Freelance Pay

For what it’s worth, here’s my 2p for some rules of thumb for working out how much web freelancers should be charging…

1. Find out the going day rate for your role (in terms of agency charge-out rates, not freelance ones).

2. Work out how much money you need to live on each month and divide that by the number of days you can confidently expect to be doing paid work, being conservative (I work on the basis that, on average, four or five days’ work should pay for the whole month).

3. Hopefully (1) is greater than (2) (if not, you’re in the wrong job and/or need to curb your lifestyle ;-)), so pick a figure slightly below (1) but as far above (2) as you feel comfortable asking for.

And some additional tips:

– Have a fairly high standard day rate but be willing to give discounts for large / interesting jobs, repeat clients, or early payment; and make sure the client knows they’re getting a discount (e.g. have your invoices set up to show the full price and the discounted price).

– Never, ever, lower your standard rate.

– Never work for free. Not even as a favour for a friend. It always goes wrong and/or takes a disproportionate amount of time – usually because of scope creep. Even if you only ask for a token payment, make sure you get something (and make sure they know what it *should* be costing them).

– And never fall for the old “if you do this one for free, there’ll be loads more work for you later” trick. It never materialises. Funny, that.

– And be very very very very wary of people with “a great business idea, bound to make millions” who “just need to get something up and running to get funding”. Ask to see the business plan before you even lift a finger. More often than not, they haven’t got one.

– Run a mile from anyone who shows reluctance to do the formalities (T&Cs, contracts, purchase orders etc.). They may be great fun to work for but you’ll almost certainly have trouble getting paid.

Apologies if that all sounds blindingly obvious and you all already knew it – I tend to assume freelancers know this stuff, but I seem to keep encountering people who don’t, so I hope it might be of use to someone out there :-)

About Jonathan Hirsch

I've been working in the interactive media industry since 1995. I'm a problem-solver with a multi-disciplinary skill set. I work on a freelance / contract basis. I help clients create great digital products.

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