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Tips & Tricks

What Should You Charge Per Hour As A Freelancer? | Infographic

By Hanssie on May 30th 2015

freelanceOh, the joys of being a freelance photographer. You get to pay lots and lots of taxes and a ridiculous amount for health benefits, and you get no paid days off. On the flip side though, you work whenever and wherever you want, you get to choose who you want to work for and you’re the boss. Just like everything in life, there are pros and cons when deciding to take the leap from a salaried, full time, punch a time clock, full health benefit career to an unstable, no guarantees, famine or feast, free to do as you please career as a freelancer. When I made the leap, it was darn scary and though I would not trade the freedom for anything (except maybe health insurance, paid vacation days, and a 401k), there are days when a 9-5 paycheck looks very appealing.

Be that as it may, if you are considering leaving that boring day job position to be your own boss, there is one big question you probably have and that is, “How much should I charge?” The first question to find that answer should be, “How much do you want/need to make?”


The following informative infographic by CreativeLive, “How to Calculate Your Rate As A Freelancer,” is an easy way to find out. It works backwards from your target annual salary and leads you step-by-step to the magic number – your hourly rate. If you’re looking to quit that day job of yours, then grab a calculator and get started.

If you’re ready to take the leap and quit that hated day job of yours, then you should definitely check out Michelle Ward’s Ditch Your Day Job Class on CreativeLive June 11-12.

[Via CreativeLive Blog]

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Harry Lim

    Well, there’s one problem. As pointed out in the book “Best Business Practices for Photographers” it is not a good idea to charge per hour. Why? Because it penalizes you for efficiency which should be rewarded. Let’s say you get better and faster at your workflow. Or maybe you get a new computer which helps process images faster. You are now working less time and thus billing and earning less.

    It’s good to know your costs of doing business but charging per hour cheapens your profession. A photographer isn’t just paid for time but for creativity. Whether you shoot weddings or ads for big clients, you bring more to the table than just your time.

    Let’s not forget that whatever you charge, you still have to pay taxes on it. As a freelancer that’s 15.3% self employment tax on top of your income tax.

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    • Mike o’dwyer

      The flaw with that argument, harry, is that not everyone charges the same per hour rate – if that was the case I’d agree with you. The more successful you are the higher your hourly rate can be, so you can either work fewer hours to have the same income or work the same hours and earn more if you put up your hourly rate. An hourly rate lets can be changed according to your needs, help you find a work life balance. From feedback I’ve received clients like the per hour system rather than looking at packages, their main response being that it helps them work out budgets more accurately. It also stops our commercial clients expecting us to work twelve hours (due to their ever changing ideas) based on a fixed price that might only cover 8…we’ll happily work through the night if we need to, just as long as they’ll happily pay us to do so.

      I started off 18 months ago as a photographer with an hourly rate of €125ph just to get work in and build up a quick portfolio, now it varies between €175ph and €200ph depending on the time of year – standard processing would be included in that, but not retouching, prints or albums. I don’t work every day of the week, and I supplement my income with occasional work on local farms (which is minimum wage, but I enjoy it), but I’m just about where I want to be in terms of keeping things sustainable and enjoyable – far more so than in any office job I ever had.

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  2. Kesavan VBK

    That is well one well illustrated and nicely done hourly rate calculator, it is really so helpful :) cheers

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  3. Rafael Steffen

    Great and easy tips on how to reach the number most of us are trying to figure out.

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  4. Yankel Adler

    should of embedded the sheet
    took me time to find the link

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  5. Thomas Horton

    These are the scary numbers people need to understand when being lured by the fantasy of self-employment.

    And now comes the hard part: Convincing a potential customer that your work is worth $70.00 per hour. The customer does not care about your expenses. What the customer cares about is the product. That’s a tough sell these days.

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    • Mike o’dwyer

      Your portfolio is what’s going to get your foot in the door, but after that it’s down to you. I don’t think the numbers are scary based on wanting a 70k salary, and there will be big variations depending on where you live/work and what you envisage as comfortable in terms of earnings.

      It’s not that the client doesn’t care about your expenses, the client doesn’t care about you AT ALL: it’s business, they’re not your friend. If you let them dictate what you charge you’ve given up control; the ones who work you hard on price are generally the ones who are most difficult to work with.

      If you can’t sell yourself at the hourly rate you need to, within a year or two of setting up in business, then you need to take a hard look at what you’re doing. Either you’re being unrealistic or you’re just not good enough.

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  6. Mike o’dwyer

    As is stated in the article one of the advantages of being freelance is the freedom to work when you want, a better work/life balance. If you want more time off, or want to allow for times when you won’t be as busy, then you need to reduce the number of available billable hours from the suggested 1400. Working one day a week less is the equivalent of a 20% reduction is available billable working hours, and that’s aside from all the other things that can suck what’s billable out of available working hours.

    Personally, I would reduce the 1,400 yearly available working hours by somewhere between 20% and 40%, unless you’re well established and have a regular amount of billable work from loyal clients. That means upping your hourly rate, which should help keep things sustainable over the long term

    Also, at the end of every month do a count of hours billed and hours worked, because some projects will be fixed fee based. Over time you’ll see which months are ‘famine’ and which are ‘feast’, and that will help you understand where you need to work harder at getting business in.

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  7. Brandon Dewey

    thanks for the links

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