Selling a design/contract advice


I am an amateur graphic designer looking for some advice on pricing a piece of work.

I recently designed a poster for my employer (national health service).

I designed it free of charge fir my employer but there are now other health services interested in using my poster.

I would like to charge for the use of my design but I am at a loss as to how much I should charge and writing up a contract.

I have copyrighted the piece and would like to keep the copyright.

The poster would have to have some changes made for each health service i.e logos.

I would like to make the changes myself and then supply a final PDF, illustrator files for the client to print.

Any advice or tips would be very much appreciated.

I’m confused. If you created the poster for your employer, on company time, they own it, not you. What am I missing?

Also, we don’t allow pricing discussion here, sorry. We can help you decide on your own prices, but can’t suggest specific amounts.

So you did the work on your own time? If not, you don’t own it.

Sorry, I should have made it clear that I did design it in my own time.

Some help on deciding a price would be good.


While your desire to get help setting a price is understandable, no one is here is in any better position than you to start guessing at it. It may actually depend on the client(s) more than anything. They are your “market,” and some such markets will bear more expense than others. You couldn’t charge a privately owned rural clinic the same price you’d charge a regional healthcare system with 4 major hospitals and 20 satellite locations. See what I mean? It’s about “scope;” so, if you’re selling the design to an office where 1 to 5 prints will be displayed, you might charge X, whereas the communications office of a major hospital system might be willing and able to pay you 100 times that much.

To an extent, it becomes about relationships too. Apparently someone expressed a desire to use your design in their facility. That suggests you’ve talked with a person. Well, talk a little more…get familiar with that “scope” in their context, and investigate what kind of price they can bear, factored by the scope.

The business side of selling graphic design is like a whole other profession, and you only ever “know” it through experience. This is how you get that.

It’s similar to image rights where the licensing is sold by impressions.
Contrary to what HB was saying though, The number of impressions usually is in increments where 1-500 would be the same royalty for the image.
You are basically selling a Stock Image license. Then you are charging design services on top of that if the client will go for that. Usually the client wants to just buy the stock image and do what they want with it.

Go to a site like iStock, bring up a few image backgrounds similar to your poster in both Royalty Free (single price up to several thousand impressions) and Rights Managed (which has a whole question and answer box to figure out what the royalty payment is based on impressions, scope of market, industry niche and prominence.)
Then add your design fee on top.

I might also add, be sure your employer is ok with you using it in this fashion. If it was created with your company branding in mind, there may be an issue with that.

Hmm…maybe my post was confusing in that I mentioned number of prints, but I was speaking to price indexing as it equates to client size/scope more so than usage-based “royalties”.

Not having seen the design, however, if there was use of a stock image, its license surely would have to be carefully considered in this scenario.

Thankyou very much for all your invaluable advice. I certainly have a clearer idea now.

I really appreciate it


Sort of a side issue, but what do you mean when you say that you copyrighted it? In the U.S., everything is automatically copyrighted by its creator (or the creator’s employer). Are you saying you filed an actual registration with the U.S. Copyright Office? Or are you saying you just placed a copyright notice on the work itself (which doesn’t actually do anything than remind people of the copyright that already exists).

From the way you described things, however, I’m wondering if your employer sees your supposed ownership in the same way you do. If this was done on your own time without pay, yeah, you own the copyright, but will your employers see it that way too? I guess I’m saying that even if you’re right, it’s often best, from a purely practical standpoint, to avoid a legal dispute with one’s employer.

As for pricing, I agree with the others, it depends on a whole range of things that are impossible to generalize about. When I run into these situations, it basically boils down to me deciding how much I want to make on the hours I spent, then charging that much.

1 Like

I meant the actual design itself, not any contained stock art. Contained stock art is a whole nuther tangled web of challenges.

Considering this copyrighted work as a single image, most stock image sellers don’t care if you are a sole proprietor or a multi-mega-billionaire when it comes to image pricing in any for-profit usage, though some may offer a discount if you are doing work for a non-profit.

Same goes for design services. While some may choose charity, the work all still costs the same, to the designer.

