How much should I expect to pay for design work?


I received a quote for design work for my web / iPhone startup - it was quite a bit higher than what I expected, but I wanted to check if my expectations are off. The quote is from an overseas agency that comes highly recommended. Here are the details:

  • $2k for logo & visual style (logo includes full-size website logo + iPhone app icon)
  • $100 / hr for iPhone app wireframes (based on mock-ups I am providing) and visual design

This is within my expectations for a US agency, but I was a little shocked to receive it from overseas contractors. I'm bootstrapping, so was looking for something < $1k.

How much should I expect to pay for design work?

Bootstrapped Outsourcing

asked Nov 10 '09 at 08:33
298 points

12 Answers


There are three basic rules when deciding if a designer is worth it:

  1. Look at their portfolio.
  2. Look at their portfolio.
  3. Look at their portfolio.

If you would pay their quote for one of their existing designs, then they are worth it.

If their portfolio does not appeal to you, or is not worth what is being asked, then shop around.

Though they may come "highly recommended" they may not be suitable for your project. Not every designer can design for every company/niche/product.

Lastly, your whole company image is going to be determined in large part by what they do. If you have any doubts then stop and look around before moving forward.

answered Nov 10 '09 at 10:38
Adam Davis
378 points
  • +1. I came here to say this but you phrased it better. Cannot stress enough the importance of the portfolio and the overall fit to your needs. – Rob Allen 14 years ago
  • Thanks for your response - definitely agree about the design representing the whole company image. – Joe 14 years ago
  • The only thing I would add to this is be careful of revisions. Find out (up front) how many you get with the quote you were given .. and how much extra it will be if you go beyond that. – Tim Post 14 years ago
  • I think, the portfolio can only tell you whether somebody is probably a bad designer or totally off your own "wavelength", it won't help to distinguish mediocre from great. This is because a great designer creates artwork that is the perfect match for one particular client, and in the portfolio, because you don't know the clients, you can't tell if those works are. – Hanno Fietz 14 years ago


I think a big part of it is how much work have you done, and how much do you expect them to do.

For example, if you ask someone for a logo, and you tell them this is for a cutting edge Web 2.0 mobile oriented company based in AK, and you like the color red, then it will cost more as there will be more back and forth discussion, esp since they may think that AK is Arkansas. :)

If you have drawn out a rough idea then it may help, but later you may find that your design was a bad choice.

But, as has been pointed out, ask for a portfolio, and, ideally, ask if you can talk to some of their clients.

If possible you may want the logo in SVG (scalar vector graphics) so that you can scale it to whichever size you want and it will look the same, and there are tools to convert SVGs to bitmaps.

answered Nov 10 '09 at 10:47
James Black
2,642 points
  • I try very hard to do as little as possible of the work I'm about to hire a professional for, especially in an area like design. The likelihood of me messing up what could have been a great design is just too big. I focus entirely on how well I can communicate with the person. If I feel she understands what I'm saying, knows what to ignore, what is missing and then explains the net result to me in a way I can understand, that's perfect, and then I withdraw from the process. – Hanno Fietz 14 years ago


Please keep in mind you get what you pay for but as you mentioned yourself these prices are about right for a US based agency. As far as offshoring the work is concerned, I am not sure about the prices. If your budget is < $1k check out sites like

answered Nov 10 '09 at 08:55
Arman Arami
399 points


Try Haystack. I think you can get a good designer within your budget. You can also see their portfolio displayed on the site aswell.

answered Nov 10 '09 at 13:13
1,342 points


I'd say, forget the price tag and look at something else, escpecially if you're short on time and money. Great communication across domain boundaries is absolutely crucial, and that involves the way you communicate as well as what partner you pick. And if that works great, it's very, very likely worth whatever they charge you.

People who are not familiar with a domain can talk a lot of rubbish that confuses a professional and produces bad results (the man who cuts my hair is great because he totally ignores what I say). On the other hand, professionals that don't take extra care to get every detail of what their client actually, really wants, won't be able to do great work.

For example, I paid twice what you did on my logo (3,600 €), and was totally happy. On other occasions, I have paid half that on a complete web UI, and it was an utter waste of time and money. One reason why my logo and CI were relatively expensive is that I hired an agency, not a single designer, and that meant I had two (!) people who interviewed me intensively about my business, my goals, my product, my attitude etc. and then translated what they thought was relevant to three independent designers who ran as many revisions as were required to make me happy (about 50). And I didn't get to talk to the designers until very late in the process when we had established enough understanding on both sides, that we could communicate efficiently.

