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Freelance graphic designers – can you help me determine my fee, and advise on professional development?

(25 Posts)
TheRudestWord Sat 26-Jan-19 18:32:12

I did a design degree over 20 years ago (not graphic design) but life pulled me in another direction. It's been fulfilling and I plan to continue (part-time) in the field I've found myself in.

But helpfully, at a time I need to earn more money and am keen to flex my creative muscles again, I've fallen into being in demand for my design skills, laying out visually appealing publications for my employer.

This has happened before in previous jobs - they like the way I make my work look, so ask me to do a bit of this and that. But with my current employer, after them having paid me additional hours on payroll to design a 28-page guide, they now want me to design a suite of further publications, but for me to invoice them as a freelancer.

I want to do this work. I need the money and I'm loving being creative again. I just hadn't planned to plug this gap until my youngest starts school in September - so until then, time is tight to do the work, to develop myself, and to wrap my head around getting myself set up.

I have a few questions which I'd really appreciate help with from those in the know:

(1) What do I charge my employer (small national non-profit) as a freelancer? I'm not a complete novice – I've been 'dabbling' in this for years. I have a good eye for layout. But I'm not formally trained and I don't have InDesign or know how to use it (yet – that's on the autumn to do list). I use Publisher and push it to its (frustrating) limit. I'm going to have a new HMRC admin burden initially from freelancing, plus further costs in time (software, hardware, etc.), which I'll need to factor in. Because I have annual leave and sick pay through my employed work already, I'm wondering if it would be disingenuous to factor this in too?

(2) Do I need to set up insurance (or anything else) if I'm going the self-employed route?

(3) Do I just need InDesign, or shall I pay for the whole Creative Cloud suite so I have Photoshop and Illustrator too?

(4) There are no graphic design courses available locally and I'm tight on time for self-development. How can I efficiently add to my knowledge and skills - for example about colour, setting up optimally for print, typography, design/layout theory and more? Any good books, blogs or tutorials anyone would recommend? Anyone want to mentor me?! grin

Thanks so much for any advice. I need to go back next week with a fee …

OP’s posts: |
EverardDigby Sat 26-Jan-19 18:35:43

I pay my designer around £280 a day, but she has a degree, lots of experience, and InDesign etc. I can't answer the other questions I'm afraid, though I am interested what other people pay!

TheRudestWord Sat 26-Jan-19 18:57:03

Thanks, EverardDigby. Useful to know that as a benchmark for someone with a graphic design degree and experience.

OP’s posts: |
EverardDigby Sat 26-Jan-19 18:58:16

She did used to charge more, but I think rates have gone down in the past couple of years, don't know whether that's other people's experience.

lightisrightisnight Sat 26-Jan-19 19:01:05

I've been a freelance designer for 10 years. I charge from £37 - £40 an hour.

TheRudestWord Sat 26-Jan-19 19:04:44

Interesting, EverardDigby, about rates going down. When I was reading around online about how to arrive at a fee, I read that the gig economy and People Per Hour had possibly undercut fees.

Thanks, lightisrightisnight. Clearly I need to be below that level!

OP’s posts: |
EverardDigby Sat 26-Jan-19 19:07:19

Possibly - I would have thought that more people are now getting things professionally produced - certainly 10 years ago there were more bad leaflets in Microsoft Word with spelling mistakes and crappy spacing, so I would have thought there was more demand for proper design, but perhaps more places now also have in-house designers.

AnchorDownDeepBreath Sat 26-Jan-19 19:10:30

Fees will only have gone down if you're competing for people for whom people per hour is an alternative. If you're going for better clients, you'll get better rates.

I wonder if a PP is getting a loyalty discount or a grandfathered rate. I work closely with about 20 freelance graphic designers, and fees haven't dropped overall to my knowledge. Could depend on work completed and area too, though. They mostly work in InDesign.

lightisrightisnight Sat 26-Jan-19 19:32:49

Anchordown can I ask what's the average you pay the designers you work with? Or median rate probably better. Interesting to find out. Thanks

ragged Sat 26-Jan-19 19:42:44

£300/day is local guy I know. Or £50/hr. He turns work away so busy.

Stupomax Mon 28-Jan-19 02:37:38

If you want people to take you seriously and pay you good rates you need to learn InDesign and Photoshop and Illustrator, and do some training in things like colour, typography, setting up for print, etc.

I pay for the whole Creative Cloud Suite because it wouldn't be any cheaper to pay for just Indesign, Photoshop and Illustrator.

You could invest in for a couple of months and do the online training there. I learnt Illustrator by spending an hour a day on a course and just designing lots of different types of things.

