I work for a custom wine cellar company and have been their one and only designer for a year and half now. The owner used to do the design, but you can't run a company sitting behind a mouse designing all day, so he got me.

I have a degree that I learned in AutoCAD. I never got to use it, and when I found this company, the owner asked me if I knew SketchUp, which is what we use. I learned the program, and started doing small designs for $13.50 per hour and was quickly moved up to $15 per hour. My boss told me not long after that he was already thinking about my next raise; he didn’t know when it would be or how much but just wanted me to know it was on his mind. That was about a year ago. He has since then told me more than once that my list of responsibilities has grown more than he ever intended, and he was please with my work.

Now they have brought up the idea of paying me by the designs that sell and taking an hourly cut or being independent altogether, requiring me to do a 1099, which is fine with me. I have thought to request a minimum for each job so I know if a design sells, I am guaranteed at least that much.

As of now, I take a design request form. I create a SKP file for the dealer and home owner or business and create the cellar they have dictated with our cabinet options. Sometimes I am given free range and have done quite well. They have said they would like to pay me a percentage of each job that sells but that is hard to get income in mind when we may sell one cellar a week or we may sell six and they can range from $3000 up to $45K. The average, I suppose, is around $7 to $10k.

We have a custom wood shop with about 20 employees that get paid too. I create 3D design presentations for our dealers to take to their customers. The design comes back for at least one revision to tweak something normally. Once we sell it, we take a 50% deposit, and I create a 2D design with measurement of the room and all wine racks for the dealer/home owner to sign off on. This ensures the racks fit.

That same document I then pair with a cover sheet and very detailed component list for the shop to create the cellar. We then ship freight, UPS, or maybe even have the customer come pick it up if they are close enough and so choose.

Since I was hired, they have purchased a $135k dollar CNC machine and several other large saws and sanders. The money is obviously coming in. He has even hired more shop labor since I came on, maybe four or five people.

We state that we require a $50 design fee on our request form, but it isn't enforced, and it is just hidden in the final price (should that be mine or is that small potatoes for what I should be concerned with).

I act as a designer, office help when needed, and have for a while now been dealing with our lead dealers directly and any questions about a design or quote usually comes back to me.

So all that said, how do I determine what numbers to sit down with? How do I determine how much to ask for and what's fair? How do I determine the minimum I should ask for?

  • 2
    Hey can you try splitting your question in smaller paragraph. And if possible trim out less important details. It is very hard for everyone (atleast me) to read your very long paragraph. freelancing.stackexchange.com/posts/1966/edit
    – user702
    Jun 8 '14 at 8:18
  • Browse top topics to see how we estimate hourly price. Or browse sites like odesk and elance and see how much designers from your area charge.
    – Peter MV
    Jun 9 '14 at 6:10
  • Simply reading the last paragraph (with the actual questions), there is no way for anyone here to answer any of those. You're employed.... you need to discuss what you want with your employer. You could as easily ask for $15/hr as you would $500/hr. No one here can price your time.
    – Scott
    Jun 9 '14 at 16:01
  • 1
    Your employer is try to pimp you. Be VERY careful about going 1099 or being paid only for designs that sell (also known as SPEC work). It's not difficult to sell yourself short. And the employer saves a ton of money. That change is NOT necessarily to your benefit, so you may have to learn to stand your ground. nospec.com
    – Xavier J
    Jun 11 '14 at 21:27
  • I edited this a bit to fix the spelling, grammar, and run-on sentences, but I also modified the question to focus on the how. On Freelancing SE, focusing on exact dollar amounts isn't something we can help with since it depends on your market and its current state, but we can help you determine how to calculate these things.
    – jmort253
    Jun 15 '14 at 20:15

Your time is as valuable as you make it. I started at $20/hour, then when I hit capacity for a few months, bumped my prices to $35. Once I hit work capacity for a few months, I jumped to $50, then $85. I've been stuck at $85 for three years now -- although I might be able to charge more, $85/hour is more than enough to keep me happy.

It's all about supply and demand. If you're in demand, increase your prices until you start to see demand fall off.

  • +1 I agree, the overall economy, local concerns, etc..
    – kenny
    Jul 11 '14 at 23:05

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