Freelancing in South Africa

What you can charge, what you should charge and what you need to think about when you set up specials.

I have been in the industry for about 9 years. I started out as just a graphic designer and then I went over to front-end development and UI/UX design. My freelance company has been running for 8 years. When I first started out I really struggled with what I should charge because I didn’t understand my worth as a designer and I had zero faith in my ability to design. So I kept my prices really, really low and even though I got a few clients I lost more money than I made and this is something most other freelancers can relate to.

Now let’s get into the advice part of this article. Firstly let’s go over the 5 rules of Quoting that I keep to. Not saying this will work well for everyone but it works for me.

  • When it comes to stand alone artwork, try working off of an hourly rate. You don’t have to put the hours in your quote but working it out like that, will give you a more solid base to work off of. With all of my artwork, I work on an hourly rate and I have 3 different brackets that I use for the 3 different bases of clients. This ensures that I don’t undercharge or overcharge because I am aware of exactly how many hours it will take me to do the work.
  • Manage expectations. If you are running a special ALWAYS add in the terms and conditions of that special. A few years ago I ended up paying for the clients printing out of my own pocket because I didn’t state that the price only includes design. It wasn't a massive loss but it can be if you aren't careful.
  • Don’t sell yourself short. If you are one of those designers that’s willing to work for R30 per hour then good on you but just remember that the price you ask will attract more of the same calibre clientele. I am not saying that you should just charge everyone a flat hourly rate of R500 and be over and done with it but make sure you are at least coming in at the industry standard.
  • Use your full-time salary as a base for your freelancing rate. This might sound a bit crazy because we all know the companies we work for take a massive cut of the amount they charge their clients. But it will give you a great base to work off of. Just make sure you add a bit of fat to that rate. You’ll be able to read more about this below.
  • Don’t let your ego control how you approach and deal with clients. A good and pleasant attitude will get you far. I get 90% of my work through word of mouth and that is because of my clients, they aren't just happy with the designs they get they are also pleased with the service they received. I try and always be helpful, understanding, reassuring and friendly with all of my clients. From the R200 jobs I do for little startups to the R16 000 jobs I do for corporate companies.

Now let’s go over how I set up my prices &
when you should put them up or lower them.

 

As I mentioned above I set up all of my quotes using an hourly rate. It is VERY rare that I work off of a flat rate because I want to make sure I give the BEST deal possible to my clients. I am going to use some mock numbers here to show you how I worked out my rates. Let’s say you are a mid-level graphic designer then your salary is most likely something like R15 000 +/-. That means you earn +/- R75 per hour. Now double that amount, that would get you R150. That would be my base rate. Now depending on what caliber of client it is and what their budget is I adjust it. If they are little startups I keep the hourly rate at R150 if they are already established I double the rate making it R300. If they are a massive corporate company I double it again making it R600 per hour. This gives me a nice base to work off of for a wider spectrum of clientele. These numbers are just mock numbers however and it will be up to you what you feel comfortable with and what is applicable to your area, skill level and caliber of clientele. Let’s chat about when you should be raising your prices. The only time I raise my prices is when the demand for my services increases to a point that I can’t handle the workload. I then add 10% to my prices across the board. Don’t ever increase your prices just because you think you “deserve” more money, without having a proper backing by a steady client base you will fail and lose more money than you end up making (trust me I experienced this a few years ago). Keep your prices at a steady base until you have some traction and then up them a little.

 

Setting up Specials

 

The final thing I want to talk about a bit more is setting up specials. I do specials on a bi-monthly basis or when something big happens in the company and I tend to do specials on either web or graphics, not both. A big reason for this is that I am a one woman team and if I suddenly get 30 clients all asking for artwork and websites I won’t have enough room to breathe. Make sure you don’t undercharge on your specials. If you want to do a percentage special (Example, 10% off on all website designs) make sure you calculate what you will be earning for the different pieces of artwork or website builds. If you charge R1000 for a 1-page website and you give 50% off across the board then you will only earn R500 which means you are making a loss. Now for the fixed rate bundle deals, you should calculate how long it will take you to deliver the artwork, then deduct a percentage off of it that you are comfortable with, and set that as your flat rate for the special. This will ensure you don’t overwork yourself for very little money.

One last thing I want to remind every new freelancer of is that you should never take criticism as a negative, grow from it and become a stronger designer. If you take every little bit of negative feedback as a personal attack on your skill set and artwork then you will just end up very unhappy and demotivated.

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