house.

However, if you want to combine the best of both worlds, there is a further option to explore.

Unlimited graphic design services (like ours at ManyPixles) offer the dependability of in-house designers together with the affordable rates you’d pay with freelancers.

Moreover, the system of monthly design subscriptions offers you complete flexibility and control over your budget. Need extra designs? Scaling up takes a few clicks. Want to pause or even cancel your account? You can do it anytime, without any unplanned charges or repercussions.

Check out this article to find out more about unlimited design services, and this one to find out how we compare to our competitors.

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Danica Popovic

May 13, 2022

Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.