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Ask YC: What are the going rates for consulting gigs?
78 points by iamelgringo on May 6, 2008 | hide | past | favorite | 105 comments
I'm wondering if people have any sense of what consulting gigs are paying these days. I'm sure that the pay rate varies by geography, industry, computer language and technology.

My primary interest is in hearing what LAMP, Django and RoR gigs are paying, but I'd also love to hear what DB consultants are making as well.

* edit *

Okay, I just want to clarify my question a little. Despite what people may infer, I'm not asking "How much can I charge?" I'm career changing, and I worked contract work as an ER/ICU nurse for 8 years. Nurses in the contract biz were pretty free and open with hourly salaries and living allowance ranges. I'm assuming (perhaps wrongly) that there is a similar culture in the software world.

I am asking for a rough ball-park. I'm looking for a range that people are making from "Oh, my God, they got screwed and will be eating ramen for months." to "I can't she had the balls to ask for that rate."

Not knowing the tech contracting business too well, I'm just asking for a lay of the land. If this is a taboo subject.... my bad. Please disregard.

I don't know why people are dancing around this issue. I'll name some dollar amounts for you. As a LAMP consultant, I charged $100/hr. USD take-home and worked W-2. I'm now looking to get into independent (non-W2) consulting and will be charging from $50-$100/hr. USD on a sliding scale based on the type of work and the ability of the client to pay. Not all small businesses can pony up $100/hr., but mid-to-large corporate clients certainly can. Database tuning gigs can see $250-$300+ hr., but that's a very specialized skill set. You'll need to determine the going rate for your market and start out in the middle of it. If you go to low, you sell yourself short and look cheap (which can sometimes give the illusion of poor quality). If you aim too high, you price yourself out of the market.

Good luck!

Here are my numbers:

I do project management, usability, and generally make sure everything is on track - so it might not be exactly what you're looking for. But for what it's worth I charge $150 an hour, and can be negotiated down to around $100 if it's more than 2-300 hours.

My experience is that you shouldn't sell yourself too cheaply, since your customers then will regard you as being not very good at what you do.

You said,

"My experience is that you shouldn't sell yourself too cheaply"


"can be negotiated down to around $100"

My experience is that I don't negotiate. About half my prospects offer something lower. I usually say something like, "I don't compromise my rates and I don't compromise my work." Most of them accept. But it's OK, even if they don't. Just never allow yourself to be in the position where you have to negotiate because you need the gig so badly.

Yes, I know people that never negotiate their price, and it seems to work for them. But if I get a job that lasts for 3 months I am willing to cut on my price, since it means that I have to spend less time getting new gigs. And at an hourly rate of $100 it will still make me $16.000 a month which I think is pretty decent.

OK, I misunderstood.

Presenting a lower price is not the same as presenting your customary price and then reducing it after a negotiation.

If you do go too low, remember one important thing: your value increases as you get to know their system. After x months, raise your rates. You'll still be a bargain over someone new because there's no learning curve.

Rates go up for everything else, why not you too?

I do a lot of PHP work in Austin, TX. I charged my very first client $65/hour. I was pretty excited about that at the time (whoa, someone will pay me $65/hour!). Then I realized that this was very cheap to many businesses, and saw how much many "agencies" were charging to complete a project. I then got a couple more clients and raised this to $75, then $95, and still haven't had anyone turn me down. Most people would say that means to charge more, but I haven't done this yet...

If you can find a few good clients that pay consistently and are really cool to work with, you can make a really good living working about 20 hours/week, especially if you live in a city where the costs aren't outrageous. As said above, you need to talk to a lot of people. As edw519 said above, if you do consulting and talk to enough people, it's surprising how you feel as though you "luck out" and get some good, well paying work.

Sorry, you are not going to get away with it that easy. This is like going up to that hot girl you have been eyeballing and saying "I really want to go through the whole dating process because I really don't understand it, can we just skip all that and get straight to serious relationship?"

This question is nearly impossible to answer and a very personal decision. Nobody here can tell you how much you are worth. For example, am I doomed to crap rates just because I live in the Philippines? No (sorry danohuiginn!)

