Graphic design is a demanding field. Graphic designers need to be creative, stay on top of the latest technology, and be able to work efficiently.
One skill that is absolutely essential to making a living in this competitive industry is knowing how to properly negotiate your graphic design rates. It starts with what you have in your graphic design portfolio. It’s important to know what you’re worth—and not be afraid to ask for it!
To make sure you go into any salary negotiation prepared, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to graphic design salaries, including some must-have tips to will help you negotiate better graphic design pay. Are you ready? Let’s go!
What’s the Average Graphic Designer Salary?
Like most career paths, graphic designer salaries depend on things like their amount of experience, specific job focus, and location. The exact numbers also vary greatly depending on the source, but this should give you a better idea of the pay you can expect.
According to Salary.com, entry-level graphic designers make an average salary of $50,465 (about $26 per hour). Intermediate graphic designers make $58,468. And senior graphic designers make $72,756.
Similarly, Glassdoor.com lists the average graphic designer salary at $52,589 per year (about $27 per hour). It also shows that the salaries can range from $36,000 on the low end, up to $76,000 for the highest-paid designers.
Graphic Designer Hourly Rates
When you’re looking at a graphic designer salary and want to know what it works out to as an hourly rate, there are wage conversion calculators that make it easy. They can also provide more info such as how much your graphic designer salary per month is, or per week, or per day.
If you want to calculate the hourly wage yourself, you need to figure out how many hours a week you’ll work. Then, multiply that number by 52 to get the number of work hours per year. And finally, divide the salary by that number.
For a rough estimate, you can divide the salary by 1,950. This assumes you work 40 hours a week but take a half an hour lunch break every day.
Calculating Your Freelance Graphic Design Rates Per Project
It’s preferable if you can get paid for design work on a per hour basis. It ensures you get paid for all the work you do. If unforeseen challenges crop up that require some more work on your end, an hourly rate ensures you get compensated for that.
But most clients who are hiring a freelancer for graphic design contract work will want an actual quote for the project, and it can be tricky to come up with an appropriate amount. That’s because it takes some experience to be able to estimate the amount of work that will go into a project. Only you can know how long it takes you to finish particular tasks.
So, when pricing a freelance design contract, make sure you consider all the work that’s going have to go into it, including things like the client approval process. Is the design project going to involve multiple rounds of client feedback? Make sure you keep that in mind when setting your price. Also, don’t forget to leave some wiggle room for unexpected problems. One way to cut down on back-and-forth with clients is to look for an online design portfolio with built-in client proofing. That way, you can easily set up a private proofing gallery of your design work, share it with clients, and review their feedback—much faster.
Alternatively, there are websites you can use to see how much do graphic designers charge for various projects. One example is Fiverr. There you can see a wide range of freelance designer hourly rates as well as rates per project.
Start High, But Be Flexible
Once you have a salary range in mind, you should start the negotiations at the high end of that range. There’s always a chance your offer will be accepted, and, if it isn’t, then you’re starting in a better position to negotiate than if you had offered your rock-bottom rate.
When proposing a graphic designer salary, you should provide a very specific number instead of rounding it off. According to a Columbia Business School study, when people provide a precise first offer, they end up with a higher final agreement. That’s because a precise number shows you’ve done your research rather than come up with a rate out of thin air. As a result, employers are more likely to only make small adjustments with their counter offers.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Try to explain all the benefits you can offer a client by considering things from their perspective. Think about what makes you more valuable to them than all the other graphic designers out there. Instead of simply listing your skills and accomplishments, go a step further and explain exactly how your experience will benefit the project or their company.
For example, don’t just say you are a hard worker. Instead, say you’ll be able to complete the project quickly, and provide examples of times when you produced amazing creatives under tight deadline. That kind of evidence can go a long way to justifying better graphic design pay in an employer’s mind.
Improve your Online Portfolio
One of the best ways improve your graphic designer salary prospects is to make sure you have a stellar online design portfolio. A great portfolio can show potential clients what you’re capable of. During negotiations, your portfolio can help convince them that you’re worth more money.
It also becomes a kind of virtuous circle; as your portfolio helps you attract more clients, you’ll get more projects you can use to improve your portfolio further.
If you need more content for your portfolio and are between jobs, you can always do some practice graphic design projects to help flush it out while developing your skills at the same time.
To present your design projects in an attractive way, consider using some free PSD mockups. Why not try writing a few design case studies for your portfolio? This will show employers all the work that goes into your designs. If you’re looking for some website inspiration, take a look at these examples of great design portfolios and UX design portfolios.