Why are graphic designers so expensive?

Being a designer is a blend of research, hard work and creativity. A good designer will ask you several questions and research the subject of the project before sending you a quote; every single project is different and its price varies according to some factors. But what exactly are those factors?

Pricing is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as I grow my business. Laikin Studio is here to serve small businesses and creatives, people out there doing good things for their communities. Because of that, I’m very aware of price, and making it actually accessible. I think good design should be accessible to good people.

Keep reading to see each of the things that are taken into consideration when I price up a project


As a service based business, my prices have to take into account how much money I need to live off of each month. Here’s a breakdown.

  • Tax – As soon as money comes in from a project, I immediately put 20% of the cost of each project away to tax. As I run my own business, taxes aren’t taking out by the government, but instead I have to pay a tax bill every year. So I’m never pocketing the full £1500 in a £1500 fee.
  • Business Fees – This sounds a bit fancier than it is, but basically there are expenses I have each month that allow me to do my job. A big one is my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, which gives me access to all of my design software. I’ve also got website hosting, my email account, any hardware that breaks or needs fixing like my computer or iPad, and other physical materials I use in my process like pens, paper, etc. When you work in an office printer paper just exists there, when you run your own business, you come to realize how much those little costs add up.
  • Rent & Bills – The largest sum from each fee needs to go to pay my rent and bills, so I can live, baby!  That’s pretty self-explanatory, I need to eat, I need to pay for bus tickets, I need to use heating when it’s -1c outside.

Knowledge & Skill

There is no escaping it, you are surrounded by design every day. From physical design like bus stops to the flyer you get handed when you walk into an event, design is everywhere. On the surface, design looks like taking information and making it looks pretty. But at the heart of design is problem solving. The first question I ask a client who comes to me is ‘what do you hope to get out of this?’ ‘What problem will this solve for you?’ This question sometimes trips people up, but it’s so important. 

Whether a designer is self-taught or went to Blue Sky graphic design school, we spend our time studying the art of communication, and we’re constantly keeping up with the changes in our field.

Just as you are an expert at what you do, so are we. This has to affect price. A first year designer is going to charge a different amount to a 10 year designer, because the value they are bringing to you through their knowledge and skill is immensely more. Because with each project, a designer grows their skillset, hones their craft and then they bring that to the next project.


Good design takes time, always.

Here is a designer secret, we cannot design something, without spending hours, days, and months designing things that don’t work.  There is no magic wand for us designers to know what will or won’t work to solve a problem. Instead we’re masters of something called iteration.

We are constantly making changes, and little by little, and big bit by big bit, making adjustments to get something right. It’s not a mechanical, straight forward process. Instead it’s an exploration of ideas, constantly evolving, and stepping back and seeing where we’re at. There is no way around that, it just takes time. There’s no shortcut to good design.

Making sure we carve out enough time for the project means being aware of how much time we actually have to give and what our time is worth, which means it does affect our pricing.


When someone invests in a logo, they are investing in a symbol that is going to be used to identify and promote their business across all mediums, for years to come. That is huge, that one logo is going to go EVERYWHERE. It’s going to be a beacon, calling people in, helping them to recognize your business. That is a highly valuable thing to invest in.

There are certainly people out there offering $50-$150 for a logo that they create in a matter of days. But like all good things, you need to question why something is so cheap. It’s unlikely there is any strategy or purpose behind that logo. Not only will it not be tailored to communicate the right things to the right people, it could actually be attracting the wrong customers, or just plain putting off the people you’re trying to attract. OUCH. Sure it cost $50 to create, but what is it loosing you in money?

If you’ve ever stood inside a boots, or cvs, and picked a new face wash because the packaging spoke to you, you know just how persuasive good, purposeful design is. Can you really afford to be that bottle left on the bottom shelf and never touched because it isn’t speaking to the right people?

Good design adds huge amounts of value, and that’s worth the investment of getting right.

Printing costs

Another factor that will greatly affect the final price tag is the printing cost of a project. It will vary in function of the format and size of the document, the amount to be printed as well as the quality. A client on a tight budget will probably want to look for smaller, more economic sizes and thinner paper, for instance. Bigger firms will usually invest more in printing and get high-quality material that will “wow” their own clients (i.e. embossing, metallic colors, exotic or thicker paper, etc.). You get what you pay for.

A graphic designer will often shop for the best prices and will contact several print-shops before giving you a quote. Additionally, usually included in the price they charge is the time spent at the printing place asking for proofs, bringing them to you for approval if requested as well as picking up and delivering the material once it’s printed.

Actually not that expensive…

In the end, when you analyze everything a freelance graphic designer has to do, you realize that the service they provide is actually not expensive. Sure, there are some designers that will try to charge you more than what they’re worth. If you stumble upon one of them, stay away, especially if their body of work is unimpressive. But good designers work hard and deserve every penny they receive for their work.

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