You can't skip training - you'll just find yourself stressed and struggling and working inefficiently when you do get projects.

Yes - when you set your rates you should include enough to cover your software/hardware (I depreciate hardware over 5 years - I have a large iMac at home, and a Macbook Air to take to meetings). Also you should add in extra for your leave and some sick time.

I charge $50 per hour here in the US, which is about £40 I guess.

TheRudestWord Tue 29-Jan-19 09:58:25

Thank you all. It looks like £37-£40+ is a fairly standard hourly rate for an experienced graphic designer (which I am obviously not) - a useful benchmark for me.

Stupomax, I completely agree re: needing to develop my skills. The challenge I have is that I'd had in mind to build up these skills from the autumn when I will have some available time (youngest off to school) - but I'm being asked to do this work now, freelance, with the skills and software I currently have. I will go in considerably lower than the typical fees above, and just stick with working for my employer for a good while as I build my skills up, then see where that leads.

Good advice re: Creative Cloud. Having had a look, it does seem like the whole package is the most cost-effective way to go. Thanks for the suggestion - that looks so helpful, and at £19.99/month (if I've got that right), seems pretty cost-effective. I wish I had tons of free time; I'd happily lose myself in all this for hours on end! But we have so much going on as a family at the moment, it's just going to have to be a slow-burn.

I really appreciate the advice. Thank you. flowers

OP’s posts: |
TheRudestWord Tue 29-Jan-19 10:00:06

AnchorDownDeepBreath - I'd be interested to know the fee range of the 20 or so graphic designers you work with, too. Thanks.

OP’s posts: |
Stupomax Tue 29-Jan-19 21:07:57

That sounds like a good plan re going in with a lower fee for now, but then getting up to speed with the new programs when you have time.

I actually find InDesign easy to learn and a real pleasure to use, especially compared to Publisher. Photoshop and Illustrator take a lot more time and effort but are worth it.

BTW Adobe in the US offers great deals on Creative Cloud to students on relevant courses. If they do similar in the UK then it might be worth trying to enrol on a course if you can find one, especially if you could get your employer to pay for the training. An old colleague of mine is doing this and she's paying 1/3 what I'm paying for Creative Cloud while also getting useful training. They also offer deals to students in school, if they have a school email address.

lightisrightisnight Tue 29-Jan-19 21:37:55

do bear in mind your speed might be a lot slower than a professional. So say you charge £25 per hour and get it done in 8 hrs (£200), a professional might charge £40 per hour and get it done in half the time (£160), so it's worth considering that and your speed etc.

lightisrightisnight Tue 29-Jan-19 21:38:30

However I don't mean you should get ripped off. If the end result looks similar to a professional product and the end price is around the same I think it's fair.

Anonanonanariston Tue 29-Jan-19 21:50:06

If you're just doing print design then just illustrator and InDesign will suffice. I never use Photoshop for anything print. I've been working as a graphic designer for about 15 years and charge £35 or £250 a day but I haven't put my rates up in years. I should! I'm self taught (was artistic and had graphic art a-level) but had a good eye and got a job as a junior and learned on the job. I used, youtube videos... I would generally decide how I wanted it to look and google as I went on how to get the software to work to get what I wanted! Worked for me. I get the entire creative cloud suite and pay monthly, just under £50. I do web too design and use Photoshop for that plus any raster work. Illustrator for logos, packaging and vector drawing, indesign for brochures/books/flyers. I also use Audition for voiceover work. I think if you just get the design software there is a cheaper monthly package? One of the most important things to get right is artworking for print - checking all the print settings are right (colour settings, overprint settings, bleed, outlined text etc) so make sure you learn this aspect thoroughly as print mistakes are costly! Less important if it's in house printing obviously.

Anonanonanariston Tue 29-Jan-19 21:50:39

£35per hour I meant!

Anonanonanariston Tue 29-Jan-19 21:52:22

PS I went freelance 9 years ago afyer working my way up in an in-house design department for a multi-company organisation and learning my skills whilst there.

lightisrightisnight Tue 29-Jan-19 22:09:04

I'm sorry to disagree with you Anonana, I think a little bit of Photoshop is essential. I use it frequently to brighten dull photos (on many the lighting is awful), photoshop out bits of images that I am using in magazine or other print layouts, and extend photos to crop them better or fit a space if required. Clients also ask me if I can zap a zit or something now and then. Well worth learning as part of your toolkit.

