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Pricing a Desktop Publishing Project

written by: •edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 6/24/2011

Many desktop publishers find setting a price for a project harder than actually doing the project. Keeping a few key points in mind makes the process of pricing jobs for youa whole lot easier.

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    Desktop Publishing Job Prices

    Nothing scares the average desktop publisher quite like pricing a job.

    Designers who don’t even blink at the prospect of working on a complex project with a variety of different specifications often become borderline neurotic when it comes time to submit a quote.

    Running a desktop publishing job isn’t like running a McDonald's franchise; every product and service you offer is different, and there are a wide range of variables that have to be factored in when pricing each job.

    Whether you charge by the hour or by the project is your first dilemma. There are pros and cons for each, but generally speaking, a per project quote usually works for a bigger design project, while smaller job may call for an hourly rate. That isn’t a hard and fast rule, though; it’s up to you as a designer to establish with your client the billing type that works for both of you.

    If you price by the project, make sure you are have a good idea as to how long it will reasonably take, and then build extra time into the quote for unforeseen problems. If you haven’t been in the business long, this may be difficult to gauge, but over time you will get a good feel as to the length of time a particular project will take.

    As far as the pricing formula goes, be realistic. As much as you love what you do, enthusiasm for your work doesn’t pay the bills. If you are serious about making a living as a desktop publisher, establish what kind of annual salary you need to support your lifestyle, and base your prices on this. Keep in mind that, as a self employed business person, you will spend hours and hours on things that can’t be charged to a client, like bookkeeping, preparing quotes, and marketing your business.

    If you are charging hourly, take into account that you can only charge for ‘billable’ hours (that is, time actually spent on a project).You are also not getting benefits or having your equipment and supplies paid for by an employer. Your hourly rate should take all this into account. If you want to make the equivalent of $20/hour that you would make for an employer, you will have to charge a considerably higher rate to achieve this kind of wage (depending on the costs in your area, $50/hour and up probably isn't unreasonable).

    It’s always a good idea to check out the local competition and see how much they charge. However, don’t get caught up in lowballing your competitors. If you charge too low of a rate, you’ll find it very difficult in the long run to make a go of your business. The clients you attract may only be interested in budget design, and clients who are willing to pay more for quality work will probably be suspicious of your low rates and may pass on you as a result.

    If you are just starting out as a designer, you may choose to set your rates at the lower end of the scale to compensate for your lack of experience. However, don’t sell yourself short, and don’t go below the pricing that you have calculated will provide a decent living for yourself.

    If you have talent and you know your stuff, you are a professional, whether you’ve been in the business a year or twenty years. Your work has value for your clients, and as a result, you deserve to be paid a fair price for it. Repeat that as a mantra, and your business will flourish.