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Ask HN: Current freelancer and consulting rates survey
84 points by uid on Sept 13, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments
I figure it would be interesting to start a thread about current freelancer and consulting rates.

State what work you do, where you are based, where your clients are based and what type of rates you are charging at the moment.




This would probably work better as a poll or an offsite, anonymous survey. I don't think you'll get very accurate results from limiting yourself to the small fraction of developers who:

  - don't mind disclosing their salary in public

  - don't have any co-workers, employers, or clients who read this site

  - have a single fixed rate that they charge everybody

  - don't plan to change their rate in the future

  - make enough to not feel silly disclosing their rate in public

  - don't make so much that they'll feel like they're just bragging
I'd personally be happy to tick a box, but I'm not going to quote my rate here.


What Jason said. The "wants to help you" me really, really wants to quote numbers because I think people pervasively underprice their services. The "wants to not be awkward socially" me really doesn't want folks to immediately do "50 * $WEEKLY_RATE = $WOWZA" and assume that I'm loaded, partially because it would be wrong and partially because it might change how people interacted with me in a way I wouldn't enjoy. The rational businessman in me knows that telling my rate or rate range in place where prospective customers are quite likely to see it (hiya, past clients! waves) can only hurt my economic interests.

Which is a pity, because I think this is likely to systematically put a downward bias on answers you get back. These issues don't bite quite so hard when you're charging $20 ~ $60 an hour. If one hypothetically had weekly rates in the $8k to $24k region, they start to matter more. I'd hate for impressionable consultants reading the poll results to think that $20 ~ $60 is reasonably achievable and $8k to $24k is not just because only one of those was written in the results.

P.S. $8k to $24k is not my range. I just 10X and weekified the "relatively inexpensive programmer" numbers I picked out of nowhere.


The other way of approaching this may be to pivot it towards a general discussion on the state of the market in different sectors, regions, etc.

For eg. I know that atm iOS developers based in San Francisco or the valley can charge out around $1500 per day.

I also know that on-site web development work in Australia (Sydney) can fetch $150+

These are both from friends of mine who are experienced developers and who can work and complete a project on their own.

I also learnt today that the discount on working remotely can be large in some instances. (30%)

Interesting takeaways to get from other HN members would be what areas are hot at the moment (for eg. javascript web app dev), where the market is hot, how clients are being found, etc.

I am getting back into the market after a few years of fulltime employment and taking time off, so I am trying to get as much information as possible in order to get back up to speed.


Here in London, the demand for Linux engineers with several years of experience is quite high. This means there are a lot of contract jobs available, usually 6 months in duration, and the rates are around £300-£500 per day ($470-$790 US)

What makes things worse for employers are that changes to UK immigration laws implemented last year, make it even harder to employ people from outside the EU. There is now an annual cap of 20,000 work permits, except if it's an inter office transfer.


OMG! $1,500 a day? Yes please. I'm am seriously undercutting myself at this rate.


How is the daily rate defined. My definition of a day is 8 hours. So $1500/day = 187.5$/h. So if you work 12 hours a day, do you charge $1500, $2250 or simply refuse to work more than 8h?


If you're charging day rates, you're charging enough to not sweat the small stuff. My standard language is "Such hours as are standard and customary at $CLIENT." I've never had anyone abuse it.



I hate how you have to place a vote to see the results. The data can't really be trusted as you'll get a lot of rubber neckers passing through that cast a throw away vote just to see the data.


Good poll. I like the analytics drill down. If we all go there, we might see some interesting results.


Is there any way you can edit that into the OP? I don't know what the edit time limits are.


I tried but could not. If a moderator with super-powers is reading this, could you please add the poll URL to the OP?


Hopefully somewhat on-topic, but one of the comments - "$1500 a day?! I'm underpricing myself!" made me want to contribute this:

The consultants who get this typically do more than just code. Often (usually) you'll end up needing to travel. I run in to a lot of talented freelance developers who 1) vow to never travel outside their hometown and 2) wonder why they can't charge high rates.

I'm not saying you need to fly overseas 3-4x per month, but part of being able to charge the high rates is providing value to clients commensurate with the price you charge. Providing value encompasses things like meeting the client in their office, even if it's 7 hours away. Arrange your own flight, charge it back later, etc. Make solving their problems first and foremost.

