Freelance Rates Survey, 2011

Background

When I was made redundant in February and looked towards working freelance full-time I wasn’t sure what to charge. I’d done freelance work in evenings for a few years and had a rough idea what I needed and what I wanted to charge. Some folks agreed the rate I had thought I would charge whilst others said I was under-charging but I found there was very little to support this. We just don’t talk openly about what we charge as a profession.

With this in mind I hosted a survey for a fortnight inviting freelance people in the UK that work in the web to provide some broad demographic data (age, location, skillset) and an indication of what they charge per day.

There was a pretty good response to the survey and I published the summary results as a table but felt there were some obvious biases in the data so reopened the survey for another week in September where we got a rather portentious total of 404 responses.

I’d been sitting on all this data and struggling to find some time to do anything with it until Practical day at the Build conference in Belfast last week.
So armed with a spreadsheet and no internet connection I sat down to do some number-crunching. The results were quite interesting.

Methodology

My first regret was having free text fields in the survey.
There was a lot of data that needed cleaning and some folk had clearly put hourly rate instead of day-rate. As a rule I multiplied anything that was explicitly hour-rate by 7.5 whilst anything under £100 I removed as I felt this could not easily be distinguished between daily and hourly rate.

With my earlier survey results I had made a big mistake by using Mean to provide a broad average of day-rates across the UK.
With these results I have instead opted for Median which should limit the impact of extreme outliers, for example two responses with a large day-rate amongst the small number of responses from Wales.

Below is a series of tables summarising day-rates according to various demographic criteria, showing the number of responses, minimum, maximum and average (median) day-rate for each demographic group.

Results

By Age

Group Count Min (£) Max (£) Average (£)
15-19 5 100 200 140
20-24 51 100 800 250
25-29 119 100 525 280
30-34 116 150 675 290
35-39 64 170 800 317.50
40-44 24 115 650 320
45+ 12 120 1200 425

By Skillset

Group Count Min (£) Max (£) Average (£)
Design 67 120 1000 300
Developer 169 100 800 280
Mixture 157 112.50 1200 300

By Years Experience

Group Count Min (£) Max (£) Average (£)
0-1 9 140 320 200
2-3 42 100 700 200
4-5 73 100 800 250
6-7 70 145 525 300
8-9 29 150 525 275
10-11 84 150 700 300
12-13 40 220 1200 320
14-15 29 115 800 350
16-17 8 250 420 372.50
18+ 4 200 600 475

By Location

Group Count Min (£) Max (£) Average (£)
East of England 8 160 520 250
East Midlands 17 150 525 300
London 53 150 675 350
North East 17 150 500 275
South East 68 100 700 300
South West 60 100 500 258
Wales 12 160 1200 275
West Midlands 16 160 525 337.50
Yorkshire & Humber 33 115 800 250
North West 36 120 500 250
Northern Ireland 18 112.50 525 270
Scotland 55 100 800 280

The findings

Generally speaking the average rate varies around £300/day with West Midlands and London above average but noticeably lower rates in the North West, Yorkshire and Humber, East of England and the South West.

As you’d expect the day-rate tends to increase with age and experience, although the upper ends of these ranges feature a relatively low number of responses so this data is probably less useful. There is also a general trend towards designers charging more than developers, although these categories are quite ambiguous (for example I didn’t make a distiction between front-end and back-end developers).

How about something useful?

I’d been chatting with Paddy Donnelly about doing something useful with the data for a while and at Build he suggested some kind of interactive tool so that people could calculate their day-rate against a number of criteria.

The result was a day or so of number-crunching and pixel-pushing to craft a simple, one-page tool to calculate your day-rate at fraq.info (yes the name is rubbish but we were on a tight deadline to get to the pub). The resource comes with a large pinch of salt but hopefully will provide a useful tool for those who have very little idea about what they should be charging as a freelancer.

I’ve already had a number of people saying that they feel they were undercharging with the tool giving them something to measure against and if we can open up an honest and transparent dialogue about what we as charge then we can only grow as a discipline.

Summary

Hopefully the survey and results are of some fleeting interest.
Happy to chat further about this, here or on twitter – thinking I might open this up annually to see if we can start looking at data across time.

