I found it really difficult deciding on a rate to start with, and I think I charged too little more than once. There are lots of factors involved, and it will be different for everyone. These are some of the things I did when I was working out how much to charge for workshops and consultancy and mentoring, as well as for my Delta Module 1 and Module 3 courses. Please note that this is just from my personal experience, and other people might do things quite differently.
(Update: the comments on this blogpost and this LinkedIn post share how a few other people have approached this, and reminded me that I included non-billable hours when I was thinking about hourly rates, but can’t remember how I did it!)
The way that didn’t work!
Step 1: How much do you want to earn?
I started from working out an annual salary which is reasonable for my country and which I think would pay me enough to do everything I want to do. This can be influenced by lots of factors:
- Family commitments
Do you have dependents, like children or parents, who you need to cover costs for?
- Other income
Are there other earners in your household?
Is there other money coming in, for example from investment or benefits?
Consider housing, bills, food, transport, but also leisure time.
Search for ‘average outgoings [country name]’ to find some guides to help you if you’re not sure. Here’s an example for the UK.
How much do you want to be able to save?
How much will you put into investments or pensions?
Let’s take £25,000 as a starting point.
Step 2: How much do you want to / can you work?
I decided that I would like to have about 6 weeks, or 30 working days, off work a year, plus bank holidays. In the UK that gives me about 38 days off, or 7.5 working weeks.
That leaves 44.5 working weeks in the year.
I also decided I’d like to work 09:00-17:00, or about 7 hours a day with a 1-hour lunch break. I don’t want to work at weekends, so that’s Monday to Friday, or 5 days a week.
I don’t expect I’ll do this all the time, but this is what I’d like to work towards.
Adding that all up gives me:
44.5 weeks x 5 days x 7 hours = 1557.5 working hours in a year
Step 3: How much do you need to earn an hour to meet your target?
Now some simple maths:
Step 1 divided by Step 2 = Step 3
In this example, that’s:
£25,000 / 1557.5 = £16.05 / hour
There’s a problem here!
When I made those calculations, I realised that I was barely doubling UK minimum wage. I’ve definitely invested enough time and effort into building my experience and knowledge and money into getting qualifications to be earning far more than that.
I made a pretty table in Excel to show different possible scenarios:
(I have to have some 30 hour working weeks because of medical needs, so I included both in my calculations, and I made this table before I remembered about bank holidays.)
A much better way
I looked around at average hourly rates for other skilled professions in the UK. For example, the Society of Proofreaders and Editors posts suggested minimum rates.
These were generally higher than any of the numbers I’d come up with so far. I realised I could charge more than I was considering before. Having said that, I also knew that whatever figures I charged wouldn’t be what I earned every day, but that these would be the ideal days when I was earning the maximum possible.
I then went through these steps.
Step 1: How much do I think my time is worth a day?
I decided that £350 is worth giving up a day of my time for, bearing in mind that there would probably be preparation and more involved, meaning it’s likely to be about 2 days’ worth of earnings, not just one.
Step 2: How much is that an hour?
£350 / 7 working hours = £50 an hour
£350 / 6 working hours = just under £60 an hour, but let’s round that up
Step 3: What does that mean for different lengths of time?
At this point I’m starting to think about different fees for different types of work, and the extra work around each of those types of work.
For example, a 60-minute workshop also requires a lot of extra work around it. This includes setting the time and date, meeting the person who’s requested it to clarify what the workshop will include, and planning/preparing the workshop itself. That’s why there are separate fees for workshop preparation. On the other hand, consultancy requires much less extra work around it as a rule, so I can charge less for this time.
I also wanted to think about discounts if people pay for a block of more of my time, both as an incentive and because it requires a little less work for me each time.
Cue more Excel tables, playing around with amounts and calculating the price per minute to check how the discounts work:
In every case I’m charging around £50 an hour, the price I’d decided at step 2.
I also made similar calculations for Delta modules, based on the amount of work, the number of participants, and the number of hours of face-to-face sessions to help me calculate what would be financially viable for me to justify running the course.
Keeping track of hours and money earnt
I use Toggl.com as a time tracker for everything I do in my working day.
When I get money in, I record this on a spreadsheet with the hours I’ve worked on that project, the date and amount invoived, and the money I received. The spreadsheet then calculates my hourly rate:
As you can see, the hourly rate can be vastly different from one project to another. £128.00/hour for writing something, but only £25.11/hour for some contracted work.
I have another spreadsheet which can show me how much I earn on average from different parts of my freelancing so that if I have to make decisions about what work to keep and what to drop, this can be part of what informs it:
Here the differences in hourly rate are much starker, and you can see that £50/hour for all of my work is not unreasonable at all, as it pushes up my overall income.
Looking for help?
If you’re looking for help with freelancing in ELT, I’d recommend following Rachael Roberts and her EarnLearnThrive business on LinkedIn and looking around her blog. She runs courses for freelancers and has done a lot for the community – so many people have benefitted from her help!