There's load of other stuff to say on pricing, and there are few universal rules on pricing. I do know that one of the things that's allowed me to charge what I charge is that I'm willing to go out of town to people who need what I offer.

I'm not saying these are my numbers, but if you're charging $30/hour now, but could make, say, $90/hour by going onsite to clients - being willing to travel to other cities for days at a time - would you do it? I'm actually a bit shocked at the number of people I meet who tell me "no". I realize not everyone has the same priorities I do, but still surprising.


There is a lot of work out there at the moment. I got back into consulting work as a freelancer two weeks ago and filled up my schedule within a couple of days after sending a single email to 5 or 6 contacts.

I am working on backend Python, frontend Javascript (Backbone, etc.) and general startup product consulting. Charging $700 per day (which I think is low, but I wanted to accept some work), based in Asia and clients in the USA (West Coast)


Charging $700 per day...based in Asia and clients in the USA (West Coast)

Where in Asia? That rate could go a long way in the Philippines or Thailand, or not very far in Hong Kong or Singapore.


I travel between Australia and Thailand. I will be raising my rates with the next quote I do. I have only been back in freelance work for a few weeks now.


Where did you find your contacts? People who you've previously worked with? I'd be interested in how those rates compare with say freelancing at oDesk or vWorker.


I emailed friends and former co-workers. I have never used any of the freelancing sites, but from what I understand it is difficult to charge higher rates as you are starting out.


I do LAMP, front-end (JS, HTML5/CSS3), server admin, performance optimization, project planning / product dev, security consulting, SEO, and whatever else a client will pay me to do.

Typical rate is $75/h. I also do project quotes that work out to be more or less. Through BidOnMyDay I've been working for less but meeting some great people (shameless plug):

http://bidonmyday.com

I'm US based. Currently a nomad living in hostels, hotels, and couch surfing.

I DGAF if people know what I make. I've never understood apprehension with discussing income. If you have coworkers it could make sense but this is for freelancers. Also, if you think a freelancer makes RATE * FULL TIME HOURS you've never been one.


The most successful consultants I know charge ~80% of max(RATE), and bill 40-60 hours per week working for a few clients. They have a very good income compared to people who concentrate on trying to make max(RATE), and to people who work full-time jobs.

The consultants who make the best living also have a spouse who works and provides health benefits.


Love the funkiness of your idea/site....do wonder what's the average bid...though...:-)


I may add a stats / balance sheet page w/ full transparency when I have the time. It's low on my list though, too many other things to add first.


Depends on what you're "freelancing." As a designer, it tends to waiver based on the project but generally I'll either charge an hourly rate of $60, or, just price out the project as a total lump sum. Everyone has their own way, but I tend to go the route that makes it easiest for the client as well as a good move for my bank account.

Two of my favorites for figuring out an hourly rate or how much to charge as a whole:

http://freelanceswitch.com/rates/

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/07/14/quality-price-rat...


I'm a Linux SysAdmin in Sunnyvale, clients are all over. I don't do a lot of consulting, maybe one day a month or so, give or take. But I usually charge around $100/hr. I've gone as high as $200 and as low as $80 in recent times, but $100 is usually the target. Of course, my prices float based on how much I want the work; If prgmr.com just handed out a big credit and/or I'm drooling over some new hardware, you can often get a deal; when the cashflow on my VPSs is good, on the other hand, not so much. Last time I did full-time contracting through a body shop I got $72/hr, but this was several years back, and I've published a book since then.

I'm looking to have my company do more consulting as a way to raise short-term revenue, and as a way provide my employee(s) a way to do higher value work (and thus earn more money) without leaving my company for more profitable employers.

Ideally, I'd personally do about one day a week of contracting like this, and as employees become more experienced, slowly transition them from support to consulting.

As far as I can tell, rates depend as much on the client as on your skill level. I've had some clients laugh at my rate and offer /more/ - while others do the opposite.

I'm considering retainer type deals, and I'd be interested to hear how retainers have worked for other people.

edit: attempted a less-objectifying reword.


I have worked on retainer before, but I'm not currently.

The plans I always presented were multi-tiered. I always found that companies were more open to talking numbers when then felt that they had options. I also only do retainers on a month-to-month basis. I tried a yearly retainer once and it did not work out for me or the client.

