How Much Should I Charge for a Freelance Job?

My simple rule on pricing is to try to figure a rate that makes you happy about doing the project. If the person tries to talk you down from that rate, don't do the project, it's not worth doing. Okay, that requires a little more detailed information so here's the scoop.

First, I try to figure out how long the project would take me and establish an hourly rate for that. In the case of a photography project, you need to make sure you figure time for transportation to the location, setup, the actual taking of the photos as well as the photoshop work and delivery (CDs, Online, Prints, whatever). One of the first mistakes people make is to only account for shooting time, which doesn't take very long at all.

Once you figure out the time, the rate is what will depend on experience. A good rate for a student in our area is between $15–30 per hour. A midlevel professional can make from $35-60, a seasoned pro up to $100/hour or more. This rates are similar for design or photography.

So, let's say that you figure a particular project will take you three hours. One hour for driving time and setup (setup involves looking around the location and planning for the shots), 30 minutes to 1 hour for shooting (remember you'll be doing multiple shots and maybe multiple setups, since when you get to the location, you might see a couple of things you want to try out), and 1 hour for Photoshop. If you charge $20 per hour, then that's $60.

So now comes the part where you figure out if that makes you happy. How does $60 sound? Do you go WOW!!! 60 bucks!! That's cool...or Oh. $60, doesn't seem like a lot of money for all the trouble. If it makes you happy, then your rate is cool, if it doesn't, then your rate was too low and needs to be adjusted. Once you're happy about it and you think it's reasonable enough for them to afford, then you've got your rate. As you get more experienced and more busy, $60 for all that driving, shooting, photoshopping will get less and less exciting. Your rate will be higher when you have more experience and are more in demand.

Make sure you explain what the time is for and what your hourly rate is, preferably in writing. This is important so that they don't take advantage of you and try to keep you there for three hours and expect to receive all of their photos. Say to them. This includes, transportation, setup, photoshop work and 1 hour of shooting, plus delivery (here you could say, I will give you all of the approved photos from the shoot on a CD or I will give you a selection of 5 8x10 prints, or whatever). Approved just means the ones you though were good, since you'll end up deleting the ones where the kids had their eyes closed.

You can say something like this: My basic photo sessions are around $60 (or whatever you end up with). This includes setup, transportation, one hour of shooting and one hour of photoshop. If I end up shooting or there is additional photoshop work to be done, my rate is $20/hour. That makes it really clear that if, when you get there, they want you to take 200 more photos and expect you to photoshop all of them, it's going to cost extra.

If you tell them, it will be $60 and they think it's too much, then you can really explain to them how long this kind of project takes because you've done it. $60 is very reasonable for all the work you'd have to do. So if they complain about it, just tell them no thanks. There's nothing worse than doing a project and working really hard knowing that it's really not worth the time you're putting into it. It's better to work for clients that know what you're worth.

When you're really busy, your time will be worth a lot more. When I'm insanely busy, the rate that will make me happy actually goes up. It means I'll be loosing a lot of sleep to get the job done. My rate also goes up if I know the work will be something I don't really want to do. That' because the amount of money that will make me happy is higher. It's sort of funny, but sometimes I'll price a job really high because I'm either too busy or I don't want to do it. The great thing is that regardless of what happens I'm going to be happy about it. If I don't get the job I'm happy because I don't have to spend all of that time doing the project and I can sleep and do other stuff. If I do get the project, I'm making so much money, that it's worth loosing a little sleep over.

Knowing how to calculate and talk to people about pricing will also take away the fear of what to say because at least you'll know something to tell them and the process for doing it.

blog comments powered by Disqus