How much to charge for freelance science work?
February 23, 2010 7:00 AM   Subscribe

How much should I charge as a freelance (research) scientist?

About a year ago my old lab ran into funding issues and we were all put on 50% effort to keep us in jobs as long as possible. 6 months ago I found a new (great!) job with a different lab on the same medical campus. I had worked there for over 10 years (going from junior to senior tech to manager) and it ended very amicably.

My old boss has asked me to come in and run some assays for them on my free nights/weekends. Each assay will take about an hour to prep, 3-4 hours to run, and an hour to organize the data. It's a pretty specialized technique that I have extensive training and experience with so they can't just have a random tech do it (especially since they still don't have money to hire someone full time).

I have no idea what to charge. I don't want to ask for the moon but on the other hand it's my nights/weekends and I'm providing a pretty specialized service for them and they won't have to pay salary/benefits/indirect costs/etc. Should I charge a set fee? An hourly rate? My current salary times 2? 1.5? Does anyone out there have any experience with anything like this?
Thanks, I'll hang up and listen offline.
posted by bowmaniac to Work & Money (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
i would charge something like 3x your typical hourly job rate--to cover the 'overtime' nature of the work and to help pay your taxes. I'd also add 1 hour to each test in anticipation of problems, if you're doing this on a piecework basis.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 8:37 AM on February 23, 2010

I have no real knowledge of freelancing, but how about something like this:

What would it cost them to hire a research tech for a year? Take that salary, divide it by the number of hours worked in a year, then multiply by 1.5, since they're saving a bundle on benefits and training.

So if a technician would make 50k, you'd charge:
50k/(250 days x 8 hours) = 25
25 * 1.5 = 37.50 per hour
posted by chrisamiller at 8:39 AM on February 23, 2010

At my university, fringe benefit costs for professional staff are 29 percent. Given the other advantages for the purchaser inherent in contract labor (not needing to pay you full-time, only using your services as necessary), and the disadvantages for you (unreliable income, extra taxes and accounting), 1.5 is a real bargain for the purchaser. I would say at least double. Maybe more since it is out-of-hours work. And you would be best off charging an hourly rate in my opinion as well.
posted by grouse at 8:53 AM on February 23, 2010

1.5 times your current salary rate seems way too low to me. Too cheap. given the great benefits they'll be enjoying by employing someone who knows their stuff on an as-needed, temporary basis. Lester's sock puppet's proposal seems more reasonable.
posted by anadem at 9:35 AM on February 23, 2010

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