Freelance $

SO, here is the deal:

I am being offred positions in companies to do contract or freelance work but, since i just recently graduated, i am in the dark on what i should be charging per hour and for what services.

The research and people I’ve spoken to have set me on this theory:

With 3 years design experience with different companies, (manufacturing and design consultants) a BFA in Industrial Design and a ton of experience in retail management. . .

$40/ hour for concept sketches only.
$50/ hour concept sketches and CAD data, ready-to-create SLA models (Solidworks '05)
$25/ hour for meetings, travel, misc.

All of this in the Chicagoland area, does this sound about right to you guys?

Let me know what you think? Or if anyone has advice on a completely different direction?

thanks, once again.

Sounds about right from what I’ve seen, don’t know anything about the cad though.

If it is a corporation I think you are little low. If you’re subcontracting for a consultancy then you’re about right but I wouldn’t go lower than $50 for any work or meeting time. The bottom line is if you are contributing to the process then you deserve your full rate…not a some rate based on just attending the meeting like a secretary or something. Travel is another story.

For design services I would charge between $60 and $75/hr. That includes coming up with concepts as well as sketching them. If you’re just sketching up other peoples ideas then maybe the $40 is right. The lowest rate a consultancy would charge for this type of work is around $75/hr and your are essentially replacing them.

CAD data should be higher. But, again, if you are coming up with the ideas than charge accordingly.

Don’t undercut yourself. It hurts you and everyone else in the business.

Good luck.

He just “recently graduated.”

Yes, he may be replacing the firms, yet, he’s definitely not at a level to equally replace such firms. Why would ANYONE hire a recent grad to replace a fully function design firm for the same price? Doesn’t make sense. They’re hiring him to save money. It makes sense if the freelancer is a well established, well known designer who can indeed replace an entire firm with his individual expertise.

I am not sure what you are asking. Do you have 3 years experience or are you a new grad?

Solidworks and Pro-E are tough when figuring out your hourly rate. Just like all CAD software it depends on your skill level (usually determined by how many hours you have on the particular software, i.e. 2000 hours sitting in front of a CAD station pullling out your hair) I have seen rates for this (in Chicago) anywhere from 50-150 bucks an hour. I do have one friend that charges over 200 and has lots of happy clients… but also has a MS in Mech Eng…

If you are a new grad- would say you should charge around 30 bucks an hour. (20 bucks an hours is roughly 40k a year-- freelancing you should charge more for your expenses/beni’s you are not getting as a staff employ)

But like I said- if you are a master CAD monkey with tons of hours in front of you solidworks box you can fight to charge significantly more for that exp… when you are actually spending ours churning out geometry and renderings…

Just to clear things up a bit more:

  1. “Recent Grad with 3 years experience” means that during my education I was able to do concept work for a variety of companies during the year and over the summers.

  2. I have at least 1500 to 2000 hours of experience with Solidowrks over the past years. These include products that went directly to manufacturing. Granted they were simple Injection molded parts, but nontheless, they were still at a level capable of going to manufacturing.

  3. Lastly, I am not attempting to “replace” a consulting firm. However, I am in a position where the work that I have done has received enough recognition in leading to new opportunities for new clients. The work I am doing is not at a level of most consulting firms, but it is competitive enough to gain new clients and retain older ones. This is why I am confused about how much I should be charging vs. others in my position.

The issue I have now, is that I have a degree and some experience, but are the rates accurate or are they too low?

Also, I know it is difficult to comment on work you can’t see or a person you don’t know. All I am searching for is a set of guidelines that I, as well as others, will be able to measure against.

Again, thank you for ALL of the responses thus far. As always, I am receiving a great deal of help from my peers.

OK, we are are a little touchy about the whole replacing the consulting firm thing. So we’ll take that out of the equation.

FACT-I have seen freelancers out there with 1-3 years of exp. (I’m talking fresh out of design school) charging
$40-$50 an hour to subcontract to design consultancies and others charging more to contract direct to corporations. I would shoot for this and negotiate from there. I feel $20/hr is way too low. I’ve seen interns make that much.

I don’t understand why people in this industry can’t be honest with each other and share their experiences. Everyone is so protective and jaded. Even the compensation study on this site seems bogus.

You don’t see lawyers going out of their way to justify their rates.

