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Design Pricing Guide to Graphic Designer Hour Rates & Project Costs

Design Pricing Guide: Graphic Designer Hourly Rate, Project Costs & More

Graphic design
April 6, 2022
24 minutes

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What is a good hourly rate for graphic design? It’s a complicated question to answer. You need to consider several factors before determining what a reasonable graphic designer hourly rate is or how much you should pay for a design project. Use this guide to help you.

The cost of graphic design is a common point of disagreement between designers and clients. Like any type of creative work, an outsider might think it’s just a matter of arranging shapes, text, and colors in a certain way.

But a professional graphic designer knows that it takes immense skill, talent, and experience to create effective and professional graphics.

We’re here to help all confused clients and design newbies find out how to correctly price graphic design. Here’s what you will learn:

  • What are the factors that influence the price of graphic design?
  • What payment models are available for graphic design?
  • What is the average hourly rate for a graphic designer, design agency, or service?
  • What are the average rates for some graphic design projects?
  • What are the most popular types of design service providers, and what are their pros and cons?

Let’s dive right in!

How to price graphic design work?

Ok, so before you can understand what a fair graphic designer hourly rate is, you first need to consider how a designer might determine their fee.

Several key factors influence the cost of design work, and we’ll discuss them each in more detail.

Experience

No matter how talented a designer is, they can’t properly profit from their talent without experience. Luckily, for most graphic designers, experience doesn’t just equal the number of years you’ve worked as a graphic designer. Instead, it’s all about your portfolio and the kind of projects you’ve worked on.

When looking for a designer to hire, you shouldn’t be too concerned about how long they’ve been in the industry. Check their portfolio for projects similar to yours and see if their style is something you like.

The “mileage” of a graphic designer can also shed some light on how experienced they are in working with clients. This can be a huge (dis)advantage as more experience often means they can communicate better and help clients with no design knowledge make better briefs/informed design decisions.

Skills and demand

Not all graphic designers are skilled in all types of graphic design. So, sometimes a designer might charge more because of a specialized skill. Naturally, the demand for a specific kind of design will also influence the graphic design rate.

For example, digital UX/UI design is currently one of the most sought-after skills. The growing demand for mobile apps makes this type of design a necessity. Since it’s a relatively new discipline (compared to, say, print design), there are still only a limited number of designers who are skilled at this type of work.

That’s why the cost of graphic design is not always indicative of quality. Graphic designer hourly rates might be cheaper simply because the type of designer is widely available. It doesn’t mean the designer doesn’t possess fantastic experience and proficient skills.

Location

This is one of the most critical factors for determining the average graphic designer hourly rate. When calculating how much they should price their work, designers have to consider their living costs. Naturally, the living costs in, say, New York are much higher than, for example, eastern Europe or some parts of Asia.

graphic design hourly rates by location.jpg Information Source: Salary Expert

If covid-19 had one positive impact on the world economy, it was to show the potential of remote work. Thousands of miles of physical distance between a client and designer can still mean they have a very prolific work relationship. And, more often than not, this is a way for clients to pay less than working with a local designer.

In some cases, however, it’s imperative for clients to have designers at their beck and call or at least to be able to work in the same time zone. This is not always possible with freelancers, so it’s something to consider before you decide to hire internationally as a way of saving up.

However, bear in mind that hiring an in-house employee is not your only option. For example, our designers at ManyPixels work across three timezones (Europe, Asia, and the US) to ensure seamless communication with our clients.

Project type and turnaround time

Closely related to specific skills, another major factor in determining the average graphic designer hourly rate is the type of project. A logo design usually requires more research and a more complex thought process than a simple social media graphic. Specific projects, like web design, simply need more time than others.

Therefore, the graphic designer hourly rate will depend on both of these things: how complicated a project is and how long it takes. The longer the project takes, the hourly rate is likely to be lower (since more hours will accumulate the necessary revenue for the designer). Think of it in terms of buying in bulk. Retailers pay a smaller price for a product because they purchase it wholesale. Sometimes consumers also pay a lower price for a single product thanks to bulk buying discounts (think of the toilet roll “family pack”).

However, design isn’t toilet paper. So, the complexity of the task will also impact the final price.

Finally, many designers will charge extra for exceptionally fast deliverables (e.g., same-day turnaround). Additional revisions not agreed upon in advance might also result in extra charges.

