PR Rates and allowances - know what you're worth

Many people turn freelance because they believe they can earn more money working for themselves than working for other people. This is often the case, but you also have to weigh this up against the down sides.

A freelancer doesn’t receive holiday pay, sick pay, training or a pension and no guaranteed pay cheque arriving at the same time each month. If you’re prepared to put up with this, the financial and lifestyle rewards however can be very good.

Most freelancers charge a daily rate for their work, with the amount depending on their level of experience and the sectors they are working within. Just as a city PR is more likely to earn more than one working in the charity sector, the same would apply for freelance work. When you are working out what you should charge, take into consideration that you don’t earn while on holiday and you don’t have any benefits. You also need to think about whether you factor expenses into your rate or charge them out separately.

If you’re working within an agency or in-house department, daily rates are quite straight forward, as you will be working to their office hours. Working out daily rates when undertaking a project can be a little harder. After a while you will become used to how long particular things, ie preparing and writing a press release, including research and time on amendments, will take. It’s very easy to underestimate how long an aspect of a pr programme can take. In theory it only takes a few minutes to call a journalist, but you’ll probably have to call them a number of times, put something in writing at least once and then keep chasing up.

Keeping your own time sheets is a good way of checking how many hours you are spending on particularly projects. If you find you are consistently overservicing a particular client, let the client know and negotiate either an increase in fees or cutting out certain aspects of the work.

So, what to charge? According to the CIPR the annual income of freelancers can be anything between £16,000 and £60,000. The PR Week salary survey found that 20% were earning £60+ and 50% above £32k. Using the job titles used in agencies, here is an idea of the rates you are likely to be able to charge per day:-

Account executive £80 - £120
Account manager £150-£200
Account director £150-£400
Director/senior consultant £350+
(2005 figs)

Often agencies will have their own fee structure for freelancers – with little scope for manoeuvre – so it’s up to you whether or not to take it at that level.

And if you’re working directly with a client they might have a set budget. Don’t be afraid to say what you charge, because you can always come down. You could also think about charging an hourly rate if that would make the amount more acceptable to a client.

There are occasions when you may want to charge less, such as for a charity or not for profit organisation you would really like to work for. But don’t make it the rule and bring down your rates in the hope that it will bring you more business. What you have to remember is that if you compare your rates to those of an agency you are offering excellent value for money. PR is a skilled profession and if it was easy the client would be doing it themselves.

Judith Gaskell

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