2023 Guide to Creative Costs

Updated Nov. 20, 2023 Published Jun. 16, 2023 13 Min. Read

As the marketing landscape continues to shapeshift and evolve, so too do creative costs. In this guide, we’ll explore the current state of creative costs in 2023 and how marketers can best manage them as they plan their campaigns and budgets for today and into the future. From graphic design to motion graphics, read on to gauge how your own creative spending stacks up against the going industry and market rates.

We will look at business models, cost structures, macro economic impacts like inflation, competition, and even technology advancements and more that are impacting creative costs today. We’ll also provide insights on how marketers can leverage these changes to maximize their ROI while staying within budget constraints.

Finally, we share our predictions for where we think creative costs are headed over the next few years so that you can make informed decisions about your marketing investments now and in the future.

Popular Creative Cost Models in 2023

In this section, we will first look at the various business models that marketers are using to manage creative costs. We’ll discuss different cost structures such as fixed fee or hourly rate, and how they can be used to optimize budgets for specific campaigns

As the marketing landscape is rapidly transforming, creative costs are becoming increasingly difficult to manage and calculate. Business models such as fixed fee or hourly rate allow marketers to optimize their budgets for certain campaigns while keeping within budget constraints. Different cost structures can also be used in order to better control the costs of creative projects.

When it comes to the cost structure of creative teams, there are three main models that can be used to better control costs.

Keep It All In-House

The first model is the traditional in-house model, which includes creative costs like:

That’s already sitting at over $50/k per in-house designer, only taking into consideration the lowest salary and Adobe suite tools alone. Now add in your cost for hiring, training, retaining, advancing, etc., and the probability of churn at about 25-30%. Sounds like a recipe for unpredictability and expensive disaster. Let’s consider model 2, shall we?

Pay Per Project

The second model is a per-project model, which sets a predefined cost amount for each project, which inevitably leads to scope creep and overage charges. While this model ensures that all projects are priced consistently and that the team has an accurate budget in place before beginning work, this model does not ensure all revisions and changes are accommodated.

Current pay-per-project costs in 2023 are inconsistent and have been fluctuating depending on the design skills required and other independent factors. It’s impossible for us to give realistic estimates for per-project work in any year, mostly due to the very complex nature of creative project scoping (it’s a whole job at agencies, even)! You might pay $10 for a graphic, or $1,000, depending on the type of art, complexity, turnaround time, and more. It’s also impossible for you to know how fair the per-project price without extensive research, when costs fluctuate so much. Unless you have a creative procurement team dedicated to keeping costs aligned with goals, this model’s word of advice is to bid out projects that are paid per-project in order to get a second (or third) opinion or estimate. See what you’re getting with each estimate, and don’t make your decision upon price alone.

Creative as a Subscription Service (CaaS)

The third model is the flat-rate subscription, which is where Design Pickle sits. Much like putting a designer on retainer, this model can be especially beneficial for teams that have lots of design volume as well as teams whose volume fluctuates greatly, as it allows teams to accurately predict the overall cost of the creative in advance. With an all-inclusive model, budgets can be locked in and budgets are protected for any economy, and projections and ROI becomes easier to calculate.

Design Pickle’s monthly fee structure offers a wide range of plans – from $499/mo to thousands per month for large-scale production for large brands. There’s a right-size plan for every brand because the subscription services are designed around common needs, but can still be customized to best fit the brand’s needs. There are only a few CaaS vendors out there; check out this guide comparing ourselves to other CaaS alternatives in the space.

Pay Per Hour

The final model we’ll cover is an hourly rate structure, which sets a certain hourly fee for each creative or designer that will be working on the project. This gives organizations greater control over their creative costs and ensures that they are only paying for the specific amount of time and labor that is needed to complete the project. With this model, organizations can also set a maximum budget for each project in order to prevent excessive spending. This type of structure is ideal for teams with shorter timelines requiring fast turnaround.

