Has anyone ever tried to get you to lower your design rates or barter services with them? Have you ever tried to get a designer to lower their rates? If you have, you’re in for a bit of a rant on why I believe you should never ask a designer to lower their rates because recently, I’ve been hearing about it a lot. It’s happened to me quite a few times as well.

I encountered a lawyer who was attempting to get a full website designed for $150 and a testimonial.  I encountered a woman who wanted to trade a “simple” e-commerce site for what seemed like mindset coaching. (She was not a professional in this area.) I encountered someone who wanted a logo for $5 from a major company and who threatened to go to Fiverr instead if the designer didn’t agree to the price.

I myself used to exchange services for reviews and work virtually for free because I wanted the experience and the opportunity to build my portfolio. I also worked on Fiverr for a long time. However, once I worked long enough to feel confident that I could guarantee a truly valuable product, I left Fiverr and increased my prices. Now, I balk at these offers and here’s the main reason why:

You are making assumptions about someone and it’s disrespectful.

Art and design in general are seen as hobbies rather than skilled professions. People treat artists and designers as though they couldn’t possibly be making a living off of their services and therefore must be starving and desperate for work. We are often treated as though being hired is a gift in and of itself and that we are lucky to have someone even consider taking us on when in fact, in most cases, the opposite is true. Assuming that we are desperate for work and therefore should be paid less than minimum wage or not at all for our time is flat-out disrespectful. Consider that many designers have earned the right to call themselves designers. So here are some concrete reasons why it’s disrespectful to ask a designer to charge less than they have decided on.


Designers are educated

Many have trained, either formally (i.e. college, internships, etc.) or informally (i.e. online classes, self-teaching, etc.) for a long time to be able to provide quality work. I myself have spent 3 years learning to do what I do – mostly self taught, which required time, discipline, money, and effort – and I’m still learning and taking time to teach myself new things every day. Good designers will reserve working time to learn new skills and programs to make their services better. We pay doctors and lawyers tons of money because they went to school for a long time to be good at what they do. I’ve encountered designers who have been working and training for 20 years or more to be good at what they do. You are paying for that expertise, just like you would with a doctor or lawyer.

Designers work hard

They often spend just as much time working as anyone with a standard 9-5, sometimes more. Designers who work from home, for instance, don’t get to leave work. They often work late into the night and on weekends doing client work as well as marketing, bookkeeping, networking, researching, etc.

And they spend a lot of time on your project. A lot more goes into building a website, for example, than you might think. I myself have 5 phases and over 50 individual steps to ensure that every project goes smoothly. This includes research, planning, wireframing, many design stages, integrations, testing, launching, troubleshooting, and more. Not to mention the work I do for free, like writing proposals, writing contracts, adding your finished product to my portfolio, tweaking and improving on my systems, etc.

A lot of designers run their own businesses or freelance, so not only do they need to be compensated so that they can pay their bills, but they need to pay businesses expenses most people don’t have to think about. They may also have to pay VAs or subcontractors.

Designers provide a unique and in-demand service

Humility is a large part of respect. They are providing you with a specialized service and/or product. If you could build a website or design a logo yourself, you would. But you can’t.

We also have keep their services competitive and in demand. Art and design are constantly changing as new trends come into play. You are typically paying a designer to be aware of and on top of these trends. Each designer is giving you something that has value to you. Think about how much a new website or logo would help your business. Think of how much money you may earn as a result of a well-designed website or logo. Is it fair to pay someone $5 for something that may bring you thousands?

These days, all businesses and brands need designers and artists to help them grow. Remember that many designers who market themselves well get tons of offers and have many opportunities to work with various clients. While working with you may earn them some money or experience, there is always someone out there who is more than willing to pay what they are asking.

So, if you think someone is charging too much, what do you do?

It’s true, there are bad apples out there who ruin it for the rest of us. There are people out there who try to take advantage and over charge and those people suck. It’s a hot topic right now, but many believe that working on Fiverr makes the rest of the freelance design community look bad by comparison. To a point, I agree with this way of thinking because it makes clients believe that it’s perfectly normal and expected to pay someone $5 for logo design or another design service.

How do you, as a client, combat this way of thinking? 

1. Do your research. Shop around. Talk to different designers. This will allow you to figure out what the average cost is for what you need, by comparing the highest and lowest costs. Go with one that is in your price range and if you can’t find one who fits your budget, wait and save up. If you wanted to buy a new TV but didn’t have enough money, the only thing to do is wait for the prices to go down or until you’d saved up enough. You wouldn’t insist the Best Buy employee take your toaster in exchange for a flat screen.

2. Look for someone who is already offering to barter or work for testimonials. There are beginners out there who are looking for the experience and will work for next to nothing and that’s 100% okay. But understand that you are taking a risk and may not have a smooth, flawless experience. You get what you pay for. In this case, you may get your product, but it may be a more stressful process and you may not get exactly what you want.

3. If you want a service you can’t afford, you can always inquire about payment plans (many designers offer them) or see if you can complete your projects in phases so that you can pay for some now and get your project off the ground. Then hire the designer for more work later when you have more money. In the end, you’ll have a full project that meets all of your needs, but you didn’t have to shell out the full cost all at once.

4. Never ask for bartering or reduced prices if they have not already been offered to you. Designers tend to assume that if you haggle up front, you will be a difficult customer. Don’t start off the working relationship by being disrespectful and causing tension.

5. If you do INSIST on bartering, make sure and be ready to prove that what you’re offering has the same monetary value as what you are asking for. Some designers are open and willing to this idea, but only if both sides are getting a fair deal.

What should you do if a client is asking you to lower your prices?

If someone approaches you and they want to barter or want to pay you less than you need, it’s perfectly okay to decline! Like I said, if you’re just starting out and the experience is worth more to you than charging more, go for it! There is nothing wrong with that at all, in fact most designers start out that way. However, you have to remember that what you do has real, tangible, measurable value. It matters how much you charge and it matters that your work should be able to pay your bills. Remind yourself that not only does your work have value, but you have value.

You can politely decline and if pressed, explain how much time and effort goes into each project. I have no problem giving a not-so-detailed list of what does into my projects and how I thoughtfully worked out my prices to be able to pay my personal and well as professional bills. Many people may hit you with the “I can get someone on Fiverr to do it less” or “I can get my nephew to do it for half the price!” If they meant this, they would have already done it.

Remember that clients who are difficult at the beginning will almost guaranteed be difficult throughout the entire project. Save yourself the stress and find someone who appreciates what you do and is actually happy to compensate you. These people do exist, I promise!

So, you can accept. Or you can politely decline and explain why. You can also offer a few other solutions, maybe links to other designers who charge less than you. If the client keeps pressing you, there is no shame in not answering the e-mail. You are not required to defend yourself as every turn or try to work something out with them. It’s hard sometimes as freelancers to let go of potential business, but I can say from experience that every time I have let an iffy opportunity pass me by, a better one came along right on it’s heels.