June 6, 2015

Logo Process: "Business Stuff"

Now that I've walked you through the design process (see my previous post), I'm guessing the little accountant in you still wants to know the bottom line: how much does it cost? This post will be dedicated to dotting the "i"s and crossing the "t"s: fees, payment schedule, contracts, and legal obligations. (I know, they're my least favorite part, too.)

Cost / Fees

Invariably, the first thing a prospective client wants to know is what a logo will cost. Regardless of the quality of the product, churches (and businesses) operate on limited budgets. I get that, which is why I try to keep my prices very reasonable. Your average country parish probably doesn't have a large slice of disposable income. On the other hand, neither do I, so I have to balance my client's needs against my own.

I don't have a flat fee for logo work. That may frustrate those who want a "bottom line" figure up front, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. You wouldn't expect a roofer to charge the same fee to re-shingle your house as he would to re-shingle the local country club. There is a formula to it (although not necessarily a rigid one). I try to gauge the size of my client, how much work the project will take, supply and demand, range of usage, turnaround time, and other factors.

Unused logo that incorporated the shape of the church's windows.

Oh boy, here it comes. He's going to start throwing around huge numbers, talking himself up, and eventually we'll be convinced that if we don't commission him, we'll be losing money! I can just hear it now, "Only ten low payments of $199.99!"

If you do your research, you'll find designers who will make a logo for anywhere between $200 and $10,000. Some designers charge hourly, and their rates can range between $70 and $150 an hour. I chose not to charge by the hour, because judging from the amount of time I invest (roughly anywhere from 15-30 hours), it would probably make the product unaffordable for most of my prospective clients. (That being said, I reserve the right to charge more if the client requests an unreasonable number of changes. It hasn't happened yet, but it's a possibility.)

See? I told you. Smoke and mirrors. So just answer the question already.

The absolute lowest I currently charge is $500. (That would likely be for a small church with, say, less than 100 parishioners.) I consider that to be a reasonable price for the amount of support I provide, the number of designs you get to choose from, the level of input you get, virtually unlimited changes, and so on. Best of all, if you're a Lutheran church, I already know more about you than just about any designer you'll be able to find. 

Oh, I guess that's not so bad...

But wait! If you call now... just kidding.

By the way, if you're happening across this page by accident, I don't design only for Lutherans—or only for churches. I'm happy to work for any paying client. I just don't do pro bono work, because I can't eat that.

Payment Schedule

As soon as I get a clear description of what the client wants, I draw up a project agreement detailing what rights will be transferred (more on that later), what the fee will be, timeline and due dates, etc. I sign it and mail it off to be signed and returned by the other party.

The first payment is a deposit, usually 10% or $100, nonrefundable, which I require before beginning work. That just ensures that any preliminary work I do is compensated for if the client withdraws from the project. (This hasn't happened yet for graphic design work, but I have put significant hours and mileage into a liturgical project and gotten nothing for it.) But the deposit counts toward the total fee—so it isn't in addition to the fee.

The balance is due within 15 days of completing the project. So the total fee, plus any additional expenses (e.g. font licenses), plus additional fees (for extra logo treatments, seal design, etc.), minus the deposit. Based on my current rates, your total "out-the-door" expense is usually less than $800.

Copyright & Legal Stuff

So whose design is it, anyway? And what can we do with it?

A full copyright buyout is typically expensive, so I retain the copyright to the design. However, the client receives exclusive reproduction rights, with no limitations on medium, duration, or number of uses. So for all intents and purposes, the design is yours. Once the contract has been signed and I've received full payment, you have the rights to use it however you like, within loosely defined identity guidelines. I reserve the right to display the logo on my website and in my portfolio. But I cannot sell the design to anyone else—so you have the assurance that no one else will be using it. (If they are, let me know, because they're infringing on copyright.)

As to what you can do with it, you can reproduce it in any medium you desire: print ads, bulletins, banners, video ads, t-shirts, mugs, or macaroni noodles. What you can't do is alter the design. If at any point you want to make changes to the logo, I include a clause in the contract that requires you give me first choice to make changes (for an additional fee). If I decline, you may take it to a different designer. If you want a totally new design, you're of course free to commission any artist at any time.

How long does it remain ours?

The rights remain yours for as long as you continue to use it—whatever length of time that may be. If you cease using it (for instance, if you design a completely new logo), then the rights return to me.

Can we print the logo on tie-dyed shirts and outline it with sequins?

Most likely, no. Artists have the right to determine how their work is displayed. I include a brief set of identity guidelines to ensure that your logo is displayed consistently and professionally. This helps to establish your "brand" or visual identity. So unless part of your permanent identity is tie-dye and sequins, and unless the original logo design took that into account, it is very probable that I wouldn't allow your logo to be displayed in such an unflattering way.

Okay, but what if we don't like the final design?

I can't stress enough that this is incredibly rare and highly unlikely. It's never happened to me. If you don't like it, it obviously isn't "final"—and I will keep working on it. But if for any reason the client and I reach an impasse, there is an industry term known as a "kill fee." The fee varies depending on the level of work already done. The kill fee is usually between 50-100% of the original fee. Because a family's gotta eat. (You usually don't get to keep your money if you don't like the plumber's work.) Upon termination of a project, the kill fee is due, but none of the rights are transferred to the client.

The reason this is unlikely is that as much as I need the money, having a good reputation with my clients is equally important—if not more so. I've received most of my business by word of mouth, and having an upset client who just shelled out a bunch of money for a design they don't want is not worth it. So I will go to any lengths to find a design you'll be satisfied with.

If you're still not convinced, feel free to read through my previous post that covers the design process from start to finish. There's a lot of push-and-pull from client interaction, and I credit that dynamic for several of my most successful designs.


In short, there's a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo. But I make sure that I communicate to the client exactly what they are getting. Good communication is key to a good logo design and a satisfied customer, and so far, I've only had satisfied customers.

Did I miss anything? Leave a comment or question and I'll answer it in a follow-up.


  1. Hi - Thanks for this encouraging post. Several of the things you've put into this article have come out of my mouth, so I really enjoyed reading it. Are you located in one of the "northern" states? I'm in the south and have been designing full time in a church setting and picking up freelance jobs on the side for years. It seems that every time I get a job for a non-profit, no matter how large or small they are, their eyes bug out of their heads when I tell them that I need no less than $300 for a "from scratch" logo even though I know that's on the cheap end. If they want a cookie cutter logo without the personal interaction, they can go get one for $99 online or pay whatever they want at 99designs. I spend almost the same amount of time that you do (12-30 hours) on those kinds of logos. I hate to turn away jobs but often feel bullied by clients in regard to pricing - and I can't eat appreciation. Anyway, your article is encouraging and I wanted to thank you for that.

    1. You're quite welcome! I live in Nebraska. I suppose some people might consider that "North," but we call it the Midwest.

      Every artist is different. There are artists with the means and the reputation to turn down clients who don't want to pay their fees. Or they might "stick it to them" by giving them a crappy design. I would prefer not to turn down business, and every client is an opportunity to use my talents to the best of my abilities. For a Christian, it's also an opportunity to show love to your neighbor. If people see that, they might just be willing to pay you what you're worth.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

    2. Great point - I'll keep that in mind.