How Much Should You Charge for Source Design Files?

How Much Should You Charge for Source Design Files?

Knowing what to charge for your source design files, the files you use to design the client’s request, is one of the hardest things on the business side of graphic design. These files aren’t everything you need to recreate the project, but they are close. So how much should you charge for source design files?

The going rate for source design files is three times the price of the finished product. For example, if you created a website for $1500, the files used to make it would be worth $4500. These files are critical to a designer and could give away secrets of their process or create imitations of their work on the market.

Source design files are one of those debatable arguments that people love to get into. Some think that the files are for the designer only, and others believe that the instant a job is begun, those files belong to the client and not the designer. So read on and learn everything you need to know about what to charge for source design files.

Why a Client Might Want to Buy Source Design Files

It is no secret that graphic and computer designers spend several hours working on projects off the clock or away from the office. The client requesting all materials opens a door that could encompass several different computer programs and even physical paper files.

Reasons that a client might want source design files are:

  • Reproduction – Files you used to create certain bits of a webpage or vector files from a business card could be needed to reproduce the graphics or colors used. Often companies will source the designs out-of-house and use their in-house designer to change the colors every few years.
  • Rights for Usage – A client might want the files to avoid rights for usage. That is the fee they must pay you every time you use them. For example, when they share a logo you created for a new service, they must pay you for that usage—spending money to get the files.

Source design files are a sensitive subject, and the designer must be ready to negotiate for keeping their files and be fine with selling them. But, on the other hand, it puts them in a sensitive position to protect their work process or allow total clarity with a client.

Reasons Not to Sell Your Source Design Files to Clients

The other side of the source design files argument is coming up with reasons to keep your files private. A broad group of designers out there think that selling files is a way for companies to wrench every penny out of you. Still, others believe their process is personal, and having someone go through their design files is a breach of personal trust.

A few reasons to keep your source design files for yourself are:

  • Safety – Let’s face it, for some designers, what they do is an art and not just pictures on a screen or business card. It makes them feel safe to know that their process is part of who they are and isn’t quantified into steps by a large company to make money.
  • Money – Sometimes, designers don’t want to sell their source files because it could cost them money. This sounds strange, but large companies will buy out design firms just to have designs on hand. They are out to make a dollar, and design files can be expensive. Buying designs cut out the middle man, you, and saves them thousands.

Designers have mastered a field often littered with better-funded or more talented companies. Being savvy about how they make their money is an excellent way to stay successful in this field.

Negotiation is the Best Bet for Both Parties

When you just can’t decide what to do, it is best to have a sit down with the client and talk it out. Being open and honest is something that some companies will admire and could help you hook a big fish client that puts you on retainer.

Some things to negotiate about source design files are:

  • Usage – If both parties agree that the files will never be used to undercut the designer’s work or to produce new materials, it will be beneficial to both clients. Usage rights are essential to monetary and personal concerns and should be hammered out before making any transactions.
  • Price – The price you want for the files is something else that must be revisited. While the industry standard could be three times the price of the final project, there could be other personal attachments or issues that force the client to pay more or less than what you were thinking.
  • Delivery – Clients might not think about when asking for these files is how they are going to be delivered? If they want all the files pertaining to the job, they could get pieces of paper, or just an extensive data drive filled with program files. Whichever way they choose equals more work for the designer.
  • Creator Usage – A rare thing to pitch to a client is creator usage rights. That means that the designer has the right to use the files no matter how long the job has been closed. Designers could need information in the files for themselves and work out an agreement for both parties to use them.

Design is interesting because you have to deal with so many different types of business. Also, learning how to negotiate for yourself takes time and will be very rewarding if it is mastered. Finally, don’t be afraid of being open and honest, as it could be great for your reputation and business.


Source design files are the files that a designer uses to create everything from a flier for a church social to a website addressing homelessness in a given area. Designers often want to hold onto them as they could contain crucial parts of their design process or be used to benefit the client and stop the flow of future earnings.

Being able to talk about why the client wants the files and how they will be delivered must be established at the beginning of the job. This way, the designer can create specific folders for the client and give them all the needed details.