Charging Rush Fees for Graphic Design Projects

What to consider when offered a high-stress job

If you're a graphic designer, you're likely to encounter clients with emergency jobs or projects they need ASAP. You want to please your clients, but not at the expense of other customers or your quality standards. Should you decline the job? Charge a rush fee? Here are a few things to consider.

Female graphic designer working late at her desk on a rush job
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Factors to Consider

When a client approaches you with a rush job, and you're wondering whether to accept the project, there's no one right answer. Handle such requests on a case-by-case basis, considering how much time you have and if a rush fee is warranted. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Your Current Schedule

Will you have to rearrange your current workload or put off work for other clients to complete this job? If you need additional tools, such as graphic design software, to complete the client's vision, do you have time to acquire it and learn it? No matter how much you want to help a client, you're not a magician. Be realistic about the current demands on your time.

The Actual Deadline

Every rush job is different and can mean different things to different people, so be sure to ask your clients pertinent questions. For example, a small project might be a rush if the client wants it the next day, while a large project with an involved process could be a rush if it's due in two weeks.

If you think the job is much too short-notice and unrealistic, and you wouldn't be able to execute it to your standards, consider declining it entirely. If the client considers it a rush job because they need it quickly, but you know you could easily finish a high-quality product, accepting the project without a rush fee would help solidify the client relationship and earn trust and goodwill.

If you want to accept the job and help your client, but know it would be an inconvenience to you and your business, charging an appropriate rush fee shows that you value your time and standards.

Don't feel obligated to take every rush job that comes your way, even if a client or potential client is stressed. Stay calm during your communication and evaluate whether the job is viable, with or without a rush fee.

What to Charge for a Rush Fee

Rush jobs can be surrounded by stress and anxiety, often leading to late nights and hard work. If you accept a rush job that will impact you and your business, a reasonable rush fee shows your client that your time is important and that you have quality standards to uphold.

It depends on your relationship with the client, but a good rush-fee starting point is 25 percent on top of your usual rate. Generally, a smaller project indicates a lower fee, and a more extensive project indicates a more substantial fee.

If you decide not to charge a rush fee, either as a favor to a client or because you genuinely want to help, be sure to note "rush fee" with no charge on the invoice. This will help the client understand that you did them a favor, and hopefully encourage them to plan better next time.

How to Prepare for the Next Rush Job

It's a good idea to spell out a rush-job policy in all your client contracts so that there are no surprises. If you choose not to enforce the rush fee, your clients should be extremely appreciative.

Accepting a rush job and charging a rush fee can be tricky. You don't want to damage a client relationship, but you also don't want to be taken advantage of. If charging a rush fee is the appropriate action, be open with the client. Let them know the costs upfront and the reason for the increase, and consider offering them an alternative schedule at your standard rate.