You can do your best to calculate and predict the exact cost of a project. However, it’s usually helpful to leave a bit of wiggle room in your budget for unexpected revisions. Especially if you decide to work with freelancers.

Types of design pricing

Now that you know what factors impact a graphic design rate, it’s time to discuss the different types of pricing you can expect and their main pros and cons.

Here are the three dominant models of charging for graphic design services:

Hourly rates

We’ve already explained how graphic designer hourly rates can differ quite a bit depending on experience, location, type of projects, etc.

As for US-based graphic designers, however, the average graphic designer hourly rate is between $24 and $35 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Upwork, Payscale).

Pros

The best thing about this type of pricing is (the potential for) affordability. If you need a single project done, you might get super lucky and find an exceptionally skilled designer for as little as 5-10 bucks on Fiverr. The chances for this, of course, are somewhat slim.

But within the “reasonable” rate ballpark, it’s easy to get quality design work done for a highly affordable price.

Cons

Ironically, the biggest drawback of paying hourly rates is that it can quickly become expensive. A one-off project might fit the budget easily. Still, if you need regular design work with lots of iterations, costs will accumulate fast.

So, if you opt for this type of pricing, plan your budget meticulously, as you might end up paying a lot more than you’d initially wanted to.

Per-project basis

If you thought average graphic designer rates were difficult to pin down, the cost of projects could be even more difficult. As we said, it greatly depends on the complexity of the brief and the industry you’re in.

Yet again, in the interest of informational value, here are some average prices:

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Pros

The benefit of this model is predictability. If you’ve agreed on a price with a designer, it won’t be too challenging to stay within budget.

This is also most commonly the way design agency pricing works. In this case, the price of a project might also include additional services such as research, copywriting, and development.

Cons

Unfortunately, while many prefer this model because of affordability, the big con is that you don’t always get what you paid for. Many scammers will try to whip up a design in a couple of hours and present it as the “real deal.”

While it’s usually easy to spot when not a whole lot of work and effort went into the design, proving that is not easy. The best way to avoid potential problems with this model is to agree on the number of revisions. This way, designers can’t charge extra for changes on a project that has been poorly done in the first place.

Salary

How much do graphic designers make? No surprise, it really depends on where they’re located. You should be able to find the information pretty quickly with the national labor statistics office or other relevant authority.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the median annual graphic design salary rates for top industries:

  • Advertising, public relations, and related services: $55,800
  • Specialized design services: $54,840
  • Newspaper, periodicals, book, and directory publishers: $45,170
  • Printing and related support activities: $41,490

Of course, the salary rates for different parts of the world are quite different. Still, even if you aren’t located in the US, this might be a good indicator of what your budget would need to be for hiring a full-time graphic designer.

Pros

While a full-time salary is often not the most affordable solution, it does give you control over your budget. You can easily calculate your budget on an annual level, which helps plan your investments and business moves.

Cons

Hiring in-house employees gives you some control of your budget but not total control. For example, you still have to factor in sick days, where you might need to spend some extra money for coverage.

Additionally, as was already mentioned, no designer is proficient at everything. You can hire the most versatile design talent out there. However, it’s still possible that you will need some extra help with projects where they might lack experience or the right skills.

Flat monthly fee

We like to think of it as “hiring in-house without the costs.” This model is available with on-demand design services and essentially means that you pay the same monthly rate for an unlimited number of design requests.

Here are the price ranges of some of the leading unlimited design companies.

  • ManyPixels: $449 - $899
  • Design Pickle: $499 -$1695
  • Penji: $499 - $999
  • Kimp: $499 - $895
  • No Limit Creatives: $499 - $899

As you can already see, this is by far the most affordable option for clients with recurring design needs. Let’s dive a little deeper into the pros and cons of this model.

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Pros

This pricing model gives total control of your budget. Most of these services work all year round, so you needn’t worry about holiday or sick leave coverage.

More importantly, they cover a range of design projects, so it’s unlikely that you’ll need to hire any additional help.

Additionally, it’s a real time-saver since you don’t have to worry about finding and vetting designers: these services do that for you.

Cons

The only real con of this model is that it’s not the most sensible option for one-off projects. The affordable rates mean that, in some cases, a month’s worth of work costs less than a single project (e.g., logo design). However, the real benefit of this model is getting multiple designs at a fixed rate, so it’s the ideal choice in that case.

Types of design service providers: what are you paying for?

