What are you worth? Over the last few days I’ve had an invitation to lunch and a couple of calls from friends who are going freelance and want some tips – a sign of what’s happening in the industry, perhaps? They all seem to want the same kind of advice about how to set up and – most of all – what to charge. So here are a couple of web-resources which might help them and others get the thinking started.
I like this list of how to generate the business in the first place - Freelance Switch again. And at the risk of self-referentially disappearing up the spout of my own blog, here’s one I wrote earlier about actually getting paid
Google reader turned this up in my inbox this morning – a post from American media strategist BL Ochman about the difficulty of finding out what other people charge for a job. As she says:
“You are more likely to know what your best friend eats for breakfast or how many times a week he or she has sex, than how much money they make.
Despite all the Web 2.0 talk of transparency, openness, and honesty, you’d be hard pressed to find out what most new media consultants charge.”
Her point is that there is no reason why consultants should be secretive about the rates they charge – so why does no-one ever say? It would certainly be helpful to know. One of the things I found hardest when I set myself up was knowing how much to charge for different pieces of work. It’s really hard to know if you are pricing yourself out of a market, or seriously under-charging. Unless you’re lucky enough to know friendly freelancers who work in your field and are happy to discuss their rates, you have nothing to compare yourself to. If you get it wrong, and I really under-charged a couple of clients at the beginning, it’s hard to get the rate back up to where you want to be for repeat business. In my experience the conversation about fees always feels as though everyone concerned is somehow embarrassed to be speaking about something so tawdry. Is that a particularly British thing - or is it just me?
As a reasonably well-established freelance myself now, I understand the fear of being undercut by some young whipper-snapper who knows my rate and sees the chance to snaffle my business. But in my experience price is not generally the deciding factor in whether or not I get a job. That has much more to do with experience, track record and contacts.
I worked for the Government Equalities Office earlier this year, as the Equality Bill was being prepared. One of the things they want to do is make it harder for companies to hide what staff are paid . They also want to encourage companies to publish their gender pay gap. This would make it easier for new entrants to an industry to tell whether what they were being offered was fair (it suddenly seems a long time ago that there were jobs around to apply for!) Openness seems to me to be a good thing, but if you’re a freelance there’s not much information to go on. The best thing I’ve found is the PR Week salary survey, but that’s tied very closely to agency roles which don’t necesarily equate to other types of work. So, should we all come clean? And if I show you mine, will you show me yours?