How much should you pay a creative?

Are you wanting to hire a creative professional?  For this article, a creative professional is a virtual service provider that has specialized training. Example: graphic designers, website developers, video editors, Facebook advertisers, and more.

Any of those fields are specialty fields: think pediatric surgeon versus general practitioner.  They aren’t a jane- or jack-of-all-trades as they are excellent within their own genius zone… and have a lot of man hours behind it.

So, what type of investment does that look like to someone needing to hire a professional?

Once upon a time, I charged $25 to do a friends’ blogger blog site.

For the record, that was an easy peasy gig. 

I cannot, to this day, know how I got away with that, though.  (But I was in college and it was like any money was a lot of money as a poor college student.)

After over a decade of being a creative freelancer, I wanted to share the real story behind designers’ rates:

Simple doesn’t mean quick

Listen, even a “simple” website is at least 5-10 hours worth of active work.  This doesn’t include back-and-forth time making sure the client and the designer are on the same page for the project.  

“Quick” means quick.

The definition of “simple” can range from: “oh yeah, I can change that heading 1 font” to “well, it’s not rocket science.”

Your project is brought to you by years of experience… or lackthereof

Those 5-10 hours of active work time I quoted above is powered by my years of experience doing exactly what you hired me to do.

I give the following example:

  • Each week I spend at least 10-15 hours actively working on a task related to websites, graphic design, or similar that would positively affect upcoming projects.

  • Giving myself two full weeks of vacation time, that’s starting at 500 hours per year of design street cred.

  • I’ve been doing my recent role for 5 years. Thus, the 5-10 hours I quoted on your simple website is backed by at least 2500 hours of field experience. And, that’s just me.

Easy doesn’t mean brainless

Even if the work is “so easy” to a professional, it’s still not a “brainless” activity.

I’m often hired because what takes my client six hours can take me maybe one hour.

Sometimes, I have to go in and fix mistakes, do troubleshooting, or create something from nothing. You’re paying for someone who knows what they are doing so you don’t have to learn an entire profession.

What cheap work means:

Paying cheaper rates for a specialized field (e.g. website design versus data entry) means a few things:

  1. They don’t have a lot of experience under their belt

  2. They lack some key knowledge that could become problematic (yep, I’ve been that 3rd person that had to come in and fix what the 1st person and 2nd person forked up)

  3. The live somewhere with a cheaper cost of living

  4. They are taking shortcuts or not giving you all that you should get

Also, a brand new person fresh out of training (schooling or apprenticeship) still isn’t “entry level” sometimes.

So what should you expect to pay for, say, a “simple website”?

Virtual service providers are going to be at least $75-100+ per hour (whether they charge per hour or factor that into a package).  

The more experience they have, the more you will see pricing shoot to $1,000 or more per hour.

A “simple” 5-page website without what I call “advanced” features should start at $1,500 USD.

(5-10 hours of work x $100/hour) + costs of doing business + klout cost* = $1,500 to six and seven figures

*Klout cost is my way of saying: are you paying for a nobody or for an established authority figure

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BusinessAmy Smith