Helllllllllp!! :)


Hi there :)

A few questions if anyone would be kind enough to answer!

I've done quite a lot of design projects over the last few months, got various bits of work experience, and am now thinking that in the new year I may offer my services 'officially'. Although I've dealt with a few clients, it's been more informal, but now I'd like to seem a bit more 'professional' if that makes much sense?

What is the average amount that should be asked for, for deposit? How important is getting a deposit?

I'm not sure how to set my prices also! So far I've charged anything between £15 - 100 for a logo, and have been working at minimum wage on general print design. I've not been focused on making money as a lot of it has been for practise. Is it better to charge an hourly rate or regular fixed amounts per project type, i.e. Logos = £90. How do you know how much you're worth?!

I can't think of a decent trading name and don't want to use my name! I've been told to stay away from colours as everyone seems to be doing that right now, but I love pink and can't think of a way to incorporate it into any name without making it sound too girly! Any tips/suggestions?

And...contract/agreements...what kind of thing is standard to put into a design one?!

Any other advice/tips?

I know I can waffle a bit sorry! :icon_rolleyes:
Deposits - our rule of thumb:

New client - private individual - at least 50%
New client - business (without a recognised purchase order) - 50% for first order

Established history - free credit (within reason) - 30 days terms.

Deposit should go towards covering at least the direct costs for which you have paid out.

That's us!

Best wishes

The reason I ask is that, if you're going full-time, you need to think about paying your bills.

There's masses of stuff to consider when it comes to pricing and it depends to a large extent on who your clients are likely to be (have a proper think about that one) but I charge within a range from £350 (which, in my experience, seems to be the benchmark daily consultancy rate for smaller and non-profit making businesses) to £550 (corporate clients), all based on a 7.5 hr day with an hourly rate worked out pro rata. I'll allow a client to pin me down to a fixed price if it's reasonable but generally detail my rates and how long I plan to spend on a job when I quote which basically amounts to the same thing (always make it clear, however, that any quote relates to a job as described and that additional work and client-directed changes to a brief will be charged at your hourly rate).

Another thing to take into account when it comes to your rate is utilisation: if I were working to capacity (a full week every week) I'd be laughing but, as an independent, in the real world, be realistic from the start (like me, you might also not want to be working full-time all the time). When I first set up, I decided that I didn't want to take a drop in salary from my previous job (as an in-house designer) and then worked out how many days' work I'd need to secure at an average daily rate to take me to that level. It's all a bit plucked out of the air but you do need targets and they do need to meet the criteria of being challenging but achievable.

I don't personaly charge deposits but I work largely (although not exclusively) with public sector organisations and their private sector suppliers (all about my background) and am yet to run into any difficulties over payment - probably something to do with the culture. I don't really have any direct, tangible overheads in terms of materials, etc. and, furthermore, I trust the clients I've worked with in the past and I wouldn't expect a new client to pay anything up front for work I hadn't yet done; if I can't do it to their satisfaction I wouldn't expect them to carry the risk, but then I don't accept work in the first place unless I have sufficient confidence in my skills/way of working/etc. to get it signed-off. That might all change if I ever run into problems but I decided early on that I'd respond to the situation when it arose rather than give anyone cause to hesitate over engaging me from the off.

Re: creating an appearance of professionalism, an effective route is to set up a limited company (many larger organisations will insist you have this status anyway and it will also allow you to seperate your business from your personal affairs and keep more of your money, especially if you can afford to take a small salary and top it up with dividends - it's also easier than you might think). Also, get yourself some professional indemnity insurance; it shouldn't set you back too much and it builds confidence. All that said, 'by a man's work shall ye know him', and there's an old sales cliche someone once shared with me which says that 'people buy from people'; the best way to create the right impression is through who you are and what you do; a bit of a misordering of cart and horse there, perhaps, but by far the best way to build a business is through recommendation and the best way to get the ball rolling is by shamelessly promoting yourself first of all to people you know and then shamelessly asking them to tell everyone they know about who you are and what you're doing.

Good luck.

Hi Pinkdot,

If, as you say that this will now be your full-time job, you need to quickly do some research so you can establish what you pricing structure will be.

While you might not want to price yourself too high, it's important that you can price your design work so you can make a living from design.

You're right to put in place a system for asking clients for a deposit - this is really important as there will be occasions where you'll do work for a client that has no intention of paying you. There are lots of contract templates available online for free that you can tailor to your own company. You should also think about getting a signed contract from clients agreeing to your terms and the timeline of when you expect to get the work finished.

Until you've built up a rapport with a new client and can trust them, you should always insist on a deposit and a contract. If there's any resistance to this from would-be clients, then that's your signal to steer clear of them.

Good luck,

While I can certainly see value in this and, as I say, it depends on who you're working with, I think there are valid reasons why a new client would be wary of paying up front for something as difficult to quantify as creative design. For me, it's all about risk and I personally wouldn't entertain the idea, as a client, of an advance payment where no genuine guarantee of satisfaction exists. T&Cs, yes, but, properly drafted, these ought to put an onus on the supplier as well as the client.
Hi Dave,

I just wanted to find out if you've ever experienced a client not paying you or have presented a job to a client and then they decide they don't like what you've done?

While I agree that any client is going to be wary to pay a 50% deposit to a junior designer with no guarantee of a creative solution at the end of the project, I feel there still needs to be safeguards in place so that designers of all experience are protected.

