How much should I charge for a logo?

Dear Austin,

“I’m reaching here but I’m hoping you will be willing to help me. I know you’re busy, and I really don’t want to take up more than 2 minutes of your time. If you’re willing to reply I would so very much appreciate it.

I have some self-taught skills in graphic design.

My older brother owns a franchise that he’s re-branding as an independent business. Last Thursday night he asked me to design a logo for him, with a deadline of Sunday night… 3 days later. By the time I was done, I had created two versions of the logo and completely reformatted his menu to match the new look. I will be creating some templates for event promo signs this week and writing a brand style guide. I’ll have 25 hours into it by the time I’m done, in a 4-day turnaround with absolutely no advance notice.

He has asked me to let him know what he owes me, but freelance design isn’t something I normally do, so I turned to Google. A quick search revealed hourly rates of $75 and up, not including rush fees. That’s a market rate of $1875 plus rush fees. I’m going to discount below market rates, but I want to know if I’m starting at a reasonable market rate. I know some firms charge flat rate by project, not hourly… and I know it probably took me longer than an experienced designer would have taken.

So all I want to know is, is $2000 completely out of the realm of reality for what he would have paid a pro firm to do the job in such a short turnaround? If it’s not a reasonable market rate, what is more reasonable? I very much appreciate your time, and will be grateful if you’re willing to share a little info with me on this. Thanks!

Dear Dr. Evil,

You can’t really charge market rates if you are a self-taught designer because your skill level is not going to be at the level of someone that does this work full time and has a degree in graphic design. Even if your work is attractive it may not be what is right for the customer because commercial work has to deliver a return on investment and you don’t learn what is going to serve a customer’s best business interests just by learning how to use design software. This is especially true for a logo that has to do double duty as a sign design which is way more important and way more complicated than people give them credit for. I know from experience that a sign design can quite literally make or break a business.

I quote a project up front and I give the customer a timeline for delivery and if there are rush charges they know what they are before I get started on the project. Customers hate surprises and I want to nurture a long term relationship with everyone I do business with.

I have on occasion hired designers fresh out of college for some overflow work but I haven’t paid them more than $25 an hour and I haven’t paid rush fees because they are usually very enthusiastic just to get the work experience. Other experienced subcontracts usually charge around $50 an hour.

I can’t tell you what to charge or what is fair, you just need to be able to ask yourself given your limited design experience what the work you’ve done is worth but if it were me I would certainly factor in the faith your brother has placed in you and the value of the opportunity he has given you to do professional work. If it turns out nice it’s going to help you get future work and real commercial experience, which for a novice designer is in itself worth its weight in gold.


Austin Powers

PS: Doing design work for friends or family is very dangerous territory so I would certainly factor in the value of the relationship. It’s been my experience that both friends and family expect twice as much for half as much so if I do work for either I don’t charge them anything.


One Response

  1. My sister does some freelance and I am acutely aware of this problem. I always tell her to charge full rates when its for my business, and if she has a discount price and it works for her, use that when its personal or charity. With that said, I am not a believer in cutting prices to get business. It devalues the product. If the want to pay less, what do they want to do without? Sometimes we show the real price on invoice anyway, and we get something in return for reduced price? Reference to a firm, donation of difference to a charity.

    Its a tangent, but I knit…a lot. Some work product is better than others. It takes a long time to make lace, or a sweater (100-200 hrs). People are kind and often encourage me to start a business. They would only want to pay .10-.20 cents an hour and rarely cover cost of materials. So, thanks, sincerely for compliment, but you may get lucky and be gifted something, and it may take a year to get something I promised…because it needs to be right, but it doesnt make business sense.

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