Figure out how much money you want to make and how many hours you want to work. Remember that you cannot get eight billable hours out of an eight hour day.

As a "consultant" you are running a business. Asking other people how much your rates should be is not a business question, that is a programmers question. You are asking like this is some sort of algorithm you can plug into your code. You need to tweak your mindset a bit.

Edit: How to get consulting work.

Build your brand and visibility. Pick a community (get a bonus for picking one frequented by paying clients) and establish yourself as an authority. Create an open source project which you can point to which shows you know what you are doing.

Network! The area in which I am has more work than there are people available yet there is likely no shortage of people who would love to break in. The reason for this paradox is that I only work with people in my network.

All the freelancers I know are overworked. Often any one of them need help and I can't help them because I am overworked as well. Get to know other developers who are freelancing and ask them if they know anyone who needs a hand.

It's all about that recognizable and trusted brand!

"Remember that you cannot get eight billable hours out of an eight hour day."

This is an extremely important point. When I was freelancing, I was surprised by just how much non-billable overhead time I had (at least 5-10 hours a week when working with 3 clients). To reduce overhead, work with as few clients as possible. But you'll run into dead time that way, since jobs don't start on a dime.

I know a guy who has freelanced for 5 years and kept meticulous records. He knows what he's doing, but says every year he tops out at about 60% of his time being billable. Make sure you factor that into your rate.

It's really easy to take your rate and multiply by 40, thinking that's your weekly salary. This is pretty much never the case.

Also, don't forget taxes.

"every year he tops out at about 60% of his time being billable"

Another general guideline is to estimate 1,000 hours of billable work (which makes it easy to calculate an hourly rate for some amount of desired annual earnings).

"Also, don't forget taxes."

Definitely don't forget the taxes, especially estimated payments. Consider that 40% of that money, once deposited, isn't yours and is untouchable, and you'll be better off.

Just curious since I haven't done freelancing yet... how do you determine what is billable vs. non-billable? If 60% of your time is billable then what constitutes the other 40%? I know part of it is looking for new work. What else?

It depends on how you bill (hourly vs day vs project) -- but there are many things that are obviously non-billable, because they are not for any client (e.g. doing your taxes/administrative for your business, buying office supplies, and every other little thing that isn't directly tied to the end product you're providing to clients).

Another big time sink (that I didn't realize) is all the work that's involved with even setting up a contract or freelance relationship. Depending on the client, you can spend weeks waiting / working out details before the project begins. This is why longer projects are more valuable (and can be billed at a lower rate) -- since there's always some fixed overhead per project.

In practice this is almost always easy to determine. For any given day, you log the hours against a client that you did something for the client. "Something" doesn't always equal coding - it could be meetings, setting stuff up, responding to e-mails, etc. For any given hour you bill, just ask yourself "If a contractor charged me for this hour of activity, would it make me - as a customer - freak out?" If the answer is yes, don't bill.

Also, I will often not bill some hours for clients that have given me a lot of work over the years.

In addition to what the others mentioned, there's also paperwork (such as my nemesis, filing); the time you spend running to OfficeMax to buy a new chair or a box of paper; the time spent looking for medical insurance (and being aghast at what it costs for an individual); "casual" contacts that sometimes can be transformed into business networking but don't, always; doing your invoicing and bookkeeping (most freelancers I know are terrible at this). And that's just off the top of my head.

I spent years as a sysop of the CompuServe Computer Consultant's forum. I'm kind of familiar with this stuff. <g>

Much of this is obvious. Some of it could go either way though. The obvious stuff is regular business tasks such as billing, marketing, distractions (turn off that IM!) dealing with email and things like that. It all really adds up.

All the freelancers I know are overworked. Often any one of them need help and I can't help them because I am overworked as well.

Not to be obtuse, but if everyone is overworked, why don't they charge a little bit more so that there is less demand and therefore a more reasonable workload?

Is there perhaps a fixed ceiling above which no one will pay? Or do clients get angry if you keep changing your prices to meet market conditions? Or do companies in your line of work only hire consultants for projects in crisis, such that the only work available consists of high work loads over short periods of time?

