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[AQFG] = A Question For Graham

Simon asked a question, "My question to you is what do you think the best way to charge clients for logo work? Do you charge per hour, per day or per job?"

Quick Answer First

I have always charged per job, and have never ever considered charging per hour/day. The biggest reason I can think of is that logo and brand identity work involves a lot of thinking, a lot of research and planning and this goes on when I am walking the dogs, when I am in the shower, when I am sleeping and driving. I tend to fully immerse myself into each and every project which ultimately means I tend to invest a lot more time in a project than I could ever realistically hope to charge for.

If I charged per hour I would have to be very strict with what it is I am actually charging for. Is it just the time I spend on the Macintosh, is the the time I spend sketching whilst down the beach or in a cafe, is it also the time I am thinking about the job whilst doing something else that is maybe in my personal time.

The Why

Working from home means I rarely get to switch off from a project, but that is OK as that is the choice I made to live and work this way. Working from home gives me more freedom per day than I could ever hope to have as a employee. The trade-off is that I choose to fully live each job. Some of the best logo projects I have worked on have been the result of borderline obsessive work, and research patterns.

I am being paid good money to do my very very best so I will do what I have to do in order to achieve the best possible result. I could not do this if I had to charge per hour as this would bring monunmentally crippling limiations to how I do my job.

This applies to designing a single logo, or something with more meat like a more extensive identity. If I have just a logo design to work on I will still ask a client what their overall budget is and set that in stone from day one.

I can't think of many clients who would be totally OK without some sort of higher/maximum budget which means you immediately you have an enforced restriction in place. So if they have a maximum budget that can't be exceeded then this means they are potentially open to spending that much in the first place. So why the hassle?

I think some people mistakingly believe charging, or being charged per hour creates some kind of control valve, but the only valve I see is one that stifles true exploration of the job in hand.

Supposing you are charging per hour and half way into the project, assuming the client has talked about a maximum budget, you have nothing to show the client? The fact you are half way through with no clear direction will quickly turn into a sense of anxiety, and you will likely feel pressured to rush a solution in order to meet the maximum ceiling. Of course you can choose to still spend more time than you charge, but I just don't like the read-between-the-lines (I want it as quickly, and as cheaply as you can do it) message a client asking for an hourly charge is imposing on you. 

Let's not also forget that 'that' idea cannot be scheduled/timed to appear in your brain at a particular point in time, and preferably before your ideal total hours allotment is about to expire. By going the per/hour route you are just burdening yourself with unnecessary burdens.

I also believe there is a mistaken connection to cheaper when linked with charge-per-hour.

Charge Per Job

In my humble opinion logo design can not, and should not, be charged per hour because the actual process cannot easily be defined as blocks of measured time. A lot of what we do is based on an unmeasurable process that is hard to even fully explain or justify to any one else.

There is a lot, and should be a lot, of thinking time, research time which can be hard to equate to billable hours. The moment you start having to weigh up what part of your job should be charged for per hour, and what should not be charged, is the time you are cheapening and diluting your own career.

For me personally it is far easier, and far less restrictive, to discuss with the client their maximum budget and have this set at the get-go. This means the designer and client are crystal clear about what is expected with no nasty surprises on the way.

The designer then has no need to keep checking the hours logged for fear of reaching the "is this too many hours?" or "what should I charge as I think I have taken more hours than I should have done", and numerous other self-doubting scenarios. As well as the benefits to the designer, the client does not have to keep wondering what the final bill will be.

A total costing is easy peasy and requires no extra brainwork, worry, anxiety, stress through-out the project.

From The Beginning

The way I manage my clients' expectations is that even before they have spoken to me they are aware that my method of charging is based on a fixed budget.

I clearly specific the budget tiers in my online logo design questionnaire so there is no room for misunderstanding. If a client is not happy with a fixed budget then I will not work with them. It's as simple as that.

I value, to the ends of the world, the time, energy and even social sacrifices that I choose to take on with each and every logo design job. It's then only reasonable that I am able to work and charge the way I know ensures the client will get the very best out of me.

A Question For Graham

If you have a question that you would like to hear me express my views or thoughts on, then please visit Ask Graham A Question on Logo & Brand Identity.







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