Another way of finding the best pricing option for your budget is to consider different types of design service providers. Now that you have a basic understanding of the average graphic designer fees, here’s a closer look at what you get with these services in terms of price, quality, and speed.

Find out how and where to outsource your graphic design needs

Download our guide to find a solution that suits your business

In-house employee

in-house.jpg

Lots of projects needed? Reliability? Building a company culture? Then, an in-house hire is likely the smart choice.

If your business cannot survive without daily designs (think creative agencies, content services, large companies, and corporations), it’s critical to have this side of things covered.

You can hire full- or part-time, a single designer or a team of people. The best thing about this option is definitely that an in-house hire will get a deep understanding of your company and brand. Even if they’re creating graphics for your clients (agency work), they will have the benefit of attending client meetings and getting all the insights and information an outsider might not be privy to.

Here are a few things to note when hiring a new team member for graphic design:

What skills to look for?

When hiring in-house, it’s best to look for someone with a diverse skill set. An outstanding talent in one area, such as print design, might be completely hopeless when it comes to something else. A regular salary is a significant investment for your business, so make sure that whoever comes on board can fulfill most of your design needs.

Although style can sometimes play a critical role in the success of the design process, it’s probably not the most crucial consideration for an in-house employee. Why? Well, the presumption is that you will allow this person the time to get to know your brand and adapt to a style that suits it.

So, it’s better to look for specific technical skills and make sure the designer is a good personal fit for your team. Just like you would do with any other employee!

Think about the additional costs.

As was already mentioned, the cost of an employee’s salary usually isn’t the final price you’ll be paying for the work they’re required to do.

Each new employee brings with them a set of overhead costs. The hiring process takes a lot of time and resources, from HR hours to admin. As stated earlier, sick leave or holiday covers are also something you should consider. This is the only case where you must pay even when the work is not being done.

Freelancers

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Freelancers are skilled, often fast, and, despite the misconceptions, highly motivated. Don’t forget that they make a living out of clients like you, so they will likely go out of their way to keep you satisfied. Most freelancing platforms (that most clients use) will block their payment if the work agreed on isn’t delivered.

When it comes to hiring freelancers, it’s the opposite of hiring in-house. You should look for someone with a more narrow skill set or focus. If freelancers claim they can do everything, they probably haven’t mastered any specific skills. This will likely drag out the design process and result in additional (often chargeable) revisions.

Freelancers can be a brilliant investment, so long as you do it right. Here are a few tips:

Make a long-term plan.

Working with a freelance designer is not financially feasible in the long run, most of the time. Set your goals and expectations beyond a single project and see how and if regular payments to freelancers fit the budget.

Also, remember that budgeting for freelance work is quite tricky, even with the most detailed plans. There’s no way to determine the exact graphic design rate you’ll pay throughout your collaboration with a freelancer.

Maybe they won’t be available at a given time, and you’ll have to hire someone else? Perhaps they’ll give you a discount for long-term cooperation, or maybe they won’t? Or they’ll increase their rates due to demand? In short, unpredictability in some shape or form is a given with freelance graphic design.

Factor in the admin hours.

Although many freelancers work very efficiently, getting to the work stage requires a lot of time. Finding someone, potentially giving them trial tasks, and then providing feedback and communicating. These are all tasks that will take up many hours you could spend doing your own work. Is this a sacrifice you can make?

This may not seem such a big problem with a business that has an HR department, but that’s actually not the case. Only the people involved in the design process (CEOs, creative directors, marketing managers, copywriters, etc.) can adequately decide on hiring a freelancer.

If you already struggle with time management or a lack of resources, continuously searching for and managing freelancers will be an organizational and financial nightmare.

Designer's Work Tracking Checklist

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

Assign a trial project

You can rely on a freelancing platform like Upwork to screen candidates, but these processes only get so far. Truthfully, scammers are usually quickly exposed, but that doesn’t mean that every freelancer is the “expert” they claim to be.

The best way to make sure you’re working with someone trustworthy is to give them a test task. We strongly recommend that the test assignment should be paid. Why? First of all, genuinely qualified candidates will refuse to do unpaid work. They probably have a plethora of profitable opportunities they can snatch.

And secondly, it doesn’t really create a good image of you. Remember that this relationship works both ways. In most cases, freelancers can “rate” employers on freelancing platforms. Nobody will want to work with you if people start viewing your test assignments as a scheme to get free work done (even if that’s not the case).

