Navigating Raising Your Prices as a Freelance Designer

June 27, 2022

Of all of the difficult things that we creative freelancers have to figure out, pricing sits right at the top of the list. Primarily because we have the tendency to find other things to focus on (and add to said list) that aren’t quite so stressful, right?

The truth is that even several years into Wayfarer’s existence, we still don’t have it all figured out. But we do know one thing: there’s no perfect formula or guide out there that’ll help you price yourself fairly. 

So, what does that mean for all of us creative freelancers? That means that pricing is something that everyone struggles with, regardless of time spent in the industry.

That said, if you’ve come to this blog post hoping to finally get an exact answer on how to price your design services, we’re so sorry, friend. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all solution for pricing. But, we’re more than willing to help in any way we can! So, we’re here to share how our own studio’s pricing has changed over the years, while covering the things we’ve struggled with, what we’ve learned, and what’s helped us most.

Join us as we revisit Wayfarer’s pricing throughout the years.

Pricing Mistakes in Year One

Let’s start with the heaviest hitter, shall we?

When Wayfarer first began, it was just Abbey behind the wheel. Abbey was fresh out of college, and had no idea how to price her own services while booking her first few freelance clients. So, she did what so many creative freelancers and designers do: she looked into online resources (like AIGA), and sought assistance from her college professor to better understand what pricing was considered “normal” for a junior level designer.

Abbey’s professor explained that the average hourly rate for a junior design was around $25-30 per hour, which meant that Abbey needed to estimate or track how many hours a project would take her to complete, and then charge based on that hourly rate. (Don’t worry, we’ll talk about the pitfalls of hourly pricing shortly!)

Abbey figured that a branding project would take her around 10 hours, so her first listed price for that specific service ended up being… $300. Way, way too low.

At the time, Abbey, just like so many other budding designers and creatives, felt that $300 was a lot of money to pay for branding – even though that pricing made it nearly impossible for her to support herself. After the first few projects, Abbey got the hint that she was undercharging, and slowly bumped her rates up from $300 to $1,000 within that first year.

Ultimately, Abbey realized that pricing hourly just isn’t fair for creatives. Why? Because if you’re talented enough to do incredible work at a faster pace, you shouldn’t be punished for that by being paid less. And therein lies the issue with charging per hour as a freelancer.

Charging hourly also encourages your client to place more value on how long you worked, rather than the value of the work you create. As we all know, design has an enormous impact on the success and health of a business, so we at Wayfarer began to see just how important it was to charge for our worth, rather than merely the hours we spent working on a specific project. 

Eventually, Abbey decided against charging per hour, and instead offered a flat rate that fairly reflected the work involved, as well as the value and impact that work would have on the client’s brand.

Raising Wayfarer’s Prices Over the Years

Since 2016, we’ve gradually raised our rates to align with the value that we offer, as well as the experience and skill that we bring to the table. And most importantly? We’ve raised our prices to ensure that we’re adequately covering our bills.

Wayfarer went from charging $1,000.00 for branding in 2017, to around $6,000 in 2020. Throughout the years, there were always different signs that it was time to charge more. Here are a few reasons why it might be time to raise your rates:

  1. A fellow designer or past client tells you that you aren’t charging enough.
  2. You end a project feeling burnt out and like you have given too much.
  3. You’ve learned a new skill or improved your process.
  4. Your own expenses have increased, or you’ve grown your team. 
  5. Clients are booking your services months (or more) in advance.
  6. You just feel like you should charge more.

All of these are great reasons to raise your prices! Charging more for your work is not something to feel guilty about, or justify to anyone other than yourself. While it can be stressful, it’s also one of the best parts of running your own business – you get to have full control over what you charge, and how much money you have the potential to make!In the past, it felt slightly terrifying to raise our prices; that fear managed to hold us back more than a few times. Speaking with other designers openly about pricing helped us to push past that discomfort. So, whether you have one or two close friends in the industry or you join a mastermind group, it’s so impactful to talk with other freelancers. You’ll be able to share your pricing victories, and your pricing failures. Fellow freelancers will be able to share their own experiences and tips with you, so that you can build instant confidence in your own pricing strategy.

Our Best Tips for Pricing

  1. Charge enough to cover your day to day necessities and live comfortably. Regardless of what you decide to charge, you’ll need to make sure that you are charging enough to live comfortably! This means paying all of your bills, covering your business expenses, and also having some left over to put towards savings. To do so, start by figuring out how much money you’ll need to make each month, and then decide how many clients you’ll be able to take on at a time. From there, you can determine how much you’ll need to charge each client in order to cover those necessities. This number will be your baseline price that you should never charge under! Of course, you’ll likely want to charge more than that baseline rate as you grow and gain more experience, but it’ll serve as a great starting point. 
  1. Pricing yourself below your competition doesn’t mean you’ll automatically book more clients. In the beginning of your business, you might assume that it’s smart to charge less than fellow creatives or designers. You might even think that it will make clients choose you first, but sometimes it’s the exact opposite. If your pricing is too low, clients might interpret that as a red flag! We had an intro call with a potential client who said they received a quote from another designer and knew it was below industry standard – so they immediately ruled that designer out. Why? Well, they assumed that the undercharging designer wouldn’t be as talented! Don’t fall into the trap of lowering your rates (and undercutting yourself) just to get more clients. It might backfire on you in the end.
  1. Always offer multiple package options for clients to choose from. When sending proposals to clients, we always include 2-3 different package options that offer various price points and scopes. This works well, because our clients feel that they have more choosing power. They’re able to opt for the package that works best for them, rather than only being given one “take it or leave it” option. Offering different prices and scopes of work also gives us more room to get creative with pricing, while feeling more confident that the client will book us; we always know that there is at least one option that is well within the client’s budget!

Follow your gut. In those moments when you aren’t sure what to charge, pause and just listen to your gut. Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “What price feels good to me for this project?” Whenever we’ve asked ourselves that very question, a number has immediately come to mind… right before we’re flooded with thoughts like, “but what if that’s too much? Maybe I should charge $X instead…” It’s important to know that those doubts will always come, but that first number is typically what we’ll choose to charge. Because we trust our guts, and we know that the first number we thought of was truly fair for both ourselves, and our clients.

Pricing confidence doesn’t happen overnight.

It might not even happen over the course of a week or a month. It’s going to take some time and practice to figure out what pricing (1) feels fair to you, and (2) grants you the freedom to live the life you love.

For more advice on design pricing strategies, read this blog post.

To see a full breakdown of how Wayfarer grew during its first 5 years, check out our Design Business Blueprint workshop. In our pre-recorded training, Abbey pulls back the curtain to share real numbers from our design business, including how much we charge, when we started attracting clients consistently, things we’ve invested in, and how our revenue and expenses change each year. It’ll give you a better understanding of what real business growth looks like, and what to expect if you’re just starting out as a freelancer.

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