Sure, they probably need to. I probably need to also. I'm actually somewhat new to freelancing so I am still doing a lot of adjusting.

Perhaps a lot of freelancers have a hard time asking for higher rates. Pricing is a difficult subject.

   Remember that you cannot get eight billable hours out of an eight hour day.
You can (and do) if you go on-site, and you can if you actually work eight hours for a single client in any capacity.

You can't bill for doing your office paperwork, promotion, eating lunch and such, but that's not part of an 8 hour "work" day (like your commute isn't part of your work day either).

Depending on the client, you can bill for commute (or travel) time. Make sure this is clear though before you start doing it, you don't want to create ill will.

Sure, some are able to get a better ratio of billable to non billable hours than others. Dealing with fewer clients in one day helps this. The point still remains. You have to take the down time to maintain your business at some point and you have to plan for that when you are figuring out what you need to keep food on the table.

That is very true. However, I would suggest that anyone in that position would not include this necessary legwork within their "eight hours a day." If you have several hours of non billable maintenance to do, it should not be a central part of your work day, which should be entirely billable.

"How to Set Your Hourly Consulting Rate": http://30sleeps.com/blog/2007/09/27/set-your-hourly-rate/

and another one from Michael Hartl, "How I can charge so much":


I've done consulting on the microsoft stack and I got between $50/hr and $75/hr on short term gigs. I was also considered on the cheap side by the people who hired me. I think price is greatly determined by whether you're coming from a company or you're an individual. Customers will pay a consulting firm $150-$200/hr or more because they are also buying someone to blame if the project goes wrong. An individual is not going to see that amount. My advice would be to market yourself as a consulting company, even if that is just some of your friends loosely affiliating yourselves with one another. You will get higher rates that way. Another way to higher rates is to have a business domain(s) that you can be considered knowledgeable in. Domain knowledge will separate you from the pack when someone is price shopping, and that knowledge or experience really does make you much more valuable and efficient.

"they are also buying someone to blame if the project goes wrong" ^_^ sorry had to say it again...

I am asking for a rough ball-park. I'm looking for a range that people are making from "Oh, my God, they got screwed and will be eating ramen for months." to "I can't she had the balls to ask for that rate." [...] If this is a taboo subject.... my bad.

It's not taboo, it's a great question. Several answers already posted are excellent, but I'll add another. In the market I work in, for independent contractors:

"Oh, my God, they got screwed" => anything less than $40/hr

"I can't [believe?] she had the balls to ask for that rate." => $150/hr or higher

Of course it depends, blah blah blah, but you did say ballpark.

For deciding what you should ask, Jerry Weinberg has a great piece of advice: set your rate so that you're happy either way. That is, not so low that you're unhappy if they say yes, and not so high that you're unhappy if they say no.

Now that I think of it, get Weinberg's Secrets of Consulting and read it. It may save you all kinds of trouble. In case you don't know him, Weinberg was part of the very first generation of programmers, and later became known for his work on human factors on software projects. A lot of his stuff is good, but Secrets of Consulting is a must-read, I think, for any hacker who wants to do consulting work to pay the bills.

Good luck!

Absolutely agree on Secrets of Consulting. It was a major revelation to me when I was first starting out.

Another question is: How do you even find consulting gigs?

This is how recruiters do it: http://computerconsultants.yuku.com/reply/2987/t/A-fascinati...

In other words, it's more about sales skills than technical ability.

Network, network, network, network, network! (Sorry, I cannot overemphasize this.) You are your own marketing department. All the time. No, you don't have to be one of those Amway pests, but don't be afraid to say what you do and to volunteer your opinion about something computer related. You're not doing it to get business; you're doing it because that's who you are. Even if nothing happens now, it could 6 months later. You never stop networking, no matter how busy you are now.

A few examples:

- Hung out with the same guy at Tuesday night Bible study for 3 years. One day he said, "I heard you tell someone you know something about computers. My company needs software for our factory. Do you know anything about that?" Turned into 50K over the next 6 months.

