What's a Freelancer Worth?

Rachel Mason, STEM Engagement Project Manager

At any BIG gathering - the BIG Event, Skills Days, local scicomm socials - BIG freelancers often find themselves discussing what they should be charging, hoping that we’ll be open and honest about what we ask clients to pay us, but it’s not simple when the array of services is so great.

And of course, any potential client is always wondering what rate they should be offering and how they can keep costs down. Buying the services of a freelancer looks – on the face of it – pretty costly. But read on - it may help.

Freelancers: here is a very simple system to establish daily rates: have a look at how many days in the year that you could be working. Days in a year minus weekends, public holidays, your own holiday, sickness:

Days in year


 Weekend days


 Public holidays






 Working days:


Freelancers only reasonably expect to invoice for half these days as the rest of the time is spent bidding for work, invoicing, reporting, doing your tax return, purchasing equipment, managing your business property. A self-employed person will be shouldering the things a company employer provides for its staff, like paternity/maternity pay, childcare vouchers, bereavement leave, someone to change the lightbulbs, clean the toilets, fix the heating, lay the carpet, professional development, staff pension, use and maintenance of company vehicles, occupational health service, office equipment, IT support… So your actual invoice-able days work comes to 111.5 if you’re fully booked.

Right. This bit is as much for those of you thinking of purchasing the services of a freelancer as being one. Give these things some thought when you’re considering what wage you’d expect to be paying someone to do the work as a full-time member of staff. Think about the skills, experience, educational qualifications you’d expect.

So what's the job worth, as an annual wage? What's the equivalent daily rate (exc. VAT)?

£50,000 - £448 per day

£45,000 - £404 per day

£40,000 - £359 per day

£35,000 - £314 per day

£30,000 - £269 per day

£25,000 - £224 per day

£20,000 - £179 per day

And this, of course, is only for consultant's TIME. Is specialist equipment required for the work? Evaluators have survey collecting and data-crunching software, show/workshop presenters have fire tornados, chladni plates, penguin costumes, vans; film-makers buy cameras and, well, stuff to make films; and vans. Exhibit builders have lathes and milling machines and Stanley knives. And vans. Many BIG members do a combination of these things and so purchase and store all this gubbins.

This all means they probably have different rates for different tasks. They may also have different rates to take into account the duration of the work – is it three days’ work and then stop, or thirty days over a year for three years? Whatever it is, make a decent estimate, be prepared to provide a potential client with evidence for your estimation and hold your line.

If you’re thinking of commissioning a freelancer bear in mind after all this that you're asking them to do a short, time-limited burst of work from a standing start. AND THEN bear in mind that if the freelancer doesn't do the work you commissioned, you won't pay them at all; an employed staff member, you probably will.

Freelancers met at the BIG Event in 2010 - many shared the charges they were making at that time. You can read about it here

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