How much to charge for work that doesn't feel like work?
April 24, 2015 9:29 AM   Subscribe

unexpectedly landed my "dream job". It's for something I've been a fan of for a while and very specific and is a kind of once in a lifetime random job opportunity. Here's the catch. It's freelance, I have a full time job already and there wasn't supposed to be any pay. After a call with my new boss, she suggested that because of my experience, we should discuss a pay rate today. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO EVEN ASK FOR. And google is not helping because they don't take into consideration that this is honestly something I'm so thrilled to work on that I would do it for free.

Without going into too many details that could possibly get me into trouble... I'm a graphic designer but the job would essentially include not only photography and designing graphics but basically completely building their social media presence over a few months. This isn't a huge corporation but more of an estate/ organization. I guess what I'm having a hard time with is that I know that with the amount of work and my experience I should be charging for what I do. BUT this work is fun to me and something I would volunteer to do for free. Of course I don't want to say that to them.

I usually charge flat rates in the past and those are per project. So Ebook designs cost X logos X etc. This seems like something I should charge hourly for and I know I will be working on it more hours than I even log for pay anyways.

Have you ever had something similar happen to you?
Any suggestions on what the going rate for design/ social media is per hour? I have about 5 years experience at "top" ad agencies.

I have this weird feeling of excitement and nerves about it all. It's been a long time since I've worked on something I'm passionate about. I know I deserve to be paid but part of me doesn't want to push anything because I'm really happy about working with them.
posted by twoforty5am to Work & Money (19 answers total)
You tell them what your hourly rate would be, or work out what a fair number would be for a day or project rate. If they say that's not possible, or you hear that catch in their voice as you give your number, immediately follow up with, "but of course that's negotiable. Let me know what number you're thinking of and let's find a way to make this work." They will respect you more if they feel you are doing them a favor, than they will if they think they got you for a bargain.
posted by Mchelly at 9:37 AM on April 24, 2015 [7 favorites]

Freelancers are often wary to share their rates with other freelancers for fear of being accused of price fixing, but it looks like the typical rate for graphic design varies between $65 and $150 an hour.

Social media building I'd estimate at prices similar to any freelance writing, which would be a little less than that probably, say $40-$100 an hour, unless it includes any additional graphic or Web design, which I'd price accordingly.
posted by kindall at 9:39 AM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Agreed with the above—and don't forget you're doing yourself, your professional peers and the client a favor by initially quoting a realistic rate. You're doing yourself a favor because you're valuing your own work and potentially opening up a new stream of revenue; you're doing the client and your peers a favor because you're reinforcing how much the work is worth, so that the client will be able to budget wisely in the future and pay your successor fairly (when/if you decide to move on to new work).
posted by aparrish at 9:46 AM on April 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

And google is not helping because they don't take into consideration that this is honestly something I'm so thrilled to work on that I would do it for free...I know I deserve to be paid but part of me doesn't want to push anything because I'm really happy about working with them.

Do not do it for free! Do not tell them you would do it for free! If it helps, don't think about yourself. Instead, think about all the other freelance creative types out there who do not have another full time job and who need to be paid for their work in order to live. Doing this for free would not only cheat yourself out of the money you deserve but hurt others elsewhere down the line. If you want to volunteer your time/skills for a charitable cause, fine, but this organization actually has money to give you.

FWIW, I would probably not charge hourly for social media. If you're talking about writing blog posts or similar, I'd charge per post, and if it's tweeting/FB'ing/IG'ing for them, I'd figure out a flat fee somehow, like $X for Y number of posts over Z weeks/months. That stuff really sucks up your time but it does so in small increments so it's very hard to calculate hourly. But that's just me.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 9:48 AM on April 24, 2015 [8 favorites]

So you have to take into account what your next job after this will be. For whatever reason one day you'll part ways with this company, and when you're in an interview for the next job, and they ask you about salary requirements, you want to be able to say "I was making {Obscene Amount of Money} at my last job", rather than "I was making {minimum wage} because I loved the job".
posted by blue_beetle at 9:53 AM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

The fact that you would love the work shouldn't make you charge less— in reality it should make you charge more but lets just say you should charge your normal rate. That means you get a fair deal and they still get a great one.

To look at it from another perspective, would you rather pay $1000 to a random designer for a Game of Thrones poster, or $1000 for a designer who LOVES!!1!ONE!!1ELEVEN!!! Game of Thrones?
posted by Static Vagabond at 10:14 AM on April 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just do it for free. You sound like you're looking forward to doing it and stressing over "OMG, what should I charge?" If you don't need the money and enjoy the work, just do it for free.
posted by paulcole at 10:21 AM on April 24, 2015

Items to remember:
  • this work is probably not done tax-deducted, so you need to think about charging a rate that accounts for that.
  • other people who need work would not be thrilled at the idea of someone doing it for kicks – in fact, working for free sets a bad precedent for workers in general.
  • even if you don't want to charge, doing the work may involve expenses like buying a commercial web theme, plugin or fonts, for which you might want to charge back, but if you're not issuing invoices that's not as easy.
  • doing the work will involve some small amount of wear and tear on computer and camera and other equipment, which you will eventually need cash to replace or upgrade.
  • doing this kind of work is not necessarily a walk in the park. Making a website can involve wearisome testing and debugging and testing, and possible expectations from the client that you will maintain it in perpetuity for free.
  • and the biggest one, at least in one sense: people often fail to value what they don't pay for. Be careful of that.

posted by zadcat at 10:26 AM on April 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

Some indivduals do not value work unless they pay for it. Some individuals like talking anout how much they did pay, as a mark of status.

