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Freelance Careers: What Should You Be Charging?
How can we make sure that we're being appropriately paid for our work as female freelancers?
Art Expert 10 May 2022

Freelancing can be brilliant: you’re your own boss, you can be more creative with the projects you take on, and you can (by and large) choose what you’re paid.

More and more people are making the move to freelance working, whether it be a full-time job or a ‘side hustle’ earning them a bit of extra cash.

The folks at thrivemyway.com did some number-crunching, and here are our stand-out facts about freelancing today:

  • 33% of freelancers work in the creative industries
  • 55% of freelancers are also full-time employed elsewhere
  • Over 35% of the world’s freelancers are living in Europe (as opposed to just 4.1% in the US and Canada)

And while freelancers contribute up to a whopping $42.9 trillion to the global economy, 40% of freelancers said they earn less as a freelancer than they would were they traditionally employed. There’s also a big gender-gap when it comes to freelancing: with 65% of thrivemyway.com‘s freelancers being male and just 35% female.

So – how can we make sure that we’re being appropriately paid for our work as female freelancers?

Hourly, Daily, or Project-Based Pay?

There’ll be times in your freelance career where each of these types of pay are most relevant to the task at hand, and these three rates probably shouldn’t be in ratio with each other.

“Well, if x is my hourly rate – my day rate would be 8x – and this project which will take 100 hours will be 100x” No! Remember that the clients you are working for aren’t just paying for the time you are taking to do the project, they’re paying for the time you’re taking not accepting other work, plus the finished project which deserves £££ in its own right. Your time is as precious as your brain. A longer commitment period (not just in hours) should be reflected in your fee.

Sometimes you’ll work on a project where the final product is worth much more than the time it took to make it, especially if your client is going to be using it over a long period of time (for example, if you help create designs, websites, or copy for them). It’s these occasions where you’re better off asking for a project-based payment plan rather than invoicing by the hour.

If your work involves manual labour, you might want to go with a day-rate rather than an hourly rate because if you’re hired for 5 hours of the day, you’re not going to get wok for the other 3 hours of the working day – the client should pay for that.

For any given project there will be overheads and administration to do – you’ve had to commute to your work space, upkeep your website, write your invoice and email communications. Calculate these into the hours of work you’re doing.

Research

Got freelance pals? Ask them what they charge. But don’t get too comfortable here – charging the same as everyone else keeps everyone in a loop of low pay – the market rate is not necessarily the rate you should charge.

Your type of work might have agencies that send out workers to companies when they’re in a tight spot. What do they charge to send out an agency worker?

Ask first

There’s nothing more annoying as a freelancer than telling a client what your fee would be, and they reply with something like “that’s very reasonable! brilliant!” – you probably just cost yourself big bucks.

There’s nothing wrong at all at asking straight up when approached with a project “what’s your budget for this?”.

Have a scope of prices you’re willing to put on the table to get this conversation going, if you’re not feeling in a cut-throat negotiating mood. “For this kind of project I would charge between £x and £y depending on the scope of the work – let’s discuss.” Maybe have a price list you are ready to offer.

What do you need to earn?

How much do you need to earn to pay your bills, taxes, and buy groceries? Work out what this is per-hour and never change less than this per hour.

As a freelancer you’re unlikely to be working 8 hours a day, every working day. There’s probably going to be some periods of time when you’re finding it impossible to find any work at all. Make sure that you’re charging a high enough fee when you are working, to ensure that you’re putting some dosh away for a rainy day. Clients may pull out without much warning – you’ll need some back-up money for quieter periods.

What’s your ideal salary?

What do you think you deserve to be earning? How much does that salary work out at at an hourly rate? There’s also nothing wrong with increasing your rates as you develop as a freelancer – give yourself that raise you deserve!

Consider the amount of money you want to be earning above what you need to cover your bills, etc. that you’ll be using to invest in yourself and keep growing your wealth.

Take this ideal salary, divide it by your working days (you won’t necessarily want to work every single day, or even every single workday), and divide that by the hours you want to work. This will give you a good idea of the ballpark you need to be aiming for.

And lastly – believe in yourself!

Don’t feel trapped by thoughts of “but if this hourly rate was a salary I’d be charging way too much!” – your hourly rate is not a salary. That’s sort of the point! Your client needs someone with your skillset at that particular point in time – they need you!

Knowing the exact skills and qualifications you bring to the job will also empower you to ask for the pay-level you deserve. You are uniquely talented at what you do and the services you provide – don’t undersell yourself.

Author: Verity Babbs

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