An ideal trial project is small and allows you to vet any skills that are most relevant to you or not evident in a designer’s portfolio. For example, you may find a terrific web designer, but you’ll also need many custom illustrations for your website. Instead of a landing page, you may want to ask the freelancer to create a couple of illustrations in a specific style.

Set up KPIs and quality control processes

If you aren’t a designer yourself, how can you assess design work properly? Make sure you have a system in place that will allow you to vet freelancers properly and give constructive feedback. This includes key performance indicators (KPIs) for each piece of design.

Of course, since you can often measure its performance only after the design is out in the world, it’s also essential to set up an internal quality control process. This may include checking if the design followed your brief, whether it was delivered on time, or if it matches the brand style guidelines you’ve provided.

Design agency

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Design agencies existed even before graphic design became digital, and they are still the frontrunners of groundbreaking design. Some of the most celebrated graphic designers are known for their work within groundbreaking agencies such as Pentagram and Sagmeister and Walsh.

From iconic album covers to game-changing ad campaigns, the work associated with these agencies probably seems out of reach for a regular 21st-century business. But is that true?

Yes, and no. Nowadays, plenty of smaller agencies cater to businesses of different sizes, not just the likes of Coca-Cola and Apple. Many companies opt to work with different types of creative agencies (sometimes also “full-service” agencies) that cover a range of branding/marketing activities, including graphic design.

So, do design agencies generally come at a much higher price point than other design service providers? Yes. Again, agency rates also depend significantly on the location and type of project.

What is the average hourly rate for a graphic designer in an agency? Between $50 and $150, depending on seniority. So, working with a design agency rarely costs below a few thousand dollars.

It may be hard to grasp their rates and calculate how much you’ll be paying beforehand. Still, the good thing is that most agencies will provide you with a rough cost estimate, often for free.

Here are a few things to consider before hiring an agency:

Why are you doing it?

Agencies are definitely not the money-saving option, so what are you after? High-quality and innovative design is often a given with these professional services. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to get high-quality design for much less.

Design agencies are usually suitable for those looking to outsource a huge chunk of the work. If you want someone else to handle design aspects such as research, art direction, and implementation, then this is the (only) way to do it where everything happens in one place.

Working locally or remotely?

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, online almost completely replaced in-person working in many industries. But what’s the situation now?

It’s possible to work remotely with a design agency since these digital natives are usually professionals at remote communication and collaboration. This allows you to cast a wider net and perhaps even get design agency services well below the average agency rate in your locale.

But, there’s a catch. Say you’re located in the US and look into hiring an agency based in Europe. This will mean that you and the design team will be on different working schedules most of the time, likely resulting in delays.

Moreover, there’s something to be said about big and important meetings happening in person. Suppose an agency is tasked with coming up with a totally new creative direction. In that case, an email back and forth might become tedious eventually.

So, yes, while it is possible to save up a little, the point of hiring an agency is to get a premium service. If you have to give that up, other options might be a more suitable solution.

What do you want to get out of this in the long run?

Just like with freelancers, collaboration with a design agency usually comes with an end date in mind. After the project is completed, do you continue your partnership for everyday needs? Or do you find yourself googling “what is a good rate for graphic design” and searching for another design provider?

Both routes are entirely valid, but before you splurge on expensive agency fees, you should consider how this will affect design production long term. If you can afford to keep working with the agency, that’s terrific.

If not, make sure you have a backup option, such as unlimited design services.

Design service

Design-service.jpg

Unlimited design services (also known as online or on-demand design services) are a happy middle ground between freelancers and design agencies.

How?

In a nutshell, you get the flexibility and versatility of working with freelance designers and the professionalism and reliability of a design agency.

Design services like ours at ManyPixels allow you to make unlimited design requests for a fixed monthly fee.

As we’ve explained earlier, the average graphic designer fees work out a lot higher than the cost of a monthly subscription. Especially considering the amount of work you can get done this way.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the details of working with an unlimited design service.

What can you get designed?

The specifics of this question depend on the exact service you choose to hire. However, when it comes to industry leaders, the truth is that the scope of services offered is pretty standard across the board.

