What should I charge as an online marketing freelancer?
October 31, 2012 5:30 AM   Subscribe

What should I charge as an online marketing freelancer? (Details inside)

At my last job at a marketing firm, we billed out at $100/hour, I was paid $15/hour and 20% commission on any sales I made.

I am currently working part-time at $20/hour with another company. (I have done work with them before and will be asking for a raise soon, since my expertise is much higher than it was when I started).

Based on this, I am looking for an official contracting rate for any additional work I'll take on. I am not an agency, so I will not have an office to pay for or a website to maintain. I also want a rate that's affordable for marketing agencies to be able to outsource to me.

I offer pay per click ad management, search engine optimization, and general google analytics consulting. I am among the best in the our mid-sized city for pay per click ad management, but by no means the best on the web (or within an hour's drive), and probably mid to top pack for the other services, compared to the rest of the city.

At this point I'm leaning towards $50/hour. I've also been told a contractor should charge 3x what they would make as an employee; what's a reasonable rate for myself and clients?
posted by phoenix_fire to Work & Money (2 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Your freelance rate should reflect the fact that you have no health care/benefits and no guarantee of 40 hours a week. This is especially true if you are single and do not otherwise have access to health care. When I last contracted on a contract to perm basis (which I was like, 95% sure of being permanent after 3 months) I only contracted out at $13 over my "exempt" rate, but I had health care and I was sure the gig was going to pan out. I also had to think about my market and my skill level relative to what others were charging.

In other words, many things to consider. In Atlanta, for example, it looks like there are freelance SEO gigs being offered out in the $40/hour range but in some random listing I pulled up for Montana, it was $27/hour.

$50/hour may be okay, but we probably need to know your market and how many years you've been doing this to have any chance at really vetting that number.

Also, your account doesn't have a lot of identifying details, but you might think of anonymizing this in case you use that username a lot - probably don't want your clients googling you and finding this. It would be weird, at best.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:18 AM on October 31, 2012

When I've hired freelancers, admittedly in a market where I got a lot of choice, I typically hired at 2x to 2.5x employee salary. 2.5x was the high side. But I didn't expect my freelancers to do a lot of unpaid work at the beginning of the project while I decided if I wanted to use them and I employed them in 5-6 week blocks. They also knew that if the costs went too high I could hire in for cheaper - so while I was paying for their expertise, the primary reason I went with freelancers was for flexibility.

The key here is, yes, to work out what rate the market can take. You get to charge more if you can prove your value (i.e. a clear ROI), if your skills are clearly in demand, if prospective clients can see why paying you x is better than paying someone cheaper y, if you're expected to travel, and also if the client can terminate quickly or the work you do is very ad hoc. In order to charge the top end rates, you need to be clear on all or most of these factors.

To take one of those factors, for example: if you end up working for your client for an extended period, they may want a discount. So rather than have a single rate, you might want to think about what your charging structure could/should be for different types of projects.

Another way of looking at it - as a fallback check - is being very clear-sighted about what you want to earn, how many 'dead' days you will have (holidays, no work, business development, admin) and what your costs to run your business will be and work back to an hourly or daily rate that gives you want you want.

As an aside, I would also suggest you have at least a basic web site, have a narrative around which to sell yourself (ideally a brief brochure/portfolio) and ideally a case study or two of where you've added value: which you use to show your ROI. Bear in mind that the person you sell to may not be the decision maker, so you need to give them the tools to convince the budget holder.

Finally: unless you can genuinely work hour by hour like, say, a lawyer, I think hourly rates suck somewhat. I'd rather see a day rate, pay a little over the odds and get a better fix on what the overall costs might be. Perhaps that's just me. But it is worth considering.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:23 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

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