What to Charge Your Freelance Clients?

Business woman writing
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hourly vs Monthly Freelance Retainer

This is a question I’m asked quite often. When working with freelance clients, how do you figure out how much to charge? If I’m working with a client on a regular basis, during normal working hours, I charge on an hourly basis. This is for regular work during the week, where my client can reach me via phone, email or Google Hangouts from 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday. This gives me a high amount of accountability as I am in daily contact with the client.

If the client has only booked me for part time, say 24 hours per week, then I’ll make myself available for 3 days per week, again from 9 am to 5 pm during those 3 days. So I don’t need to be physically present to work for the client, but they do expect me to be available and working during normal business hours. This type of arrangement works best for local clients, where I might meet with them in person 1-4 times per month.

Or I might work a combination of remote and in-house hours. I find that new clients usually like you to work in their office for a day or two to make sure you aren’t a total flake. Once they see you are a busy bee worker, they usually have no problem agreeing to a remote/telecommute position.

Monthly Freelance Retainer

For out of state clients I usually work on a retainer basis. I can work whatever hours I want (nights, weekends, holidays) as long as I deliver all projects on time according to our agreed upon schedule. For example, for one client the retainer agreement states that I agree to work 40-50 hours per month (10 to 12 hours per week) for them. For this particular client we agreed on:

  • 1 blog article per week – research, write, upload to WordPress site, add photo/image, links, title and meta description
  • 1 email per week via Mail Chimp
  • 2 landing pages per month to support 2 PPC advertising campaigns
  • 3 social media posts per day to 3 different social media accounts
  • All content is optimized for search (i.e. SEO copywriting)

The problem with a monthly retainer is that if you don’t accurately estimate the time it’s going to take you to complete the projects, you could end up working for far LESS than your normal hourly rate. But the client has to know they are being billed $x.xx each and EVERY month the contract is in effect. They don’t need to know how long it takes you to complete the monthly content writing, they just want you to deliver the content.

Retainers work great for clients that are worried about staying within a certain budget. If you work fast, then great, you should be good a great hourly rate. But if you get hung up on a project, you could end up only making $15 per hour. But that’s not the clients concern, with a retainer you promise to deliver a set amount of work no matter how long it takes you.

The one thing you have to be careful with when working on retainer: a client trying to get you to perform extra work. Anything NOT spelled out in the contract will cost extra. So if your client suddenly needs a press release written to announce their new store opening, and you have time to work on it, great! But they need to know there is an additional fee involved over and above your regular monthly retainer rate.

Image courtesy of surasakiStock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of surasakiStock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hourly Freelance Rate

I’m not even going to start talking about how much to charge on an hourly basis. Are you just writing content? Are you providing detailed research and/or marketing consultation services? Do you know a bit of html/css and can help out with the backend/frontend design of your clients websites? Do you have graphic design skills and are a Photoshop Ninja Guru?

If you have bills to pay, you might be happy with $20 per hour. Or you might never touch a project for anything under $50 per hour. I also know some writers that are now consultants and work for $100+ per hour!

I don’t know, I have bills to pay, so when it comes down to the end of the month I’ve been known to take some one off jobs for a lower than normal rate. Sometimes you have to swallow your pride and take a price cut if it means the difference between starving and putting food on your table.

Are you a freelance writer? I’d love to hear about your success stories, failures, and amusing anecdotes. Add a comment to this post or email me: lynn@thecrativecottage.net.

Take care,
Lynn Smythe
Founder The Creative Cottage

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