Daily Archives: April 29, 2008

Ask Nubby #3: Time and Money Management for Freelancers

Question:

I’m just starting to pick up odd design jobs here and there. I’m still in the midst of getting my degree, but I’m super excited to already be working in my field of choice! However, I feel ultra-lost a lot; especially when it comes to time management and pricing. Do you have any advice on this aspect of freelancing?

The best part about freelancing is that you’re able to set your own hours and rates, but it can also be the trickiest.

Everyone has an opinion about what you should charge and how you can make the most of your time, but the Hourly Rate Calculator can help you determine what is fair.

It’s a solid guide based on your costs, number of billable hours and desired profit. Even if you charge a flat rate like I do, it’s a great starting point if you know how many hours a job will take to complete.

What to Charge: Flat vs. Hourly Rates

When giving a client quotes on a project, you’ll have to decide whether to charge a flat rate for the entire project or do it hourly. Both have implied benefits, but I usually just charge a flat rate since it helps a client know what to budget for upfront. Additionally, I like knowing from the start that I’m guaranteed a specific amount of money (I always require a half or third of the total down to begin work).

When pricing by the hour, consider that you may end up cheating yourself because as you get faster, the same project you did a year ago might have taken 10 hours and now only takes 5. There’s no reason to set yourself up to learn less!

With each job accepted, you’re in a position to be creative and the goal is to make an idea tangible. Your ideas on how to best tackle the project might not come right away; a vision might take hours, even days. If you’ve charged a flat rate, it’s much fairer to the client in this respect.

How to Charge Your Dream Rates

Everyone has a vision of what they’d like to be earning as a freelancer, but the dream doesn’t always align with the reality. In order to charge these rates, Freelance Switch suggests that your clients:

1. Need to believe you’re worth it
2. Must be able to afford it
3. Need to believe that you wouldn’t do it any cheaper

Is your portfolio showcasing only your best work? Is your correspondence prompt? Do you already have a roster of faithful clients? If you’re professional and have some amazing work to back up the rates you’re quoting, chances are that they’ll be accepted.

Obviously, none of this matters if someone can’t afford your dream rates. If you’re unsure, it’s okay to ask someone what their budget is like. What I’ve charged large corporations is not the same as what I’d charge an artist friend. If you’ve recently taken on a high-paying corporate job, maybe you’ll have some room to accept a few lower priced jobs that you’re passionate about!

When to raise rates

As a general rule, it’s fair to raise your rates as you gain more experience and confidence. As I’ve inched closer to finishing my degree while steadlily expanding my portfolio and client list with established names (freelance for Virgin Records and assisting with Nike 6.0 projects at my internship), my rates have increased. Generally, the more extensive and well-known your client list and portfolio are, the more trustworthy you become to a client because it’s less likely that you’ll be a flake or a fly-by-night operation. They want the security of knowing that their ideas and money are safe in your hands!

If you have too many clients knocking down your door, chances are that you need to raise your rates. I’ve been trying to round out my portfolio with client work before I graduate and have recently had this occurrence. This is a sign that once I’ve graduated, it will be time to raise rates once again.

Figuring Out What To Charge

Never be afraid to ask others what they charge. The worst that can come of it is that they decline to answer. I often come up with an amount to charge a client and ask my peers what they deem fair before sending off a quote. This helps me determine if I’m in line with other designers’ rates.

If you still need more information, All Freelance has a wealth of more specific articles.

Real Life Time Management

There isn’t any magical way to conquer the time issue but setting goals can help. If you drift through your day without a vision of what you actually want to accomplish, chances are that very little will get done. Every day, I keep a to-do list close by and cross as many things off as I can before going to bed. This might sound extreme but it totally works because productivity increases when you hold yourself accountable.

Also, think about when you feel the most inspired and get the most work done. Are you a morning person? Do you have crazy energy in the middle of the night? Once you’ve figured this out, those hours should become sacred; close yourself off from the world and do your best to avoid interruptions from the T.V., friends and the phone.

When None of This Matters

There will come a time in your career when a client tracks you down and offers you a massive sum of money. It will be so substantial that you won’t need to consider how much to charge or even care how long the project will take for that matter! This has happened to me just once, but it totally changed my life and put my career on the map. You can never plan for this occurrence. All the hard work you’re putting in will eventually pay off. Good luck!