Why Graphic Designers (And Everyone Else) Should Talk About Money

Graphic designers take on projects that define their clients’ public image and persona. But many times, they aren’t paid fairly for that work. Fast Company’s Co.Design site recently ran a great piece on why graphic designers should talk more openly about money and how much they earn.

Being Open About Finances

Armin Vit is the cofounder of graphic design firm Under Consideration LLC. According to Co.Design’s John Brownlee, Under Consideration earned just $17,000 from design work in 2015–an extremely low amount for a graphic design firm. However, Under Consideration earned $535,000 in 2015.

Here’s how that worked out.

Although Under Consideration is a graphic design firm, they make the bulk of their income from blogs and special events rather than client work. In a video made for Fast Company, Vit explains how their finances broke down.

Most importantly, one conference–the Brand New conference–generates over $312,000 for Under Consideration. That’s an important alternate revenue generator.

The kicker, though, is that expenses run high. Under Consideration, like many small firms, is a husband-and-wife company. After salaries and expenses, Vit says, his company earned only $28,000 that year. While respectable, that’s not a lot if a self-employed business is looking to scale.

Why Designers (And Every Freelancer, Really) Should Talk About Finances

According to Vik, “”Designers don’t talk about money at all. You just don’t go there […] And how are we supposed to know if we’re valuing our work correctly if we have nothing to compare it against?”

That’s the problem when it comes to earning money and running a successful freelance business for many creatives.

Designers (and writers, animators, musicians, you name it…) tend to be the types who prioritize their craft over cold hard cash. And thank God for that–a world full of MBAs would be dreary and thoroughly unenjoyable.

But there’s a flipside to that: Many artistic freelancers feel uncomfortable talking about business, negotiating rates, and making sure they make the money they deserve. It’s sort of why so many musicians have been taken advantage of by shady managers over the years–great at creating work people love, not so good at reading contracts and demanding fair payscales.

That’s why it’s so important to talk openly with your peers about money and not be afraid to negotiate and nickel-and-dime contracts with potential clients: Making money is awesome. And you want to make more of it for doing the work you spent so much time getting amazing at.