The Freelance Series: Yeah, I know. I’m expensive.

That does sound like a great project, for sure I’m interested. What’s the timeline? I can work with that. What your budget? What’s that? My hourly rate? It’s $90 an hour. Yeah, I know. I’m expensive. You can find developers in, like, 10 minutes that cost 30 or 40 bucks an hour? Hey, that’s awesome. I’ll talk with you later. What? No, sorry, I don’t negotiate my hourly rate. Why not? It’s complicated.

No, you know what? It’s not complicated. I’ve been honing my craft for 11 years. I sat through the judgements of real developers who called me a flash weasel and flash in the pan because I used software to make objects dance around. Those same developers found their own skills slowly sliding into the background as more and more Flash was used. I clawed my way up the ranks on my own merits. I started as an animator in Flash. Exporting Flash 2 animations for streaming within a framework in Director. Flash couldn’t handle audio well enough at the time, you see.

My last full time job was as Director of New Media. Sure it’s a trite title, but what’s yours? My title before that was Manager of Integrated Media. I was involved in new business pitches and helped win them for my employers. I managed teams of Flash developers. Making sure that they were treated fairly and that the expectations of my employers were met. The projects I worked on won awards. I liked my coworkers and they liked me. I’ve been successfully freelancing for over two years. That must mean something, no?

I come up with ideas your current employees may not have on their own. Those ideas are free, by the way, they come with the developer, aka me. However, thanks to my extensive experience, those ideas are also well-vetted through looking and working in this medium. Seeing what works and what doesn’t.

I have a sense for motion and code that, while they may not fit the norm for a top-notch coder, are pretty damn awesome. Again, 11 years. You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?

I don’t ask questions if your creative comes back again and again with pixel-pushing minutiae. You know why? I’ve been in Creative. I know their pain. I don’t ask questions when the tech team wants me to recode to add their framework call into my piece. You know why? I’ve been in Technology, too.

I don’t haggle for money on extra time after we’ve agreed to a deadline. I don’t add to my estimate even after you’ve extended your own deadline by a week. I work weekends, I work late, I work when your entire team doesn’t. I am committed to your project.

I don’t point fingers arbitrarily. I will defend myself if someone tells me I’m at fault on something I’m not. But I am the first to acknowledge my mistakes. Again, 11 years.

I am an award-winning developer with an extensive network of colleagues in the advertising world in Toronto. I have worked for nearly every major agency repeatedly. I have made errors in judgements with some and will never work for them again. However, I continue to get work and get requests for work. I have burned very few bridges for all my plain speech in 11 years. As far as I can tell, I’m well-liked.

I’ve taught coworkers to open their eyes to new concepts. I’ve taught students how to code more efficiently. I’ve spoken at conferences on networking, coding, procrastination, video implementation and sound. Crowds don’t frighten me. I’ve spoken at schools on the very same things. On how to be a freelancer or how to be an employee.

I don’t share my hourly rate because it’s a hindrance. It’s how I estimate my time and costs. What you think is an acceptable estimate from me is based on my hourly rate and how much time you want from me, by the way. I just didn’t say that I used my hourly rate and gave you a flat fee. Don’t get hung up on one number. It’s not important. What is important? I get your job done, I don’t generally get confused and I’m smart as hell.

Yeah, I know. I’m expensive.

11 thoughts on “The Freelance Series: Yeah, I know. I’m expensive.”

  1. $90/hr for someone with your skills and portfolio of work? That’s not expensive at all, at least not if you want to the job well done.

    Great post. There’s a lot of people that need to read this and think about it.

  2. Thanks guys. Funnily enough, two years ago, when I starting out freelancing, I asked my first client “what’s your highest rate?”

    they said “the most we’d pay is $90/hr. what’s your hourly?”


    I’ve stuck to that rate ever since and will not budge lower. I’ve been tempted to go higher, but I’m fine with it as it is.

  3. Hugh I feel your pain and share your sentiment. I’ve found that the majority of the time the people who make the most noise about my rates being too high are either clueless or lack adequate budget or both.

    BTW your rate is a steal, hike it up.

  4. I’ve been freelancing for 11 years now (after working full time for years) but I still get tire kickers who want a $15 or $20 per hour rate. My schedule becomes “too busy” to help those people because they invariably become the worst, most demanding clients. My rate helps weed them out.

  5. While I have a full time gig, I get contacted for side work. I found that by putting my rate on my contact form (150), it stops those people who would not be able to afford it.

  6. I think you’re pretty low on your rate. Comparing you to others in your category who I’ve worked with. Starting next year, maybe treat yourself and bring it up by at least 25 bucks an hour for agency work. Contractors can have a sliding scale. Long-term and repeat business can be discounted.

    I do the same, use my hourly to create my quote, and my contract always states my hourly for rush or extra out of scope work. All are higher than yours though. People have to pay for experience, and you sir, have plenty of it.

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