You really can’t put a price on a well presented concept that ends up selling X number of units and that’s a fact everyone knows but doesn’t really own up to. The ability to come up with an idea is one thing but to sketch or render or model it in a way that everyone else starts to believe in it something else. It’s completely underated. I’ve seen great ideas get shot down early because the sketch or whatever wasn’t clear.

I’ll get off the soapbox now. BTW, I’ve been freelancing full time for 4 years, been out of school 11 so I’ve seen a few things in my experiences. I charge between $75-$100/hr based on the client and if CAD involved.

Best of luck. (and I really mean that!)

I also wasn’t direct, I was saying it seemed about right for freelancing with consultancies. If working directly for a manufacturer I’d bump it up. Also think about long term bennies, ie the firm using you almost as a fulltime (with that lower rate) vs 2 days at a time for very specific things (higher rate). Are you trying to get a handle on consultant techniques, network, potential fulltime, short or long project, looking for a quick cash turnaround, etc. I think those would impact your decision. If a consultancy has 40hr/week work for you for the next 3-4 months, I wouldn’t go in asking $90/hr. But if some other place just needed your fast cad skills for an intense weekend turnaround, go for the higher one.
I just try to do what’s appropriate for the situation, if it doesn’t feel right to you it’s probably not. Good luck.

Yeah- agreed with all of the above. Don’t charge too low, but don’t charge too high. With 3 years exp. (although I suspect that some of this exp is from school co-ops) and being a new grad I suppose you could charge $40/hr for design and more for CAD. 1500 hrs in solid works would suggest that your are pretty proficient… you could justify charging 60 for that…

My thing is that when we take on freelancers… they charge based on what they can provide. If we need someone in house for a few weeks to get a project done and they are extremely efficient (ususally through years of experience doing so) and know the business… than we know that paying them 100+ an hour is worth it because it will get done on time— everything is based on speed to market. The new to the world designers have a harder time justifying why we should pay them 60 or 70 bucks an hour. (works out to 145k a year full time) How many projects can you tell your client you have finished, how long did each step take, what were the deliverables? There are sooooo many variables.

FYI- When I sit through these awful budgeting meetings people are very vocal about hiring freelancers vs taking on someone new (either new grad or new in general) If an experienced freelancer charges 100 bucks an hour and we need them for 240 hours that is 24k…for 50k we could have someone on staff all year with some exp…

I am just saying to be very careful and not burn your bridges… management knows when they have been overcharged.

seasoned pros-

the information has been very helpful, however;
there is still this huge gap in the numbers that I have not seen explained well yet-

1-“you could charge $40/hr for design and more for CAD…”
2-“…If an experienced freelancer charges 100 bucks an hour and we need them for 240 hours that is 24k…”
3-“$…40-$50 an hour to subcontract to design consultancies …”

4- another thread claims the magic hourly number for consultancies is $100! - this seems really low for exhibit design!

and everything i read leads me to a conclusion of a number that seems really high for what my exhibit design clients would be willing to pay in the sub-detroit area.but I’m new in the freelance game and I am knowingly far underpaid- at 20/hr. My work is great - several quality builds this month.

I do know this - for me to earn $45k as freelance (avg salary for 1-3yrs exp - ID /BA degree) and pay my health care/ IRA/ SS/ etc. I need to charge per design/hr $61- based on a possible 2k hours in year of which 1k are actual billable design hours / 500 hrs are adminstrative / 500 between job time /

Q:am i close with the split up of yearly hours?
Q: how much of the adminsitrative time (email/ billing/ file mgmt/) is billable
Q: can u suggest an hourly/range within 5$

your responses are much appreciated and valued-


“I don’t understand why people in this industry can’t be honest with each other and share their experiences. Everyone is so protective and jaded. Even the compensation study on this site seems bogus.”
-quote from a guest

I’d consolodate the pricing-

One rate for travel time (less $)

One rate for everything else. In fact meeting time could be equal or more than everything else- it makes the meeting more productive.

As for what to charge, first determine how much you need to make in order to live. (and remember to include payroll tax). You may find out that you need to charge more than you think. Don’t worry about approaching the rates of the consultancies- they should be well over $100 an hour.

(BTW, this is from a designer/ project manager with 13 years experience, 5 of that in Chicago.)