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Five Client Billing Tips That Will Catapult Your Profitability Out Of This World | Graphic Design Boss

Five Client Billing Tips That Will Catapult Your Profitability Out Of This World

Is your design business stalled on the launchpad?

Is your design business stalled on the launchpad?

I’ve heard this complaint over and over again from graphic designers around the world. “I’m not making enough money. I need more clients.” Here’s the issue. Are you maximising the profitability of your existing clients? In this post I’ll share some extraordinary simple tips that will send your profitability soaring into an orbit you never knew existed.

Now your B.S.-ometer might be rising right now, please forgive the hyperbole but let me tell you over the years I’ve implemented every one of these billing disciplines into my fee structure and it has made my design business really profitable.¬†Now I know it’s a dog eat dog world out there. Competition is high. Clients are probably telling you ‘I can get it cheaper somewhere else’. If you have those kinds of clients you may want to think again about keeping them. The continue battle of justifying every dollar for every design job just isn’t worth it.

Here is the bottom line. You are worth it. Ever last dollar and cent. You deserve to be paid what you are worth. You are NOT an artist. You are a designer. Your goal is to get paid for what you love doing. Not to live off the smell of an oily rag.

Here are five billing disciplines that I use right NOW:

1. Charge for client revisions, all the time

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a mind-blowing new solution, but I’ve been really surprised on how little designers are willing to charge their clients for any changes clients make.

You wouldn’t expect your clients to work for free so why would you?

I’ve noticed that many designers allow for 3 revisions without charging which is frankly crazy. Other designers even allow for unlimited client revisions as long as the changes are ‘reasonable’. Let me tell you there is no such thing as reasonable when it comes to working for nothing. You are being paid for your design knowledge, your expertise to craft a creative solution to a clients problem. If they don’t like your solution, they need to pay you to make changes to it.

I may sound a bit critical of designers that don’t charge. I’m not criticising them. I know you are very generous souls and you love what you doing. You may even like your clients, but here is the thing. You are not a charity. You are a business. Your accountant, printer, cleaner, car leasing company, barista will charge you every single time. They won’t say ‘have this lease payment on us’. And neither should you. My electricity and gas bill went up 50% this year. I need to be able pay my own bills.

2. Charge for PDF’s

Ripping PDF’s to email to your client and sending them a file takes time. Sometimes a long time, sometimes a short time. Whatever you do, charge for it. You may feel like you are charging for nothing, but it is still taking precious billing minutes out of your day that you could be charging other clients for. You will still write an email which adds more minutes into that billing time.

3. Charge for despatching artwork

Again, it takes time to prepare your finished artwork files to FTP or send them via something like yousendit.com. You may even pay a premium to send files digitally to a printer. Pass on that charge with a mark up to your client. Even if you are using free versions of file delivery systems charge for the time. Set up a fixed fee for sending the job off to the printer and itemise it accordingly in your quote.

4. Charge for your storing your clients files on archives

Once a job is finished we store all our clients projects on site and offsite for free. But we do charge our clients for retrieving those files when they come back to us and want to update a design job. We charge a set rate based on what time it takes us to retrieve the files. The client can relax knowing that there is a copy of their design job out there should they wish to update it. You clients make huge savings by just updating existing artwork, you can charge for that and charge them for the time it takes to retrieve that artwork.

5. Charge for project management and production management

I’ve seen some of my clients¬†move and manage their own print jobs since the downturn over the last few years. But they still have the expectation that I will do all of the print preparation and production management with the printer. I now charge them on an hourly rate for this service as I can’t charge them a commission on the print job itself.

Almost everyday I spend time on the phone or on my email corresponding with clients about issues to do with their projects. Again I charge by the hour to manage their projects for them.


If you hadn’t guessed by now I charge by the hour. I charge in increments of 15 minute blocks. My position is that if I am doing something on behalf of my client, they should be charged for it. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Points 1 and 4 increase my earnings at least by 15% per year. Points 2-4 above are pretty small in dollar terms for me in billing rates on one job by itself, but they actually happen on every job throughout the whole year. The financial return on that time at the end of the year is massive. It has improved my profitability out of sight. It has also taken me through the lean times because I have charged accordingly.

Over to you: Do you have any billing tips?

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2 Responses to “Five Client Billing Tips That Will Catapult Your Profitability Out Of This World”

  1. Ann April 12, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    I used to work for as a paralegal for a group of attorneys and that’s how they charged. If a client called you on the phone, they went on the bill. Six minutes (1/10 of an hour) minimum. If I picked up the phone, the client got charged.

    This might be tough to do as a freelance graphic designer. I’m afraid I’d lose a lot of business.

    On the other hand, I dislike working for people who don’t value my time.

    Great article.

  2. Laina April 13, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    Good article and valuable tips. As owner of my own design and print business, I am constantly torn between wanting to give my clients a good deal to keep them loyal and greatful, or to charge accordingly and potentially lose clients! Recently one of my clients enquired about Vista (ugh) and their products and dirt cheap to free prices. It’s hard to compete in this market but I find there’s a time for both good deals and standard charges. I don’t know if I would feel comfortable charging for emails, phone calls etc – I would be a bit taken back if I was hit with an invoice for client liaison from wholesale printers and other places I outsource too – where do you draw the line between good customer service and charged client communications?

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