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How much do freelance graphic designers make? [2023]

On average, freelance Graphic Designers make $65 an hour. Extrapolated into a salary, this is nearly $110,000 each year. The highest paid Graphic Designers live in Germany and the lowest paid live in Nigeria. Experienced designers obviously earn more, inexperienced designers obviously earn less. With our crowdsourced research, we hope we can give you a better picture on freelance Graphic Design compensation.

graphic design averages by country

Let's dive in to some individual earning submissions

The best way to figure out the market is to see what other Graphic Designers are charging. Let's dive in to 3 individual submissions a bit deeper.

All of these submissions come from our freelance Graphic Design hourly rate list. Hopefully these examples can illustrate the variability in cost when hiring a Freelance Graphic Designer.

graphic designer from atlanta sample earnings

They use the Adobe Creative Suite. This is one of the most in demand skills for a Graphic Designer. They also have experience with HTML and CSS. They are in the US, have 20 years of experience, know Adobe Creative Suite, and seem to have basic coding skills. These factors in combination contribute to their high level of income.

Alternatively, we have this example from a Graphic Designer in Nigeria with 5 years of experience earning $11/hr.

graphic designer from nigeria sample earnings

First, to point out the obvious - Nigeria has a much lower labor cost across all industry. The best Graphic Designer in the world could live in Nigeria, but by default, due to their location, they will earn less.

This specific designer only has 5 years of experience and they specialize in using Canva. Canva is a powerful but simple tool to help anybody create digital designs without a specialized skillset.

In other words, anybody can use Canva, and as a result, knowing how to use Canva isn't exactly a skill that is in low supply. This also contributes to this specific individuals low rate.

Finally, we have a submission from a Freelance Graphic Designer in Missouri with an extrapolated salary of $134,400.

graphic designer from kansas citysample earnings

They are very close to the average earnings, and it makes sense why. They are pretty much the baseline of the average freelance graphic designer. They live in the middle of the US, they use the Adobe Creative Suite, and they have a medium level of experience (5 years). This contributes to their earnings.

We reviewed three sample contracts, but you can view hundreds more and dive deeper as you see fit. Determining your fair wage is not an exact science, intuition and data are required. We will provide you the data - you just need to bring the intuition.

How I determine my own rates?

The best way to determine your hourly rate is by looking at what other Graphic Designers are charging. We maintain a regularly updated, crowdsourced price list of rates shared by freelancers all over the world.

There are a lot of factors that impact the rate you should charge. Among these are specialty, location, experience, and demand.

You'll hear often that the best way to increase your rate is to keep asking for more until somebody says no. When they say no, you've hit your ceiling.

This is nonsense. Don't do that - you can save a lot of time by just looking at what other people are charging. We really encourage you to check out our freelance graphic designer hourly rates list.

graphic design sample submission salaries

How can I increase my freelance graphic design rate?

Now that you've used our rate list for determining a fair hourly rate - you're probably curious what you can do to stretch that even farther.

Revamp your portfolio

This is the most important piece of advice in this entire article. Getting clients as a freelancer is all about marketing. Every good marketer knows that you need a good sales pitch, and the most powerful pitch in the 21st century for Graphic Designers is a good portfolio site.

As somebody that has worked on both sides of the market as both a freelancer and as a client, I cannot overstate the impact a good portfolio site has. Portfolios make or break decisions on hiring you or not. We can write a full page about effective portfolio sites, but for the sake of time - let's just talk about a point that most Graphic Designers miss.

Most Graphic Designers just have a gallery showing a list of projects. That's nice and all, but you can stand out by including more information. Things like the following:

  • How much the client paid you for this design
  • What the client used this design for (i.e, business impact)
  • If this was a repeat client, highlight that
  • What tools you used for the design
  • What the initial client ask was, and how you landed on this

I know this sounds potentially nonsensical - but I can assure you that it's not. When people have more information, they feel more in control. Hiring a freelancer is always a risk - you don't know them or what it's like working with them until you are actually in a contract with them.

By reducing the perceived risk and giving potential clients more information, you can increase your value significantly. They will be willing to hire you more and spend more money for the peace of mind they get through that sense of control.

Master the most in demand skills

The most in demand skills for Graphic Designers today are all centered around Adobe. Creative Cloud, InDesign, and Illustrator are used across the industry, and most clients will want the best work possible - which is made by using the best tools available.

This may sound intimidating, but it doesn't need to be - Adobe has very comprehensive tutorials on mastering these tools which can really help you grow.

Change up your pricing model

Most freelancers charge by the hour, and the data shows that this is generally the better option. For example, in our project based rate list, the converted hourly rate when the project is said and done is usually lower than the average of somebody that just charges by the hour.

However - there is more to this story. In addition to charging by the hour, you can offer your services on retainer to clients. For example, say a client wants to hire you here and there without any real consistency. This can add an element of unpredictability to your income. To counter that, you could tell the client that you are actually very busy but would like to keep them as a client, and the best way to keep you is to actually lock you in on a monthly retainer just to be available. This retainer is to cover the opportunity cost of potentially missing on other clients while you remain available to this specific client. In addition, you can charge your regular price for each hour worked.