And if you want to do something yourself with the data then please feel free to download a copy of the results here: http://db.tt/7kwb4t0M (attribution of source with a link back to this article would be greatly appreciated).

Also, A List Apart are carrying out an annual survey for people who make websites. If the above has interested you and you care about your profession please take time to complete the survey at http://surveyapart.polldaddy.com/s/ala2011

Comments

Please add your thoughts …

You can use Textile

Fantastic, really useful stuff.

The only variable I’d like to suggest for the future would be length of contract; I reckon discounting for long contracts and surcharging for short ones is reasonably common. Of course, there’s always danger money too…

Its uncanny, the results are pretty bang on for each criteria for me. Just need to up my rate now with ALL my clients. Good stuff

Really interesting. Nice to see that there isn’t a big difference by location.

I would like to see skillset broken down more if you do run it annually.

Thanks Cole, really useful information. Looking at the rate calculator I should be charging about twice what I am now. I’ve been planning to increase my rates from the new year but not by that much (I don’t think my current clients would like it).

I might use the trick of doubling my rates on a Friday though (maybe just once a month).

It’s great to see this information, as you mention it’s something people are pretty secretive over. And those who do publise it are much more high profile and thus charge way more than most could anyway.

Great article and the tool is a great indicator on how much we should charge. I too have been charging waaaay too low :) Thanks!

Great insight and something that will make my use of outsourcing a little more competitve.

Fantasic resource.

Great idea, and really interesting results!

I have one comment though (and it’s relatively minor in the overall scheme of things, given this is a fantastic “kick-off” piece of work) – I’m not really sure about combining results on a regional/country basis. For example, the results for “Scotland” as a whole may be misleading. I don’t work freelance, but I would hazard a guess that rates per day in Edinburgh and Glasgow are possibly slightly higher than those charged by provincial freelancers in, say, Dundee or Stirling. I’d even go further to suggest that rates in Edinburgh would be more comparable to those in the south east of England (although I have no hard evidence, so I may be talking rubbish!).

Therefore, if you’re planning on running this again in the near future, I wonder if it would be more appropriate to do it by postcode rather than region?

That said, well done for taking the initiative!

This is a useful article, and it’s great to see a broader look at what is being charged across the country.

You brought up undercharging, and I feel your calculator is giving out numbers that are well below what they should be.

Take me for example. I’m 19, live in Cardiff and have 3 years experience in web development. The rate your calculator gives me is £88, when I actually charge £200.

Another example, a 25-29 year old, with 6-7 years experience gives a day rate of £265. Getting better but surely someone with that much experience should be charging more?

I realise your calculator should be taken with a grain of salt, and by no means do you say “this is what you should charge” but if someone comes along, types their details into the calculator and sees a low number, they might start charging that.

This sounds really negative but charging is and always has been a sore spot to talk about, I’ve no idea why but people shouldn’t be undercharging when they can get decent rates.

On the other hand, maybe I’m not the average 19 year old, in regards to experience etc.

Anyways, nice article, hope to see this poll around again some time so I can fill in my details.

Well done. The survey was great and it’s useful not only for people of you profession but also for those seeking your services. To have a general idea for how much to pay.
Also it was quite surprising for me to unveil that designers tend to charge more than developers.

Thanks for taking the time to collate/publish this Cole, it’s incredibly useful to see UK-centric figures.

Like one of the commenters above I also missed adding in my data, but if you run this on an ongoing basis, or annually, no doubt awareness will increase and you’ll get more responses and even more accurate data.

I would second Simon Rudkin’s suggestion above to ask for rates when dealing with clients direct vs ongoing/agency work, I suspect there would be a significant difference.

Cheers.

UK-centric figures? Brilliant – thanks! Not surprised that I’m still charging less than average, but it’s good to know how far below average. Still, my closest match in age/location/skillset etc. seems to be the guy in Wales charging 1200 a day. I’m guessing he sells mainly to public-sector, at that rate. Might be worth a breakdown by target market too, as I think most of us are aiming for SME’s.

