How much should I charge for freelance projects? UX Question #37

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Armin from Lakewood, New Jersey, asks: How much should I charge for freelance projects?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Armin. This is UX Question number 37 and I am Ben Judy.

How much should I charge for freelance projects? My mentees often ask me, how much should my hourly rate be? Or how much should I charge a client for a project? It can be hard to have confidence in any number.

I definitely struggled with it early in my career. I went back and forth between feeling like I was overcharging or undercharging for freelance web design gigs.

I’ve got some tips.

One, know how much you need. Everything starts here. If you’re not good at personal budgeting, no amount of money is enough, because you don’t have a handle on your finances. Create a budget, do some math, and figure out how much you need for an hour of your working time, to satisfy your budgetary needs. Now you have an absolute minimum figure.

Two, always ask clients for more than you think you should. Once you have that figure of what you need to be paid to balance your budget, set your rate 25% to 50% higher.

This is not greed. No, there are several reasons why you should do this. It gives your client negotiating room. If you set your rate right at your minimum, there’s nowhere to go with the client who wants to haggle on the price. And you want to be able to do that, to win the work.

Also, charging more than you need allows you some wiggle room if the project has cost overruns. If it takes longer than you estimate—and UX work often does—then you’ll be okay, because you’ll still earn enough for the project to be worthwhile.

Three, find out what other designers are charging. A realistic amount to charge a client is whatever the market will bear. So, discreetly ask other designers you know, what was the average hourly rate that clients actually paid you last year? This can be helpful perspective.

Early in your UX career, it’s common to feel like you shouldn’t charge very much. And it’s true that your level of experience should be a significant factor in setting your rate. Volunteering to do your first client projects for almost free, can be a good way to get some experience.

But by your third or fourth project, start asking clients for at least your minimum amount based on your budget. It’s critical to avoid charging too little because this leads to both you and your clients undervaluing your skills.

I’ve dropped a few links in the description to other designers sharing their tips on how much to charge, be sure to check those out.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: What is Lean UX?

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