Graphic Designers: Do You Charge Rush Fees?

Image via Flickr user vestman.

When you work for yourself it can be difficult to manage how many projects you should take on at once. Freelancing often feels like feast versus famine. Somehow people know when you are busiest, and that’s when they choose to call you about their emergency postcard redesign or last-minute brochure.

Rush fees are extra charges of anywhere from 20 percent or more of the total project fee to produce a project in less time than it would normally take. The rate usually depends on the complexity of the project and when the deadline is. Here are two reasons why its beneficial to add rush fees to your design protocol:

1. You don’t always have to turn away business.
A rush fee is like overtime and will incentivize you to work longer hours or during the weekend to complete a job.  If the rush job is coming in from a new client especially, it’s important not to let that business get away. If a designer can secure a new client and deliver good design work in a short amount of time to alleviate a client’s crisis, it will mean more work from this client in the future.

2. Establishes a precedent and boundaries with clients.
If you don’t charge a rush fee and accept one client’s emergency design job on a Friday night and work through the weekend, it’s hard to say “no” or to charge a rush fee in the future. Letting clients know in the beginning of the relationship that this is how you work, and why, will establish a precedent and a good working relationship. The clients will hopefully respect your working hours and be motivated by the rush fee to give you enough lead time on projects.

If you do decide to implement rush fees, pay attention to the size of the client, and the difficulty and turn around time on each job. It may be necessary to develop a sliding scale so that smaller businesses are not overburdened by the rush charges. Having a rush fee setup is sometimes not enough, and you may still have to say no to last-minute jobs. The goal of the rush fee is to make sure that your other regular business does not suffer. If you can’t do it all count yourself lucky for having so many opportunities and don’t be afraid to say no or postpone a job.

What are your thoughts on charging rush fees? How do you balance your hours and availability?

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