The most frequently asked question I get when it comes to freelancing is how to estimate and bill for work. I wish there was an easy formula but clearly there isn't. I've avoided answering this question because it's taken me years of trial and error to figure it out for myself and find out what works for me. But I'm finally going to share with you all how I handle estimating and billing.
FLAT FEE VS. HOURLY
I've found that most designers work under a flat or hourly fee. I prefer flat fees - this means rather than charging per hour for my services I'm charging one established rate for the project. That way the client and I both know what to expect. However, I do have a disclaimer in my contract that should a project go beyond the scope of what was estimated or if we go through excessive revisions the client may be charged at an additional hourly rate.
WHAT SHOULD I CHARGE?
I get asked this all the time. Only you can put a monetary value on your experience, talent and time. It's tricky to be objective but I'll break it down:
The scope of the project: Even though I don't charge an hourly rate I think about things like "how long is this project going to take?" Again, my experience plays into knowing how long it takes me to design a logo, a 100-page book or a wedding invitation.
Experience: Because I've been in this field for 10+ years I'm probably going to charge more than a college grad right out of school. A client isn't just paying for my services - they're paying for everything that has lead up to me being the designer I am today. They're not just paying for a logo - they're paying for my expertise.
A friend told me this story - it goes like this: some guy went up to Picasso as he was enjoying dinner in a Paris cafe. The guy asks him to draw something on a napkin as a keepsake. Picasso does a quick little sketch, hands the man the napkin and says "That will be $6,000." The man was flabbergasted and exclaims "It took you 2 seconds to draw that!" Picasso responds "No, it took me 40 years."
Now, I'm not trying to compare myself to Picasso but this story always comes to mind when someone emails me asking for an estimate for a "really simple and easy" project.
Time:This is simple economics of supply and demand. The more in demand my services are the more expensive my rates are. If my schedule is more open I'll charge less in order to secure the work.
FAST, CHEAP AND GOOD:
This is the ol' project management triangle. It's a good model to consider when estimating a project. The rule is that a client gets to pick two from this triangle. I personally never like to sacrifice "good" - if a client doesn't care about quality it means I'm not the designer for him.
ESTIMATING A TIMELINE:
Along with estimating a fee for the scope of a project I also give my clients a timeline that helps describe when certain tasks will be complete. This not only helps to keep the project moving forward but it also gives the client an idea of what the design process is like. Estimating a timeline goes hand-in-hand with my current workflow (see my to-do matters and project management posts).
Sometimes if I really want to work on a project I will tell a client upfront that I am open to adjusting an estimate as needed to fit their budget. Or I will work out a trade. Other times, the price is the price. If a client can't pay for my services that's okay - it just means we weren't a good fit for each other.
• I have a few trusted friends who are also designers that I will discuss actual dollar amounts with. I think it's important to discuss but it is also sensitive - so make sure you know and trust the people you discuss the value of your work with.
• A friend of mine gave me a book called Graphic Artist's Guild Handbook Pricing & Ethical Guidelines - my prices conflicted with some listed in the book but it's a great resource for project scopes, typical market value and contracts & terms. If you are a freelance designer buy this book.
I get asked a lot about billing and it's pretty easy. I hear a lot about designers being stiffed for their services and it's yet to happen to me. I like to credit my clients for being awesome stand-up folks but I also think the way I bill helps.
I request a 50% deposit up front unless it's from a client that has a billing department. But because I'm usually working with other freelancers or brides that's usually not the case. I also don't require deposits from repeat clients.
I get my final payment after the project is complete but BEFORE I deliver final files to a client or send something to print.
I know how it is to be on a tight budget so oftentimes I'll work out a payment plan with clients. Usually it's the estimate divided in thirds and paid out over 3 months.
I use Freshbooks to keep careful track of my expenses and income - I highly recommend this software. I also have an accountant who handles things like my taxes and tells me what I can and cannot write-off.
If you all have any more questions about estimating and billing please leave them in the comments section. If you are a freelancer I'd love to hear what works for you when it comes to estimating and billing.
• Freelance Matters | Project Management
• To-Do Matters
• Money Matters
J & K started this blog project to document the remodel of their 1929 historical home in the heart of Oklahoma City. It has now turned into a documentation of life, food, fashion, freelance, inspiration, design, adventures and details around the J & K house.
Kathleen works as an award-winning brand consultant and designer specializing in small business branding at Braid Creative & Consulting. Jeremy is a software engineer and is the left-brain to Kathleen’s right.
You can contact Kathleen at
jeremyandkathleen (at) gmail (dot) com.
All photos and graphics by Kathleen unless otherwise stated. Feel free to use them with permission or credit.
Anatomy of an Outfit
Sometimes I like to get dressed and take pictures of myself. For all of my outfit posts click here.
Freelance Matters: A series about how I tackle freelance issues such as estimating, billing, to-do lists and how to fire a client.
Trekking to Everest
In October 2010 Jeremy and I trekked through the Himalayas to Mt. Everest Base Camp. It completely changed my life. Read about the entire adventure, day-by-day, here.
Braid is a creative & consulting business I own with my sister. We do branding and business visioning for creative entrepreneurs. On the Braid blog I share branding adventures, how-to articles and advice on the creative process. If you need a little brand therapy of your own visit Braid or subscribe to the Braid blog RSS feed here.
What We Eat
We like to eat really good food - at least 3 times a day. Sometimes I blog about it - click here for recipes and yummy ideas.
J & K: Blog Archive
- ► 2012 (182)
- Good Design
- What I Did On My Summer Vacation | Part 3
- What I Did On My Summer Vacation | Part 2
- What I Did On My Summer Vacation | Part 1
- A Small Break
- My Lawnmower
- Asian Tofu Lasagna
- Anatomy of an Outfit: Girly Apocalypse
- Anatomy of an Outfit: Summer Uniform
- Freelance Matters | Estimating and Billing
- Liz's Durham Rental #2
- Pesto Potatoes
- 1 Year Freelance
- Vintage Flora Wedding Invitations
- Popcorn. From Scratch.
- ▼ June (16)
- ► 2010 (387)
- ► 2009 (406)
- Eva Black | Spaces
- Emma Dime
- Life as an Artistpreneur
- Jane Reaction
- Ink & Letters
- Meg Biram | The Edit
- Sarah Von Bargen's Small Biz Blog
- Design Crush
- The Equals Record
- Emmarie Designs
- Rory Gordon
- Yellow Brick Home
- The Creatives Project
- Silly Grrl
- Photographers Skeen
- The Clothes Make the Girl
- Bringing Design Home
- Pip & Estella
- A Practical Wedding
- Kind of a Sideshow
- Sandra Juto
- Old Sweet Song
- Rambling Renovators
- Brooklyn Bride
- Design Crush
- Experiment in Poverty
- The Jealous Curator
- Making it Lovely
- Dressing on the Side
- The Oklahoman
- Young House Love
- Oh So Beautiful Paper
- A Cup of Jo
- Brooklyn Limestone
- Glamour Weddings