Hourly rates in 2023 for design types vary a lot, just like project rates, with one independent firm claiming graphic design rates average anywhere from $15-$300/hr USD in the United States. Graphic designer hourly rates and salaries depend on the type of design, geographic region, industry, complexity of the design, and length of term/project. It’s impossible to budget for hourly design without knowing more details about the project, which is also why it’s so tricky to budget for hourly creative throughout the year without a crystal ball to predict the kinds of creative you’ll need for the next twelve months. 😬 Much like the per-project conundrum, our best recommendation for this type of model is that brands who don’t need predictable cost structures for their creative team.

Macro Factors Impacting Creative Costs in 2023

Next, we will examine competition in the market and how it affects pricing for creative services. This includes both direct competition between creative services like agencies and freelancers, as well as indirect competition from new technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

Ah, competition! Isn’t it just the spice of life in the market? Especially when it comes to pricing for creative services. You see, there’s a never-ending battle between agencies and freelancers, each trying to outdo the other with their unique offerings and irresistible prices. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good rivalry? But what’s interesting is how this competitive spirit affects the pricing landscape for creative services. As these creative titans vie for clients’ attention, they’re constantly adapting their prices to stay relevant and attractive. It’s like watching a thrilling game of ping-pong, where the ball is the client’s budget!

But wait, there’s more! Enter the world of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) – the plot thickens. These technological wonders are bringing some serious game-changing moves to the table. With AI and ML offering creative solutions at breakneck speeds and sometimes lower costs, our old pals – agencies and freelancers – are having to rethink their strategies. After all, who wouldn’t want to save a few bucks while getting top-notch creative work? The rise of AI and ML has only intensified the competition, pushing everyone to step up their game and offer better value for money. So, what’s the moral of the story? Well, as long as there’s competition, you can bet your bottom dollar that creative service providers will continue to strive for that perfect balance between quality and price. And isn’t that just music to a client’s ears?

You know what’s great about living in the 21st century? It’s that we’re surrounded by mind-blowing technological advancements that are revolutionizing the way creatives work. And guess what? These innovations are not only making their lives easier but also driving down costs like a champ. So, what are these magical tools that are shaking things up in the creative world? Let’s dive right in!

Bolster Your Martech Stack

Instead of buying tons of different creative tools, partnering with the right creative partner might just afford you the tools you need without blowing up your martech stack. There are also tools that simply help you automate more mundane tasks to ensure the majority of your creative budget is being spent on the most important part – creative.

For example, automation tools that are like having your very own creative assistant (but without the coffee runs). These nifty little gadgets help streamline repetitive tasks, freeing up more time for creatives to focus on, well, being creative!

Next up, we have platform integrations that make collaboration smoother than a freshly ironed shirt. With seamless connections between various tools and software, teams can now work together like a well-oiled machine.

And let’s not forget about cloud-based software solutions. They’re like having a bottomless storage closet for all your creative projects – accessible from anywhere, anytime! (Who wouldn’t love that?) These innovative approaches are not only driving down costs but also improving efficiency at an astonishing rate. It’s like having your cake and eating it too, but without the extra calories!

We’d be remiss if we didn’t sneak in a small humble brag here. Design Pickle’s platform actually includes all of the above examples. The flat monthly subscription plan includes access to built-in AI that will make your life – and creative process – easier, without you having to research, vet, and pay for a bunch of new tools. For example, storing all assets for easy access? Check. Workflow automation and management? Check. Feedback and annotations with a collaborative approach? Check. Help writing briefs and copy on design from a generative text tool? Check. (If that sounds cool, check these resources out!)

So, as we march forward into this brave new world of technology, creatives can look forward to an ever-evolving landscape filled with exciting possibilities. Sure, they might need to adapt and learn some new tricks, but hey, that’s the name of the game, right? And with lower costs and increased efficiency, creative budgets are sure to be impacted. How can brands make the most impact to their creative budgets with the use of new, emerging technologies?