Definitely charge for it, because they will tell others if you don't charge, and others won't like it if you charge them. If it is your dream job, you empower yourself to do your dream job more, by getting paid.
posted by Oyéah at 10:27 AM on April 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am curious how the initial conversation laying out the details of the job went, who approached who, whether the position was originally described as a volunteer position or left ambiguous. I think the initial expectations could potentially make a difference.

As an example, it would seem odd to me if you had approached them and offered to do pro bono work, and then when they offered to give you money you switched gears and asked for the full going rate. In that particular example, it would seem reasonable to start with something like "My usual rate for projects of this sort is $X, but I will give you Y% off because nonprofit/I am excited/want to contribute to the cause/whatever whatever."

I am not a freelancer and everyone else has a lot of good advice about not undervaluing your work, just seems to me there could be some gray area.
posted by yeahlikethat at 10:38 AM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you guys so much for the replies. Seriously helping me look at things from a new perspective and is calming me down.

Should have mentioned original post said "stipend available based on experience" I applied, they asked me to design a sample graphic. It took tons of time but was worth it. She called me back and told me they wanted to hire me and we would have a call to discuss pay and hours. I didn't bring it up but they did. It's not a nonprofit. I wish I could just say what it is. haha

sorry in transit so super short and bad grammar.
but again THANK YOU!
posted by twoforty5am at 10:44 AM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would say something to the effect of "My going rate is $X/hour (based on what you would charge to a random company you had no emotional connection to). However, given the situation, I'm open to negotiating this." And see what they come back with...
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:46 AM on April 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would/do charge about $75/hr to do this kind of stuff.
posted by trbrts at 10:49 AM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Assuming your deliverables are amazing (of course they will be!!), the less it costs them the more work they will find for you. So think ahead and figure out if you think you would do only this project for free (or $x) and whether you would be fine if they send more work your way in the future for the same pay. You don't want to end up with 2 full time jobs and 1 salary.

Also thinking about the photography end of it (since I was in the business for years), you want to charge for your photography (and maybe graphic design) work as a rate for usage. For example $100 for non-exclusive worldwide web-only usage etc....
posted by eatcake at 10:59 AM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

You should lay out a draft statement of work with hour estimates and costs per line item, based on hours x going rate, plus detail of what types of things are included in what you will handle for the client and an estimated timeline, with the caveat of course that your estimates could change on the basis of the ultimate product requirements.

If you don't know enough to even get close to pinning down all of those things (sometimes you just won't at the beginning), you can still tell them your going rate and talk through the rest.
posted by limeonaire at 11:25 AM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Never... ever suggest they don't have to pay you. What they pay for, they'll value. What they get for free, they'll take for granted, and then demand as a right. Hold them up for all the market will bear." -LM Bujold
posted by Wretch729 at 12:12 PM on April 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

Another thing is that sometimes a project that seems like it will be super fun at first turns out to be...not so fun. Either because of individuals involved, or the fact that it takes more of your time than you initially thought, or your job description shifts over time, or simply that you do it long enough that your excitement naturally fades. Think of what you'd charge based on that happening so you don't end up all resentful just in case.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:22 PM on April 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

Beyond what you should tell them, I have something you should consider telling yourself. In the best possible world, we would ALL LOVE what we do for a living so much that if we lived in a Star Trek kind of world where payment were not necessary, we'd still do what we were doing. While, when we set our own rates, we self-employed folks sometimes DO raise our rates for doing things we despise (often in hopes the client will say "never mind"), the goal should be to set rates commensurate with the value we're providing *and* love what we are doing.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 1:38 PM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I remember taking on a big job for a brand that was the most prestigious of its kind. Most people would have killed to work on it, and in years past, I'd had conversations with people who said that would have paid the company for the opportunity to work for THEM. Anyway, I took the job. Worst career decision of my life. The clients were vile and demanding and we worked around the clock only to find they didn't want great work, they wanted crap.

Ultimately I suffered major burnout and it contributed to essentially ending my career, something I was previously fanatical about. I harbour major resentment towards the company and their broken promises told to get me in the door (though I would have gone anyway, huge client etc) I can only imagine how much more resentment I would have felt if I hadn't charged what I thought I was worth.

Seriously, charge them what you're worth.
posted by Jubey at 9:54 PM on April 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

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