Note also that I'm not saying expensive is better. I have a great accountant and tax consultant who is way, way better than more expensive ones I've tried and I chose her because of how communication worked. The best laywer I've ever hired charges 70% of what the very worst lawyer I've ever hired charges.

answered Nov 11 '09 at 00:39
Hanno Fietz
280 points


I used for a start-up company's logo a few months ago and ended up being very pleased. Some things that help are:

Offering a bit more than the standard "prize", such as $200-$250 vs $150.

Selecting the option to guarantee the "prize". This means that you will select a winner no matter what at the end of the term. (We found that the company received double the applicants with higher quality by choosing this option).

Of course, communication is key. Specify (at minimum) the:

  • file types
  • # of colors
  • desired scalability

Monitor their design submissions by checking your "contest" once a day and provide feedback to the designers with ratings and comments, and guide them by telling them what you like/dislike about each of their submissions.

If you're strapped for cash and want a good-quality design within a week's time, I'd go with 99designs.

answered Nov 12 '09 at 00:45
515 points


To expand a bit on Adam Davis' great answer:

Be careful of revisions. Find out, up front how many you get based on the quote, and how much additional revisions will cost.

Be sure that the person is willing to sign a copyright assignment. Make sure the assignment has the designer to affirm that they had the rights to deal in the materials they delivered to you. I.e. , all stock photos were paid for, they did not 'borrow' stuff that was copyrighted, etc. You want a clear chain of IP in case you decide to sell your brand.

Regarding #2, I was once bitten because I did not get that, I had a very hard time selling an established domain.

answered Nov 10 '09 at 21:01
Tim Post
633 points
  • In my opinion, there should never be a cap on the number of revisions, it just doesn't make sense. If you go through a large number of revisions without getting something that you like, there's something wrong between you and the designer and it's very unlikely to work out at all. In order to be able to offer unlimited revisions, the designer has to be very confident in his communication skills and there will be a very intensive communication phase in the beginning which will add some to the budget but will pay off very well. – Hanno Fietz 14 years ago
  • @ hanno: I disagree - allowing a project to go on without an end is suicide for the designer. A certain number of revisions is expected, but if one "go back to the starting board" every time a second removed cousin who studied art in 6th grade doesn't like it, what's the point in giving good feedback? There needs to be commitment from both parties to get good results. – Jim Galley 14 years ago


You get what you pay for is true in web design. Professional web designers with a background in marketing and expertise in social media, SEO and other web development issues can do much more for the success of your online endeavor than simply creating a pretty web page. That added value and the reliability of delivering what they promise can be seen in their portfolio.

answered Oct 22 '10 at 10:27
19 points


go to a local university, talk to the professor about posting an ad in the design department that you are doing a competition for the best design of iphone logo and user interface(?)
and the price is $999 and the winning project will be used in the actual application. and you reserve the right not to pick the winning project - just in case all are crappy, which i doubt.

there you go a design work for under 1K

answered Nov 10 '09 at 10:59
131 points
  • The bosses at the first startup where I was at did this but the design professors didn't like it. They didn't like people doing spec work, and also taking (potential) business away from their graduates. – Daemin 14 years ago


Thanks for all the recommendations for 99designs.

Unless you're cash rich, I definiteliy wouldn't recommend spending $2K in a logo when for $500 you can have 150+ concepts to look at. The 99designs model is all about "crowdsourcing", so there's definitely a bell-curve in quality but you'll be amazed at the top 20%.

Furthermore, we offer a 100% money back guarantee if you're dissatisfied for any reason - I guarantee you that no freelancer or design agency will do this for you.

answered Nov 16 '09 at 07:42
Matt M Ickiewicz
181 points


Another site like 99designs is crowdspring which I've used and been satisfied with results. Important to know is that the "competition-based design" doesn't always product supremely high quality work due to it's buyer-focused business model.

answered Nov 16 '09 at 08:28
64 points


Try using LogoNerds at They offer professional custom logos designed from $27 to $97 and other services (identity packages, web banners and headers) at similar bargain basement prices.

I'm currently finishing up a logo design for my site with them and I am quite pleased.

Anywhere else charges $200 to $300 minimum for a logo.

$2,000 is a bit pricey. You should be able to get a whole webpage design for that much.

answered Nov 13 '09 at 14:11
1,471 points

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics:

Bootstrapped Outsourcing