Episode 21: Freelance Design Pricing: Why You Should Never Match In-House Rates

Lauren: 

Welcome to episode 21. I am very happy to have you here today. Thanks for joining me, wherever you are. Today I want to talk about a topic which I was asked recently by a coaching student of mine and she was. We were going over what she was going to be charging for a project and she was asking about an in-house designer. That it would be way more than what an in-house designer would charge, which was what the price I was recommending. And shouldn’t we be charging the same as freelance designers or design business owners? Shouldn’t we be charging the same price as an in-house designer? And I’m going to answer that question and give you all the reasons why. To back up my answer in this episode today. And I want to just thank everybody who has given me a rating or review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. I so appreciate that support. Thank you, and I appreciate it. Just want to shout that to all those who have.

Lauren: 

So, first off, an in-house designer. They work in a company, right? Obviously they work in a company, but they’re using the equipment of the company the computers, the software licenses, the workspace. They’re getting compensated for health care and for retirement savings, taxes and such that we have to pay as self-employed individuals. That’s all taken care of by the employer of in-house designers. So, just from that standpoint alone of the business expenses, you cannot charge the same as an in-house designer. Another reason is that you, a designer who’s in-house, has this job security. They have, like I said, the health care. They also get paid time off. They have that security of knowing that every month they’re going to get paid, and that is something that designers, as a freelance designer, we have to be the ones that are responsible for finding and getting clients, managing the projects, handling our finances, ensuring that clients are happy. This is all stuff that falls on our shoulders as our own, owning our own business and going into the world of freelance that these in-house designers do not have to deal with. That’s so much extra stress and so much extra time that we have to deal with, whereas the in-house designers, they are given the clients to work with, they’re given the projects. They don’t have to search, they sit down and they do their job, and that’s a real difference and something that we should be compensated for. These designers that are in-house are going to be working with this company for a long time and they’re going to be doing ongoing projects, whereas you’re just getting that one project. Hopefully they’ll come back as a recurring client, but you’re getting paid for one project and after that project’s done you have to find your next project. So that has to be thought with as well.

Lauren: 

Then there’s also the factor that you have maybe they’re asking this in-house designer to do something in a certain time period. They’re working nine to five, they have set schedules, they have set agreements. Sometimes they might have to work longer and hopefully get overpaid for overtime. But as a freelance designer you have this flexibility that somebody’s hiring you to do where you could. If they need something done within a two-week turnaround, maybe you can do that. But you got to obviously pay much more than you would for a normal project. But there is that level of flexibility where, as an in-house, designer is going to be working on specific projects and if there’s something that’s needed urgently, they might not be able to do it because they’re already expected and have certain responsibilities at that company.

Lauren: 

There’s also this point that designers who are in-house the skills generally are. They’re more generalist, so they are able to do a lot of things and maybe not everything super well. That’s how I was when I was working in-house. I had a lot of responsibilities, a lot of different design skills I needed to have, but I wasn’t great and excellent at all of them. I was good at some of them, I was great at other ones, but it requires somebody who’s more generalist and not excellently specialized in something, whereas if you are a that doesn’t apply just to wanting to put a plug in At an agency, it’s a little different because normally you’ll be specialized in one skill and it’s the combination of your skills with all the other amazing skilled creatives around you that make up the agency. But in-house, where you’re one of the only creatives in that company, it’s a bit different and you’re expected to do a lot and keep up with a lot, whereas as a freelance designer, you’re generally going to be more specialized in one skill that you’re offering. You probably won’t be offering every skill out there at least, I advise not to and you should be packaging your services in a way that shows your expertise and shows your specialization and therefore you can charge more.

Lauren: 

As another example, just looking at a totally disrelated field, when you have clinics or medical, you know there’s hospitals where they have in-house medical professionals. They are being charged, they’re being paid a certain amount. Obviously, they make a lot of money, but they’re being paid specific amounts based on their skills and that, whereas if they were to be working as their own clinic and have their own private practice, they can charge whatever they want. They don’t have to abide by the clinic’s rules because they have their own and so that and. But they also have to be the responsibility of getting the clients hiring, the marketing staff, all those things. So they probably will be charging more, and a lot of times they don’t take insurance. So anyway, that’s a totally difference related field. But just to give you a comparison, it’s okay to be charging more than someone who’s in house.

Lauren: 

And then also another really important thing is that you as a designer, as a freelance designer, you might have these times when you’re really in demand and you have a lot of clients that want to work with you. You have have these times when you’re really in demand and you have a lot of clients that want to work with you. You have the right to charge more at that point, whereas in-house designers they are not. They’re going to just get the consistent pay, whatever that is. So let’s just take an example of this so you can really think with the differences in pricing.

Lauren: 

A designer, general designer nowadays makes maybe $4,000 to $6,000 in-house. This is US prices and that might be even, you know, on the higher end there might be for senior designers and obviously creative directors. They can make much more, but this is just a range to think with. So they’re working, let’s say, 40 hours a week and they’re getting paid that amount. They have that consistency, whereas you come in and you maybe need to be making $5,000 to $10,000 a month. So you have to think with if you have two clients or you want to just have one client, you can have a project that maybe would be done in-house for maybe $4,000. It’s okay to go up to six, seven, eight, nine, ten and even higher because of all those factors I mentioned the expertise you have, all the additional expenses you have to be paying, the job security, you wearing all the different hats and having to provide your own equipment and your own software. So that is just to demystify the concept of should you be charging more or should you be charging the same as in-house? Absolutely not. Never do that. Always charge more than an in-house designer would. Never do that. Always charge more than an in-house designer would.

