today’s question is… Q: “what do you do when a client no longer wants to hire you when you send out your pricing estimates?”

don’t get discouraged if someone can’t afford to hire you, their loss. stick to your fees that feel right for you. you don’t want to sell yourself short. most of the time clients don’t understand why we charge what we charge. i think it’s important to stand my ground for myself and other designers and illustrators. if we all went lower in our prices it would set a standard that isn’t good for any of us.

if the potential client responds that they can’t afford my rates and the project sounded really cool, i would probably reply and ask what their budget is. maybe it’s not far from what i originally quoted. maybe the “cool” project is more important than the fee i hoped to get. there also might be the opportunity for some kind of trade if you want to go down that road. i have been in situations where someone asked me to do some illustrations for their website. my fee was too much for them at the time, but came back three months later ready to go. and if they just can’t afford you and neither of you are willing to work on it then move on. don’t waste your time thinking about it.

yes, just like designers have to learn what to charge, clients have to learn how much design costs. most of the time they go into the process thinking they can get a logo and website for 500 bucks and then realize they are way off after they go around asking for quotes. like katie, i have had people ask my rates, not email me back (i assumed they couldn’t afford my rates) and then come back a few weeks later after they realized that actually IS what it costs to design their project.

another thing you could do is have a designer that is just starting out (and probably charges less) work under you. they design the project and you oversee it (for a fee – something like 20%). this isn’t always the easiest, and sometimes ends up being more work than you’d like, but it CAN work.

but it really is important to stick to what you charge. you will gain respect from people if you stand your ground on what you feel is fair. don’t let people make you think you are charging way too much just because they don’t want to pay a fair price. a well designed brand can elevate a company to another level…we know that!

do you have any good freelance questions for us? leave us a comment with them!

(illustration by katie evans. here are all the advice posts over here)


Add your own

    I definitely used to be one of those people who didn’t understand why design cost as much as it does, but since I’ve started dabbling in graphic work myself, I realize that I was absolutely insane before. You’re paying for the technical work, yes, but also all of the thought that goes into branding and artistic vision. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Tiffany says:

    I find this happens a lot to creatives (I’m a copywriter for websites)–people just don’t understand why something costs what it does. I’ve even gotten the ‘but if you’re so good at it, it should be easy, right?’ It really doesn’t matter if it’s easy, it’s still a lot of prep work. Sometimes I’ll ask for their budget then let them know what I can do for that amount.

    Love this column ladies!

    Every time I have to give someone a quote, I ALWAYS get nervous and think I’m charging too much. Then, after I’ve sent the quote, I think that maybe I charged too little. Ha, I’m still new to this, obviously. It always seems to work out best when I just stick to my guns. I’m in the process right now of getting the final payment for a project, and I’m hoping that it’ll be smooth (the payment is due in just a few days, but I’m having issues contacting the client). Good thing for contracts. I used to have a viewpoint like Jessica, but I understand now!

    gloria waters says:

    aw yippie you answered my question! thank you so much bri and katie. when i asked this last week i was really bummed that i lost my client, but since then i’ve agreed to work out something where i can accommodate to her budget. next up is creating my contract, which will probably make this a whole lot easier. anyone know of any good contract templates?

    thanks again guys!

    Great advice, as always! One time a designer quoted me a price I could not afford, but when I told her what my budget was, she told me what I could get done within that budget. It worked great, and we were both happy!

    Anni says:

    Great advice! I had the hardest time with this when I was first starting out, but as you get clients who are excited about what you do and who understand why you charge what you do, you realize that often times the people who want your work for next to nothing often don’t value it anyway, and maybe would be better suited to someone just starting out.

    Great advice! Just this morning I emailed a potential client that may not be able to afford me at this time so I offered a 3 month payment plan instead of my 50/50 payment requirements. So even though I’m not coming down on the price, I am willing to work with clients to make arrangements that may be more affordable.

    Also, I’m a big fan of Freelancer’s Union for Contract Templates. They have a contract creator here: https://be.freelancersunion.org/contract-creator/

    Heather says:

    I recently dipped my toes into the freelance pool, both bri & katie have provided a wealth of knowledge. i find myself revisiting the posts just to make sure i’m on track and not asking for something “crazy”. thanks girls, keep it up!

    bri says:

    amanda! i have definitely done a payment plan as well! nice idea!

    dionne says:

    Nice post! Out of curiosity, what is the industry standard cost for just a logo? Thanks!