- Went to an industry dinner/speaker event. The stranger next to me asked what I did. I told him. He asked if I ever did <xyz>. Before I could answer, my partner joked, "That's how we made our first million." The stranger said, "How'd you like to make your second million?" We talked all night and started work 2 days later. 20K in 2 months. All from a joke.

- A contractor friend got a great full time job. She asked me to "take over" her maintenance accounts (3 of them). Many thousands part time over the next 3 years.

- Had another friend who I met for lunch once a month for years. She always talked about her job. One day, she suddenly had to move out of state for personal reasons. I emailed her employer, telling what I did (which was exactly what they had her doing). Turned into 4 years of work.

- Met my aunt's next door neighbor while sitting on her porch. My aunt said, "Eddie's into computers." He said he had a friend who owned a pawn shop with a computer running Windows that "froze" every day at 3:00, their busiest hour. He was going nuts. (Licking my chops), I said I could look into it. A 6 month gig with all new cool software (not Windows).

- Went to a Monday Night Football party. A friend of a friend who owned a small distribution company said the bank wouldn't lend them any more money until they computerized their inventory. After 3 months of me (for $20K), they were able to borrow $300K. Pretty good deal for everyone.

- A friend was offered a 6 month gig in Detroit for $60/hour. He didn't want to move to Detroit. I took it. Got an efficiency for $400/month, drove my own car there, and dialed in to my other clients. 6 months later, moved home. Not a bad deal.

- Had another friend who owned a small software house. (Didn't know it until I knew him for over a year). He coded everything with linked lists because he didn't know anything about databases. I converted all his software to DBMS over a 6 month period. Again, everyone happy.

I could go on and on, but you kinda get the picture. And I haven't even touched on the web stuff.

The demand still far outweighs the supply for good software. If you know what you're doing (a big assumption), there's millions of people who need what you do. So get out there and talk to them!

>He said he had a friend who owned a pawn shop with a computer

Unethical to aid a pawn shop, especially if you are a Christian. But hey, who am I to judge.

Edit: pawn shops are unethical from a Christian viewpoint, as they charge interest. And the parent said he was doing Bible study. But again, who am I to give advice on such topics as an heathen. Just downmod and show me I'm wrong.

"It should be noted that no ethically-trained software engineer would ever consent to write a DestroyBaghdad procedure. Basic professional ethics would instead require him to write a DestroyCity procedure, to which Baghdad could be given as a parameter."


:-) [This is a joke. I have no comment about the issue being discussed.]

Seriously - ovi256 is now down to -15 in karma, and (as far as I remember in regard to the modding system) can't even comment anymore. Just because he thinks it's unethical to own a pawnshop. His other comments are fine. Would you PLEASE vote the poor guy up a bit.

I don't mind burning karma doing this, I've got plenty to spare. This is just wrong.

Don't feel too bad about it. If ovi256 really can't comment, ovi257 can pick up the usury/pawnshop debate where he left off.

that's a yc urban legend actually, an editor needs to kill your account for it to be killed. It just so happens that by the time someone reaches negative karma an editor has usually killed their account.

OK thanks for clearing it up. I just hope that ovi256 doesn't get his account killed because of this.

He should be ok, the editors are relatively benevolent.

The history of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usury is actually pretty neat.

I agree, but I'm not at all surprised.

Regardless of viewpoint, introducing religion into an online discussion usually results in pointless, voluminous arguments that enrage a few and bore the rest.

Sorry, what? Pawn shops are unethical?

For a Christian, they are, as they charge interest. And the parent said he was doing Bible study.

Very few Christians take that stance on interest today. Most haven't for at least 400 years.

Interestingly, the issue was resolved in the 1490s for the Catholic Church with the discovery of the New World. The expeditions required financing and the financing entailed interest. The explorers were painting pictures of golden cities, boundless riches and fountains of youth, somehow the church managed to magically resolve the interest issue.

That was the point I was trying to raise. The Catholic Church was very liberal, when financial interests were at bay. All Western churches inherited its corrupted moral base.