Anonanonanariston Tue 29-Jan-19 22:33:29

Yes I suppose you're right @lightisrightisnight! I had forgotten about that crossover... not done a brochure/book that's used photo's for a while actually! Been working mainly on logos and packaging for the last year all in illustrator. Now the packaging is done is the product photography touch-ups next!

TheRudestWord Thu 31-Jan-19 10:33:21

Thank you all for further posts and advice. Stupomax, I literally can't wait to get stuck into InDesign. I learned Publisher in 30 minutes and know it like the back of my hand now (and get very frustrated now with its limitations). To think InDesign is easier to use, and can do so much more, is exciting. I've started looking around the Lynda/LinkedIn training videos and lined some up ready for when I can justify subscribing.

My son is a secondary school student and could potentially get a student CC subscription ... but I have the guilts about doing that because it would be dishonest. I haven't got the time to commit to a course that would see me registered as a student (and there aren't any locally), so unfortunately that may not be an option.

lightisrightisnight, thanks for tips re: pay. Good points about speed. (I'm speedy in Publisher but would obviously be slower to begin with in InDesign.) Work have been paying me what would be my hourly rate for my salary (for doing a different job). If I factor in costs of CC and training subscription, and some allowance for replacing PC/acquiring a laptop in time, but overlook leave, sick pay, admin and marketing time (won't have to do the latter to get work from my current employer), I get to about £30/hour in order to be paid what they've been paying me already. (I don't want to end up with less in my pocket by coming off the payroll!) This seems like a good deal for them and reasonable, where experienced graphic designers are charging £40+/hour.

I suppose another factor is that I know the work, the content; and I can write copy/edit/proof-read for them too (my job is writing-based). So this adds some additional value.

Anon, we sound similar - arty background and training. My degree involved lots of graphic presentation, and I was a natural. I keep getting told, "You could be a graphic designer." So I think I have the raw goods IYSWIM, the eye for it, but I need to get there with the specialist skills and knowledge. I'm a bit distracted at work because I just want to start watching training videos and getting stuck in! blush

Thanks for the advice re: understanding and setting up for print. I've noted down a few Lynda/LinkedIn training courses specifically about this. Good point.

Can any of you who are freelance graphic designers let me know if you have insurance? If yes, what type and what does it cost you?

Thanks again.

OP’s posts: |
Stupomax Thu 31-Jan-19 15:29:35

I don't have insurance. Some people say you really should in case you get sued, but I haven't been sued yet...

I did let my local town hall know that I'm running a business from home as that's something they require - I'm pretty sure I never had to do that in the UK.

Jitters22 Mon 04-Feb-19 19:33:15

I've been a self employed graphic designer for 24 years and I charge only £15 an hour. That might seem cheap to some of you but it's kept me in work for a long time where I've seen more expensive designers go down the pan. I also purchase print for all my clients and have a decent mark up on that as well. Likewise I have a very reasonable annual photo library subscription and recharge images at between £10 to £20 to clients so I make a profit there - all extra little ways of making money.

My charges are all so reasonable that no-one balks at paying them and when I add up all the bits and bobs I make a good living. Sometimes I make a lot more than £15 an hour, but showing that as my base hourly rate has worked in my favour all these years.

I work in Quark Xpress, Photoshop, Illustrator, ID less so - because I'm old school and for me it just doesn't compare to Quark, but I have to have it, as a lot of client files come through in ID.

My most lucrative work is in brochures, magazines, programmes and other multi-page publications but I do all sorts, including small jobs like business stationery, flyers etc. and also large format work - banners, billboards and so on. I have a background in marketing, an English Literature degree and some journalistic training so include copywriting as another service I am able to offer.

I have two huge Macs and a standard A4 printer/scanner and that's it equipment wise. In the past I had loads more equipment and even used to do in-house printing, but nowadays I've got a supplier for everything, from the local print shop who will do me a full colour proof overnight, to numerous other companies with different print specialities. I just email/upload the file and it's back in a day or two.. You can get 48 hour turnaround on most print these days, so I can have print runs of thousands delivered direct to clients two days after the job is signed off.

I've had home offices in the past and a studio I rented away from home at one point, but now I work from a desk in my bedroom so my overheads are minimal. I don't even have a website or Facebook page, as all my work comes via word of mouth / personal recommendation.

My daughter has just started her own business and needed some business cards so I thought after 20 plus years of not having any I would get some done for myself at the same time. Delivered together - daughter's cards are striking and fab, really do her business justice. Mine are shit!! Without being big-headed I am very good at what I do. However, I was unable to design a decent business card for myself ... tried to be too clever, and the result was bloody awful, so in the bin they went.


wallowinwater Mon 04-Feb-19 22:31:48

Following, very useful thanks

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