Here are just a few popular types of design projects you can request:

  • Logos and branding guides
  • Social media graphics
  • Display ads
  • Flyers, brochures, and other print collateral
  • Books and ebooks
  • Presentations
  • Merchandise
  • GIFs
  • Illustrations
  • Landing pages and web design

And the list doesn’t end there. If you need versatile designs done in one place, this is the quickest and most affordable way to do it. You save a considerable amount of money by getting all your designs in bulk. You’re also saving heaps of time by not having to deal with hiring individual designers for each task.

With ManyPixels, you’ll also spend a lot less time managing designers and checking for quality of work, thanks to our quality control team. We have a team of dedicated project managers and a quality assurance system in place to ensure that designers:

  • Follow clients’ briefs;
  • Deliver results in the required timeframe;
  • Provide designs that match our quality standards;
  • Understand feedback from clients and apply it correctly.

Why is it so affordable?

It’s a question we get asked a lot. If the quality of design isn’t compromised, how can you offer such affordable rates?

The reason for this is simple: we do more work. Why do big chains like Walmart and Target offer the same products at lower prices than a small local shop? Bulk buying.

We work on a similar principle. Whereas a traditional design agency gets by from client to client, we have a regular (and much larger) pool of clients who provide steady income. For that reason, we’re able to pay our employees fair average graphic designer fees while allowing clients to cut down on their costs.

It’s a win-win situation for all!

Learn how to get started with our unlimited graphic design service

Download the ManyPixels User Guide — you’ll find all the useful information there

Who is it for?

If we told you that unlimited design services are a fantastic solution for virtually any business, we wouldn’t be lying. But it is a simplistic way of answering the question. So, let us instead elaborate on what principle benefits we bring to the table for different businesses:

  • Small businesses: cutting costs

There is one big issue for small businesses: struggling with the budget. Often, a small business owner has to wear many hats: from office cleaner to accountant. We’re here to make sure graphic designer isn’t on that long list of roles.

We provide unlimited support and coverage at a mere fraction of a graphic designer’s salary. We allow inexperienced businesses to test out the waters and find what works best for them without extra charges!

As we’ve already discussed, the reliability of a flat monthly fee makes a significant difference in budget planning.

  • Agencies: fast and versatile designs

Agencies serve different clients. And on top of that, they also need graphics for their own internal purpose. In other words: agencies need a whole lotta designs.

That’s where we step in. Whether they have an internal design department (even if this “department” is just one person), our team helps to boost their creative capabilities and deliver more.

Our agency clients love to collaborate with different designers from our team to get a plethora of styles and provide more options for their clients (did we also mention it’s a serious cost-saving solution for them as well?).

  • Startups/digital companies: easy UI/UX design

Building an online presence is definitely a matter of trial error. From A/B testing to making sure your landing page is optimized for conversion, there are numerous areas where design plays a critical role.

Startups like modern SaaS (software-as-a-service) companies love using our service primarily as a stellar UI/UX design source. Suppose they’re working on an iteration of an app’s user interface. In that case, our speedy design solutions are a great way to get basic drafts or test out ideas.

Web design is notoriously expensive (usually not under several thousand dollars). So, getting something custom instead of free online templates for such an affordable price is a huge asset. Since web design is a long and complex process, many companies use our services for a quick “first draft” version that they can build on more effectively.

  • Consultants, entrepreneurs, bloggers, content creators: daily support for their content calendar

Our motto is: "you focus on what you do best, and leave the design to us!". Over four years, we’ve heard numerous content marketers tell us what a lifesaving service we’ve been for them. Instead of wasting hours upon hours trying to get something done in Canva or a similar DIY design tool, they can keep content relevant and timely.

Blog covers, eye-catching YouTube thumbnails, or cute and informative social media posts - we’re here to help your content efforts shine!

Conclusion

What is a good hourly rate for graphic design? As you can see, there is no one way to answer this question.

It depends on the type of service provider you’re working with and the experience and skills of a specific designer.

And while it’s definitely possible to find affordable hourly rates for graphic design, paying per hour is hardly the best long-term solution. Most businesses these days need graphics on a daily basis, so the lack of a long-term solution for graphic design can, in time, cause a big dent in your budget.

Unlimited graphic design is the most affordable design solution in the long run. Predictable rates and service reliability mean that you won’t have to pay extra for additional designers along the way.

If you want to learn more about how it works, we suggest checking out this article about unlimited design services. And if you want to know more about our service in particular and how it compares to others, you can find out more about it here.

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Danica Popovic

April 6, 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.