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How to Make a Custom Graphic Design Budget [With Template]

January 26, 2023

by Sydney Wess

Building a budget for custom graphic design services will likely require an assortment of line items and prioritization. Despite the work you may need to put in, the planning phase will make your project run smoothly and successfully. Download our custom graphic design budgeting template to facilitate the process. 

Updated November 29, 2023

Custom graphic design services can make a big difference in the quality of a business website. Particularly for small business owners, procuring these design assets can be more challenging than it sounds.

However, small businesses and entrepreneurs will benefit from solid web design work by hiring a professional designer. Strong designs can communicate a brand’s value and character faster and more effectively than text alone.

Further, 94% of consumers will leave a website if the design is poor. This means that outdated designs may be losing your business.

One of the early steps in working with a design agency or freelance graphic designers is creating a budget. It can be tempting to move straight into projects, but a budget will keep everyone on the same page and avoid potential scope creep or sticker shock down the line.

This is your guide to all things graphic design budgets. Here we’ll cover how to build a budget, what services to include, and what levers you can pull to keep your project within your budget.

 

What Goes Into a Custom Graphic Design Budget?

Graphic design work isn’t necessarily for beginners. There are design tools, years of experience, and skills required to create a good design.

A quality design demands a thorough process, which requires a thought-through budget. Assuming you’re not creating your own graphics in-house, your budget will encompass a range of expenses.

Here are the main categories to consider when contracting a graphic design project:

  • Design time: the cost of your design team’s time to execute your graphic design or website design will be the core component of your project. Professional graphic designers may charge either an hourly rate or a flat rate for their services. Within your allotted spending for design time, be sure to include padding for the cost of possible revisions or changes to delivered assets. Doing so will help you avoid scope creep as the project progresses.
  • Software and design tools: this includes the cost of any graphic design software or hardware you need to complete your design project. Popular graphic design tools include Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Canva. Related hardware will likely involve a high-end computer or specialized printing equipment.
  • Licensing: particularly if you’re engaging in a project that requires stock photography or illustration work, you may need to budget for the right to use and repurpose certain imagery. Take note of this possibility early on and work with your graphic design team to determine how this will impact your overall budget. Typically, this category will account for a relatively small portion of design budgets.
  • Logistics: while this may read as a miscellaneous category, it’s important to highlight that graphic design often demands travel, printing, and shipping. All of these costs should be accounted for in a completed budget, even if that initially seems extraneous.
  • Market research: graphic design agencies can play a role in the research and concepting necessary to understand audience needs from graphics and UX. It’s essential to understand your needs before creating fonts, infographics and logo designs — adding a research phase will cost you more, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.

Regardless of the scope of your work, it’s imperative for businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups alike to grasp the costs associated with design projects firmly. Expectation setting before beginning design work helps keep your budget realistic, allowing for a smoothly flowing project when it counts.

How much does graphic design cost? Discover the real cost of graphic design projects with our graphic design pricing guide

How to Create a Custom Graphic Design Budget

It can be easy to get overwhelmed creating a graphic design services budget as a small business owner without experience in the field. Follow the these simple steps to get started with confidence:

  1. Determine design needs
  2. Research and compare agency pricing
  3. Consider project scope
  4. Set a budget
  5. Refine over time

Each step is key to your success in launching a smooth design collaboration with full-time design agencies and freelance designers. 

Looking for design help? Find top-rated graphic design companies on Clutch.

1. Determine your Graphic Design Needs

The only way you can be certain that your graphic design project will be right for your company is to accurately understand and select goals to target.

Your needs and goals are what you will present to experienced designers in charge of providing your graphic design services.

Further, your goal-setting efforts will direct the scope of the design work provided. It may even help you dictate what types of graphic design assets you need from your partner.

For instance, let’s say you’re heading up a digital-first company that wants to prioritize its online audience. In this case, you will opt for website design and social media materials for sites like LinkedIn rather than outside advertising graphic design for billboards.

Types of Graphic Design Services

To help you wrap your mind around what’s available, here are some examples of the most common custom graphic design work:

A clear picture of your core needs will help you pinpoint what kind of custom graphics and types of projects will move the needle for your business.

2. Research and Compare Pricing

Now that you’re set on your goals and desired custom graphic deliverables, it’s time to do some pricing research.

