because you asked
There are certain questions that come up a lot. To save me time answering them, and you time asking them, here they are.
Great question, I’m glad you asked. I have an entire page about that, but the short answer is around $105/hour. If you think that’s a crazy amount and that I wear diamond-bedazzled Chuck Taylors, I can assure you that is not the case, and you should read about where that number comes from and what it covers.
Short answer: No.
Long answer: How I decide to bill a project (ie. fixed fees vs. an hourly rate) depends a lot on who the client is and what the specific details of the project are. For all of my ongoing clients I bill at an hourly rate (I have a few clients with a lot of stakeholders so sometimes we can end up at a dozen rounds of revisions—it's good to be billing hourly in these circumstances). For new clients and for certain types of projects, I might switch to a fixed fee, but I like to find out more about the project first.
For example, you might be thinking "Well what does a four panel double-sided roll fold brochure generally cost?" Again, this depends on you and your content, and how many rounds of revisions we anticipate, so before I come up with an estimate, I like to get a sense of the project.
I can tell you a few base costs though:
- It's difficult to do even a basic website for less than $2,000
- Wordmark logos (for a small business or small non-profit) will start at $700 and go up depending on level of customization, number of initial concepts, etc.
- Logos with icons (for a small business or small non-profit) will start at $1,200 and go up depending on complexity, number of initial concepts, etc.
- Logos for large companies cost more and will likely be a fixed fee project (logos for large, established companies have more intrinsic value so designers don't tend to bill hourly for those—cost of the logo is based on its anticipated exposure and value to the company).
Process can vary quite a bit depending on the client and the type of project, but here are some general touchpoints:
- Estimate—If you email me as a prospective new client, I'll take the details that you provide about the work you want done, and write up an estimate for you. This estimate might be formal and on letterhead with a full breakdown, or it might just be a summary in the body of an email—again this depends a lot on the client and the project.
- Contract—Once you agree to the estimate and want to engage me to do the work, I'll send you a contract to sign and a deposit invoice (generally for 50% of the estimated cost). If the contract is for multiple ongoing projects, it'll be a general contract with general language (and an accompanying Scope of Work document to hash out the agreed upon details of a particular project). If the contract is for a single one-off project, then the contract language will be geared to that project's details (and this means if we decide to embark on other work after the project completes, then we'll need a new contract—this is why I tend to err on the side of a general contract from the start, as it will cover all projects we embark upon). Once I receive the signed contract and deposit, we've got an active project going.
- Timeline—We'll establish either a loose or a strict timeline (depending on your needs or my availability)—with key deliverable dates for larger projects (1st draft, revision cycle, final product delivery). For small projects lacking strict deadlines, we can be a bit looser with this—it eats away at the budget if I spend too much time creating workback schedules. A larger project can afford this time but a smaller project should have less admin.
- Design work—The exact details of this part of the process can vary greatly with the type of project, but generally I'll prepare a first draft of the design (either in part if it's a large project, or in whole if it's a smaller project), you'll give feedback on the general look and feel, and any edits to the content, and I'll prepare subsequent drafts until we arrive at an approved, completed piece.
- Payment & delivery—once again, this can vary with project, but generally speaking once we've got a signed off completed piece, I submit to you a final invoice and you receive all of your production-ready files upon payment of that invoice. The order this happens in tends to be more relaxed for my longstanding established clients. For those clients I usually deliver the project as soon as it's completed, and submit monthly invoices for ongoing work.
I often get requests from people who “mostly” like their logo but want a couple tweaks. Do I want to do this kind of work? The short answer is maybe but probably not. Read on while I try to explain why without sounding like an asshole:
Maybe you had your logo designed by a really qualified, polished designer. Or maybe you designed your logo yourself in Word using clip art. Or maybe your nephew who is “good in Photoshop” designed your logo for you. When I take on your partially completed logo, or the logo you’re just not quite happy with, I inherit all of those choices, good and bad (and yes, “good and bad” design choices are not as subjective as you might think—for example if your logo won’t print in one colour onto a hat, and you’re a company that wants to slap your logo on clothing, there has been a failure in your logo design). The trouble with inheriting a design is I’m going to want to “fix” any of the problems I see. What do I mean by problems? Lack of balance, poor typography, inharmonious colours, sloppy production quality, missed opportunities, overcomplicated graphics, etc. So I’m going to want to tidy the whole room up, and you’re going to say “Wait! I only wanted you to sweep these four square feet in the corner!”
I said the short answer was “maybe but probably not”. So generally if you’re coming to me and saying “I don’t like this one little part of my logo, please fix it and don’t touch anything else”, well, this is probably work I don’t want to do. And if that’s what you want, that’s your right, it’s your logo! But it’s also my right to turn down work that I don’t want, so yay free will for everyone!
However, if you have a logo, and you think the whole thing could use a refresh, but you just want to keep the spirit of the logo, now that I can do. That allows me to make improvements while not tearing your brand to the ground and starting over. I actually like this kind of puzzle, because it gives me both freedom and constraint—the balance of the two is basically my wheelhouse.
