Confessions of a Professional Blogger: Why I Hate Hourly Pricing

As a professional blogger (or any type of freelancer), try to avoid working for an hourly rate.

I've had three experiences recently that really drive home my service pricing model.

First, I had a client of mine ask me if I could do work for his “day job” company. He said that the company was looking for a freelancer to do some editing and other communication-related jobs. Unfortunately, they wanted an hourly rate. I quoted the rate that I felt was most likely to be worth my time. Even as I quoted it, I knew that the company probably wouldn't go for it. And the company didn't.

Second, I applied for a couple of gigs and was asked to be considered for another. These are potentially high-end gigs (with cool companies). I'm still at the “let's arrange an interview over Skype” phase and not at the “let's negotiate pay” phase, but I'm already trying to think about what to charge. While the temptation is there to go hourly, I'm pretty sure I don't want to.

Finally, I had an email conversation with the awesome Carrie from Careful Cents. She said, “I'm trying to get away from exchanging hours for money.”

Carrie's words eloquently expressed what I've felt for a long time. Hourly work as a freelancer sucks. I was so inspired, and it fit so well with exactly where I was at in my book, that I wrote for two hours.

Why Setting Rates on a Per-Project Basis is Better

Whether you are a professional blogger, graphic designer, technical writer, coder, editor, or web developer, it's best to stay away from hourly rates whenever possible.

While it can be a little tricky to set a per-project rate, the reality is that you will get so much more value for your time when you avoid working hourly. Here are some of the problems associated with an hourly rate:

  • It's harder to increase your rates.
  • You have to make sure you are doing something productive the entire time you are charging your client.
  • You have to keep track of which hours are for which client.
  • A value is placed on something — time — with almost incalculable value, and it's rarely a high enough value.
  • It's impossible to improve your efficiency at making money.

Working on a per-project basis allows you to increase the efficiency of your earning time. Earlier this week, I did work for a very high-paying client. It took an hour, and I ended up with a high enough payout that I'm embarrassed to share the amount here.

When I convert the number of posts I can complete in an hour to an actual hourly rate, it makes me think that I shouldn't be complaining that I don't have high-paying freelance jobs. Because my “hourly rate” is pretty damn good when I think about it.

Professional Blogger Pro Tip: Never, Ever Quote an Hourly Rate

However, once you lock yourself into an hourly rate, you're kind of stuck there. If you charge $35 an hour, you will always only make $35 an hour. On the other hand, if you charge $35 a post, you might be able to improve your ability to write faster, and after a few months, instead of taking an hour to write a post, you might be able to do one and a half posts in an hour. Now your “hourly rate” has jumped to $52.50. Get to the point where you can do two or three posts an hour, and suddenly you're earning much more efficiently. Even if you undercut all the competition (please don't!) and charge $25 a post, if you can crank out three in an hour, you're still making $75 each hour that you work. Not bad.

Trap yourself in an hourly rate as a freelancer, though, and you're stuck. No matter how many posts you write, pages you edit, or ads you design, you still make the same amount of money.

Stop basing your freelancer income on hours worked, and start basing it on results. Stop, as Carrie said, trading your hours for dollars. Instead, focus on what you're accomplishing and the value you bring — unconnected with how much time you spend on the project. You'll make more money and have more time.

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