Edit: and the downmods restart. I would like to see some arguments against my remark. Something with more substance, besides obvious re-statements and appeals to number such as 'but everybody does it'. I thought HN visitors would be familiar with proper refutation and rhetoric, and that pg's How to Disagree was by now widely known. BTW, it's here: http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html

If you were trying to raise a point, you utterly failed. On two counts:

a. Your argument was vague and lacked proper distinctions. It was so to the point of being annoying and insulting the intelligence of people with even a vague understanding of history. If you want to make a point, at least be clear about it.

b. It was off topic and out of place. There was a very good discussion on how to make a living off of consulting going on and you had to distract from it with your personal pet peeves with Christians. If you want to start a debate, get your own thread.

I don't know about the merits of the argument; I'll grant you the logic, as most people here would. It's just that people are rightfully fearful of what pro/con religious remarks can have on the quality of conversation here.

Actually, it had more to do with centuries of corruption in the banking system and the eventual realization that prohibitions against 'usury' were a. ill defined and b. unenforceable.

For a history on the subject, read "Money, Bank Credit, and Economic Cycles", by Jesus Huerta de Soto.

Well, the parent could be Jewish and studying the Hebrew Bible. And historically, Jews were able to do very well for themselves because of the Christian's irrational prohibition of loaning money with interest. I didn't know there were many people left that still had such primitive beliefs.

It makes me wonder if you actually believe what you are saying or if you're just saying it to elicit a response. Hopefully it's the second, the first one would be sad.

Come on guys - modding down is OK, but -12? It's an opinion, not a charge on someones children.

Wow, I'm surprised too. I'm betting it's not the normal crowd -- or it has grown much larger over the past month?

Really - what is going on here? -29 for some batty comment about Christians and pawn shops? I would have voted it down to -1 too, but come on folks. We've always reserved big downvotes only for offensive, insulting trolls, not things that were in some way "wrong". A -1 or 0 is sufficient to indicate that.

This is not just wrong, but stupid. You don't have to be well versed in Christianity to know that most Christian sects have long since rethought their positions on usury. Most Christians take offense when people insinuate that they still believe in Geocentrism or something like that and this is very similar.

But you are right, the comment is rather batty and I don't think the fellow meant anything by it.

I have watched in both amusement and horror at what's developed below my post from earlier today. Didn't know where else to put this observation, so I thought I'd hang it here if you don't mind, astine.

As one who takes something away from this board every day, I was excited to contribute something from personal experience. Interestingly, this was also the #1 question posed to me over Startup School weekend.

I included these examples (my aunt's front porch, the dinner, and yes, Bible study) to show that business can come from anywhere, anyplace, and at any time, even when you least expect it. As I entered these examples, I wondered what, if any, discussion would ensue. Little did I know...

So today I got 2 big surprises, this thread and a little number deep inside a nested iteration that's been spewing bad data for 2 1/2 years now. What a day.

[Hate to disappoint, but the most interesting thing about the pawn shop project was converting their old data without knowledge of the original author's 25 year old compression algorithm. A subject for another day, I suppose...]

>Most Christians take offense when people insinuate that they still believe in Geocentrism or something like that and this is very similar.

I beg to digress, if you care to discuss it. It is not similar. Geocentrism is a theory of the world and was abandoned in the view of newly discovered undisputable facts. The prohibition on usury is a moral judgement, an axiom of a moral system, not a theory or view of the world, and as such cannot be changed by facts. I thought that difference was obvious. It is furthermore closely related to generosity and the sin of greed. Modern sects have abandoned this prohibition simply for convenience, thus completely changing their moral framework, and they have nothing to do with the original Christians.

I sorry if you misunderstand; of course there is a difference. However, what is similar is what is important. Geocentrism and a strict understanding of usury are both beliefs that Christians once subscribed to, in a world largely devoid of secular people who disagreed, and have since been abandoned. Almost no Christians hold these views anymore. In spite of this, they are still commonly brought up as examples of backwardness by adherents to secularist philosophies that came to exist centuries after these beliefs had been abolished. Neither are any more relevant to a discussion of Christianity in general, than Communism is to secularism in general.

The fact is, Christian moral precepts are a lot more complicated and involved than you seem to believe. The Catholic Church (around which the usury debate is usually framed) has always held the doctrine and our understanding of morals a. develops and b. must be applied to the circumstances.

