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.
SimplyHired.com paints a slightly less optimistic picture, as it says the average graphic designer income is $37,414 (about $19 per hour). But it also offers this graphic design pricing list that breaks down the average salaries for different design related jobs:
Graphic design intern salary: $25,828
Junior graphic designer salary: $38,054
Web designer salary: $50,014
Instructional designer salary: $57,096
Senior graphic designer salary: $57,388
User experience designer salary: $86,763
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.
How to Negotiate a Better Graphic Designer Salary
One of the first steps to negotiating higher graphic design fees is figuring out your worth. You can start by visiting job websites like Indeed. Just search for “graphic designer” and enter your location to see some job postings in your area. Many job postings include salary information as well as the required years of experience, so you can see how much employers are currently offering graphic designers at various points in their careers. Then, head to Glassdoor, where you can search for salaries by profession and location.
This research is important for a few reasons. First, it will help you reach a realistic figure. That way, you won’t under-price yourself or turn off the client by asking for way too much.
Secondly, you can mention your research during negotiations. It will let you back up your salary request with concrete examples of how much graphic designers are being paid.
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.
Use the Right Portfolio Platform
If you don’t have a portfolio website, don’t worry! Setting one up doesn’t take long and it’s easy to do as long as you choose the right platform.
Make sure to pick a website builder with fresh, modern templates and an array of cool fonts so you can show off your graphic design work as beautifully as possible—and get the best graphic designer salary possible!
And Never Work for Free
Many graphic designers get asked to work for free. It happens because some employers believe the exposure and association with their brand is worth a lot to freelance graphic designers.
Some designers agree to it, either for the experience, the exposure, or to develop a relationship with the client that will hopefully lead to more work. But unless you’re volunteering for a charity or helping out a friend or family member, it’s not a good idea. It just encourages businesses to continue with this shady practice.
So, if you’re faced with a client that’s offering no pay for a design project, it’s best to politely decline. It shows that you know you can offer clients some value, and it may lead them to try and negotiate with you.
Now Start Negotiating!
Now that you know some of the secrets of how to negotiate a better graphic designer salary, don’t hesitate to put them into practice. It can be a scary proposition to have to ask employers or potential clients for more money. But remember: your skills as a graphic designer are valuable, and you’re worth a decent salary.
Want more ways to boost your graphic design career?
How To Find Freelance Design Jobs
11 Extremely Helpful (And Free!) Online Graphic Design Courses
The Best Design Contests, Competitions, and Awards for 2018/2019