Ready to trade in your cubicle for the freedom of freelancing? Not so fast! First you need to figure out your budget. Let’s talk about what you’re going to bill—also known as your rate.
Factors to consider when setting your rate:
- Your budget
- Your skill level
- Your available time
Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing advocates that “freelancers aim to make $100 an hour in order to build a sustainable business.”
Sound like a crazy number? Perhaps at first glance, but think about all the things your company used to pay for that you’ll be paying for now. It’s suddenly your responsibility to pay for all 100% of your health care, your laptop, your license of Lectora® eLearning authoring software, your daily morning cup—or cups—of coffee, and so many other things.
Tice’s estimate of $100 an hour is just that—an estimate. Maybe you live in New York, Zurich, or Tokyo—all cities that Swiss bank UBS ranked in the top ten most expensive cities in a 2015 report. If you live in one of those cities, your Minimum Acceptable Rate (MAR) is going to have to be higher than someone who lives in Mumbai or Damascus, both of which are among the most affordable cities as ranked by the Economist’s World Cost of Living Index.
So, how do you calculate your Minimum Acceptable Rate (MAR)?
Tom Ewer of Leaving Work Behind suggests this rough calculation:
( (personal overheads + business overheads) / hours worked ) + tax
Personal overheads include things like your rent, groceries, utilities, etc. Business overheads include equipment, software, and other things your employer would normally supply. Keep in mind that this is a very rough calculation and is designed to give you an idea of how much you need to earn to survive, not necessarily to turn a great profit.
Journalist and freelancer Katherine Reynolds Lewis put together a calculation that projects what you would need to bill to earn a salary comparable to corporate life, but warns that this “salary” you’re making as a freelancer will need to stretch farther, for all the reasons we’ve already outlined.
Should you bill by the hour?
Forbes finance writer Laura Shin says, “If you can, it’s always best to charge a flat fee. If you charge hourly, you have to spend that precious time to earn more money, and you’ll actually make less money, the more efficiently you work. It’s better to project roughly how long a given project will take you and set your rate from there.” Ewer agrees and says, “Charging by the hour is one of the worst mistakes a freelancer can make… Given that you only have a certain number of hours available in the day, you are essentially capping your maximum earning potential.”
Clients don’t need to know how long a project will take you to complete. It’s important to sell the value of your work and the quality of the product they will be receiving, not just how long it took you to create it.
Having a portfolio to show the quality of work you do will go a long way to helping convince clients your rate is worth it. If you don’t have a portfolio yet, the new Trivantis® Community semi-monthly contests are a great way to get started.