Don’t Set Goals – Track This Number Instead

Graphic Designer Earnings — How to Gauge Where You Are Going

I’m not a big fan of “goal setting” – the practice or the phrase – especially when it comes to financial goals. It’s too psychologically fraught and too easy to set unrealistic goals around your graphic designer earnings that are impossible to reach, which is depressing.

A popular one is, “I want to make six figures!” Not that $100,000 (and more) isn’t possible for a creative professional – it certainly is. But what graphic designer earnings are realistic for you to reach depends where you are right now, as we start a new year.

Graphic designer earnings | Raw

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

If you already making $90K, aiming for $100K is a very reasonable 10% increase. But if last year you made $25K and you’ve ambitiously decided this year your goal is $100K, well, that sounds like a set up for failure.

Choosing Self-Defeat

Unrealistic goals are self-defeating – and maybe that’s the point. You don’t reach (or even come close to) your goal, then you feel bad, which depletes any lack of confidence you may have mustered, and then you feel guilty on top of it all for not doing enough to reach your goal.

In fact, it can be hard to even know what is a realistic goal for each business. As a rule, a 10% increase over last year (or last month or any increment) is reasonable, no matter where you start, and in any field, including graphic designer earnings.

Goals Are Not the Answer

This may be an issue of semantics but when I work with clients, we don’t focus on goals. Instead we start with a focus on one number: what you need to earn. I’m much more interested in the nuts and bolts of reality:

  • What do you need to earn to pay your bills?
  • How many projects and at what fees would that take?
  • Beyond that, what would you like to earn to feel successful?
  • What number can you aim for and achieve?

Call it a “goal” if you want, but this is the number to focus on and keep top of mind.

Project and Income Tracking

Once you know that number, all you have to figure out is how to get there and then track against it.

Try this formula: 3 projects @ $2,500/month = $7,500.

It’s simple and clear. If you charge $2500 for a logo, then you need 3 logo clients per month. If you charge $500 for a logo, then you need 15 of them.

Then you have to track what you actually get. Because aiming for 3 logo projects doesn’t mean that’s what you’ll get, at least not at the beginning of the process. You might get 1 logo project @ $1500 and 2 brochures @ $2000 each. That gets you to $5500, not quite to the “number” but at least you have an idea of what it takes to get there, so you can improve the next month until you are reaching that “goal.”

graphic designer earnings charles deluvio

Photo by Charles Deluvio 🇵🇭🇨🇦 on Unsplash

Better the Odds

To increase your odds, It’s best to focus your marketing plan on the most potentially lucrative projects. The less lucrative projects are more likely to fall in your lap and you should take them.

But if you want to grow and attract the clients with better projects and bigger budgets, your marketing efforts should be focused on attracting those. So the most important thing to do is determine the “number” to reach each month, keep it handy and then track against it all month long until you get there.

It’s that easy, but also really easy to ignore, especially when work slows down, which will happen. You can count on it. Marketing guards against it.

If you need help, see the additional resources below and take the next step to assure you get the clients that will guarantee your earnings by joining me at HOW Design Live, where I’ll be giving a workshop on getting better clients by Curing Their Pain!, with additional insights on how to develop and leverage your own content via blogs, books, video, podcasts, and more!

Additional Resources


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