The fact is, 'usury' is still forbidden, but what in fact entails usury has been greatly refined. It was once assumed that the charging of interest granted the loaner a living that did not depend on him making contributions to society. The dynamics of banking and such have since reassessed and investment has since been shown to very valuable to the growth of an economy. IE., it has been demonstrated that those who loan money, do in fact, contribute through the act of loaning money. Witness the importance of VCs to startups, (arguably of far greater malice than pawn shops. ;))

The thing is, the concerns over which interest was considered wrong, have since been shown to be misplaced. Activities which allow one to profit of of others without contributing are still considered wrong, under similar language, but what constitutes 'usury' is no longer clear cut and is open to debate.

That's the point, he's trying to be an insulting troll, or at least bait the OP. His comment is almost incoherent so it can be misread as some weird guy who hasn't kept up to date on xtian usury prohibitions.

It was trollish and I was trying to bait the OP, in the sense that it was completely off-topic and that I was suggesting the OP was an hypocrite. Which I still believe to be true. Duh. Christianity and usury? I thought it was obvious for everyone. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usury#New_Testament

I would have liked to know how the OP solves the cognitive dissonance between his beliefs and the accepted practices of today's world. I hoped to get an intelligent answer other than the usual 'everybody does it' or 'I could not get by otherwise' fallacies.

Unfortunately, the only thing I learned is that HN threads are not to be taken off-topic. Curiosity is for the weak.

"Unfortunately, the only thing I learned is that HN threads are not to be taken off-topic."

Then you learned something that I don't believe is true. HN threads are taken off-topic all the time.

You just took this thread somewhere that most people don't believe belongs on hacker news. That's all.

Politics, religion, sports, and popular culture are areas probably better served elsewhere.

I made the mistake of saying the word "Bible" to illustrate that oppotunities can come from the least expected places. Next time I'll say, "At a group meeting..." Sorry.

>Politics, religion, sports, and popular culture are areas probably better served elsewhere.

I know it perfectly well, and usually I love HN exactly because of it, but right now I'm in too much of a bad mood to appreciate it.

I hope your bad mood is from the down votes and not anything anyone said here. I also get frustrated by downvoters who don't comment. I hope you will continue to love HN in spite of this.

Once again, I am willing to continue this discussion off-line. I think the community has made it clear that's where it belongs. This is my last post in this thread. Since I have no other way of contacting you, your move.

There are prohibitions against usury in the literature of most of the major religions. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Obviously, the contemporary versions of these religions have loosened their positions. Protestants, for example, haven't been seriously opposed to usury for centuries. Islam, however, is still opposed to it. The Muslim world has its own banking system. Would you have made the same comment if the OP hinted that he was Muslim?

I never meant to "hint" at anything. Sorry if that's what got all this started. I was just sharing antecdotes to encourage others to pound the pavement and find good gigs.

I'd be happy to fill in any missing pieces and point out some logical flaws in this thread. Offline please.

"I would have liked to know how the OP solves the cognitive dissonance between his beliefs and the accepted practices of today's world."

All you ever had to do was ask.

My email address in is my profile.

I prefer discussion on a public forum such as HN, where other people can contribute.

This continues to be a troll, but I'll bite. Hopefully in such a way that no one else has to.

Arguing from obviousness about religious beliefs? Come on, people have fought wars over the iota in homoiousious. Arguing from obviousness in interpreting a passage in the New Testament? Learn about hermeneutics. One text, many interpretations, and as many as there are people willing to approach the text authentically.

And let me give you something only a Christian would say, so you can be educated. Bible study is not an end in itself. It is a means to becoming more like Jesus, becoming closer to Jesus. So I take a dim view of arguments that purport to assume a Christian belief and the status quo, then derive a contradiction. These arguments are about the periphery of Christianity. If you want to create some cognitive dissonance, head for the center.

I read that (crappy) Wikipedia article on usury, including the strands of Christian thought that disagree with the non-interpretation of those New Testament passages in the Wikipedia. For instance, the section on the scholastics. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usury#Usury_in_scholastic_theol...

