As a creative business mentor and fellow freelance creative, some of the most common questions I receive from freelancers are on the subject of pay.
“What should I charge as a freelancer,” and “can I charge for meetings as a freelancer,” are two examples that sometimes slide into my DMs, and it makes complete sense – there’s so little transparency on rates, pay and expenses in the creative industries, freelancers are bound to feel confused.
Then, there’s the very real fear that so many freelancers experience which causes them to charge less than their work is worth because they are afraid of appearing as too expensive (and losing commissions as a result).
Let me be clear: you deserve to be appropriately remunerated for your work. So, here is a list of 7 things you are allowed to charge for as a freelancer, and should take into consideration every time you prepare a quote.
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7 things you are actually allowed to charge for as a creative
1. Your creative time, experience, knowledge, and skills
I hope it goes without saying, but you should be charging clients for your creativity. Of course, there may be instances where you decide to complete work for a smaller fee (volunteering your skills to help independent business owners from marginalised communities to grow, or contributing to a project that you feel is particularly important or is fulfilling despite budget being low, for example). However, for the majority of the time, you want to be quoting according to your level of skill and experience.
To determine your day rate, first reach out to peers within your industry to determine going fees for your kind of creative work (you can also talk to recruiters or agencies). Once you have a ballpark figure, consider where you – realistically – fall within that bracket based on your experience.
You can also use what I call the 30% approach.
Determine the amount you want (and need) to earn in a year, add 30% (for the days you won’t be working) and divide by the number of days you estimate you’ll be working. So, for example: £60,000 + 30% = £78,000 ÷ 220 = £354 per day.
2. Production time
Hands up if you’ve ever felt guilty costing for tasks such as researching, performing audits, attending meetings and making plans or strategising that, although essential, often don’t have physical deliverables?
Production and planning time has to be factored into every quote, as it’s a crucial component of most commissions. Imagine: you’re commissioned to style a photoshoot for a brand. You have a day rate in place for the actual shoot, but, you spend 5 full days mapping out your ideas for the set, collating props, and communicating your plans to the team in regular meetings. If you forget to factor those hours into your fee, you’re doing a week’s worth of work for free.
My best advice? Ask for a thorough brief before calculating a quote for a client. Always assess the amount of creative and production time required, and make the client aware of how much time is needed for both aspects of the job. Also make them aware that if the job turns out to be bigger than what was initially communicated, you may need to increase production or creative time, or both.
And as far as meetings are concerned? I’d recommend factoring in a reasonable amount of time for client catch-ups into your fee (use your judgement to determine what’s reasonable for each piece of work), and communicating exactly when you will be available to take calls and schedule meetings. If requests for catch-ups become too frequent and are interfering with your capacity to create, notify the client that there will be a fee for meetings outside of agreed-upon hours.
If travel is involved, you might be able to claim expenses from your client to cover your train fair, car fuel, parking, tolls, and time, if the journey means that you aren’t available to take on paid work.
Be sure to clear this with your client before sending them a stark of receipts – find out exactly what they are willing to reimburse, as it might make you think twice about accepting the commission if you’ll end up out of pocket.
4. Meal expenses whilst on location
In the same respect, meals are sometimes expensed if your work involves location work and food is not provided by the client.
Again, double-check exactly what your client is willing to reimburse before agreeing to take on the commission.
5. Supplies required to complete the job you were commissioned to do
Sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget, when quoting, the small things that are essential to completing our work – the cost, of which, can add up significantly over time.
So, as a set decorator, for example, you’ll likely need paints and tools, whilst a social content creator may require memberships to online platforms such as Canva.
There are two possible ways to cover the cost of these outgoings. You can either expense the client (after first clearing it with them, of course), or you can factor supply costs into your fee to ensure you aren’t left short.
6. Overtime and amends
Repeat after me: I don’t work for free.
The reality is that sometimes creative work runs over and sometimes more rounds of amends are required to get the final piece spot on. That’s ok, but it shouldn’t be free.
The best way to avoid getting into an awkward situation where you’re expected to work additional hours or complete extra tasks for free is to have a very clear policy on overtime and amends and communicate it to the client before signing any contracts.
Set an hourly rate for any overtime that might be required and decide on a fee for additional rounds of amends (you should include one or two rounds of amends in your initial quote). That way, there’s clarity from the get-go and everybody’s on the same page.
7. Holiday, maternity or paternity pay, pension contributions, and sick pay
As freelancers, we miss out on many of the benefits of being employed. We don’t receive paid sick leave or holiday days, we don’t have our pension contributions topped up and we don’t receive a salary whilst taking maternity or paternity leave. Hence, we need to factor these things into every quote (though, they shouldn’t actually be written into your quote)
This is where the 30% method comes in really handy, as it accounts for the days you might be out of work for one reason or another.