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How Much Should I Charge for Doing Desktop Publishing?

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Question: How Much Should I Charge for Doing Desktop Publishing?
Pricing your desktop publishing or graphic design services involves determining how much your time and talent is worth to you and how much it is worth to your potential clients. You also have to figure out how much time it is actually going to take to do any particular job.
A typical question: "What should I charge for general desktop publishing services such as business cards, stationary, greeting cards, wedding invitations, brochures - everything?"
Answer: Keep in mind in your pricing that no matter what you charge or how you figure out what to charge the important thing is that you show your customers the value they are getting. If possible, talk with your client about the project rather than saying "I charge $50.00 for a brochure" or "My brochure pricing starts at $600.00" or whatever. Because either price could be way too low or way too high depending on what is involved. You may end up charging one customer $75.00 on a tri-fold brochure and another $750.00 for what on the surface looks like the same thing (excluding printing & such) simply because of the complexity of the tasks involved.

Calculate Hourly Rates

Backing up, probably the way to start is to set an hourly rate for your time. What is your time worth? A lot of factors are involved including how much you need to make to keep your business alive, what the market in your area will tolerate (i.e. what your competition charges and what clients are willing to pay). Design charges vary from as low as $15.00 to $20.00 an hour to as high as $100-$200 an hour and higher.

Since you generally only bill the client for time actually spent on a project, your hourly rate should have built in buffers (i.e. extra amount of money) to cover other non-revenue producing parts of your business — bookkeeping, maintenance, supplies not billed direct to client, utilities, etc.

Calculate a Total Project Cost

You may not quote an hourly rate to the customer — usually that's not the best way. But you use your hourly rate and the tasks involved in the project to quote a final price (because clients are usually looking for the bottom line.)

For each type of project you do, determine the tasks involved. For example, for brochures your work might involve some (but not necessarily all) of these different tasks, for items such as copywriting you may have material provided by the client or someone else they hired for that part:

  • Conceptualizing (developing from scratch the concept or theme of the brochure or the entire marketing program)
  • Copywriting/Editing (writing copy from scratch; editing provided text)
  • Artwork (selecting graphics and photos; scanning; creating custom artwork)
  • Layout/Design (developing layout or design based on the purpose and concept of the brochure; selecting type; placing graphics)

And there is proofreading/editing in there at various stages as the project goes back and forth between you and the client.

Estimate the number of hours involved for each portion based on your discussions with the client. That's the price you would quote for that project. Every project is different. You may come up with a more or less set price for certain types of projects — say X amount for black & white business cards using one of several pre-designed templates you've created — because you know that something like that almost always takes you about X hours. But generally you'll want to quote jobs individually. And if the customer starts making big changes in the middle of the project — talk to them about how those changes might affect the bottom line.

When customers balk at the bottom line be sure to go back and discuss the various aspects of the project — maybe they'll decide to do some part differently or maybe they'll realize that a simple brochure really is more involved than they originally thought. Rather than cutting your price to please the customer — work with them to alter the parameters of the project to meet your needs and theirs. That way you get paid what your time and knowledge are worth and the customer is happy too.

Need more help with coming up with your hourly and project rates?

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