So instead of taking the reductionist appeal to obviousness and playing word games with quotations that you interpret privately, maybe you can go through the two millennia of source material on the question and offer the definitive breakdown. Send me a link to your dissertation when you're done.

More to the point, this and many other religious beliefs inhere in systems of thought, not random answers to random questions. You just asked, "When did you stop feeling cognitive dissonance about your beliefs?", and I might rightly be skeptical that you even cared about the answer.

You don't understand a religion until you understand it from the perspective of someone who lives it. You don't understand a religious belief unless you locate it in the network of beliefs, the worldview, that it belongs to. And you don't discredit a religion by raising questions about disputable matters.

Every now and then there are comments that elicit a "minus infinity" response. Enough people find his sentiment deeply offensive that it's going to minus infinity.

I'm confused. Has everyonewho has commented on this thread read:http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html ? If not, take a deep breath and deal with it if a fellow HNer chooses not to pensieri stretti.

I'm not sure if people found his sentiment offensive or are just opposed to blatantly off-topic trolling.

A little of both I suspect.

Yup, bunch of closed minded people who are jerks.

So Christians don't use credit cards?

Yes, they do, but the subtle thing is that they should not.

It's the atheists that are causing the economy to collapse by buying houses they can't afford and maxing out their credit cards! God is punishing them, finally!!11!

Oh wait, you mean most people in the US identify as Christians, and they're the ones having problems? I see.

>most people in the US identify as Christians

Exactly. With a strong emphasis on identify, or make that auto-identify. Like Ghandi, I like Christ, but not Christians. Except, maybe, Eastern Orthodox, but that's another topic.

Who's Ghandi? I am only aware of someone named Gandhi.

Why threadjack when you could've created a separate thread? This guy made a post and you totally are trying to threadjack. Make your own"Ask YC" thread and post it there.

I bill $125/hr for Ruby on Rails development work. If you are the Rails core type that writes books and presents at confs you can charge $200/hr. If you are new and just starting out you may get $50/hr.

In the software world it seems people are scared to talk $. Be upfront about what you charge so you don't waste time talking to those unwilling to pay what you are worth.

I bill at $800 a day in the Ruby space. It's not that often though, because I'd rather work on my own stuff than other people's!

From my experience, this is not on the high side, though perhaps slightly above average.

Peter Cooper (like, RubyInside Peter Cooper?) only costs $100 an hour?


I don't do much consultancy (less than a couple days per month), so yeah. I turn down a lot of work for various reasons and am happy with more modest ephemeral gigs that fit into my life rather than doing stuff that makes me unhappy.

Unless, of course, he only works for 30 minutes a day.

Haha, not quite, but I've done four hours at that rate before.. though the 6 hour traffic jam I got caught in on the same day didn't quite equalize it out ;-)

Not to sound blunt, but you can charge whatever you feel you're worth. I've never had a client blink when I told them what my hourly rate was. They do a calculation in their head, but it is not "Is this too expensive?" but it is "Do I think this guy is worth it?" Chances are if you yourself feel that you're worth that amount, they will too.

That said, DB consultants generally make a bit more because of the fragility and messiness of what they deal with. I've done some Oracle consulting at $100/hr and that, I realize now, was a very low rate.

To provide an anecdote the other way: I do small business software and webhosting in the southeastern US, and I have often had prospective clients seem taken aback when I mention my rates, which are nowhere near the rates being bandied about in this thread. If you choose to sell your services to small businesses, be prepared to fit into a reality where the client thinks $80 an hour is a terribly high amount for a 5-10 hour job, and is prepared to just not have the work done instead. Very little is actually required for most small businesses; some of them are still considering upgrading the old machine running Win98 that's been doing invoices for 10 years, and unless it breaks, it's "good enough".

Do not forget to put time in the equation. A consulting job of one month has a higher price per hour than a contract of three months. That is because a one month contract solves your money problem for one month, but then you may spend another month finding your next job.

As a boring freelance Oracle consultant, I can bill 450-500 GBP/day... interesting LAMP and Web based roles seem to be around half that.

