What Affects the Cost of a Design Job?

When you ask a design firm how much a [insert any type of work here] costs, it is akin to asking the cost of a car. We know the price of a car varies greatly based on manufacturer, model and bells and whistles, and it’s similar with design costs: designer/firm, experience and the work involved. When we say that every job is unique and we can’t give you an estimate without getting more information, we aren’t trying to sound belligerent; we’re being honest.
There are many factors that affect the cost of a design job:

  • Deadline: Does the job have a tight turnaround?
  • Design: Do we need to create entirely new concepts (as opposed to going off the look of an existing brand)? Do you have strict brand guidelines that we need to take time to review?
  • Page count: Whether it’s a publication or a website, 4 versus 400 pages makes a big difference. Design work is a portion of the total cost and layout is another.
  • Revisions: Typically a certain amount of time or number of drafts are included in the cost. If you don’t provide proofread copy to the designer and make excessive revisions in the design process, you should expect to incur additional costs.
  • Images: Do we need to research stock photos or illustrations (typically we do) or procure a photographer for custom work?
  • Copywriting/editing: Do you need assistance with writing, editing or proofreading?
  • Deliverables: Do you need native files, as opposed to a web or print-quality PDF?

Nonmonetary Costs

When getting estimates, also take into consideration nonmonetary costs:

  • Designer/firm expertise: Someone with less experience may require more handholding. How much time are you able/willing to spend to explain your organization’s needs, how nonprofits or associations work, or about your industry?
  • ROI: A more experienced designer/firm may cost more but may net you better results—and aren’t results what it’s all about? You need the design to communicate to your target audience, not just look good.
  • Flat versus hourly rates: Creative work is usually based on a flat rate, not hourly. If someone quotes you an hourly rate, it’s irrelevant unless you know how long they expect the job to take. Getting a flat rate estimate means you know up front what is included and how much that work will cost.
  • Resources: Good designers have connections with good vendors and stay in touch with them throughout the process. Wouldn’t it really stink if the printer made an error after all the work was perfected?

Be up front about your budget (or, if you don’t have a budget, your expectation about cost). Sometimes budget plays the biggest role and it’s just not possible for a designer/firm to work within it. We’ve had clients come back to work with us with an increased budget after we told them their initial budget was unrealistic. For print work, an experienced designer can often finagle certain specs so it costs less to print or even mail (so don’t keep your design and print budgets mutually exclusive). Regardless of the work being print or digital, we often have ideas to help keep costs within your budget.


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