with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, I deserve a decent wage for my work.
I think the biggest hurdle people need to get over in order to successfully freelance is the negotiation of an appropriate pay rate.
Particularly when you’re just starting out, it’s very tempting to believe that you shouldn’t charge very much. After all, you’ve just begun, and you want people to hire you, and you’d feel funny charging “a lot.”
I think women who’ve been home with the kids for a while fall into this trap much more easily than anyone else. “I haven’t worked in a while,” we tell ourselves. “I can’t expect the same rate as a seasoned professional.” And that’s true, but only sort of. You can’t expect the same rate as someone who’s been at this for twenty years, but neither should you be charging next to nothing.
There are some very good reasons to charge appropriately. Among them:
1) Competent professionals who charge too little hurt everyone in the industry by lowering the expectation of what our work should cost.
2) Charging too little tells potential employers that you don’t value your work very highly, and neither should they.
3) You will come to hate your work if you’re busting your butt and not even making enough to live on.
4) Talk the talk, walk the walk: Charging a professional’s rate will help you be a better professional, yourself. Pinky swear!
Okay. Now that we have that out of the way, you can start thinking about what constitutes a reasonable rate. That’s going to depend largely on where you live and what you do. A freelance writer in Boston commands a different rate than a freelance graphic artist in Cheyenne, for example. Poke around, consult the appropriate professional organizations, and get an idea of what others are being paid in your field and in your city.
If you’ve never freelanced, you will likely figure out that rate and say to yourself, “WOW, that’s a lot of money!”
Then go calculate all of the costs you’ll be incurring as a solopreneur which you didn’t have to worry about when you worked for someone else: Buying your own health insurance, buying/maintaining office equipment, extra phone lines and internet connectivity, membership dues and conference registrations (which maybe your former employer used to pick up for you), contributing to a retirement account (no company match anymore), potential loss of income due to illness or family crisis (no work means no pay), etc. You get the idea. Oh! Don’t forget taxes!
Figure out the costs, amortize them accordingly, make a reasonable guestimate of how many hours you plan to work each week, carry the three, and somewhere in there you should have your hourly cost of doing business.
Before you stick your head in the oven, realize that what seemed like a ridiculous rate to charge, before, suddenly feels very reasonable. Great job! You can now charge that rate with confidence, because it makes sense, and doggone it, you’re worth it.
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