How to price your freelance services

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to charging for your freelance service. With new clients it's always a fine balance between being able to secure the best price for a job without pricing yourself out of the equation.

As a starting point, I get a general idea of daily rates for similar skill sets by constantly monitoring online ads in publications like The Guardian, and PR Week. I also monitor PR recruitment agency websites and, in fact, some of those have extremely useful advice for freelancers including a guide to current freelance rates.

In any case, there are many good freelance recruitment agencies around who, I am sure, would be happy to talk to people about their skills and experience and give a ballpark figure of current pay-scales.

You could also look at full-time jobs and do a very broad pro-rata calculation just to get a rough figure - then add on an amount to compensate for holiday pay and other benefits you would receive as an employee.

At the same time it is important to consider your client - clearly a small start-up business may not be able or willing to pay as much as a large organisation.

Also, some sectors pay better than others where an additional level of expertise is required for the job, such as financial or medical PR for example, whereas the arts sector tends to pay on the lowest end of the pay-scale, in my experience.

Obviously London rates will generally be higher than elsewhere - but again, monitoring local ads is useful indicator.

Based on that I'd then consider the length of the project and would be prepared to negotiate a lower rate for something that was long-term - however I might use that as leverage to negotiate other benefits - working from home, flexible hours and so on.

On a personal level I rarely charge hourly rates, only a daily rate. The reason for this is that, however many hours the work entails, it is most likely to preclude me from undertaking any other work on that day. So, in essence, it becomes day's commitment, which clients do understand.

However I have occasionally taken on small assignments like simply writing a press release - in which case I charge a flat fee rather than hourly rate.

Rona Levin, a freelance PR and Communications specialist. She is the Freelancer of the Year 2007 and has worked independently for clients including the British Library for over five years.

Charging by the hour, also known as time-and-materials billing, appeals to many freelancers because it's straightforward. With your hourly rate, work out how many hours you've worked, multiply the two, factor in any expenses, like travel or software costs, then send the invoice to your client.

Charging by the hour is a good option for short-term projects with specific goals. Such as building a supplied design into a web site.

When you're offered a long-term project with clearly defined goals, you should charge by the project.

Assess the project. What is the full scope of the project? How can you measure results? How will you know when the project is finished? I often ask "How much is it worth to this client to have this problem solved?”

To come up with a price for a client, try using the following popular formula, as spelt out by the Blue Flavoured Blog.

task x time(complexity plus effort) x rate = price

So for our example the formula would look like this:

1 mockup x time (1 × 10 hours) x £100 = £1,000

Adjust your total price according to your answers. Then, sell yourself on the price. Do you see the value in relation to the price? Can you describe the benefits of your service so that it seems like a bargain? Present your proposal to your client. Don't include your hourly rate, just the breakdown of what each part of the project costs so they can see which areas take the most time/costs to produce.

So should you charge by the hour or by the project? There's no one-size-fits-all answer. They're both legitimate strategies that work well in different situations. If it’s a new client you may want to give a discount if they promise further work, however be warned, don't undersell your skills and knowledge. These are what the customer is in reality paying for. Freelancers have to cover costs for time when not working, and if you offer a discount a situation may arise where you are haggling over a few pounds.

Make sure when you are with a client you get a good realisation of their web project, get them to write down answers to your questions, and get them to think about the aims of the site, this is always a good process to get them to all agree on what the web site should be, and what it shouldn’t.

Then it’s down to you delivering the project on time and impressing them with its high quality over your competitors!

Finally remember, be flexible and honest with your cost estimates.You need good sales and communications skills to demonstrate the value of your solutions and explain why you're worth your hourly rate.

Freelancers still unsure how to price their services can calculate what they need to earn to survive (and prosper!) by using an online calculator .

Jim Callender, Digital Freelancer of the Year 2006, and founder of Callender Creates , a Brighton-based Web Design and Development agency.

As a freelancer, I base the final price of my services on a few things:

* Complexity of the job - how many skills it requires
* My role in it - creative lead/concepting or just visual development /art-working
* The size of the client/what I think they can afford
* Timing - if it is a rush job

All this should be calculated while considering what the market offers for designers [as an] average [rate]. To determine a number, stats can be pulled from online resources, like Design Week.

Andrea Balboni , Digital Freelancer of the Year 2007 and Advertising and Design Freelancer of the Year 2007. She also specialises in Graphic Design and Writing

 

1st May 2008

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