Start Me Up | Determining Rates for Freelance Work

by Gloria Cavallaro in


 
On a recent project where I did the hair, makeup, and photographed website images for a fellow entrepreneur.

On a recent project where I did the hair, makeup, and photographed website images for a fellow entrepreneur.

Everything is almost set for your first freelance job. You found a client (or a client found you), they like your work, they like your ideas. Now, they want to know, "What's your rate?"

Of course, you respond with, "*INSERT DOLLAR FIGURE YOU ARE TOTALLY WORTH HERE.*"

Don't know what you're worth? Not sure how to measure how much your work per project and off-salary should cost? Fear not, I got your back fellow #entrepreneur (yes, the hashtag IS necessary).

A freelance project can look like just about anything. It could be in-office, remote, it could take a few hours, it could take a few months. Therefore, say goodbye to the simple days of a bi-monthly check with a reliable figure on it. In the freelance world, pay is ever changing.

How long will the project take? Hours, like a short article? Or months, like a social media marketing makeover? Will you be in-office for a pre-determined length of time or working solely from home? These things all matter when figuring out how to charge for your work. Below are the most common ways to breakdown freelance work rates.

 

HOURLY RATE

In my work, I charge hourly for projects that will take an easily calculable amount of time, like photography. Shooting and photo editing are included in those hours. Similarly, I charge hourly for copy. I sum up the time spent researching the topic, the actual time spent writing, and edits into my rate. For hourly projects, I present the client with a quote for the number of hours I think the project will take me with a ceiling on the figure the project cannot exceed so the client is never surprised with my invoice.

Remember to cushion every rate to include time that is spent getting and organizing the work with that client. That means everything from email communication, in-person/phone meetings, and any other time spent on the project. Your time is money and, being an off-salary employee, all the time you would typically be paid for in an office (like communicating with clients), you should still be paid for. 

DAY RATE

Some freelance work has a very clear beginning and end, days that will be dedicated exclusively to that project. For that kind of work, I charge a day rate. For example, when I'm styling look books, the photo shoot will take up the whole day wherein I will be on location or on a set. I charge a day rate for the shoot days and a day rate for prep days. The project has a defined schedule. Generally, day rates, when divided by hour, tend to yield a smaller per hour figure but the commitment of full days of work for longer periods of time is reliable and, in the end, will pay you more than a short per hour gig.  

For comparison, if I were, say, styling a personal client and met them in-store or at their home, I would charge a higher hourly rate for the time I was with them because it is a short burst of work.

PER PROJECT RATE

A per project rate can be tough to navigate. It is a set rate that is agreed upon at the start so you must consider that when naming your rate. If the project requires much more of your time than expected, have you included a cushion in your quote so that it will still end up being worth your time?  Per project rates are good for work that will be amorphous in its execution. For a social media management project, I charged a project based rate because figuring out the amount of time I spent on the work (when all of it was done remotely, including researching, composing content, posting daily, and being included on many emails chains/phone meetings) was going to be too difficult. A project rate made sure all my work was well compensated and I could divide my time in any way I wanted in order to make sure the project was completed successfully.

Another way to determine a project rate is to find out how much money your client has to play with. Do they have a budget for how much they want to spend redecorating their home or putting on an event? Calculate your rate based on a percentage of that budget (obviously a reasonable one).

 

RESEARCH THE HECK OUT OF IT

Above all else, do your due diligence. Search online for what other professionals with your level of experience are charging. Check out forums and boards where freelancers discuss fees. Ask those more established in your line of work what they charged at your stage in their careers (adjusted for inflation). 

BE FLEXIBLE

I've spoken about this before but I'm going to repeat myself because this is very important. Sometimes, especially when you're starting out, freelance work doesn't pay so impressively in dollars. Don't immediately turn down an opportunity to show your stuff just because that big opportunity comes with a tiny budget. Consider taking the project anyway, you could likely be compensated in things that are more important than dollars, like experience, contacts, and portfolio material. Just be sure to weigh the benefits so you don't end up simply working for free.

HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT ENTREPRENEURSHIP OR HOW TO BEGIN A FREELANCE CAREER? 
EMAIL ME AT GLORIA@THE-BLVD.COM AND I’LL ANSWER THEM IN A FUTURE BLOG POST!

 

 

 

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