The F Word: Should Freelancers Charge By The Hour or By The Project

design work by  Morgan Stephens

design work by Morgan Stephens

As a freelancer you have the freedom to work however you want, with whomever you want and wherever you want. Abiding by the rule of working smarter, not harder - the truth in that all depends on you, the freelancer on exactly how much you want and deserve to be paid.

There’s the question of how much to charge per client. Well, it all depends on the client and the project itself. However, it also depends highly on how you need to work on this project and what creative attributes are you providing the client.

From past freelance experience here’s how to break it down in simplified terms.

Usually I’ll charge a client a rate per hour based on the following:

  • Is the project time sensitive? How close is the deadline? Sooner the deadline, the more hours you’ll have to work to meet all the guidelines and imperative goals. If you can work great under pressure, but know that it’s going to require more attention to detail at a faster pace, charging by the hour is an ideal scenario.

  • If you can anticipate the client requesting last minute adjustments (graphic/web designers this is your life) up until the deadline or official launch, the smart thing to do for not just your sanity and quality of work is to charge per hour.

  • There’s some technical details involved, ie; coding and the such.

Then, there are the projects that require my full creative attention. It’s impossible to put creative work on a time card, because ideas happen at any hour of the day or night.

For the more “big picture” jobs I’ll charge a project fee or retainer based on the following:

  • Content driven: If it involves writing, sketching, or any kind of design or photography work.

  • If you want to own your time management. This means you’re a qualified expertise in this line of work and can easily achieve all the goals of the project within your own timeline. Of course, you would have to sell yourself to the client on the basis that you’ll deliver the project in full by the exact deadline.

  • If the client has a specific budget, yet you really feel that it’s worth adjusting your fee to work with this type of client or project.

There’s nothing wrong with being flexible. If a client is really interested in working with you and vice versa, with a hope that it could bring in more business, by all means find a way to make the client and yourself happy. However, don’t lose sight of why you began freelancing in the first place. You craved the freedom to work your own hours, choose your own clients and projects while never having to slave away at a desk or sacrifice the quality of your work (and creativity).


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