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Getting Paid as a Freelancer


Pricing and proposals can be two of the hardest things about running a business - or freelancing. There often seem to be run by rules that nobody knows. This interaction will change from client to client.

What do you charge?

  • Your bill is not equal to your wages, pricing needs to cover the less obvious things too, such as tax, sick days, holiday days, admin and running costs, and accountants.
  • Try to understand as much as possible how much time the project will take.
  • Ask friendly freelancers in your industry what they typically charge.
  • Write a price list. This doesn’t have to be a 1:1 relation to how long something takes. Keep this as a living document, so you can rewrite it as you go.
  • Find the sweet spot between what is worthwhile for you and what is competitive for the client. Build margins to cover extras, but also be humble.
  • Remember - working with bigger companies may be more admin-heavy.

What value do you deliver?

  • If you can be somebody who gets on and delivers things without much interaction from the client, you can charge more.
  • What difference does your work make to a client? For example, if you are creating something for small use by an internal group, you would be charging less than something they will be creating for a huge, external product launch.
  • How good are you at what you do? If you are newer to your craft, you may charge slightly less but will be learning and growing your portfolio. If you are an industry expert and wrote the book on it, you will be able to charge more.

What is the risk?

  • Can they sue you if it goes wrong, either on your end or theirs? Insurance and contracts can help around this. If a project seeks risky, you may want to charge more too.
  • Could working with a certain company harm your reputation?
  • Is the client taking a risk by hiring you? If you are new at the craft or unproven, you may want to reflect that risk in what you charge

How do you charge?

  • Charging for your time is easy to work out, however, you won’t benefit from the efficiencies you create. The client may also expect you to act like an employee.
  • Charging for a fixed-rate project will require you to benchmark. It is best for off-the-shelf products rather than ad-hoc services. If you find a more efficient way to do things you can keep the value. However, if something takes you much longer than you expect and get your pricing wrong, it can be painful.
  • When you are new to freelancing, avoid charging by value delivered.

Writing proposals and statements of work

  • Proposal: is what wins you the business. Be prepared to promote yourself. Why should you do this job, rather than somebody else? Don’t just say what you will do, but what it will do for them. Remember, you are good at what you do because people are prepared to pay for it, so don’t be shy about that. List the deliverables and set the price.
  • Statement of Work: is what you are doing, how, what you are going to charge and what you need to deliver the work. This acts like a contract. You can also outline how much of a deposit might require at the start, middle, and what the final payment will be. Outline a terms of service - and if you can afford it, seek advice from a lawyer.
  • You can also use a Statement of Work as a checklist to protect you when you get paid.
  • Different clients will want different levels of details.

What happens when you work with others

  • The company may hire a bunch of freelancers to collaborate as equals.
  • When you sub-contract work to somebody else, ensure that there is a Statement of Work, and NDA, and ensure you have the clients permission.

Keeping on top of the important stuff

  • Buying Back Your TimeSave for tax and the unexpected.
  • Get insured.
  • Get an accountant.
  • Plan for how you can turn what you do into a product.