company swag,sompany merch,branding,christmas gift ideas,corporate christmas gifts

How much does an on-demand design service cost (really)

calculator expenses computation illustration
Let’s compute the cost.

The last time you bought shoes, did you compute if it was worth it based on the actual cost of the materials, manufacturing, labor, and packaging?

I am sure you didn’t because 96% of the participants in a price intelligence survey say that they compare a product to a similar product, not to its actual cost.

Comparing an item (like shoes) to another is easy. However, computing its actual cost to decide if a purchase is worth it is a pain that no one actually bothers to do. Curious how much a pair actually cost? Check this breakdown.

girl choosing shoes
Choose wisely.

Product price vs service price vs yourself

Now, what about the cost of services like an on-demand design service?

Buying a mass-produced painting of a bowl of fruit is different from asking a painter to make a bespoke one for you. You need to pay the painter, find a bowl, buy the fruits, you get what I mean.

Comparing services is complex because aside from the fees and prices, there is a differentiating factor: your ability to do it yourself.

Before I subscribe to a service, I usually ask if I can save money by doing it myself. It’s logical and practical to consider especially if you want to cut down expenses for your business.

The truth is that D-I-Y isn’t always easy or cheap, and it may involve technical work that’s best left to the professionals.

I know you are not convinced yet so it’s time to bring out the numbers.

people thinking question mark cartoon
How do you know if the price of a service is worth it?

How much is your time worth?

Instead of researching tons of articles to compare and check the fees when it comes to on-demand design service, let me break it down for you.

First, let us determine how much your hour is worth.

Let’s say you own a small web design agency and you get a salary of $100,000 per year. The rate varies on the size of the agency and this is the low, conservative end.

📌 Related article: The art of pricing your service

Most agency owners are working full-time in the business (that is, 40+ hours a week).

As the owner, you always have the option to work less – but you probably won’t pay yourself 100% of your previous compensation because some of that money will go to pay someone else to do the job.

If you’re getting $100,000 annually, you are looking at $8,333 per month, not including taxes. Assuming that you are not working on a weekend (heavens forbid), you’d be working 160 hours every month in your web agency. $8,333 divided by 160 hours is $52.08

Your current rate, then, would be $52.08 per hour.

Cost breakdown of on-demand design service

Below are the tasks involved in hiring and managing a designer. Since you are going to execute these tasks, I will factor in the cost of your time and your salary.

Every step is quantified so you can visualize it.

Task Worth in days Worth in USD Notes

Looking for a candidate in Upwork, Fiverr, Jobstreet, LinkedIn etc.

25.2 days


Let’s say you dedicate 3 hours of your day posting the job, messaging, and interviewing candidates.

According to research, finding a new designer takes 25.2 days.

$52.08 x 3 hrs x 25.2 days


7 days


Because you are busy, you can only give the new designer 2 hours of your time daily to endorse the clients, tools, branding, processes, etc. $52.08 x 2 hrs x 7 days


30 days


The ongoing rate for outsourcing a full-time senior designer is $992/month (using the Philippines as an example due to lower rates). This senior designer is expected to be knowledgeable in Adobe design tools. Note: Hiring a freelancer is slightly cheaper at $552 per month but being freelance designers, their commitment to your brand may be erratic. I discuss the pros and cons of hiring a freelancer in this article

Mandatory leave credits

7 days

1 week of leave per month for ease in computation


According to law, a full-time employee is granted 12 weeks of job-protected leave per year. Work will not wait for the designer so assuming you know how to design, you’d have to cover them. Your salary of $52 per hour is applied here.

$52.08 x 8 hrs x 7 days

Adobe License

30 days


You need to pay for the tools of course. A complete Adobe Creative Cloud suite costs $52.99 per month for one license without discounts.


$8,627.35 per month

😳 😳 😳

Let the numbers do the talking

Do you have an extra $8,627.35 monthly?

Yeah, didn’t think so. That’s even three hundred bucks more expensive than your own salary!

You’re thinking: I don’t have to hire a new designer every month. After I hire one, that’s it.

are you sure gif
Are you sure your recent hire will stay with you forever?

Ok, fine. Given the ideal scenario that you will find your best-fit full-time designer in just one round of hiring, you’d still be paying $3,960.9 monthly.

The numbers have spoken: hiring a full-time designer for your start-up is definitely out of budget.

Getting a deer designer costs you $549 per month – that’s 90% cheaper than D-I-Y or hiring a full-time designer.

What are my other options?


If you choose to hire freelancers with their own tools, you’d be looking at $5,218.36 per month. You can even bring the number down by hiring a fresh graduate or a junior freelance designer but get ready for a lot of crappy drafts (and time-wasting).


With a low budget, you are most likely to volunteer to do the dirty work. You can do that but not for long. You know it is not scalable.

If you try to budget 2 hours of your day doing graphic design work, you will only spend $2,761.15 per month.

But If you do the design work on your own, you will spend less time in closing deals and strategizing for the whole business, which is, frankly, your real job as the agency owner.

On-Demand Design Service

At only $499 per month, Deer Designer is still a better option. It is time to choose and budget wisely.