How much to charge for design work?

Often I get asked this question via email, facebook or twitter about how to price yourself as a designer. The usual phrase goes something along the lines of “how much should I charge for” … web design, graphic design, logo design, etc.

In reply, I usually send them off to Freelance Switch’s pricing yourself section (they removed it) and / or refer them to my article on the fast, good, cheap pricing method however I have come across a few other valuable resources:

Danny Outlaw suggests to ask yourself 10 Questions when pricing yourself:

What services am I pricing?
How much does it cost me to run my business?
How much money do I want to make?
What is everyone else charging?
How bad do people want what I have?
How good am I at what I do?
How long have I been doing this?
Will I charge by the hour or by the project?
How much can my client afford?
What’s my business strategy?
Similarly, Jeff Fisher suggests some other questions to ask yourself, in his article How Much Should I Charge?

What is your experience in the field of graphic design or with a specific type of project?
What is the amount you are currently charging as a hourly/project rate for similar projects?
What do you feel the final project will be worth?
What are the exact project specifications the particular client has provided?
What is the estimated amount of time such a project will take for completion?
What are the methods to be used to execute the project?
What do you need to charge to cover your overhead cost and expenses on such a job?
How badly do you want the project?
What prices will the local geographic market will bear?
What are competitive rates in your local area for similar work?
How much is the client is willing to pay? (It doesn’t hurt to ask if they have a budget)
What are you providing the client in the way of rights to use the design for future purposes?
Is the client a for-profit or nonprofit entity, and do you price such work differently?
However, one must remember when doing so that there are certain realities that you will have to face – Steven Vandelay outlines 12 realities of pricing your design services and below is the summary of them:

There’s no exact formula.
Both hourly pricing and project-based pricing have pros and cons.
Pricing is a necessary part of freelancing.
Mistakes are a part of the process.
Your prices will affect your own outlook on your services and it will also impact your client’s opinion of your services.
Uncertainty is common.
The variety of prices is as wide as the variety of talent levels.
Losing a job isn’t always a bad thing.
Pricing can be a good way to weed out the tire kickers.
Some potential clients will think your prices are high no matter what you charge.
Charging more than you quoted may be necessary.
Starting out you’ll probably have to charge less than you’d like.
So really, there is no magic formula? Sorry, no… but I did come across an article that came close…

Here, Josh provides four steps to effective design pricing:

Determine your hourly wage:
(Expenses + Salary) ÷ Hours Worked Per Year = Hourly Wage
Develop base prices:
(Hourly Wage x Estimated Time To Complete) x Complexity Level = Base Price
Develop prices for additional requirements:
Assign a complexity level system and put them into the formula above.
Develop prices for outsourced work:
(Quote From Contractor x 1.10) = Price
But always remember… there is no exact formula.

I would like to leave you with a point that Jeff Fisher made in his article How Much Should I Charge?

The major point I wish to convey here is that all designers need to work smarter in independently determining what their talent, skill and expertise are worth and charge the client accordingly without question or apology. Being smart in determining what you should charge for your work will hopefully allow you to “work less, charge more” in the future.