Wow! looks like I have been underselling myself! The open dialogue between web freelancers needs to expand. the more sensible discussion we have as an industry the more suitable products we can develop for the clients.

This is fantastically useful – thank you.

It’s good not just from a ‘what to charge’ basis, but also incredibly helpful for those of us that have to hire freelancers, or put together budgets. I’ve worked in some companies that are used to hiring in ‘old media’ freelancers, and their expectations of rates are worryingly low in many cases.

Selfishly, I’d love to see the roles broken out a bit more, by development role and skills (front? back? iOS? .net? python?) and design skills (UX? Graphics? Animation?) – and there are other roles that would be useful, too: copywriters, project managers, Tech PMs, Game Designers, Sysadmins…

I’d also love to have a ‘rate you charge / rate you’re charged out at’ column, if people know that. It’s where the margin is for agencies, and was a massive shock to me when I first saw the differentials…

Wow. I thought freelance in UK is paid better especially in London where the living costs are so high.

Here in Germany, the rates for senior developers are between 60-100€. In cities like Frankfurt oder Munich they start at about 75€-85€/hour and living costs are still lower than in LDN.

300 GBP = 350 EUR / 8 = 43,75€/h

You should think about moving to Germany ;-)

I’ve noticed a couple of comments saying they should be charging more – well do!! Everyone should be charging more or less the same rate otherwise the price of what we do will come down. Electricians and plumbers (ie professional services) charge £45 per hour – we should be too!

I was aware of the fact that my rates are below avarage – which is also intended (i have no office costs, im young etc), but i had no idea that i was that much below the average for my own age group.

Really useful stuff!

Great survey idea and interesting results!
I agree with Suren Sarukhanyan with the statement: “Also it was quite surprising for me to unveil that designers tend to charge more than developers.”
Thank you for fantastic work!
By the way you can use an online survey tool by dotSurvey to create your surveys, that’s really great!

Thanks very much for taking the time to create and share this. I have been looking for something like this for a while so it was very useful. Thanks, Andy.

Really interesting data. Being a digital recruiter specialising in design, I would agree with the findings but also, as mentioned by others, add length of contract and client/agency side next time as these can really change flexibility of asking rates. Good findings though, well done.

Like some others on here, I’m also surprised to see some of the figures mentioned here. Perhaps I’m underselling myself, perhaps it’s the current states of the economy, but I think I’d struggle to charge such a high rate with the vast majority of my clients. In my recent experience, most agencies / companies / clients seem to be looking more around the £100-£200 per day mark.

Great guide for those that have taken redundancy route. Would be interested to see the age range of developers versus designers. Could it be that young developers charge less than older, more experienced designers?

This is excellent, I’m a recent college graduate and I was absolutely clueless and without any confidence to ask as much as ‘£96 per day’, this has helped greatly. Although maybe I’ll lower it slightly just to get going haha… Thank you very much for taking the time to create such a resource!

Brad

This is very interesting, great info. I think Harry makes a good point, online surveys can be effectively used and not many people know of them. Smart-Survey is another UK based tool.

Really interesting survey and quite valuable for any graphic designer. I work in graphic design belfast and it is nice to see Northern Ireland included in this survey. The average by location is also an interesting statistic to study. It is good to see not too much of a difference in average by location.

Using too many open ended text questions is a common mistake used within online questionnaires.

The results can be unreliable, and if too many are used, the respondent can be put off completing the survey.

Hi Cole,
We’ve just been appointed Elance mobilizer for the Northwest, its a free jobs board(free to join and free to bid/quote). We’ll be organising meetups and presentations to show people how to get the most out of it and offer support. Let me know if you’re interested in attending,
regards
https://www.elance.com/p/crp/manchester/daniel

Dear Tom. I think you are absolutely right. Using open ended questions does create unreliable answers in most online questionnaires. But some can benefit from it, creating conversation rather then trying to shape the study result into a desired collection of circumstances. The respondents however, have to be more than little engaged to fully collaborate with such styles of questionnaires, unfortunately. The topic needs to be juicy!

Really useful info you have here, great post. Freelance prices can be a mine field for clients, maybe there should be a universal rate? would be hard to regulate though I guess.