Help with Freelance Rate
February 19, 2019 8:23 AM   Subscribe

How much should a social-science PhD student (ABD) charge for freelance work?

I recently came across an opportunity for some freelance work and I am at a loss as to how much I should ask for. The work is fairly easy, but requires a PhD or ABD in the field I am in. Its for a startup, does not require any coding/programming, is completely flexible and not demanding. Its an interesting project that I would like to be involved with. The point here is that theres some benefit for me to do this that I wouldn't get if I was, say, editing some work or doing some programming in R for someone.

I'm at a loss as to what to say my fee is. If you work as an RA for someone in my department, you would get about $25 an hour. Thats low, of course, but RA work is easy, not demanding, and builds relationships. So I should ask higher than that. I've seen rates for editing work for those with PhDs that are on average around $50 an hour, but that seems high--there's a benefit from getting involved with this project that there isn't for more rote work.

I have healthcare/stipend from my institution so none of that is a concern here.

Thoughts?
posted by MisantropicPainforest to Work & Money (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
What location? Answers will be very different for, say, Iowa vs. San Francisco.

That said, I would say double your RA-type salary would be table stakes for this because of the nature of freelance pay vs. something like RA pay. For that reason, $50 seems extremely reasonable.
posted by brainmouse at 8:26 AM on February 19


Thanks. I'm on the East Coast but the work is entirely remote.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:29 AM on February 19


Take a reasonable annual salary for a PhD doing this kind of work, boil it down to an hourly, and then double it. That's your starting point.
posted by entropone at 8:39 AM on February 19 [4 favorites]


Its an interesting project that I would like to be involved with. The point here is that theres some benefit for me to do this that I wouldn't get if I was, say, editing some work or doing some programming in R for someone.

This should not lower your rate. Partly this is a solidarity issue (don't undercut other people who do the same work but don't love it like you do), and partly it's just advice on avoiding burnout (if you start doing this for money, there will certainly be some days you need to work but aren't feeling the love).

Charge what you're worth.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:42 AM on February 19 [9 favorites]


Requires a PhD = they're paying for your education level/experience, even if the work itself is easy for you. Don't price yourself low just because you get something out of it too - it's not like that takes any value away from the work you are producing for them.
posted by augustimagination at 8:43 AM on February 19


Similarly, I'd argue you should charge as if you needed to pay for health insurance, even though you don't. A fair freelance rate takes things like that into consideration, and you deserve a fair rate even though you're lucky enough to have insurance already.

In the take-your-salary-and-double-it rule of thumb entropone mentions, the double-it step accounts for the need to buy insurance, as well as things like higher taxes on freelance income. So if you follow that rule, my advice here will be baked in.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:44 AM on February 19


Generally speaking, don't charge less because it's an 'interesting project you'd like to be involved with'. That should be a bare minimum requirement, not an added bonus that makes you charge less for your time.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 8:50 AM on February 19


I’d take the inexperienced NIH post doc rate of $50k, divide by 2080 hrs/yr, and double it for indirect costs. Comes to about $50/hr.
posted by supercres at 8:52 AM on February 19 [3 favorites]


This probably isn't exactly what you're doing, but the Editorial Freelancers Association publishes a chart of ranges of freelancing rates. It doesn't specify education of the freelancer, but if you look at the chart, you'll see that $50 is not that high.
posted by FencingGal at 8:55 AM on February 19 [3 favorites]


I got $25 / hour in San Francisco for this kind of thing in 2005 so that idea is too low.
posted by ruff at 9:29 AM on February 19


The correct rate is whatever you need to meet your financial goals and be happy + whatever the market will tolerate.

Maybe $25/hr is enough for you? If you worked for $25/hr at this company, does that mean you would lose the opportunity to work for $50/hr at another company?

It's entirely up to you.

That said, professional consultants (i.e., "freelancers") can charge $150/hr. If you're doing PhD-level work in the private sector, your *basement* minimum rate should be $75/hr.

If that's your goal (remember: everyone has a different situation so it's entirely up to you what an acceptable rate is) and people won't pay you that, then you have to figure out what you need to do to earn that rate.

FWIW, I don't have a PhD and for me US$50/hr is my bare minimum basement rate, and I only work for that rate on very short projects.
posted by JamesBay at 10:17 AM on February 19


Freelancing social science PhD who formerly lived on the East Coast. The minimum I charge is $75 an hour.
posted by Fuego at 7:23 PM on February 19


I agree that $50 is the minimum and not at all high. I've had projects pay $25+/hour for copyediting/rote research even before I completed my undergrad. Also, in my experience RAs are way underpaid compared to the private sector.
posted by ahundredjarsofsky at 9:51 PM on February 19


Agreed that $50 should be the absolute minimum you charge. I'd suggest closer to $75 or $100 (though I may be biased based on having lived in expensive markets like Boston and SF)
posted by vegetableagony at 9:56 PM on March 4


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