In this scenario, you would earn much more money, and you would have an additional element of predictability.

Which type of freelance Graphic Designers earn the most?

There are a few different types of Graphic Designers. They all tend to use the same software suite (Adobe) to do their work, but they just have different styles and end products that get delivered to the client. Among these are:

  • Logo designers (they design logos)
  • Infographic designers (they create infographics)
  • Print designers (they create covers for books)
  • Art designers (they create art)
  • Many others

In our experience, we have noticed that infographic designers tend to make the most money these days. This is due to a variety of factors, but chief among them is the rise of social media. Social media is used as an incredibly powerful marketing engine for virtually every company in existence. Many of these companies offer products that are frankly, quite boring, or worse - confusing.

As a way to make products and services more digestible for the average modern mind, these companies will hire Graphic Designers to create infographics. These are designs that are meant to distill complex information into something simple that anybody can understand. It's an extremely understated skill to be able to turn something complex into something simple.

On Twitter especially, infographics are used to educate the masses about products, trends, and information. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Graphic Design was evident virtually everywhere you looked. I personally could not walk 10 feet in any establishment without seeing some sort of public health notice which was likely created by a Graphic Designer somewhere.

graphic design covid 19 sample

Can you make a living as a freelance Graphic Designer?

Yes, easily - our data shows that they can earn over $100,000. Of course, as a freelancer, you do not get all of the same benefits as a full time employee. The impact of that reality depends on where you live. If you live in Europe for example, you don't need to worry so much about retirement and health insurance. If you live in the States, you will need to spend a lot of money for health insurance and retirement.

Even with those considerations, graphic designers across the world are earning more than required to make a living in their given country.

Most in demand graphic design skills

The most in demand graphic design skills are Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe InDesign, and Adobe Illustrator. These are the most common tools used by Graphic Designers both in freelance and corporate environments, and fortunately - they are relatively easy to learn (but hard to master).

Additionally, Graphic Designers need to have a solid understanding of design skills overall. This includes things like typography, color gradients, and layouts. A good resource for learning about design is Material Design, which is the design system and philosophy maintained by designers at Google.

I'm just some guy writing a blog, so if you don't believe my expertise I totally understand. However, you can absolutely trust data submitted by freelance graphic designers on what skills they use. I recommend checking that out.

How much does freelance graphic design cost?

If you are in the USA, you can expect to pay about $80 each hour for a mid-range graphic designer. In Europe, the range is a bit wider, anywhere from $40-$80 depending on the country. To see specific rates worldwide and get a better picture on what graphic designers earn, check out the graphic design rate list, with rates submitted by freelance graphic designers all around the world from completed jobs.

The size of the job will majorly impact how much you pay, because in most cases you are paying for the amount of time spent on the design. Typical logo design tasks tend to take anywhere from 1-4 hours, while infographics for example are much more time consuming and can take an entire week.

As an alternative, designers can be hired on a project level basis, where you just pay a lump sum for the project delivery, which removes the variable of time. This generally benefits the client, as we have seen in our data that project based contracts tend to translate to less money per hour. Due to scope creep and other factors, the initial estimate is almost always wrong, and the freelancer gets the short end of the stick. As a result, many graphic designers prefer the hourly model over the project based model.

How much graphic designers earn - conclusion

Graphic designers, like most professions, have a very wide range in income. Experience level, location, skillset, and marketing ability all impact the perceived salary that is made. It's hard to generalize all graphic designer salaries, so it's best to check out our hourly graphic design rate list to see specific data that may apply best to your specific case.

For what it's worth, we know that the highest paying cities for Graphic Designers are in the USA. With the boom in tech and finance, Designers in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area earn well above the average. However, when we look at continents instead of specific cities, it appears that European Graphic Designers are better off financially overall. With the boom in remote work however, the specific location doesn't matter as much as the country itself anymore.

Most freelancers are not able to bill for a full 40 hour week. Bookkeeping and other tasks unrelated to the specific client needs are not billable, in addition to the fact that most freelancers are not always fully booked at all times.

How many hours a graphic designer works will have an impact on their overall earnings, so when we shared the average salary above, we did so considering that most freelancers will work about 35 hours a week, and they will take a month off each year. We highly recommend checking out our freelance income calculator to see how we came up with that $110,000 number.

As time goes on, the earning potential of Graphic Designers seems to go up and up. Modern populations are addicted to content that is easy to consume, and Graphic Designers are masters of creating that type of work.

If you're a freelance Graphic Designer yourself, we really encourage you to share your earnings on our rate list. Doing so helps you and others maximize your earnings so that you can earn a fair market rate. Unfortunately, we see it all too often - freelancers charge way less than what they are really worth. This in turn hurts other freelancers and causes a downward income spiral. Let's bring transparency to the market!

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