Budgeting a design project is one of the early career challenges for most freelance designers. Knowing how to present fair value without being too far above or below the competition, so as not to receive negative comments from the client, is not easy. If you’re extremely high, you may lose the client; or if too low, you may come off as an amateur.

All design projects should be paid not only for the work to be completed but also for your professional knowledge and the profit you will be able to make your client.

As you may imagine or should already know, the income of a freelancer is never certain from month to month as when working in a company with a fixed contract. Never forget … without money you cannot evolve and invest in your career as a freelancer … so be fair to yourself when establishing a budget.

A design budget is somewhat subjective. However, there are key elements that are well-defined as listed below:


If you have to invest money in the project, the value should be reflected in the budget. Always try to make it possible to spread this investment among other projects, thus enabling you to share more costs and reduce your budget.

Expenditure on different products

You should always take into account the costs for travel (fuel, vehicle use, tolls, public transport), communication, paper, and printing, among others. These expenses, when added together, generate a decrease in the bottom line, if you forget to add them.


You can request more money for urgent work. What would happen if you needed to complete work that usually takes two weeks in two days, for example? In this case, think carefully before accepting the project.  Analyze all jobs and other clients and make sure taking the job will not interfere with other projects. If it is possible to perform the work, add in some money for the tight turnaround and any overtime.

designer choose color for patterns.


Never forget that clients are willing to pay fair value for work performed by a specialist. Exhibit customer confidence, and show you are the qualified professional to get the job done.

Review the target audience

Most of the time, the location of the work influences the amount to charge the client. Therefore, it is important to analyze the competition, clients and future clients, by reviewing their purchasing power.

Hanging lightbulb with glowing Freelance concept.


As they say, time is money. Stipulate a value to charge by the hour and estimate the time you will spend to do the work and the budget.  Do not forget to add in trips necessary to perform different tasks (paper and color proofs, for example) and research.

It is important to analyze the competition and target audience, mentioned previously. You may lose some time.  And it even may or may not be added to the budget, depending on the competition’s value compared to yours.

It can happen that sometimes you work more hours than was stipulated.  However, if you perform an excellent job, your client will be likely to compensate you and contact you for future projects.


Payment methods

Be prepared to present a budget, not only for a project, but by the hour.

There may be more variables to take into account when making a budget, however these are the most relevant.

Budgeting always works well, and helps you gauge that you’re working within budgeted hours.  But motivation for a job also comes from the value you will receive.