Basically, my retainers worked like this:

* The client pays for X amount of hours a month

* The size of X determined many factors of the relationship

- how much they pay per hour

- how their work was weighted against my other work

- whether they paid after-hours rates or not (typically, I charge double for calls after normal business hours)

- whether I would guarantee same day/24/48/72 hour service

- how much they paid for hours over X

- how much they paid for phone/remote support and if those hours were included in the monthly agreement or not

* X hours were guaranteed to the client each month and we generally set a schedule weekly. If they paid for 24 hours a month, I would be at their business 6 hours a week, no matter if they called or not.

I billed monthly, and the client was expected to pay within 10 days. Some wanted to pay me up front, but I never worked well that way so I discouraged it. The clients that I still do work for started off as retainer clients. Since that time, I have structured my work-flow to only include them and we no longer need an agreement. Many monhts, I have made more than I would have had we maintained the retainer (because of discounts) and most months it's about the same.


re:

> I'm looking to start renting out my apprentice for around $50/hr, and pushing my own consulting.

and

> (as my current one is clearly at least 'journeyman' level at this point, and as such will likely leave me soon.)

Maybe your apprentice would be willing to stick around if you didn't think about them as someone you can 'rent out for around $50/hr'.


Actually, you are probably right, he is the sort who doesn't like to talk about things in terms of money.

I'm not trying to be offensive or objectifying, but yeah, re-reading it, I can see how a person might take it that way. Sorry. The actual plan is to split the portion of what the customer pays that is over and above his salary between him and the company, so it would be a way for me to pay him the higher rate his new skill level deserves.

From my point of view? I'm happy to be rented out; I mean, for work I find interesting, as long as the rates keep going up. It's not something I find offensive. but yeah, I need to watch the intonation of my language, as some people do find speaking of things in that way offensive.


That makes a lot more sense than what you wrote above :)

Thanks for the clarification, it seemed a bit strange to see you 'commoditize' (sp?) another person like that. Of course it is common practice elsewhere, the whole body-shop scene revolves around that but you made it sound pretty (im)personal.


It is personal; and that's an area where I'm not so good. I mean, I've always thought like a contractor, even when I was an employee. I see my interests as separate from (but hopefully largely coinciding with) the interests of my employer, and I work for that employer because of what they can give me; they are paying me because of what I can give them. Hopefully, it's a mutually beneficial exchange of value, but if I can get a significantly better deal elsewhere? yeah, I'm going to take it, and I expect the same from my employer.

But people who are wired the way I am don't stay employees. Or at least, we don't stay good employees. Employees seem to genuinely love the company. They have loyalty, and expect loyalty. Hearing someone say that about my company actually makes me feel a little uncomfortable. It's one thing to be engaging in mutually beneficial exchange of value; it's another entirely to manipulate someone into producing value for you because of how they feel about the company. (Of course, I'm not trying to manipulate anyone's emotions, and I don't imagine I'd have the skill to pull it off even if I was.)

Paradoxically, as far as I can tell, most employees like to feel that they are working out of a sense of duty or love towards the company; they can feel offended when I approach employment as the mutually beneficial exchange of value; like I'm accusing them of being greedy sellouts or something. It's foreign to me, because I always scoffed when the companies I worked for talked about loyalty. I felt like they were treating me like a child. The boss I thought respected me the most would give me my performance review and then say something like "But that's just talk. Your raise this year is X%" - meaning he understood, as I did, that while there were non-monetary aspects to our relationship, it was primarily about the money.

But yeah, If I'm going to continue managing other people, this is something I'm going to have to come to understand.


I think you're on the right path and I think that the fact that you are consciously involved with this means that at some point you will find that understanding.

If you have a good working relationship with the journeyman person why not discuss that with him/her openly? After all you're already reconciled with losing them anyway so there is absolutely nothing to lose, and who knows how much to gain. You might even find a worthy partner there.


I've worked on 2 week retainers initially. It's worth while with small and larger clients alike. It adds a air of security and relationship trust between you the client. Make it know upfront you work on a retainer though, obviously not after the fact. Individual clients not so much. Somewhat unrelated, but relative is a talk by Mike_FTW on payments --freelancing http://vimeo.com/22053820


How do your retainers work? My thought was to charge them some minimum number of hours a month that they'd pay regardless of use, but in exchange, I'd put their stuff on my pager, and make time to deal with it if they had an emergency.

I think it makes a lot of sense for SysAdmin type work; there are times when you really need me /right now/ - waiting for me to clear my schedule some time next week is not going to work.

