• Vesna Mirosavljev

10 Reasons Your Hourly Freelance Rates Should Be Double (or More!) of a Full-Time Employee's


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"What should I charge?" It’s a question freelancers of all stripes ask time and time again.


As a freelancer myself, I come back to this question often. The endless comparisons, the perpetual wondering what other freelancers are charging for the same job … it can suck a lot of precious time out of our already busy lives. Here's what I've concluded:


It’s OK to factor in your level of training.


It’s OK to factor in your expertise.


It's OK to factor in the turnaround time required by the client (e.g., rush fee).


But here's the thing:


Freelancers make one grave mistake: they set their hourly rate based on what a salaried in-house employee would be getting in a full-time position. And it’s a trap!


Factoring in what a salaried employee would earn hourly only becomes useful if you do one thing: make sure you double that hourly rate and make it your base rate!


That means that if you take Indeed.com’s handy salary-to-hourly converter, your base rate should be double the hourly wage you see.


For example:


Say that an in-house junior copywriter position would pay roughly $50,000 per year. According to the calculator, if the person is working eight hours a day and five days a week, they are getting roughly $24 per hour. For you, this means that you should be charging at least $48 per hour. And remember, I said “at least.”


If you factor in a high level of experience, excellent training, a high client success rate, you should be charging way more … and you should consider quoting project rates that give you plenty of buffer. But that’s the topic of another blog post.


Without further ado …


Here are 10 reasons you should be charging at least double the hourly wage of a full-time employee. (And if you don’t want to look at all 10, promise me you’ll scroll down to look at the last two … because those are the ones most freelancers don’t take into account!)


(1) You pay for all your own stuff.


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Your office equipment, software, subscriptions. Your own coffee machine (sort of kidding, but it's also true!). There are literally no paid-for perks when you're working for yourself. Because you're your own boss and you pay for your own sh*it. Now own it and charge accordingly.


By that I don't mean charge your clients for what you need, but set your project fees and hourly rates in such a way that you can take care of the costs of operating a business. It's what every business does.


As a writer/editor, I pay for all kinds of subscriptions and memberships. These tools help me deliver a higher quality of work to my clients. And I charge accordingly.


(2) You pay for your own business insurance.


And it's not exactly cheap. Don't have business insurance? Get on it. You need special insurance, like errors & omissions insurance. If you're in Canada, I highly recommend Zensurance. They're great to work with and can customize the insurance to your unique business needs.


(3) You don’t get sick pay.


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As a freelancer, in most cases you're trading time for money. So when you can't put in the time, you don't get paid. Now, of course, if you start an agency or another entrepreneurial venture, or you start selling digital products for a passive income, then that's a different story. But so long as you're mostly working with clients by yourself, you only get paid for the work you do.


So you need to pad your hourly rate or project fees with the foresight that you're bound to have a "rainy day."


In fact, if you keep charging low rates, you will get sick more often because you're stressed, and the days you can't work productively (or at all) will hurt your income even more in the end. It can snowball or spiral from there.


So pay yourself well enough to be able to afford to take some days off in case of family emergency or sickness.


(4) You don’t get vacation pay.



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Need I say more? Speaking of which, the number of times I worked while on the few vacations I took is ridiculous. I've made a pact with myself that it stops now.


(5) You’re paying for your own extended medical plan.



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Every time I see a physical therapist, massage therapist, or chiropractor, the bill gets paid out of my own pocket.


Most of the time, the very reason I need chiropractic care is because of the toll that a sedentary job is taking on my body. But I don't have an employer to cover that.


And listen, we can talk about extended health care plans all we want, but I've done the math, and it rarely saves you any significant money to go with a plan. It's sad. Individual plans just don't come anywhere near the group plans you get when working for a corporation.


Yet another reason to paid your own pay.


(6) You pay for your own professional development.


Back when my focus was on copyediting, I paid a near $400 annual fee for membership with Editors Canada. The workshops I attended also cost money. By contrast, when you're working for an organization, they will often invest in you as an employee and pay for various trainings and certifications.


When I ventured into the world of marketing and copywriting, I started taking all kinds of courses and paid for at least a couple of memberships that provide the type of mentorship and peer support that are typically included when you're working for a company full-time. All that stuff costs money. Charge accordingly.


(7) You spend a lot of time on your business that isn’t billable to anyone but you.



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Think about all the business housekeeping you do when you're not working on your client's projects directly: communications, proposals, invoicing your clients, doing your bookkeeping (or paying someone to do it), and the list goes on and on.


(8) In some cases, the NDAs you sign preclude you from being able to use the work that you do in your portfolio.



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An employee can put any work they do on a their resumé/CV. But in many cases when we, as freelancers, work for an organization, we're required to sign NDAs. And sometimes those agreements mean we can't put the company's logo on our website or display the work we've done in our portfolio.


And that sucks because the next time you're pitching a prospective client, they have to go on your word that you've done such and such a thing for another company.


(9) You are sacrificing part of your home for office space.



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They’re not paying the extra rent or mortgage you’re paying for needing a bigger space to run your business.


In some places of North America (ahem, Vancouver), even an extra bedroom or den results in a massive jump in rent or mortgage payment if you own the place. It's absurd.


Think about the fact that if you worked as a permanent employee for an organization, you'd most likely be in the office (not all jobs are remote), and you could technically downsize and pay less rent or a smaller mortgage.


(10) You can’t (shouldn't!) string together 40 billable hours per week ... continuously.


Unless you’re actively working at least 50 or 60 every week.



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This is something many freelancers learn the hard way. Don’t aim for 40 billable hours per week. If you do, you will burn out.


Your mind will get really tired.


You will get writer’s block (which is isn’t really writer’s block but mental exhaustion in this case). You will begin to resent your job. And isn’t that exactly why you ditched the idea of full-time work?


Remember that running your own business includes so many tasks you can’t bill for. So the last thing you should do is sacrifice those necessary aspects of running a successful business for playing Tetris with your work hours (er, clients), trying to align all the client blocks edge to edge! It will wear you out, and you were never meant to work that way as an independent contractor.


So how many hours of active, billable client work should you aim for in a week? As Editors Canada has said:


Like any self-employed service provider, a freelance editor charges hourly rates that reflect the cost of operating a business. An experienced freelance editor will, typically, bill between 20 and 25 hours per week.


This statement is applicable to editors and writers alike. I’ve kept this at the forefront of my mind anytime I fall into the trap where I’m overworked and underpaid. It’s not in any client’s power to change that for me. It’s within my own power to do that.


Remember: the business hiring you can’t afford or doesn’t need a full-time employee, so no matter how much you’re charging them, you’re solving a major problem for them. Charge accordingly.


They need your expertise, and they need it now. And they don’t want to or can’t hire a full-time employee to do this. And in many ways, hiring a full-time employee is a much bigger headache for them!


By making your services available to businesses, you’re filling an essential need. Don’t let them intimidate you into thinking you should be paid the same as an in-house employee.



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