When it comes to freelancing, it’s important to know the value of your time. Freelancer Kate Sitarz shares her tips for when freelancers should charge more.
As a freelancer, you’re constantly quoting prices for your work: by the hour, the deliverable, or (for writers) the word. Accounting for the time to do the actual work is, obviously, essential. But each time you take on a project, there are extra tasks and events to factor into your rates to make sure you’re compensated fairly for your time.
With the holidays approaching, it’s extra important to manage your schedule so you can spend quality time with family and friends—without having to check your email every five minutes, or excuse yourself mid-dessert to finish a project.
Beyond charging for the work itself, here are five ways to boost your rates.
1. Plan for Vacations
As a freelancer, you’re not getting paid to take time off. In fact, you probably find more work during the holidays—picking up assignments to fill in the gaps for vacationing employees. Regardless of when you take a vacation, make sure you build time off into your rates—and actually take those days off.
If you plan on two weeks’ vacation, that’s 80 hours you need to take into account. Take what you anticipate to earn by the end of the year, divide it by 50 (to account for your two weeks off) and then by 40 (if you plan on working a full-time schedule) to get your average hourly rate. This way, you’re not scrambling to find an additional 80 hours later to allow for time off.
Of course, it’s hard to know when work will pop up. So block time off for vacation as soon as possible and give steady clients a heads up when you’ll be offline. Remind them as the dates get closer, and don’t check in once away. It’s critical to recharge.
2. Take Holiday Assignments
When you find yourself taking on work during holidays, bump up your rates. You’re working when no one else wants to work, giving up your valuable time in the process. Consider it your “overtime” rate; for most, that means one-and-a-half times your regular rate.
Additionally, if you’re traveling and working over the holidays, factor in time for travel or recuperating from jet lag. As someone who has taken a red eye and then committed to meetings the next day, I promise it’s not as glamorous as the folks traveling in first class make it seem. For me, it’s worth adding an extra day to ensure I’m coherent and can actually relax on my final days of vacation. I let clients know I can work during long plane rides, but also set the expectation that I won’t be online to chat.
3. Cover Your Admin Tasks
As a freelancer, you’re constantly checking emails (for me, that means four different email clients a day), filling out timesheets (again, for multiple clients), and navigating different project management systems to upload your work. All of this, if you haven’t tracked it before, actually eats up a lot of time. It’s something you don’t think about when you’re employed full time in an office—it’s just part of the day-to-day routine.
When quoting your rates, consider the time spent beyond actual work on the project. Even tasks that take five minutes start to add up when they happen a dozen times a day.
4. Negotiate Rush Jobs
Similar to holiday work, accepting a rush job allows you to bump up your rates. Clients requesting something within a 24- or 48-hour period likely need you more than you need them. Of course, you may want to remain competitive, but with the added pressure of a quick deadline it’s important to value your time and energy accordingly. Explain that, because of the tight turnaround, your rate is a bit higher than usual. Make it worth your time.
5. Build in a Buffer for Sick Time
When an employer offers sick days, you don’t have to worry if you wake up in the middle of the night vomiting or are stuck in a doctor’s office for half the day. But for freelancers, it’s stressful when you need an unexpected day off, particularly if a deadline looms.
While there’s no way to plan for illness, it’s helpful to have someone on backup if you need help finishing a project. Otherwise, factor sick days into your schedule as you do vacation time. That way, if you absolutely need to take a day off, your budget won’t suffer because of it.
When you take these factors into account, your hourly or project rate will likely increase. But it’s important to set this standard with clients from the get-go. Explain your rate to each client, so they understand you’re not pulling a number out of thin air. After all, they’re not paying you benefits, which saves their company money. Otherwise, you may find yourself burning out and not netting as much income as you anticipated—all because you didn’t put a value on your time that matches its worth.
Kate Sitarz is a freelance writer living in Germany. Her work has been featured on Yahoo Travel!, The Huffington Post, and USAToday, among other outlets.
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