Lauren: 

I wanted to bridge into a question that I was asked recently and it is about what the person said. They said I was wondering if you have experience serving multiple countries and how the change from fully in-person meetings in the past to more online meetings now have opened up your business to serve global clients, and that, if the pricing and marketing perspectives works. I just want to say that I have not worked with somebody in an in-person meeting since 2017. And it was only one time. 99.999% of my clients I work with that are not in my local area and unless you are a big agency that maybe is in Los Angeles with all these studios that need to have these in-person meetings and things like that, it’s really not necessary.

Lauren: 

I used to do phone calls with clients where I would do meetings on the phone before 2020. And then, with everything and the way the world went, zoom became the new normal and I prefer that because I don’t like giving my number to clients anyway. So, having those Zoom meetings, people expect it. They like to see that person on the other end. It makes it personable to be able to see each other, but by no means do you need to be in person. You can work with people in completely different countries, completely different time zones.

Lauren: 

As long as you can align those time zones, I think the main thing you need to think with, if you are, let’s say, in Europe and you want to work with people overseas, in the States, it’s important to just understand the culture, be able to speak the language, and the marketing is the same. You have to know why those clients would hire you, what is their pain points, what is the challenges they’re facing that your design services can help with, and that is, and be able to speak their language. I think I said that, but just want to really reiterate that point. People want to know that you can understand them. They want to know that you will be able to get the product. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world. It really it matters that they are able to get an exchange for the value that you’re providing. So I work with clients. I’ve worked with clients in Asia, japan, specifically in UK, in Europe, in Canada, in Singapore, south America, in even Australia. So it’s it has impacted nothing on my location as long as I know their audience and, let’s say, they’re trying to serve someone in their local area. You just need to be really familiar with the culture, be able to appreciate it, be able to speak in that way so that this client knows that you’re able to get the product in the end. So that’s what I would say in terms of advice for that question.

Lauren: 

And just circling back to the original point at hand and the point about should you charge in-house versus the freelance, I know that it’s a real, it’s a hard game being a designer and being on your own and it it’s something that you will. Those first times you’re charging higher prices and you increase that price by a thousand, and then another thousand on the next one, or 500 on the next one. You go up, up, up up. It’s gonna be scary and it’s gonna feel like you are uh word, the whole world is ending. And you’re going to keep checking your email constantly until that client answers about the proposal and did they approve it? And and and just. You might be a nervous wreck at first, but the good thing is that you went for it and you tried it and you put that number out there and you showed that this is what you’re worth. It’s a big step, and it’s a big step having your own business, let alone having to ask people to pay for it and all that goes into it.

Lauren: 

So I just want you to know that it’s not abnormal to feel those things and feel that you’re not worth it. But the thing is you are worth it and if you’ve gotten the skills and you are establishing yourself as a business, you have to know that that is an exchange You’re exchanging with people in the world to keep the economy going and keep getting that exchange back so that you can live a good life too. So it’s all part of this world and the economy to keep it going. And don’t feel that you can’t go out there and put a price that is worth something. Never, ever, ever doubt that. I see people, I see designers all the time doubting themselves and freaking out about putting a price out there that’s more than they ever would have thought of charging. And I always just bring it back to the point that no service on this planet is free, nothing. You can’t survive because the exchange is money. That’s how we get things, that’s how we own things, that’s how we save. That’s the thing that can put people out of business if they don’t have enough money, if they get too much debts and all these things. So it’s important. You think, with all the factors of what it takes to run your business, and that you need that cash coming in in order to do that.

Lauren: 

All right, well, thank you very much for listening today. I appreciate your time and please let me know if you have other specific questions. I really, really want to answer and and uh, speak to you from this podcast. It’s for you, it’s it’s for freelance designers, it’s to give you those tools and those tips that I wish I had had back when I started and was very much struggling. So, thanks again for being here, have a really beautiful rest of your day and I’ll speak to you next time.

Lauren: 

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of earning by design. If you found value today, I would be incredibly grateful if you could leave a review on your favorite podcast platform. Your feedback not only helps this podcast to grow, but it also helps to get in front of more designers who need help too. So thank you sincerely for being here and for more resources to help you succeed in the world of design. Please visit for the creativescom.

Lauren: 

That’s the number for the creativescom. That’s the number for the creativescom. We offer a variety of courses, programs and free resources, all tailored to enhance your design skills and your business knowledge. Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram at for the creatives, for more updates and tips and, if you haven’t already joined my growing community of over a hundred thousand subscribers on the for the creatives YouTube channel that has more content all designed to fuel your creativity and your professional growth. Until next time, keep creating, keep exploring and continue to push the boundaries of your own creative journey. I’ll be here to guide and inspire you every step of the way. 

Listen to this podcast episode on…

Why Freelance Designers Should Charge More Than In-House Designers

When it comes to graphic design pricing, many freelance designers often wonder if their rates should match those of in-house designers. This is a common question, and understanding the unique dynamics of freelance work is important for setting appropriate graphic design rates per hour.

In-house designers typically benefit from employer-provided resources like computers, software licenses, and workspace. They also enjoy job security, health care, and paid time off. These factors significantly reduce their personal expenses. In contrast, freelance designers bear the full burden of business expenses, including equipment, software, and office space. This alone justifies higher graphic design fees for freelancers.

Additionally, in-house designers have a steady stream of projects provided by their employer. Freelance designers, however, must find and manage their own clients, handle all aspects of project management, and ensure client satisfaction. This added responsibility and the uncertainty of income flow mean freelancers need to charge more to cover the extra time and effort involved in running their own business.

So listen to this episode of Earning by Design, where I dive deep into this topic and share insights on changing your mindset to charge more and confidently communicating your rates to clients.

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