• D. M. Pennie, Pennie Works Studio

What Is Reasonable Anyway?


Stillwater, Oklahoma, the city of my residence, has a FaceBook group that is the place for its citizens to rant, rave, seek recommendations, and get general information. Every once in a while, there will be an inquiry for some service or product that is wanted, specifically at a "reasonable" rate.

Reasonable. What does that mean? Is there anyone charging an unreasonable per hour? I have never seen someone post a notice that they need someone to mow their yard at a crazy rate. No one asks that.

The best I can figure out is people have this natural expectation of what a thing or service should cost. Reasonable inevitably means less than that. It is a conundrum as the target is always moving depending on whatever subjective factors they use to fix that rate.

Plus there is no accounting for the actual costs involved in providing that good or service as it is inconsequential to their peculiar measurement. Even though what is reasonable is measured only by them, we are just supposed to know what they think is reasonable.

Lord, have mercy.

As a professional graphic designer, I feel a certain weight of responsibility in setting my rates. I am retired, and my basic needs are met. Consequently, some might think that my reasonable rates would reflect that. I do not share the view.

I hope to fix a balance between creating an appetite for professional design services in Stillwater and a pricing structure that could enable a designer to earn a living wage. To me, a reasonable rate is a rate that provides the best chance at success. In short, I am trying to create an appropriate expectation for that reasonable rate.

Wish me luck.

Even so, what should that rate be? Here is the formula that I use for establishing my hourly rate. The calculations hang on some presumptions. The presumptions are these:

  • 22 working days in a month

  • Four billable hours in a day

  • 15 working days off a year

  • $60K annual net income is the target (the average yearly income per family in Stillwater is about $42K. One-quarter of the residents live below the federally established poverty line. $42K is not far from it.)

  • $20K annual for taxes, maintenance, insurance, software, hardware, whatever

So $80K gross income is needed to meet the target net income.

Hence these calculations: 22 x 4 x12 = 1,056 hours a calendar year 1,056 minus 60 (15 x 4 = working days off) = 996

Here it is. $80,000 divided by 996 hours = $80 and some change per hour. $85 it is then. This rate is not uncommon for plumbers, mechanics, and other tradespeople in this community.

While four billable hours a day in design time in an 8 hour day may seem short to some, my 40+ years of experience points to another reality. Phone calls, client and vendor visits, paperwork, promotion, meetings, etc. will take half a day on a good day.

All that remains to find out is whether or not this market can stand $85 an hour for graphic design work. Stay tuned for further developments.


Copyrights for the items presented here are held by their respective owners. Images, art, and photos displayed are not for distribution or reproduction. Mail any correspondence to PWS, 601 S. Washington, #278, Stillwater, OK 74078. Pennie Works Studio™

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