I think maximum value would be achieved if I put your stuff on my pager. when something breaks, I go fix it and let you know what happened when you wake up; This is a lot of value for you, but for me to be effective at this, I need to know a lot about your systems, and as such, I'd want some sort of monthly money to pay to hold your system in my brain and my notes (and to answer my pager when it goes off at 6am.)

It seems to me like this sort of relationship would work best if it was very long term; you'd keep paying me the retainer until you can afford to hire your own SysAdmin.


I think you have the right idea. You're trading a minimum set of requirements for a better service. Your value added proposition is, availability. You'll always be on call if necessary. I typically ask for 20 hours a week minimum between 2 projects. This takes a little pressure off to spend time in the code base and iron things out. My contracts are typically 3-6months. Rates also vary between w-2 and corp-to-corp. Freelancing is a very inexpensive proposition when add up how much hiring and employing someone really costs. Hope that helps. Freelanceswitch.com is a great resource.


Front-end development work and Django back-end work, $85/hr. Also do basic Ubuntu setup for a typical Django-based site from scratch. Based in Rochester, NY. My clients are all over the place - NYC, SF, BOS, but very few are in close proximity to Rochester.


I do some Mac and iOS user interface design & development consulting on the side of my real job. I charge between $100-150/hr depending on the project, and I don't really take many projects since I try to leave enough time for me to work on my own apps and projects. I live in Raleigh, NC but my clients are worldwide.


I am wondering if anyone here worked for the man and decided that wasn't for them. Thus you went the freelance/consulting route? If so, how and where did you get your clients? Also, are you able sustain yourself, do you ever struggle financially and or you are able to make more money being independent?

I'm just starting out on this route and seeking advice overall on this.


For me, as ex freelancer, all clear: $10-20 for so called programmer from Asia(China, India) $20-$30 for russian or east European programmer with CS degree $60 for programmer from England >$60 US PS: prices for Ruby devs, it can be different for iOS or Java


Ruby on Rails Development

Based in UT, clients in DC.

$60-$80 depending on the project and the schedule.


Follow up info:

I'm a student and only do 20 hours/week, but I'm kept pretty busy from one long term contract I've got.


https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AlD_6iEb8Ed9dGs... This is a spreadsheet of contractors on Hacker News that was going around a few months ago. You could probably get a good idea of rates for various technologies here.


I do on-site SysAdmin/tech work for local businesses at $65/hr. That's in West Virginia.

BUT, I'm undercutting. I have a day job that pays me significantly less, but affords me plenty of PTO to do work like this.

I've done work with a local company that charges $95/hr. I've also been told by businesses that they pay $75-150/hr with other consultants/businesses.


I was making $60/hr through odesk.com as an ios developer working < 10hr/wk. I imagine I could get more if I was pursuing clients actively (I live in San Francisco). I'm considering going back to it fulltime and was wondering what sort of business entity people are using (LLC, Corp, indy business owner etc.).


I charge $60/hour when working at home and twice that when on site. I turn down almost all (over 80%) consulting offers, so I could probably raise my rates if I was not so fussy about what work I accept.

I am semi-retired now, and enjoying work is a higher priority than maximizing income.


Mobile Developer

San Francisco

$175/hr


While that is cool. You have to realize he's not getting this rate all the time or at least that many projects that can be billed out as such. Pivotal labs can though. I'd know about it, having done similar work in SF. It's unusual. Typically rates are pretty normalized and much lower, however I'm surprised rates are actually consistent across the US despite the cost of living. Makes me feel like I'm working a lot harder for less, which is probably true. That's SF!


That certainly offsets costs of living in SF.


That depends on how much time he/she can book at that rate.


you really needed to create an account called "salarypoll" just to answer this?


These aren't me, but to give some perspective, I know of a bay-area consultant who charges $200 per hour for JavaScript related work and by all accounts is well worth it. I know of another that charges $150-175 for GWT development.


approx: €50/65 USD per hour depending on project.

iOS developer. Mostly remote work from Portugal


Mobile web developer, front end and back end.

Going rate is roughly 1000€ a day, charge less and you won't be taken seriously.


on-site or remote?

you are definitely right about the 'not taken seriously' part - it is a good tip for those starting out


Remote.

And turning down enough business to employ someone else full time.


In the uk, u will be lucky if people want to pay over 300pounds a day(a day means 8-9 hrs) for ios dev.


Washington DC, $100/hr.




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