What’s a Freelancer Worth?

Whatever they call themselves, freelancers are people who generally get paid on a daily or sessional rate. They are not employed by the organisation they are providing a service to. Here’s a handy guide to help you decide what to charge for your services that I wrote for BIG STEM Communicators’ Network

At any networking event freelancers often find themselves discussing what they should be charging, hoping that others will be open and honest about what they ask clients to pay them, but it’s not simple when the array of services is so great.

And of course, any potential client is always wondering what rate they should be offering and how they can keep costs down. Buying the services of a freelancer looks – on the face of it – pretty costly. But read on – it may help.

Freelancers: here is a very simple system to establish daily rates: have a look at how many days in the year that you could be working. Days in a year minus weekends, public holidays, your own holiday, sickness:



Days in year

 Weekend days -104
 Public holidays -8
 Holiday -25
 Sick -5
 Working days: 223 

Freelancers only reasonably expect to invoice for half these days as the rest of the time is spent bidding for work, invoicing, reporting, doing your tax return, purchasing equipment, managing your business property. A self-employed person will be shouldering the things a company employer provides for its staff, like paternity/maternity pay, childcare vouchers, bereavement leave, someone to change the lightbulbs, clean the toilets, fix the heating, lay the carpet, professional development, staff pension, use and maintenance of company vehicles, occupational health service, office equipment, IT support… So your actual invoice-able days work comes to 111.5 if you’re fully booked.

Right. This bit is as much for those of you thinking of purchasing the services of a freelancer as being one. Give these things some thought when you’re considering what wage you’d expect to be paying someone to do the work as a full-time member of staff. Think about the skills, experience, educational qualifications you’d expect.

So what’s the job worth, as an annual wage? What’s the equivalent daily rate (exc. VAT)?

£50,000 – £448 per day

£45,000 – £404 per day

£40,000 – £359 per day

£35,000 – £314 per day

£30,000 – £269 per day

£25,000 – £224 per day

£20,000 – £179 per day

And this, of course, is only for consultant’s TIME. Is specialist equipment required for the work? Evaluators have survey collecting and data-crunching software, show/workshop presenters have fire tornados, chladni plates, penguin costumes, vans; film-makers buy cameras and, well, stuff to make films; and vans. Exhibit builders have lathes and milling machines and Stanley knives. And vans. Many BIG members do a combination of these things and so purchase and store all this gubbins.

This all means they probably have different rates for different tasks. They may also have different rates to take into account the duration of the work – is it three days’ work and then stop, or thirty days over a year for three years? Whatever it is, make a decent estimate, be prepared to provide a client with evidence for your estimation and hold your line.

And if you’re thinking of commissioning a freelancer bear in mind after all this that you are asking them to do a short, time-limited burst of work from a standing start. AND THEN bear in mind that if the freelancer doesn’t do the work you commissioned, you won’t pay them at all. An employed staff member, you probably will.