Charging by the Project Not the Hour

provide value for the price

It wasn’t so long ago that my idea of a graphic design rate came from asking other fresh out of school designers how much they charge per hour and just copying that. At the time, I thought that is just how you did it. You charge X amount per hour for graphic design services and that was that. Then in May of 2014 I was introduced to a new way of thinking from a person that I now consider not only one of my contemporaries in the world of design, but also in some ways a mentor. That man’s name is Sean McCabe and if you work in the world of art I highly suggest you listen to his podcast at and consider joining their online community. So what did I learn from Sean that changed how I charge for work? I adopted a concept of value based pricing. Let me explain to you what I mean by that and how I calculate a price.

After a client and I have had a chance to discuss their needs and come to a conclusion on what the specific job may be, I start to formulate what the project is going to cost. There is a certain amount of money that keeps the lights on here at Julian Baughman Graphic Design so that amount is where is start and gets baked into the price. I plot out a typical 40 hour week by taking the amount of income our family needs to cover all of our expenses for a year, then break that down into 52 weeks. Those 52 weeks are then broken down further into 40 hours to give me what we could call the survival cost per hour. So using that survival cost if you calculate a full work week, that will be just enough for me to cover living expenses.  

Next, let’s say the project requires photography of a product or model or perhaps some custom development code for a website or desktop application. I then reach out to my network to find the professional services needed for the project and their expense is added into that survival price. So we have my survival expense plus other expenses for boutique services and we are almost at where I can quote out the job but there is still one final factor.

That last factor resides in the job itself. How much value are you getting out of the work that I’m providing? Is this project going to make you an additional $40,000 this year? If so, wouldn’t you be willing to pay $4000 to make that extra $36,000? I know I would. But know that you aren’t getting just the value of $4000. When I take on a client I’m not trying to trick them into giving me their money. I WANT their project to succeed. By having a consistent record of helping clients reach their goals that helps me gain not just new clients, but sometimes more work from those original clients so that’s why I pour as much value as possible into every job.

Now a job for a small business probably isn’t going to be quoted as high as a job for a larger entity where the return on investment is going to be drastically different but I’m also not going to deliberately inflate the price just because client x is larger than client y. I base the final rate on how much improvement I can bring to the entity with the project. Also, If the estimate of time for the project and the added boutique expenses don’t leave the client with an acceptable return on investment, I don’t feel comfortable even taking the job. I want the project to be beneficial to both the client and myself. If I simply took the job and the client lost money on the job, how does that make me look professionally? Not. Very. Good. By providing professional services I position myself more as the investment and not an expense which is something I learned way back when I started listening to Sean McCabe and his awesome podcast. So if you think it’s time to stop charging by the hour and charging by the job, now is the time. Start positioning yourself as an asset not just a tool to be used to fix a problem.

Thanks for reading and I’ll be back again soon with another post from the world of graphic design!