How Much Are You Worth? Pricing as a Freelancer

Pricing as a freelancer can be tricky.

My first TV commission was for a documentary on Channel 4. I worked out that my hourly rate was about 23p. There was also the understanding that, because this was my first gig, if the music was shit, they wouldn’t use it… and I wouldn’t get paid. 

I took the hit because it was an amazing opportunity and I had zero experience. It worked out really well and to this day, was one of my favourite TV gigs.

How much is your time worth? 

This is essentially the question that most people are asking themselves when they are pricing as a freelancer. 

what are you worth - times vs moneyBut more than that, you are asking what your years of training and practice are worth. To simply look at “time” ignores the fact that you might have studied piano for the last ten years of your life, or spent tens of thousands of pounds on an education.

So going back to my first TV job, today I would do it very differently. But how I would do it today, is a product of all the jobs I’ve done since. 

Today I would charge a lot more. Partly because I’m better at what I do, but also there is less risk for the client in having someone with my experience composing for them. 

Pricing High

A misconception is always that if you price high, you’ll be too expensive and people won’t hire you. However, when I hired someone to do some marketing for me, and they told me their day rate was £400, my first reaction was “Wow, they must be good.” 

So why can’t people think that about you if you set your rate high?

If your rate is too high for someone, then you need to ask whether that person is actually your target audience. 

Higher rates and limited availability, are generally indicators of someone being good at what they do. 

As Seth Godin points out in “This is Marketing”, price is a story. So people will make assumptions about you based on how much you charge.  

Working for Free?

Working for free when you are starting out is a way to get work and generate contacts. It can also be dangerous, as you become known as the person who will do things for free. 

People will generally exploit that for as long as they can. And then when they have a budget, they’ll go to the person that they couldn’t previously afford. Unless of course you have blown them away, and going elsewhere is unthinkable.

When you are starting out, It’s the old chicken and egg problem. How do you win the job without experience and how do you get the experience if you can’t get the job.

For that reason, if you’re starting out, I think it’s good practice to take a hit on the first few jobs in order to get the experience. Those credits will give you the credibility you need to charge more for subsequent jobs.

I priced low to begin with and I always went above and beyond. Then once I had proven myself and developed a relationship, I increased my rate.

If someone values your work then they shouldn’t have a problem with this. If they do have a problem with it, then you need to ask whether you want to work with a client like that. 

How to: Pricing as a Freelancer

I’m conscious that up to now I’ve not offered any real concrete steps to follow when pricing as a freelancer. I’m intentionally avoiding this as there are no hard and fast rules. All I can offer is my own approach. 

I tend to price the project, rather than using a day rate. However, I use a day rate as a metric to gauge whether or not I’m earning what I feel I’m worth. So if it will take me one day and I think I’m worth £500 per day, the project costs £500. 

If it takes five days I wouldn’t necessarily charge £2,500. I might build in some economies of scale to recognise the fact that someone is booking my time in bulk. 

I’m also going to factor in elements such as the value to the business. 

If an agency want bespoke music for a promotional film that could make them millions of pounds, my rate will reflect that. Conversely, if I’m working for a charity, I will adjust my rate accordingly. 

Sometimes the easiest question to ask is what a client’s budget is. If a client understands how much money they are prepared to put toward a project you can then guide them as to what’s possible for that fee. 

Happy Freelancing

About Me: I’m a freelance music producer and composer.

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