It’s not a simple question, so not a simple answer. The cost of a logo depends on many things. How many concepts would you like to see? How much illustration is involved? How customized is the type? How many rounds of edits will it take to get us there? And finally—and this is crucial—what is the intrinsic value of the logo?
What does that mean? Well, if you’re a startup—and let me just be frank for a moment—your logo is important, for sure, but who knows if you’re going to be around in a year from now. What I’m saying is, this logo has much less value to you than say, if you’re Adidas, and you come to me for a new logo (yeah right). To Adidas, the value of a logo and a brand is huge, because of how large they are and how many people interact with that brand. Adidas might pay hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars for a new logo and brand identity. A startup might pay $1000.
Essentially what I’m saying here is that you should budget for at least $1000 for me to design you a logo, and understand that number could balloon quickly with multiple concepts, many rounds of edits, detailed illustration, etc.
As a very rough guide, the startup logos I’ve designed have come in anywhere between $1000 and $5000.
Just like with logos, the cost of a website can vary greatly. But again, I can tell you that it’s usually very difficult to build a website for less than $2000. That’s generally the starting price for selecting and buying a theme, getting WordPress installed and set up, skinning and styling the theme to your brand, plugging in content and launching. Even the most basic websites take some time to set up and customize.
If you can’t afford even $2000, I recommend that you set up your own website using a service like Squarespace. You don't get a ton of customization options, but they have professionally designed templates and you pay a small monthly fee for your hosting.
I cringe when I hear this. I also rarely take on clients who already know exactly what they want.
For one thing, I’m not a mind reader—if you have a very specific image of what you want in your head, I will likely never be able to “bring it to life” for you. So I’m already being set up to fail. That’s not good for you or for me.
Secondly—and the only way to get this point across is to be perfectly blunt—what you have designed in your head may not be good design. And that’s because, presumably, you are not a designer. So if you’re married to the ideas you’ve come up with, you’re likely going to be quite resistant to changing them, or going in a different direction.
You’re not hiring me to make you happy. You’re hiring me to make your project successful. Sometimes what will make you happy and what will make your project successful are actually at odds. This is why we come up with a creative brief before we start the project—the goal at the end of the project is to satisfy the creative brief.
Here’s a really exaggerated example to help illustrate my point: You come to me for a logo for your financial planning business. The goal of the logo is to be professional, trustworthy, and solid. But you really like cartoon dinosaurs, so you’d like me to work a cartoon dinosaur into the logo. A cartoon dinosaur might make you happy, but it won’t lead to a professional, trustworthy, solid financial planning business logo. This is an instance where making you happy and making the project successful are at odds.
I get a lot of reactions regarding the way I present myself here. Mostly positive, but occasionally people are put off by my straightforwardness. Which is good—in fact I’ve crafted the tone of the this website to try to attract like-minded people. I once heard a quote that stuck with me, and I’m not sure where it comes from. It’s this: You get the clients that you deserve.
That means a few things, to me. One is that if I don’t show you who I am right here on my site before you’ve ever even contacted me, I’m doing us both a disservice. I’m sarcastic. I have a good sense of humour. I like casual language and a laid back attitude. I never felt at home in the more buttoned-up agency environment, and I want to make sure people know who I am so that they know what they’re getting into. If you treat me well, I will bend over backwards for you. We’ll make jokes along the way and we’ll actually have a really good time. What a bonus. You get what you want, I can pay my bills, and we both have fun doing it.
While I may be a hardcore introvert, I also cherish good relationships with people. I see it as taking on clients, not taking on work, because how happy I am in my job is almost entirely dependent on my client relationships.
That’s key for me. A good client relationship always trumps interesting work. Some designers only care about boosting their portfolio, but what really affects my happiness and well-being is the way I’m treated. I can always create my own interesting personal projects if that’s what’s lacking for me, but there is no substitute for mutual respect and and a casual, easy rapport.
I’m often surprised by how many emails I get from new designers or design students seeking advice or wanting to interview me for a class. In an effort to keep from repeating myself again and again, I’ve written a Medium article with a bunch of miscellaneous advice that you can absolutely choose to ignore. I’m just winging it like pretty much everyone else. The things that work for me won’t necessarily work for you, but if it helps, I’m happy to pass along what I’ve learned.
First you need to understand my work setup. My office is about 80 square feet. That’s just barely enough space for a desk, a couple of shelves, and various pets. Also, my office is in my home. I work in pajamas a lot. Practically speaking, I just don’t have any room for an intern. I once did a short stint as an intern in some guy’s apartment in a very similar setup as what I have here, and it was honestly the most uncomfortable work setup I could possibly imagine. I lasted five days, and I still shudder when I think back on it.
Practicality aside, I’m a lone wolf. Part of the reason I got out of the agency world is that I have no desire to be an art director, or take anyone under my wing—which is the logical career path in a design studio. What I love about design is the doing of the work. And perhaps one day that will change, and I’ll be more interested in moving away from that side of things, but this is where I’m at now.
I do appreciate and am flattered by the fact that anyone would want to intern with me. But it would be a bit too much like living with me and ask anyone who’s ever lived with me—it’s trying.