Considering that's > $1000 per day (probably closer to $1500 -- haven't dared to check the exchange rate these days), and $500/day for a LAMP project ... hey, that's not bad.

You should consider reading some of Alan Weiss' consulting books. He really advocates project/value based fees instead of time based fees.

Million Dollar Consulting: http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=...

Getting Started In Consulting: http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=...

Value Based Fees: http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=...

I'd recommend these three books and check out his website @ http://www.summitconsulting.com/

He really advocates project/value based fees instead of time based fees.

This guy is not a software consultant. So beware, beware, beware this advice, because that little detail matters a lot.

It's easy to charge project based fees when you (a) are an expert negotiator and speaker and (b) your project is not built of either hardware or software. If the deliverable is a paper report, a Powerpoint presentation, or a new org chart, it is relatively easy to work around or gloss over any problems that arise and still deliver on time and make the client happy. You have a ton of flexibility. Unless you're drafting legal documents, editing the English or changing the color of a graphic has no wide-ranging ramifications.

If the deliverable is a working machine, you're up against the laws of nature:

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled. -- Richard Feynman

You'll end up running three weeks late because the client makes a "trivial" reinterpretation of the spec at the last minute, and the old library won't meet the new spec, but the new version of the library will, so you upgrade, but the new version has a different API, and one of those new API calls has a bug...

[UPDATE: This link, recommended elsewhere on the page, has a succinct summary of the argument in favor of time-based fees: http://30sleeps.com/blog/2007/09/27/set-your-hourly-rate/ ]

I've used both time-based and value-based and my answer is an unequivocal "It depends on the project." I'm a pretty creative person and I hate to box myself in by saying "Never do it this way", especially when some very smart people have advocated both/multiple ways. I suggest taking a risk-analysis approach towards estimating as well whereupon you figure out what the mean time to complete, best, and worst times. This can give you confidence (after you've done it awhile) in your guesstimates and that confidence allows you to move more into the value-based pricing. I definitely wouldn't suggest value-based pricing for someone who had not had loads of time-based pricing experience.

I agree 100% with your last sentence.

The goal is to generate more income and not less, so you need to set up a system that provides for that. You can abstract out the core of the project, set a fee for that and tack on hourly rates for things outside the initial scope. You have to be careful in how you do things but it should ultimately lead to more money.

If you're happy making $x/hour or whatever then by all means continue to do so. If you're looking for more, you may want to start exploring other billing models.

For engineering skills and in the bay area start at $65 an hour then add $5 per year of solid work experience. Add 20% if the company is public.

Incidentally, while the earlier link to the "what do I charge" is a good one, most of the computer consultants' discussion has moved to http://openitforum.yuku.com/ -- nice folks, too.

You can also find more data at Janet Ruhl's realrates.com. It is a database where people share how much they're getting for what kind of work. The home page is no longer updated but the database is live with people adding info.

You are El Gringo,

Regarding the message in your edit, thanks for your post--this is (mostly) a helpful discussion. Just search for the dollar signs (norcalgrrl had a good response, as did a few others).

And good luck with your freelance career!

there's a whole obsessive-compulsive website called realrates.com on exactly this subject.

That site is garbage.


Not disagreeing per se... I'm interested in your reasons.


"the pay rate varies by geography, industry, computer language and technology."

Mainly, it varies depending on whether you're any good (and whether people know that you're good). If you're asking "how high should I set my rate" - unfortunately, I don't think there's an easy answer to that, without knowing you.

I realize that a lot of this is going to be personal network specific--who do I know that's willing to get me a contract gig. I also realize that it's going to be talent specific.

But, I'm mostly looking for ballpark figures, I'm not really interested in rate setting. I'm career changing, and I should be graduating from school after this summer. I'm mostly trying to get a feel for rates.

> I'd also love to hear what DB consultants are making as well.

I used to be consulted out at 2000 Euros per day.

going rates are whatever you can get. I've seen from $20/hr to $200/hr. The high rates are usually for something horrible like "Oracle Financials." Most LAMP/Django/RoR independents charge somewhere between 50-100.

Pick how much you wish to earn, and set your rate based on that. Then see if you can sell at that rate and adjust accordingly

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