How to Charge for Graphic Design

To all graphic designers and print and sign shop owners out there: how are you charging for your graphic design?

It’s a question many of you have been asking us, and we are happy finally to address that question for everyone.

If you’re just starting out in the print and sign business and you have a graphic designer on your staff, you’re probably wondering how to make money from what we’ll call “design time.” That consists of your graphic designers getting on the phone, consulting with customers, and generally taking time away from the hands-on parts of their roles.

But how should you charge for this time, and on what items should you charge for graphic design? Let’s explore more about these subjects here.

Graphic Designers in the Print Business

The sign shop and print businesses are among the most useful industries for graphic designers to work in because of the nature of the job.

Each customer is different, and that’s the good thing. Designers in a print shop have to fulfill design requirements from small businesses, enterprise companies, individuals, and a multitude of other customer types.

Designers need to use products such as Photoshop, Illustrator, or CorelDraw to do all their design work. If they really want to cut their teeth on this stuff, a print shop is where they want to be.

Charging: Task or Time?

That information is all for the designers themselves.

With all this being said, how are you as the shop owner charging for the valuable time of your graphic designers: by the hour or by the task?

Let’s take a deep dive into this subject.

In your print shop, you’re obviously going to be designing a whole range of products for your customers. Let’s think now just of the category of print materials that includes postcards, brochures, flyers, and the like.

Your shop will have to design these products for all kinds of business types, from landscapers to restaurants to beauty salons.

You know you can deliver the product the customer wants; that isn’t the issue here. It’s really about how you charge for design time. How do you come up with that figure?

Let’s say for example that a customer gives you what we can call the “meat and potatoes” of a product. That’s the information that will be relevant to the printed materials: the business’s promotions, deals, titles, fonts, and everything else you need to bring the product to life.

Charging by the Task

In this case, are you going to charge the customer for the printing and design work? This is what we would call charging for the task. Let’s say that 5,000 brochures cost the customer $500. You have to determine if that $500 includes the design work, or are you charging for that separately?

If the $500 does not include the design work, then how are you charging for your designers’ time in making the brochure? If you want to charge $200 for the design work, that would be $200 per task, but beware: customers may take advantage of that kind of language written into their contracts by requesting multiple rounds of free revisions.

But if the flat-rate model still appeals to you, you may want to add in a stipulation saying that customers get three rounds of revisions for free before you will start charging them extra.

Charging by the Hour

Meanwhile, charging by the hour for design is a lot of sign shop owners’ preferred method of working for several reasons. First, you certainly won’t be losing money. Secondly, you’ll be actively making money for every moment your designers spend working on an order.

If you’re going to do this, know that you will have to clock your time carefully so you know exactly how much extra you’ll have to charge customers. If you charge $60 an hour, make sure your customers know that three hours of design work will add an extra $180 to their order. This should motivate your customers to try to get to the end product faster by being more efficient with revision requests.

Special Cases

There are some cases in which charging by the hour should be a necessity to you. Take vehicle wraps, for instance.

Because these can be so complex to manufacture and install, you should break your price down into design, production, and installation. This is vital because you need to recoup all your design costs and maybe even make some money here, but if you don’t charge enough for each and every hour of your designers’ time, you will lose money.

Instead, the best practice in the sign and print industry is to charge a certain rate for design work that you stick to, no matter what. If you do this and always make sure you add design onto your final price, then you can honestly tell your customers that difficult products come with higher price tags.

Other special cases can include those products that are relatively simple to produce and have a general going rate around the industry. Take retractable banner stands, for instance. In those cases, you should probably charge a flat rate for design and production because, if you don’t, you could end up pricing yourself out of the market.

The Best Shops Modify Pricing Based on the Task

Most of the sign and print shops we have spoken with don’t actually have just one model of pricing, and that is for the best. It will all depend on the product and how your work to manufacture it proceeds.

You can even be proactive in your customer communication by letting them know if the design process is running long and their costs are going up. You can work with them to determine how to proceed.

If you have been looking to rein in your shop’s design time and save some more money here, don’t forget that you can do it with shopVOX’s sign software. The quoting feature inside the program lets you track all your costs for a product and be sure your shop is making what it should on a sale.

We are happy to help if you have any questions on how shopVOX can help your sign and print shop become even more efficient.