This blog is part of a three part series (yeah, I know right? Who is she?) If you’re interested, click below to access the three parts.
Part One
Creative Criteria for Charming Clients
Part Two
Particular Pricing Preferences
Part Three
Hourly Rates and How to Find Them

It’s pronounced Freelancer, not free-lancer. Working out your hourly rate can be as complex and simple as folding a fitted sheet. But when it comes together, it’s magic.

A few principles to cover before we get into the numbers:

1. Your hourly rate is yours to define, not someone else.

2. Your hourly rate should change with the more experience you gain, because you are becoming more valuable.

3. Below are guidelines to finding your hourly rate, but that doesn’t mean you bill hourly or that the client needs to know your hourly rate, especially if you are billing for project or value-based pricing.

Ok, let’s get to the math. There are multiple different calculations that can help you work out the magic number for your current hourly rate.

Ramen Profitability

Common in the start-up space, this concept plays on the idea that if you were to get to the end of the week, you would make enough to cover your bills and living expenses and have enough left over to live on ramen. For this, take a moment to total up your bills that you have in an average week, living expenses, rent, etc. Got that figure? Now divide that number by the number of billable hours you will be working each week. This doesn’t include the hours working on the business, sending out invoices, doing admin etc, just the client billable hours. From this, you should have the lowest amount you should be charging per hour.

Competition Comparison

Another way to gage what you should be charging is looking at your competition or community. Chances are you have friends in similar or same fields who are charging for their own worth. Ask around, find out what going rates are and work out how you fit within that. Do you have more or less experience? Is your skill level higher or lower? Be honest with yourself, but not too hard because comparison is the killer here, so don’t devalue yourself. Average out 3-5 similar pricings to your own skill level/experience/offering. This should give you a similar industry rate to what you should be charging.

Reference Guides

There are a range of guides, books and references to consult when working out your pricing. I often refer back to the Trade Customs and Pricing for Graphic Artists (be sure to adjust for AUD from USD prices). This is a great guide that looks across a range of different fields and subsections of the industry and gives ballpark figures. It also looks at different size organisations and pricing differently between big business and small business. Bigger businesses have bigger budgets (not always but generally) and will generally make more money from what you provide, whilst smaller businesses will often be working with smaller budgets.

Salary Based Calculations

This one’s a bit of a looser concept but this takes what you would be if you were employed by a studio as a normal employee aka muggle. Give yourself the promotion that reflects your duties (you are doing more that the average designer in the average studio).

Say the salary of that staff member is $100k. Now most employees have holidays, sick leave, time off, as well as benefits like super. Divide the salary by the total weeks that you will work after accounting for those weeks off, so let’s say 44 weeks out of the year you will bill for. This gives us around $2,300 per week. Now take that number and divide it between the billable hours you want to work. The lower the number of hours, the higher the hourly rate. So, say we make that 25 hours, that makes our hourly rate just under $80 per hour. Now this doesn’t take into account slower weeks, adding for tax, etc. This is a guide number to work with.

Taking all of these strategies into account, you should be able to come up with a number for your hourly rate, or a range to work with. And if all else fails, pick a number that makes you just uncomfortable enough. Your hourly rate should make you at least a little uncomfortable, and when you get busy enough that you are struggling to keep up, it’s time to raise that rate.

It is just a number, so don’t overthink it, be confident in your value and add for tax.

Ready to make some magic?

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