    Kristin says:

    Great to hear some support for sticking to your guns – getting compensated for what you’re worth is an issue in every creative field!

    A topic suggestion for future posts: how do you handle your accounting and bookkeeping? What software, if any, do you use? I’ve heard horror stories about QuickBooks for Mac and am nervous to make the purchase.

    gloria waters says:

    thanks for that link amanda! totally going to look in to that!

    Theresa says:

    Love the timing on this post! I’ve been designing for a while, but just started to more seriously pursue freelancing. I recently sent out a quote for a wedding suite print job and have only heard crickets. It’s discouraging, but I’ve spent too many years undervaluing my work to ask for less. It’s about time that clients start to learn that creativity and design time are worth more than just a pretty penny! Thanks for sharing your professional opinions!

    What happens if someone e-mails you to express interest in your work and asks about your rates and availability, but when you promptly reply with a message that expresses excitement about their project and a request for more information about the specifics, you plain out don’t hear back for over 2 weeks and counting? It’s happened to me twice this month and I keep wondering if it was something I said!

    Do you guys have a rate sheet that you automatically send out to potential clients when they express interest, or do you probe them for more information before giving them a personalized quote?

    Also, @gloria waters, I don’t know if she’ll read this, but the Graphic Artist’s Guild as well as AIGA.org have some really good templates for contracts – it’s what I based mine off of and it works well for me.

    I am an interior designer and I never know if I’m charging too much or too little! The clients make me feel like I’m charging “a lot” but it doesn’t seem that way with the amount of work that goes into each project. For your next post, I would LOVE to know how to explain the value of your work to your clients? Aside from the portfolio, how do you make them understand the creativity and effort that goes into your work?

    nina says:

    I have a question: How do you walk away from a project that you’ve realised you cannot complete, be it because you and the client cannot work well together, or the project is dragging on for far too long and you need to move on?

    Thanks so much for these columns, they are very helpful 🙂

    Alex says:

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I recently revamped everything from my site to my business practices and with that came an increase in prices.
    I had a past client contact me for a new site and was shocked to find that my prices had increased and countered my estimate with an amount about 30% less than my own. After explaining the reasoning behind my price increase, we ended up settling on a price in the middle(and slightly less work on my end) with the understanding that all future work will be done at my current prices.

    Lesson learned: communicate and negotiate(if the project is worth it)

    Frances says:

    I have a freelance question…

    If you have everything put together (portfolio, website, resume, etc) how do you market yourself/get the word out that you’re open for business? Where do you advertise? Do you advertise? Join associations?

    Figured this question would make for a decent post…

    Thanks. 🙂

    gloria waters says:

    @Natalie THANKS! i was thinking of AIGA having some resources on that, and now my search is confirmed. i found the PDF template that basically cuts the work out for me.. thank you natalie.

    Ashleigh says:

    I just went through this! Handled it the way Katie said!

    Bridget says:

    AMEN sistah friend. A friend and I had a spirited discussion about this days ago. I’m a big YES person so it’s been challenging sticking to my guns on this. But we have to be fair to ourselves and back up our own worth. And @ Danie–Oh my goodness–I do the exact same thing at times when I send off an estimate! Eeek. Eventually that will level off. Thanks for your post Bri and Katie!

    Lisa says:

    Thank you SO much for these posts! I have a similar questions on the financial side of things. Is there a resource you recommend for pricing guidelines? As a new designer, I really have NO idea what is standard. Thank you so much for your insight and pretty blog 🙂

    Jennifer M. says:

    Yes, very true! I’m still in the new-designer-charging-less category, but I totally agree with everything you say. Design takes time! And energy! Even a “simple” logo can take hours or days or weeks to come up with.

    I am trying to teach myself unapologetically give my prices. Sometimes people walk away and never come back – other times they come back in a few weeks and jump right in! That moment always makes it worth it, to know that I’m being paid for doing what I love. Sure, I could get more clients if I charged less, but then I would be working to the bone with not much to show for it.

    Susie Collier says:

    Coming at it from another end, if one uses a designer from a furniture store, is there any way to know what the mark up is? I got an estimate on a sofa, for example, and checked with some other retail stores and found the store/designer I was working with was charging 50% more, not from wholesale, but from retail. Is it appropriate to question this? I have been reading that a designer should stick to their estimate. I would really like to use this designer but I feel like I am being taken advantage of. Any comment would be welcome.

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