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Freelance Graphic Design Rates 2021

How much do freelance graphic designers make in 2021? Use our Freelance Graphic Design Rate Calculator to find out and see how you stack up.

6 min read

August 06, 2021

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Illustration of a graphic designer next to a giant calculator and a pencil.

Freelance Graphic Design Rate Calculator

Product Designer rate in the United States

Confidence HIGH

Product Designer rate in the United States

Confidence HIGH

$54 USD/Hour

Expected Hourly Rate

The expected Product Designer rate in the United States is $54 /hour

A line chart of low, expected, and high salaries.
Low $40.3
Expected $54
High $72.9

As a freelance graphic designer, figuring out how much to charge your clients can be challenging. Price too high and you’ll drive away clients. Price too low and you’ll also drive away clients (and have a very hard time making ends meet).

To help you determine a reasonable hourly rate that's fair to both you and your clients, we put together this handy guide alongside a freelance graphic design rate calculator so you can approach the pricing conversation with confidence.

First things first: How much money do you need to earn?

The first thing you need to figure out is how much income you need to earn in a month (or year) to make your freelance graphic design business profitable. This requires some budgeting and math.

1. Add up your personal expenses

If you don’t already have a budget, look at your bank statements to see how much you spend and on what. Make sure you include any money you regularly put into savings in this figure.

Don’t forget to add in expenses for things that your previous employer(s) have paid for (health insurance if you’re in the US can be a big portion of this), paid time off, any subscriptions you’ll want to keep, etc.

2. Add up your business expenses

If you're a new freelance graphic designer, you might have to guess on a lot of these, but make sure you take into account things like web hosting fees, professional memberships or subscriptions, new equipment (laptop, printer, etc.) on a regular replacement schedule, and things like coworking or office space rentals.

From there, you’ll have an idea of the minimum amount of money you need to earn to make ends meet. You should add in a buffer in case of unexpected expenses (At least 10%, but 15–20% is even better).

Don’t forget to factor in the amount of income and other taxes you’ll need to pay, which aren’t necessarily the same as the amount that was withheld from your paycheck.

Check with an accountant if you’re not sure how much you should be setting aside each month to be able to pay your taxes on time.

This is a great time to set up a free account with Bonsai. They offer freelancers an all-in-one platform to organize their tasks, projects, proposals, invoices, taxes, and more.

Illustration of a man climbing a ladder towards money.

Once you know the minimum amount of money you need to earn, you’ll have a basis for setting your rates.

How to determine your hourly rate

How much graphic designers earn in the freelance world varies greatly. But there are a few important factors to consider that will help you determine a reasonable hourly rate that keeps your business profitable.

  • Your geographical location: How much does a graphic designer make freelancing in your area?
  • Your design industry: Are you a web designer? motion designer? illustrator?
  • How many years of experience you have: Are you an entry-level designer or senior designer in your care?

However, your hourly rate should also be based on the number of billable hours you have in a week and the amount of money you need to earn.

Getting a handle on billable hours versus working hours can be tricky for new freelancers. But there are things you’ll need to do that you can’t bill for: invoicing, bookkeeping, updates to your own website, marketing activities, learning new skills, responding to email, and similar nonbillable tasks.

Those still take up time in your schedule, and if you plan on billing 40 hours per week it means you’ll actually be working closer to 60 hours per week.

Use this equation:

The equation to figure out your hourly rate is pretty simple. It's all about determining the average salary you want to make per year.

Let’s say you can bill out 20 hours per week, and you need to earn at least $75,000 per year. Let’s also factor in two weeks of paid time off per year. That gives us 1,000 billable hours per year. $75,000 divided by 1,000 hours is $75 per hour.

Keep in mind that even if you’re not billing by the hour, knowing how much you need to earn per hour is key to setting your freelance design rates—regardless of how they’re presented to clients. More on that below.

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Illustration of a digital wallet.

Hourly vs. Project Pricing

Charging by the hour can seem like the most straightforward way to quote a project. But it can be the trickiest, especially if you’re a new freelance graphic designer. Estimating your time is challenging, and it’s not always fair to you or the client.

What happens if you get a creative block and a project you thought would take 10 hours ends up taking 20? Or say the reverse is true: you quote a client 10 hours for a project and then inspiration strikes and everything goes smoothly and the project is done in five hours? Do you bill them for the original quote or the reduced amount?

Charging by the hour also means you need to track your time effectively. It adds an extra layer of administration to your work, one that is not always welcome. And what about all the time you’re not “on the clock” but are thinking about a design problem? How do you track that?

One way to track your time is by using software like Bonsai. Every one of your tasks can be tracked on Bonsai’s platform by using their free time tracker. With that, you can easily manage your time and make sure you’re charging the right amount to your client.

The benefits of fixed project pricing:

Charging by the project is much easier than charging by the hour once you have a good handle on how long things take you to complete. You’ll need to factor in the design time, as well as the amount of time you spend working with the client. Extra rounds of feedback and revisions can quickly add up to a lot of extra hours, so you’ll want to factor that into your project quotes.

Here’s an example: let’s say you’re creating a new logo for a local company. You know that you need to earn $75 per hour. You estimate that it will take you 10 hours to do the actual design work (including research, design, and one or two rounds of revisions). So that adds up to $750.

That $750 is just the base quote, though. You’ll want to factor in any unexpected time you spend, such as an extra round of revisions or more research than you anticipated. So you add two extra hours to your quote, just in case, bringing it up to $900. It’s better to provide a more all-inclusive quote than to give a limited quote and then charge more if your client wants more revisions, etc. Clients generally don’t like unexpected expenses, and would rather pay a little more to know upfront exactly what they’re paying.

In some cases, you may find that your project quote doesn’t adequately cover the amount of time you invest in a project, while other times you’ll spend less time.

But if you’re good at estimating what goes into a project, you’ll typically find that it balances out.

Monetary balance visualization.

When to increase your rates

You should regularly review your freelance graphic design rates and earnings, and adjust them accordingly. Raising your rates regularly (such as every year) is a solid business strategy, as your expenses likely increase.

Your skills and expertise should also be improving continuously, which gives you a solid basis for raising your rates. For any clients that you do ongoing work for, just give them a heads up a couple of months in advance of your rate increase.

If you’re finding that you don’t get enough clients at your regular rates, it can be tempting to lower them. But instead, consider raising your rates to attract a different kind of clientele.

When companies see the value in the work you do and the services you offer, they’re willing to pay more. Higher rates can also increase the perception of your expertise. When you raise your rates, you also need fewer clients to earn the same amount and can provide a higher level of service.

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