Charging Rush Fees for Graphic Design Projects

Graphic Design Fees for Short-Deadline Projects

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When working as a graphic designer, you are bound to have clients who want projects done on a short deadline. You will probably become too familiar with the phrase “I need this now.” When this happens, you have to first decide if you have the time to complete the project on deadline, and then decide whether or not to charge a rush fee. This should be handled on a case-by-case basis, and in the end, it comes down to the personal preference of the designer.

Before you decide, there are several things to consider that can help you decide whether or not to charge more for work done quickly.

  • Your current schedule: Will you have to rearrange your current workload or put off work for other clients to complete this job?
  • The deadline itself: The term “rush” is loosely defined. A small project might be a rush if the client wants it the next day. A large project could be a rush if it’s due in two weeks. Every rush job is different, but make sure yours is truly a rush before you approach a client with a higher fee. If you think the job is short-notice and unrealistic, you’re probably right.
  • The client relationship: Is the client normally reasonable in his or her requests? Are they a top client in terms of income? It often pays to do a favor for a client to maintain a long-term relationship.
  • The scope of the work: How much work does the client need quickly?

How to Handle a Rush Job

As the designer, you hold most of the power. When a client comes to you with a rush job, they’re usually desperate and stressed. Stay calm during your communication, and if you’re willing to take the job, let them know you’re glad to help them out during a tough time and expect to be adequately compensated, but don’t feel obligated to take every rush job that comes your way.

What to Charge

Rush jobs are usually high stress and anxiety-ridden, so it makes sense to charge more instead of doing a generous favor. It all depends on your relationship with the client, but a good starting point for a rush fee is 25 percent. Generally, a smaller project indicates a lower fee and a larger project indicates a more substantial fee. However, you don’t necessarily have to charge a rush fee for a short-notice project if you have a good client relationship and genuinely want to help them out. On the invoice, be sure to include the value of the rush fee with “no charge” as the price. The client will see that you did them a favor when you could have charged them double your regular rate, understand their indiscretion, and hopefully plan ahead next time.

How to Prepare for Next Time

Unfortunately, your first rush job probably won’t be your last. A rush fee is a premium, so make that blatantly clear in the quote or invoice. Update your contract to include a comprehensive overview of your rush policy that you can quickly refer clients to upon a rush request.​

Consider all of these factors when thinking about charging a rush fee. You don’t want to damage a relationship with a client, but you also don’t want to be taken advantage of. If you do determine a rush fee is reasonable, be open with the client. Let them know the costs upfront, the reason for the increase, and consider offering them an alternative schedule at your standard rate.