Response: On Getting Paid by Jessica Hische

April 9, 2012

Jessica Hische has written an excellent series of articles primarily directed to young designers and illustrators who are looking to get (paid) work in their respective industries. Typically, young freelancers such as myself struggle with the whole monetary compensation thing, and unjustifiably so. Hische is fairly keen on the idea that all designers with at least some weight to their work, even undergraduates, deserve to be paid for their services. Period.

A young designer could encounter several scenarios (many of which are┬áhumorously highlighted on Hische’s Should I Work for Free? flowchart) — for example, are you doing work for a legitimate business, a not-for-profit, or a charity? Should you be getting paid to some degree regardless? In most cases, Hische concludes with a resounding “yes” — that you should not only be getting paid for your work, but also critically thinking about what you charge. The value you attach to your services will consequently be attached to how much you’re worth as a professional. Hische suggests that keeping your rates in check (and at a reasonably high amount) will help to set a standard for all clients looking to hire within design-related fields.

I’ve had a particularly difficult time deciding to charge an hourly rate versus a flat fee from personal experience. Clients tend to prefer solid quotes that they can budget for. Even in the event that you prefer to charge an hourly rate, the client is at least going to expect that you’ll know how much time will go into the project (and as a result, how much they’re going to be paying). This is especially challenging for new freelancers who don’t quite know how much time they’ll need to put into a particular project. Hische bluntly states that “pricing hourly punishes efficiency” (though she does say to take the idea with a grain of salt). To explain this idea, she uses the example of two professional designers who produce work of equal value, both charging hourly rates. However, one designer works at a more efficient pace than the other, accomplishing in 7 hours what the other designer did in 18. If both were to charge $100 an hour for their work, the client would be paying out $700 to the more efficient designer, whereas they would be paying $1800 to the less efficient designer for a work of equal value. Hische is firm in declaring that this isn’t fair, and to combat this, all designers should consider charging at flat rates.

I think one of the biggest concerns for young designers is knowing how much to charge for your work — especially if you opt to charge a flat rate. How much value can you really attach to your work when you’ve only had a few clients under your belt? While Hische does provide a quote example for charging an international clothing brand, she notes that most designers are reluctant to share what they charge with the rest of the world for fairly understandable reasons. Ultimately, “standard prices” are not set in stone for a new designer. When deliberating on a quote, Hische notes that designers should consider the amount of time they’ll be putting into the project, how big the client is, and what kinds of rights they will require.

Reading what Hische has to say on the matter certainly helped shed some light on considerations to be made when charging a client. The bottom line is that our work has a value, and we will set the bar for what it’s worth — what we’re worth.