When I first hired someone to help with my business, I fell right into the trap many entrepreneurs fall into.
Virtual assistant for $2 per hour, woot?! That’s insane. I’ll take 10 of them!
But the person I had chosen (who happened to be based in Southeast Asia) turned out to work very slowly. So slowly, in fact, that it would make more sense to hire someone from the US!
I eventually realised that there is no free lunch, or free workers, not to mention the ethical concerns of insanely low rates on top of quality issues and absurd turnaround time. Long story short, I started hiring closer to home and for better pay.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for some ballpark figures on how much you should expect to pay a designer. We will talk about average rates, as well as discuss a different pricing model that makes particular sense for design.
Types of Designers
But first, we must go over different types of “design dealers”. These are different ways you can get design done, with various levels of quality.
First, there are agencies. They work on large budgets ($10,000+) and normally provide all kinds of design, as well as development and website planning, copywriting, and more. In short, they are your one-stop shop for marketing and brand development.
I hate agencies, primarily because I’ve worked at one. I have a hard time believing that a company that mass-manufactures websites can always have your best interests in mind. But agencies are probably out of most readers’ budgets anyway, so we’ll jump right to the next category.
This article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning websites like 99designs. For a tiny rate of $299, you can get a bunch of logo designs to pick from. Great, right?
$299 is actually a lot for a logo. Ok, now put down your pitchforks and let me explain why.
It’s quite easy to design a logo, at least at the level of craft provided by crowdsourcing websites. Here’s a tip: you can get an equally good design over at LogoDust or BrandCrowd for a third of the price. The authors of those logos put the same amount of thought into your brand as crowdsourcing websites — and that is zero.
Unless there’s a designer on your founding team, you’re probably going to spend a lot of money on hiring one full-time.
Research done by Adrem shows that average salary for designers in the UK range from 22K to 40K pounds, depending on experience. And this is just for graphic designers. For UX designers, the average spans from 45K to 60K pounds per year.
This translates into roughly 380 pounds per day for independent contractors.
Which brings us to the last and probably most suitable type of designer for startups. As a fledgling company, you will probably need a few different varieties of design work. You may want a UX professional to give you some advice on your app. You’ll need a graphic designer to create your logo. The list goes on. Freelance designers are perfect for this.
Freelance designers may bill hourly rates, daily / weekly rates, or a fixed price for a project. Let’s take a look at what these rates may be.
Freelance Designers’ Average Rates
Obviously, the average rates will differ enormously by the location of the designer and the work they do. US-based designers, particularly those based on the West Coast, tend to charge a lot more than their Eastern-European or South-Asian counterparts. Digital and interactive design these days pays a lot more than traditional graphic design.
Elance is notorious for the low rates that designers charge in order to outbid the competition, so don’t take the following rates as a fact. But the statistics can give us an impression of how different rates are. A UI designers’ average rate is $29, compared to the average for graphic designer which is $23.
The average rate recorded by Bonsai was $80 per hour for UX design and $50 per hour for graphic design. For comparison, you'll pay $65 for a UXer in Canada versus 70£ in the UK.
Judging by the data in the rate dropdown on UpWork, the majority of all graphic designers available on the platform charge up to $30 per hour. When narrowed down to only South Asia, the majority of them charge less than $10, but top-quality freelancers (marked with the platform’s “job success” score) most still charge between $10 and $30 per hour.
It’s a similar situation with web and UI designers, except you’ll be much more hard-pressed to find quality hires for under $10 per hour, even in Southeast Asia.
Hire by value
You now have a better understanding of how much design costs.
But hiring on a hourly rate may not actually be the best solution in every case. When you think about it, an hourly rate isn’t exactly motivating anyone to hurry up and do their best work.
Design has a real purpose in your business. It can make or break your marketing strategies. It requires a holistic approach that $10/hour freelancers can’t provide.
There is a difference between decorative design and business-focused design. This is why services like Fiverr and 99designs won’t ever truly jeopardize the industry of design consultants.
Here's what most people do when they hire a designer: they ask for a price quote without telling much about their project. And I totally understand this — they want to have a ballpark figure to understand whether they can afford this gig or not.
However, there's so much more to pricing than just hourly rates. Working with a low-rate designer can be long and excruciating, while an expert could hammer the same nail in two strokes. Even though the pro's rate seems less affordable, in fact it saves you a ton of time, money, and nerve cells.
It's great when designers offer paid roadmapping sessions or productized consulting packages to lower that psychological barrier of the first engagement.
Sure, finding good designers for your growing business can be intimidating. But with this newfound knowledge, you can easily find someone who will suit your design needs. Don’t underestimate the power of good design – looking fresh and slick is key to having people take your business seriously.
Design, but simple.
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