As a freelancer, you don’t earn a set wage per month and there are no clear guidelines on what you should be charging as an independent worker. This can be a stressful part of starting your own business, particularly for those who are new to a certain industry and can often see freelancers under or overcharging. Undercharging can rapidly lead to burn-out; if you are working yourself to exhaustion to cover bills while overcharging will see a distinct lack of business, when potential customers go elsewhere for cheaper rates.


Starting Out


Of course, before starting any freelancing journey, you should thoroughly research competitors’ rates and inclusions to ensure you can get into the market without needing to overexert yourself, however, knowing where to start can be confusing, especially with the sheer amount of information available online.


As an independent worker, you have more freedom over what you charge and have the ability to work cheaper than a dedicated company or agency (who have insurance and employees’ wages to cover) so you can eliminate these from your research list. You’ll want to focus on other freelancers within your country, comparing freelancers between countries can be a dangerous game, particularly when trying to meet Eastern world freelancer rates who have a much cheaper cost of living.


Small start-ups may benefit from investing in a salary survey, a comparison of salaries with similar job responsibilities (not job titles) and can give informative insight into wages paid by similar companies within the industry. Companies that utilise salary benchmarking services, do so in order to hire and retain increased levels of talent within the business, so may be unsuitable or out of budget for an independent freelancer.


Valuing Yourself


When comparing freelancer or small company wages and offered rates, make sure to check the quality of your competitor’s work and the extras they offer. For example, in the graphic design industry, an individual who also offers quality animation and motion graphics can justify charging a higher base rate than a freelancer who specialises in solely one skill.


Consider the quality of your work carefully, think about what you would pay for what you are offering, ask friends and family to give their input on what they would pay and ask them to be impartial. While it would be easy to simply set an hourly rate and invoice for the time taken, if you are a new starter, it might take you a longer time than average to ensure your final product/service is quality for your client which can quickly push your prices up and make your competitors look favourable.


Be reasonable but don’t leave yourself destitute. If it takes you 12 hours to complete a digital portrait in a similar style to a freelancer who takes 2-4 hours, you might need to be tough on yourself and improve your skill before venturing into the independent working market. This will prevent you scrambling to get work done, possibly even completing work to a lower quality to hit a strict time limit and offering a poor service that customers are going to be reluctant to invest in.


Avoiding Burn-Out


Once enquiries, commissions, bookings or sales start to come in, it can be tempted to accept everything coming your way and relish in the business you have. This can be a quick way to burn yourself out, leading to a poorer quality of work or in some extreme cases, non-delivery of work. Non-delivery of work is the fastest way to see your business go from booming to non-existent. So, it is okay to say NO.


Be polite, explain you are happy to get in touch when you have availability. You won’t see your business dive from being reasonable with your time and expectations and good customers will be fully understanding. Those who are keen to work with you, will be happy to show patience. Those that show disrespect or are rude when you say no are the types of customers you want to avoid, so treat turning down extra work as a miniscreening process!


Burn-out can be severely debilitating and have a knock-on effect, leading to weeks of feeling tired, unmotivated and unhappy and many a freelancer has had to give up on their independent working dream in order to cover bills and rent. Look after yourself and the quality of your work will reflect this.


Freelancing can be hugely rewarding and give you more freedom to live the life the way you want to and are most comfortable with. It takes hard work and dedication but as long as you work smart and don’t overexert yourself, independent working can go smoothly. Remember to never devalue yourself, skills can take a long time to develop and master and quality work deserves fair payment. You may even occasionally get a good client tell you, you are undercharging, so make sure to regularly ask your customers for feedback.