Maybe it doesn't happen in the public sector, but there's far too many 'cowboy' clients around who want designers to create work for them and will only pay them if they like the results. I think any designer that gets burnt in this way won't have any problem asking future clients for a deposit.

It would be interesting to see how many other designers ask for a deposit up front?
... there's far too many 'cowboy' clients around who want designers to create work for them and will only pay them if they like the results. I think any designer that gets burnt in this way won't have any problem asking future clients for a deposit.

Plenty of cowboy designers around too and I'm not at all sure I'd be more inclined to trust one who requires a deposit more than one who didn't; it's all about getting the work signed-off and I'd probably place greater trust in one who backed any claims to professionalism up by carrying the risk associated with ultimate client satisfaction.

You're probably right on the last point and perhaps I've been lucky so far but I think it's partly a question of approach (see earlier post). Of course, a deposit can be refundable but if it got to the stage where it ought to be returned, how could I be sure at the outset that someone who claims to be a highly professional and reputable designer would turn out to be an equally professional and reliable operator once I'd decided that their work was poor and told them so?
Thanks for the advice guys.

The main reason I want to go 'full-time with is is slightly more force than choice, as I'll be out of a job come January, and the thought of being on the unemployemtn pile is sickening! :icon_crying:

I'm not sure what I think about the deposit thing as I can see it being a put off to some potential clients, although I can definately see the benefits as I've seen a few people get burnt...not good! Especially when they've spent a long time on something and put all their heart and soul into it!

Yes I'll spend the next couple of months doing a lot a research and working out a pricing structure.

Are there any particular good ways of marketing a design business? I'm thinking all the usual ways aswell as the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn. Is there anything obvious that I'd need to be doing?

For you guys based at home, do you use your address or use a 'virtual address' such as those offered by business centres?

One more thing! With business cards, is it essential/legal to put you full name on or can a nick name do? Main reason is I'm due to change my last name and it will cause a bit of headache, plus EVERYONE calls me by my nickname!

Cheers and really appreciate the advice! :icon_cheers:
I started from the same position. I was in-house at a big company for approx. 10 years and decided to give it a go on my own when the redundancy axe fell. A shameless farewell email to everyone I knew in the company + private emails and Linked-In invitations to people I'd worked with/for previously brought in enough work to get me started so I'd definitely recommend those.

Is the virtual address thing about business rates? I vaguely recall that discussion with either BusinessLink (do use them, by the way) or my accountant. I guess there's probably more to it than that but I work from home and don't incur business rates because local authorities aren't generally interested in you so long as you're just someone working from the spare room and don't have regular callers/deliveries/etc; I also don't claim any portion of my household bills as a business expense which I understand is key in this scenario.

With business cards, I'd say it's probably - again - about who you hope to be working with and how professional you want to appear in the conventional sense but, that said, they're not expensive so I wouldn't worry unduly about the prospect of a possible reprint somewhere down the line. Personally, I've never had any printed and still haven't built a proper website 18 months in, hence my belief in and commitment to the networking/recommendation thing.
In regard to nicknames on business cards - you know your clients / prospective clients - how would they perceive nicknames in terms of professional credibility.

One to think about and not a street subject I know... but a serious consideration (from experience).

Also - any impact for international clients / cultures?
I don't regard it as a deposit, everywhere I have worked its been called a severance fee. You are not saying that they have to go with what you are producing by asking for this. What you are doing is saying 'if you would like me to go ahead with doing this, and I give you my ideas after completing hours of work on the initial stage of your project, I will require payment for what I've done'. I don't think that is too much too ask.

You wouldn't go to work for an employer and not expect to be paid. A severance fee allows you to be paid for the work you have put in. I see it as an opportunity to save both client and designer a lot of unnecessary time spent on a project with the other party for it to be abandoned and for either party to lose out. This way it gives the client a chance to pull the plug before work is undertaken when a severance fee is requested, and the designer to gain reimbursement after a client has wasted their time by pulling the project midway through just to go to someone else.
Cheers. How about something like a 25% 'deposit' or just a stern set of T&Cs?

RE Business cards...I guess it would make more sense to just put my new surname on since it will be changed in January/February anyway.

I think the biggest concern I have is pricing myself....I'm not exactly the strongest designer - yet :icon_lol:
but think I may have potential in future...I know I have to include things like hourly wage, running costs like software, utilities etc, but how do some other designers just arrive at a point blank figure like: - Logo = £150, A6 Flyer = £60, etc, when each design is individual?
I'm not exactly the strongest designer - yet :icon_lol:
but think I may have potential in future...I know I have to include things like hourly wage, running costs like software, utilities etc, but how do some other designers just arrive at a point blank figure like: - Logo = £150, A6 Flyer = £60, etc, when each design is individual?

You've got to base it on what you are now, not what you can be. Its then just down to your estimation of how long you believe the project will take. It also depends on budget, if the client has a timescale, how the client wants the job provided and the quality, etc.

It really is down to you and your experience and how much you believe you are worth. Don't undersell yourself, but by the same token don't overprice yourself. I have known clients to look elsewhere because they believe a designer is too cheap. It gets their alarm bells ringing. Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules, it's down to the individual.

And yes I believe a 25% 'severance fee' is fine. :icon_wink: