Do Graphic Designers Work a Lot of Overtime?

Graphic design is an exciting career that will make the most of your interest in the creative arts; however, graphic design is by no means an easy job and you may find yourself wondering if professionals in this field work a lot of overtime. Especially if you are considering a career in this field, it is important to be realistic about the expectations associated with a job as a graphic designer.

In general, graphic designers can expect to work some overtime, especially if they have many clients and a lot of projects. The amount of overtime a graphic designer will have to work often depends on the environment they work in, the number of clients they have, and other factors.

Though working overtime is not always a bad thing, it can certainly complicate the idea of a good work-life balance. Keep reading to learn more about how much overtime graphic designers have to work, along with some general factors that can influence these numbers.

Do Graphic Designers Have to Work Overtime?

Choosing a career field can be daunting, and if you are considering going into graphic design, you will want to know the typical workload associated with this profession. Graphic designers can expect to work a full schedule with the occasional need for overtime hours.

The following sections will discuss some factors that impact just how much overtime a graphic designer has to work.

Type of Employment

Typically, graphic designers fall into three categories of employment, and each category will have different expectations for graphic design.

  • Freelance: A freelance graphic designer works on a project basis, completing various design tasks for their clients. While a freelance designer has control over their schedule, they may also find that it can be difficult to balance client expectations. Especially at the start of their career, freelance designers may have to work plenty of overtime hours to make ends meet.
  • Self-employed: A graphic designer may own their own company or firm. While this can be a good option for delegation or setting limits for client loads, having your own business can mean that a person will find themselves with lots of administrative tasks. Like freelancing, those just starting can expect to face a lot of work to cover their expenses.
  • Working for a company: If you are employed by a company, your overtime workload will depend a lot on your employer. Some employers expect a lot from their graphic designers and will load them up with projects, while others honor a more respectable work-life balance.

If you are considering working as a graphic designer for a company, it is best to ask them what their expectations are for hours and overtime if you are concerned about maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Type of Design

How much overtime you have to work may end up depending on the type of projects you are designing. If you work for a magazine, advertising agency, or any company that has tight deadlines and turnaround times, you may find that you are fitting in a lot of overtime hours when people are expecting you to produce content on a strict timeline. If you are concerned about overtime, it may be best to avoid these fields.

However, other graphic design companies may have projects with roomier deadlines and projects with long-term turnaround times. If this is the case, you will be less crunched to meet deadlines, but it is still important to practice good time management skills so that when a deadline approaches, you will not need to spend overtime hours to complete the project.

Stage in Your Career

Depending on your career stage, you may need to put in more hours to make ends meet. Especially if you are a freelancer, building your portfolio and reputation will take time. Managing this expectation of time investment can be easier if you remind yourself that you are doing this for your career growth.

Additionally, if the hours become unhealthy you can practice setting boundaries with clients or yourself to avoid undue stress.

Your Clients’ Expectations

A lot of the hours you work will come down to what your clients expect from you on each project. Demanding clients may set shorter deadlines and also require multiple edits from you. While this is an unavoidable step of the design process, you can be clear with clients about your limitations and strive to create a client base of people who will respect your work hours.

Do Graphic Designers Get Paid for Overtime?

Many people may not mind working overtime if their compensation reflects the added commitment. Fortunately, if you are employed by a company as a graphic designer, you are entitled to payment for any hours worked over 40 in the course of a workweek.

Keep in mind that this may not hold true if you are self-employed or a freelancer. Especially if you are a freelancer, you have a lot of different clients. This means that while you will likely not exceed over 40 hours with any one client, your total hours worked may run over this number.

To avoid working unpaid overtime, you can do the following:

  1. Carefully note the hours you work and report overtime to your employer
  2. Manage your client load as a freelancer so you do not end up working more than 40 cumulative hours each week
  3. Hire additional staff or distribute tasks equally across employees if you are self-employed

These strategies can help you maintain a work-life balance while making sure you are justly paid for the hours you put in.


Life as a graphic designer can be very rewarding, but it can also be a lot of work. It is a common occurrence for graphic designers to put in overtime hours, though how often this happens will depend on a lot of factors such as clients, your experience, and the way that you are employed.

Fortunately, if you are employed by a company you can receive additional compensation for the overtime hours you put in. Additionally, you can use time-saving design tools like to make your life easier. Working smarter, not harder, is the best thing you can do for yourself to avoid working overtime.