Depending on whether you hire an agency, freelancer, or choose to work DIY, the project's cost will change. You should request proposals and quotes from several providers to understand the market.

Graphic design services are typically offered at per-project flat rates or hourly rates. This distinction is important, especially when determining your project scope.

Aside from the cost, what else should you consider in a graphic design partner? According to a new outsourcing report, small businesses most closely evaluate the following:

  • Price
  • Industry experience
  • Team diversity

In your talks with potential partners, make sure to overview design portfolios and get an understanding of the team makeup that would be staffed to your project. This way, you’re holistically comparing the value each candidate is able to deliver.

3. Consider the Project Scope

Especially if you plan on integrating digital graphics into a website or mobile app functionality, the scope is going to be important (and possibly complex) to nail down.

The complexity of project scope will be your biggest cost driver, so pay close attention to your priorities when making big decisions that will impact scope.

Consider doing a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) when making these decisions. Will the increased cost of a particular design asset exceed the cost required to create it?

Remember, the scope of your design services must also account for revisions, the overall complexity of the work, and the number of deliverables.

Be up-front about your scope expectations to receive the most accurate cost estimates from providers.

4. Set a Design Budget

After taking time to do a CBA, compare agency pricing, and firm up your must-have features, you can set your starting budget.

Focus on respecting your financial constraints while putting the most important deliverables first. The goal (and challenge) is achieving your outcomes without overspending. At this point, you should have all the knowledge and tools to understand what you can afford and act on it.

See below for a detailed budget breakdown that includes specific line items for different design elements and services.

5. Adapt your Budget Over Time

As the project progresses, review and adjust your budget as needed regularly. This will help you to stay on track and within your allocated financial resources.

If you need to change the project's scope, communicate these to the designer or design firm. Then, simply adjust your budget accordingly.

It's essential to carefully consider the costs and allocate resources wisely to develop a working budget. However, it’s equally critical to upkeep the budget to stay on top of the cost of your efforts.

High-quality graphic design services are valuable, but you’ll only get the most out of them if you budget effectively.

Learn more about the world of graphic design with our graphic design glossary. 

Graphic Design Services Budget Template

Custom graphic design budgeting template

Download the Graphic Design Template for Your Budget

Setting aside some extra dollars in your budget will help you account for contingencies and unexpected costs that pop up. This isn’t uncommon during the design process, and it’ll benefit you to be prepared for anything.

Keep in mind that this is just a sample budgeting template. The actual line items for your custom graphic design project may vary depending on your specific needs and requirements.

 

Factors that Influence Professional Graphic Design Costs

Custom graphic design services can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a simple project to several thousand dollars for a full-service effort. Carefully consider your budget and the resources available to ensure you receive value for your money.

The cost of custom graphic design services can vary significantly depending on many factors, including the scope and complexity of the project, the level of expertise required, and the resources and services needed.

Here are some of the key drivers of cost:

  • Design time: This represents the hourly rate designers charge for their work. The longer the project takes to complete, the more companies will be charged for labor. Design time will likely be your greatest cost for custom graphics. Companies hoping to scale down the cost of a designer’s rate can revisit the level of experience they’re asking for from design candidates. Designers with less expertise in the field can often provide work for a lesser rate.
  • Number of revisions: Consistent with design time, the number of revisions increases the amount of time it takes for designers to complete a project. This drives up the overall cost. Many designers include several revisions in their project fees and contracts. Clients who exceed the allocated number of revisions are charged an additional fee for each requested revision. The best way to reduce revisions is to communicate your vision in the planning stages clearly.
  • Number of deliverables: As the volume of deliverables goes up, so does the project's cost. Deliverables increase the scope and complexity of design projects and can include logos, brochures, business cards, and website graphics.
  • Additional creative services: Graphic design agencies often offer a host of creative services to support the main tenants of their work. For example, in addition to design services, there may be other costs for photography, illustration, printing, or web development. If you require these full-service options, your budget will have to expand beyond that of a simple graphic design project.

Should you hire a freelance graphic designer or an agency? Make your choice with our guide. 

Budgeting Helps Determine the Cost of Custom Graphic Design Work

Investing in high-quality custom graphic design services, as professionally designed brand identity and marketing materials, is often worth the cost. Custom graphics communicate brand messages and expand the scope of marketing opportunities.

Creating a budget for custom graphic design services is an essential step in planning. With a sound budget, projects stay on track.

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