As B mentioned, and I did earlier, be very sure your boss doesn’t think this is his. When we buy contracted illustration work the concept of what happens after initial use is right at the top of the list. Some clients want the contract to state “proprietary use only,” some may allow usage after an initial 5 year proprietary term, others allow the art to be used anytime after their initial work is published. Of course, the price ranges from very high in the first instance to not quite so high in the last. If your boss considers this a gift from you of the first order…things could get uncomfortable.

1 Like

Unless I misunderstand you on this, we disagree. My cost to perform design work can vary greatly in many ways, from the amount of research involved, to the amount of my time spent brainstorming (which can be really hard to predict for quoting purposes), to the nature or value of the client’s input and feedback. But still, none of that is relevant to the point I was making about pricing.

To state it more simply than I may have previously: I would, will, and do charge a corporation a higher rate than I would, will and do charge an individual for the exact same (amount of) design work.

But your time still costs the same to you. How you apportion that cost may vary, but the working time still has to be paid for.

For my point of view, I have to blame my weird niche of the industry and my production work, which involves tangibles, as compared to design idea creation. We have set hourly rates, set materials costs, etc.

Photo assets are tangibles. I have yet to meet a Stock Image source that takes into account the size of the business wanting to use their assets. As I said, a non-profit use tends to be favored pricewise in a Rights Managed situation, but all businesses are business rate. The number of impressions allowed on a Royalty Free asset doesn’t vary whether you are a corner store silk screener or a mega-huge book publisher. Woe to the little shop trying to use a Rights Managed image that has to claim international sales because they sell their wares to the world on Etsy.

We aren’t so much disagreeing as not quite comparing apples to apples.

Well, they do sort of do that, but in a roundabout way.

For example, both iStock’s and Shutterstock’s standard subscription rates are geared toward freelancers and individual users. If you’re more than a one-person operation, you’re required to obtain a team license from them, which is typically a whole lot more expensive.

Case in point: For my freelance work I can get a subscription to Shutterstock than enables me to download (can’t remember the exact figures) 250 images per month for $169, which amounts to about 3,000 images per year for $2,000. At my day job, using our team account with them, we can only download 750 images per year for $4,000 and some odd dollars.

This whole thing is on my mind because I was negotiating with both Getty and Shutterstock over the issue just this past week and managed to get Getty down to a more reasonable rate, but it’s still a whole lot more than their standard one-person-company rate.

This isn’t exactly what you were talking about, but it is a way in which the stock agencies manage to make money from the small user while charging larger business with bigger budgets more.

1 Like

Ah, but what happens when you divide that corporate charge by the number of seats covered? Aren’t they charging the corporate singular user less?
3000 images for $2000 divided by giving access to 1 person is $0.66 per image
750 images for $4000 divided by giving access to, say, 10 people, is $0.53 per image.
(yeah, there is something wrong with my analysis, but it sounded, momentarily, valid. LOL.)

I don’t do enough work with any one stock company to get into their subscription rates. Actually most of the stock stuff I get comes from much smaller resources.

Not really — they’re charging quite a bit more for those seats and delivering less. A lot depends on the situation, though, and how the company uses the license and whether or not it fully takes advantage of their subscription.

A single-user subscription for 3,000 images costs about $2,000 per year. A team license for, say, up to 99 users/seats costs over $4,000 and maxes out as soon as the team downloads 750 images.

Not many companies would have 99 people downloading and using images, but if they did, the average for each user would be, what, about 7 or 8 photos throughout the year. Even if only two people in the company were working with the images, those two users on the team license would be restricted to only 375 images apiece.

But a freelancer or sole-proprietor with only one person using the photos can sign up for a couple thousand dollars per year and have rights to use about 3,000 photos. As soon as that one-designer company hires another user or freelancer, however, the team rates kick in. If more than one user is involved, they won’t let a company buy, say, two individual licenses — they, instead, insist on subscribing to the much more expensive team license.

I suspect the stock agencies give these huge discounted download limits to freelancers because hardly any freelancer is going to actually use that many photos in a year. In other words, it looks good as a marketing tactic, but ends up rarely being fully used by the individual subscriber.

Where are you located? the laws may varies depending on your country

©2019 Graphic Design Forum | Contact | Legal | Twitter | Facebook