The Human Freelancer

Happy and honest self-employment for conscientious newcomers

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Sadly, there’s no easy way to calculate a price, as I keep harping on about in this reluctant post about how to set the right price. Every freelancer I know struggles with, including me, because it’s essentially a gamble, and every project and client is different.

I had a nice long puzzle over this dilemma before my upcoming talk at Leeds Beckett University today. And after some characteristic navel-gazing I came up with this rule-of-thumb process which I use to work out my prices. It helps me and it might help you too – but every freelancer’s different, so here it is.

OK, let’s assume a new request for a quote has arrived in your inbox

  1. Ask if you need the work: this might seem obvious but this filter helps protect your time doing other stuff you enjoy that isn’t just for clients.
  2. Does the job sound interesting: again, we don’t want you trapped in a cycle of doing stuff because you feel obliged to, this isn’t  salaried employment. Think about whether this new project is about doing what you enjoy or will it open up new opportunities in the future (new skills or contacts for you, rather than promises of future work which should be treated with caution).
  3. Work out how many artefacts you have to create: now that the softer shit is out of the way look objectively at what you actually have to produce. How long will each one take you? Plus how much admin, planning and research do you need to do on top of that?
  4. Add that all together, plus the magic 20% contingency: I learnt somewhere many years ago when I worked in IT that statistically, most projects overrun by 20% in time and budget. This is a little bit of insurance to cover the fact that you’re essentially being asked to predict the future here. It isn’t avarice.
  5. Dig out your invoices for previous similar projects (however tenuous the similarities). Jot down their durations and prices.
  6. Compare those 2 or 3 prices (including your total from 4.) and find somewhere that sits between those ranges that you’re comfortable with. This is a good point at which to throw your client’s budget into the mix – remember, it’s OK to ask the question and good clients will give you some guidance (or more likely just say they have no idea and simply trust you to work one out).
  7. Add a tiny little bit extra on to the price you decided upon because you, like all of us freelancers, probably undercharge yourself and there needs to be room for negotiation and correction.

Good luck with your own wild predictions of the future.

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