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Graphic Designer: Getting Paid Right

If you’re a fresh graduate doing his first graphic design project, you probably have no idea how to put a fair price on your work. Quote a much higher price and they’d likely cancel the assignment, quote a very low price and you’d slowly hate your career.  So, how can a fresh graduate determine his pay?

Research Your Salary

First, you have to check some websites so you would know the pay range of graphic designers today. According to, The median expected salary for a typical Graphic Design Specialist in the United States is $47,709 as of Dec 2011.  According to Payscale, the total pay range of Graphic Designers in the US is $23,575 – $58,864.

The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics has the most in-depth look of the employment and wages of Graphic Designers. For 2010,the mean hourly wage is $23.14;The mean annual wage is $48,140.It also has the data per industry so you better check their site.

You can also check out The Creative Group’s annual Salary Guide to calculate your salary and get in-depth information based on your location.

These information can help you know if you are being overpaid (uh, lucky you!) or underpaid and by how much. For freelancers, the hourly wage data will help you determine if you’re asking too much or too less.

Research who you’ll be working for

Are you planning to work full-time for a company or you want to work for yourself as a freelancer? You have to know these guys so you can determine your price. You cannot ask thousands of dollars from a start-up company. You may do this to big companies if you think you’ll deliver something worth a thousand dollars- and if you think they really believe in your talent. But you know, it’s not all about the amount of cash you get. If a big time ad agency hires you and offers a low wage, by all means just grab it. You’ll be thankful in 3 years time.

Is your portfolio impressive?

If you’re a fresh grad with no job (company) experience yet you have a very impressive portfolio, there’s a chance big companies will hire you. They like getting younger applicants with great talent. If you’re still in college now, use your time wisely. Instead of playing World of Warcraft, polish your skills and create a good website to showcase your talent.


If you’ve worked with more than 10 clients, then you can charge higher than those with zero work experience. Naturally, you can ask more if you have a good work experience before. Every year you spent as a graphic design graduate should be focused on improving your skills and work relations.


Do you have a skill you’re known for? Are you so good with those brushes that it makes young girls blush? Then you have to charge higher especially if a particular project uses your special skills. Every skill you master should affect your pay, ideally.

Once you’re there working and getting familiar with the whole graphic design career, that’s the time you learn the ropes better. Ask your co-workers how much they charge for freelance work, compare their level and skills to yours.  Some of the graphic designers I know get their pay in “milestones”. They ask for a base price which will be paid when certain tasks are done. Then if they think they’ve worked more than what they’re paid for, they ask for additional pay before submitting the finished product. Just make sure you do not charge way too high so you’ll have return clients and a good reputation.


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