How to Accurately Estimate a Graphic Design Job
By Chris London
My graphic design company gets requests from freelance designers frequently about
advice on how much to charge for design jobs. Accurately bidding on design jobs is easily
the hardest part of this business. I've been doing this for quite some time now with what
I consider to be pretty good success. Bidding on jobs gets easier the more you do it,
because with each prospective client you get a little better at feeling out their
Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule that can be used over and over again.
You're not going to get every job you bid on and you probably don't want to. However,
no designer can afford to spend large amounts of time putting together proposals
that don't get accepted. I'm sure any freelance graphic designer with a mortgage can
verify this. Sure, part of accurately bidding on design jobs comes from experience but
there are some things you can do to help streamline your bidding process to weed out time
wasters and land more legitimate clients.
The first thing you should do is know what the other advertising agencies, design
companies and freelance designers in your area are charging so that you can establish a
guideline for what is a fair and acceptable hourly rate or flat fee. You don't want to
charge too much but you don't want to be known as the cheapest in town either. I would
personally rather bid too high than too low.
When you speak with a client about a new job make sure that you get as much information
from them as possible. From this information you should be able to ballpark the time
involved based on previous projects. Yes, I know every job is different, but at least this
gives you a place to start.
It's been my experience that the majority of clients want to know a hard cost for
the finished work and not an hourly rate. Sometimes an hourly rate can even scare
potential clients off simply because it's too open ended. To bid a flat rate effectively,
set an hourly rate for yourself based on what is competitive to your area while
allowing you to operate your business profitably. Compare your hourly rate to the actual
time spent on a flat rate proposal for a good way to know if you're profitable
in the jobs you're bidding.
One thing that I do that really helps land a job is to determine price ranges for
specific types of jobs like; logo design, post cards, basic website design, e-commerce
sites, etc. I've found this to be useful on two levels. First, I have established a slight
buffer for myself when working on the project. Second, I have found potential clients to
be more receptive of a price scale, because they feel like you are open to working with
them on getting them to that lower end of the scale. This, of course, is entirely up to
the client and how they affect the flow of the project and approval process.
The key to coming up with a reasonable price scale is to use the information that the
client provides you about the job. This information will help determine where they may
fall in your price range. Use your own design experience to help determine the potential
hours that may go into a job.
For instance, a client wants you to bid on a logo, letterhead, envelope and business
card design package. This could take you anywhere from 6 to 16 hours depending on the
client and complexity of the job. So, you estimate the job at 16 hours and a rate of,
we'll say $65 an hour, which equals $1,040. Hourly rates and design fees are going to
vary from state to state and location to location, but here's what your client proposal
may look like;