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Source files, should Designers charge extra for them...?

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

New blog post coming soon regarding the difference between Vector files and Source files & usage and ownership information.

Designers, should you charge clients for source files? It's a question that raises a few points, both on the Designer and the Client side, on different levels — copyright, financial, ethical, to mention a few. But ultimately, it comes down to being a professional.

Source files are usually of no use to 70% of clients because they don´t have the software to use them. The remaining 20% that may have a copy of the software believe they can do just as good a job if they have the files and edit themselves, 5% eventually are able to not completely mess up, and the remaining 5% actually have some knowledge of design / aesthetic principles and understand how to make minor tweaks.

As a Designer, you are paid to deliver a finished product, not the blueprints that lead to making that product. If a client wants editable files, then a source files acquiring fee should kick in. This is because handing over editable files removes any opportunity for the professional (us, the Designers) to make recurring revenue from it.

Industry standards suggest that source files prices begin as a minimum at 3x the final product price. That's whatever a Designer charged the client for the execution of a project, multiplied by 3. It may be hard for the client to understand this and there can be resistance, but as professionals, it is also our job to educate the public.

There is a specific exception. The ONLY cases where I include all source files are with company logo work. And so should all professionals of Design.

To answer the question of whether Designers should charge for source files or not, the answer is a clear YES. It's up to the professional to work it out if he/she is willingly ready to part their work at a no cost rate to the client. However, big-name agencies do not practice this for a reason.

As a client, make sure you are not entitled to the source files by default. If you do want to have the editable files, ensure the Designer is aware, and this is stipulated before you start working. As a Designer, ensure your client is aware that a fee applies if source files handover is required, preferably at the start of the project. If not, educate and negotiate. Don't forget to negotiate right of usage for portfolio display and relevant copyright issues.

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