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Pricing, and 99Designs


Junior Member
Okay, so at the moment I'm an unemployed graduate. I want to get into the graphic design game, and I've been applying jobs here, there and everywhere. I'm building upon my portfolio, working on stuff for free for people - I've been asked to redesign a website - built upon Weebly so it's nothing too in-depth, and I still remember some CSS, not much, but enough to get me by on that. Then I've been asked to do logo's, posters, business cards, flyers etc. I don't *mind* doing them for free, it's all going in my portfolio, but still, it'd be nice to get paid - just the people who have asked me can't afford anything.
So, if I'm to attempt freelancing, how do I work out pricing? I don't want to be too cheap, or too expensive. I literally have no idea how much to charge. Do you do it by hour, or by project?
Secondly, have you guy's heard of 99Designs.co.uk? I've been looking into entering in some of the competitions, worth a shot if there's a chance I could get some kind of payment for something I've done. What do you think of it?


Active Member
You're setting a precedent for yourself. STOP DOING WORK FOR FREE.
Now that that's out of the way, if you want to get into the design game, start creating some personal projects, create logos for fake brands. Figure out what you want to do. Find freelance opportunities and don't work for free.
I am against sites like 99designs. They degrade the industry and cause people to think logos are cheap and that they don't have to pay much. You are also against sometimes hundreds of other "designers" who are creating logos in Photoshop (never ever do that) and recycling logos from other competitions they entered. It's not a viable source for income and many designers frown upon it.
When I started out, I charged $30/hour for my design work. That's as a fresh-out-of-college graduate. Figure out your cost of living and break it down from there. I would present a flat rate based upon how many hours I estimated the project to take (and would tell the client it's $30/hour for a project I'm estimating at 10 hours, or whatever it was). Give them a buffer, as it may go over that amount of time.
Your best bet, in the meantime, is to do some personal work for your portfolio so you don't have just university work. Put it in your portfolio both online and in print and the more people that see your work and see that you're passionate, the better your chances are.
Good luck!


Staff member
Take notice of above... having said that....
Personally I don't see a major issue with a new grad using 99designs etc but only as a way to get practice in or to build a portfolio. There is a caveat to that in that if you don't win any contests or get 'shortlisted' then you may need to question your skill set and the level that you're at. Not everyone is cut out to do design and you can do a course and still be no good at it.
Hello gcol,
So welcome to the "game," as you like to call it :) I am assuming your degree is in a design related field, since you didn't specify otherwise. This should give you enough theoretical and technical skills to get started at a decent level. Here at DesignForums we had more than one discussion on design career development. I have always believed that a job experience in an AD agency, graphics studio, or company is a very beneficial first step into this world. You get payed to operate in a real-world environment. This is very important when it comes to learn soft and hard skills such as team-work, work-flow, revision process, time-management, not to mention work-ethic; furthermore, the feedback experienced designers can give you is an invaluable resource.
This position should build your self-confidence enough to allow you to start with some freelance gig. For this works you will get payed, as shaunlynn correctly pointed, because as a designer employed in the industry you are automatically considered a professional. In many cases your title keeps away cheap customers (or those who pay in reference or "visibility") from you. Those who stay, will give you the opportunity to do (more or less) interesting projects. These first projects are important as they give you a taste of what the freelance world is. To be honest with you, I think that being a freelancer is not for everyone. Being successful at this kind of job requires a titanic discipline. I am sure many other members of the forum can tell you about that.
To summarize then, try to find a job in a company—a junior, part-time position is fine—and use it as an opportunity to improve yourself and your resume. Dedicate your free time to create your own visual identity and website; build your portfolio with well thought, made up projects. You'll see that freelance work will come to you. And then you'll make a decision. Good luck!


Active Member
Speaking from a freelance perspective: I have been freelancing since February of this year. Prior to that I did it on the side while working in house and then in an ad agency and I interned at one of the best agencies in my area when I got out of school. While a lot of people say you should have 5 year experience before you start freelancing, my situation is a bit different because I am a hand letterer and illustrator. I'm not designing ads and websites or collateral for a brand (well in a way I am but I'm only doing a component of it). I'm able to make it work because I have an illustration agent who takes care of my contacts, invoicing and pricing for a percentage of what I earn. For me, it works. I learned early on that this is what I'm happiest doing and that I would never be happy working in an agency if I had continued. There were too many egos and too much drama for me to deal with. I'm a simple person, I want everyone to get along and where I was at before I went out on my own, that was not the case. There was a lot of favoritism as well.
But freelancing on the side while you work in an ad agency or in house somewhere is always an option to help you gain some exposure and gain clients of your own. But being in an agency setting will help teach you some of the business side so you're not doing work for free.

I will add in that I can count on one hand the people I will do work for free for. Three of those are my immediate family. Two are my two closest friends. Beyond that I tend not to do work for friends unless it's something that I think will be fun and I know they won't be picky about because usually they are looking for cheap work and I don't have time for it. I refer them to other design friends. :)

Sean Lee-Amies

I absolutely agree with everything that has been said in regards to sites like 99design.com however we're in a time where so many people can get access to our tools of the trade which have been designed to be easy to use that a lot of people are figuring them out (to some limited degree) and are able to sell their shoddy service to people. The thing is, there are a lot of people out their that are similar to these people. They have some how managed to get their own business up and running, or were given it, without the real skills needed to run it properly. They don't care about their brand, they don't have any real values to attach to their business. They just want to make a bit of money and live off of their business. They're not willing to adapt to new situations (think of those old businesses that still don't have a website!) and because they don't understand the value of things like branding, identities, aesthetics they simply aren't willing or able to pay much for it. Even worse, because they don't understand the value, they often don't respect the designer, treating them more like a computer slave, dictating design to them and can often be incredibly naive and ignorant. Usually not a huge issue for smaller projects like logo designs and brochures but I'm willing to bet it still happens!
That is why sites like 99designs are so popular. These people can go there and get something for next to nothing, whether it technically works as a design for their business is outside of their own ability to judge and they simply don't care! The problem is that this really does circumvent a lot of positives that can be gained through working with a real designer. Most of the time you don't get to establish a relationship with the client, so wave good bye to future work or any referrals. And on the off-chance that you do get a referral from them, it's likely going to be with the caveat that you will have to work for free or for some pitiful amount of money. This can often lead to your portfolio looking quite unconvincing of your design abilities when you try and go for bigger and better jobs.
A decent portfolio should highlight your abilities in the areas of work that you are best in. Personally I would suggest that you work out what you want to do, i.e. website design, illustrations, branding etc and then work out what you need to do to achieve a solid portfolio. Most people without contacts and other out of the box contacts can be limited in terms of what type of work they are able to attract and add to their portfolio and of course your portfolio can often be the deciding factor as to if you win the project or not, so it can be a bit of a struggle getting the bigger projects and better clients to improve your portfolio but it will definitely come in time.
Your portfolio should have around 10 strong pieces of work. If you want to do web design and illustrations for example, there's not much point having all logos in your portfolio so figure out what you need in your portfolio and then tailor your project searches on sites like 99designs around them. Once your portfolio is full you'll be in a much better position to start working more freelance jobs.