Control Creative Costs with Technology, the BFF of Creatives Everywhere

So, now that we’ve established that technology is basically the superhero of the creative world, how can marketers make the most of it to maximize their ROI without breaking the bank? Great question! Let’s explore a few ways to leverage these changes like a pro.

First up, embrace automation! By automating repetitive tasks, marketers can save precious time and resources that can be better spent elsewhere. Think of all the extra brainstorming sessions and creative breakthroughs you could achieve with that extra time. Plus, who wouldn’t want a little robot helper by their side?

Next, don’t be shy about using those fantastic platform integrations. With everything connected so seamlessly, your team can work together like a well-rehearsed orchestra. No more playing the blame game when something goes wrong – everyone’s on the same page and in perfect harmony. Can you say “efficiency”?

And last but not least, take advantage of cloud-based software solutions. Not only do they offer unparalleled storage capabilities, but they also make collaboration a breeze. Say goodbye to the days of digging through your inbox for that one crucial file – everything’s at your fingertips, just waiting to be accessed!

By leveraging these technological advancements, marketers can make their budgets stretch farther than ever before. And with all the money you’ll save on creative costs, you can invest in other areas that will drive even more ROI. It’s like finding a hidden treasure chest filled with marketing gold! By embracing creative technology and all its glorious innovations, marketers can maximize ROI while staying within budget constraints.

The bottom line is that technology is changing the game for marketers, and it’s essential to adapt and make the most of these advancements. By embracing automation, platform integrations, and cloud-based software solutions, you can streamline your creative processes and make your budget go further.

So, instead of dreaming about marketing gold, focus on leveraging these innovations to create more impactful campaigns that resonate with your audience. After all, what’s better than achieving better results while staying within budget constraints? It’s a no-brainer, really. So go forth, explore the technological wonders at your disposal, and watch your marketing strategies evolve for the better. And remember, a little adaptation goes a long way!

The Future of Creative Costs

As we reach the end of our journey through the ever-evolving landscape of creative costs, it’s time to gaze into our crystal ball and make some predictions for the future. After all, who wouldn’t want a sneak peek at what’s coming down the pipeline so they can make informed decisions about their marketing investments?

In the next few years, we believe that creative costs will continue to be influenced by the ongoing competition between CaaS brands (like Design Pickle), creative agencies, freelance designers, and AI-driven solutions. As these players jockey for position, prices will keep shifting, but with a keen focus on delivering better value for money. Just like brands now use a combination of these solutions to drive outcomes for their design needs today, the future is surely an amalgamation of tools and models that work and rise to the occasion during this AI boom.

Moreover, technology will remain the driving force behind changes in the creative industry. Automation, platform integrations, and cloud-based software partnerships will become even more sophisticated, leading to greater efficiency and cost savings for marketers. The future might even bring us new innovations that we can’t even fathom right now – how exciting is that?!

But what does this mean for you? Well, as a savvy on-trend person who knows creative costs are dynamic and can’t be explained simply, you know it’s crucial to stay ahead of the curve and embrace inevitable evolution. By doing so, you’ll not only be able to maximize your ROI but also navigate the ever-shifting sands of creative opportunity – and therefore creative costs – without breaking a sweat.

So, as you ponder your marketing investments now and in the future, remember that the key to success lies in adaptation and staying informed. Keep an eye on the trends, explore new technologies, and don’t be afraid to take calculated risks. After all, fortune favors the bold, and the future of creative costs is yours to shape!

Ready to take our platform for a test drive or speak with one of our experts? We’re excited to hear about all of your design needs. Let’s chat!

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Hosted by Russ Perry, CEO & Founder of Design Pickle, Jar of Genius is a podcast that uncovers the strategies and mindsets of today’s most innovative creative leaders. Get actionable insights on groundbreaking business models, successful campaigns, and the cutting-edge tech that’s changing the game. Learn how to build a thriving creative business in this fast-paced world.

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