Figuring out your freelance rates

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First published on http://www.mediaupdate.co.za in September 2015

One of the trickiest parts of working as a freelancer is figuring out what you should charge. Working out your worth is not an entirely subjective process; as experience, the client and the type of work you undertake will all affect the monetary outcomes of each job. 
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By Remy Raitt

“Hustling is the nature of the freelance game, do it with swagger and you’ll go far, hustle with a false sense of authority and you’ll last five minutes,” says freelance writer and stylist Candice Meiring-Basnett. Here are some things to consider before you send out your next quote.

Do your research

Before you begin crunching numbers find out what your peers are charging and what industry overseers, like the Southern African Freelancers’ Association (Safrea) are recommending. Currently, Safrea writing rates vary between R2 and R3.75 per word, but double and triple if written for PR or advertising usage respectively. Copy editing rates recommended by Safrea fall between 35c and R1.75 per word, while hourly photography rates fluctuate heavily depending on the type of work done.

Samantha Moolman of The Writer’s College Times suggests calling up publications you would be interested in working for and enquire about their rates, this will help you get a sense of what people are paying.

Although Safrea provides useful guidelines, these rates will not be 100% appropriate for all freelancers as the experience and qualification of the freelancer as well as the type of publication, expectations of the work and constraints faced will all factor in.

Figuring out your first time(s)

“For newbies I would definitely recommend coming in at a competitive rate until you have a built up a strong portfolio,” says Meiring-Basnett. “Do the ‘everything for nothing’ jobs to start as the experience is priceless. These days I find students coming straight out of varsity charging phenomenal fees with only their university projects in their portfolio. Don’t be one of those guys. Always remind yourself that crappy paying jobs may lead to other work.”

This doesn’t mean those starting out should let clients take advantage of them. If you are aware of what your peers are charging you can work around these rates to find a happy medium that everyone can agree on.

Rate yourself

Figuring out your worth is essential for setting up your rates. Previous jobs – both permanent and freelance – your portfolio, your network and the varying types of services you can offer must all be considered. And still, as Moolman says, “it’s the perpetual paradox of the workplace: if you ask for too much, a client or employer will ask a more affordable writer to do the job. If you charge too little, you may be perceived as inexperienced.”

Once you’ve figured it out, you can create your own rate card. “The rate card works well for me,” saysMeiring-Basnett. “If some clients can’t afford it we enter into negotiation but the rate card definitely sets the tone. Some freelancers prefer to not use a rate card but I find using one less confusing and more above board. “

Ensure your rate card includes all the services you offer. For example, your pricing for magazines, newspapers and online will all differ.

You also need to decide rates for different billing methods, namely; per word or photograph, hourly and daily rates, and project rates.

Safrea says it’s imperative to charge additional hourly rates for meetings, interviews, and project management and coordination. If you travel using your own car while on the job they recommend using AA rates to charge for the kilometres driven.

It takes time and a bit of trial and error to work out your worth. As long as you remain honest and patient, take a few chances and avoid selling yourself short you’ll soon start sending out invoices both you and client are chuffed with.

Are you a freelancer? How do you go about billing?

 

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