Whether you’re new to freelancing platforms like Upwork, or you’re new to gig work altogether, trying to figure out what your hourly rate should be can feel quite daunting. And for a good reason – because it’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your freelance career.
Charge too little and you’re leaving money on the table. Charge too much and you might scare off potential clients … theoretically, at least.
So what’s a freelancer to do?
In this article, I am going to cover a variety of topics that will, hopefully, give you the tools to make a more informed decision about your own hourly rate as well as give you a bit of insight as to what other freelancers in your niche are charging on the Upwork platform.
What is a good hourly rate for a freelancer?
Individual freelance rates, I believe, are a personal matter. There is no right or wrong answer.
Some freelancers charge as little as $5 per hour, and some charge as much as $200 per hour or more. Some don’t do hourly contracts at all and prefer fixed-price contracts.
Rates can be dependent on a variety of factors including, but not limited to:
- Level of Expertise / Level of Experience
- Service Offering
- Turnaround Time
- Client ROI (Value Based Pricing)
- Client Budget
At the end of the day, the right rate is a rate that works for you, your lifestyle, your family and your company.
If you’re brand new to freelancing and not quite sure where to start, I always recommend considering the following equation:
My freelance rate equation
(Desired Net Annual Income + Annual Business Expenses + Annual Taxes) / Desired Annual Hours = Hourly Rate
And I define those variables like so:
Desired Net Income: The amount of annual take-home pay you’d like to keep before business expenses, and after taxes.
Annual Business Expenses: Expenses like subscriptions, software, bookkeeping, health insurance, fees (like Upwork’s service fee), etc.
Annual Taxes: If you’re not sure how to calculate this, just roughly estimate this amount to be roughly 28% of your Desired Net Income.
Desired Annual Hours: The number of hours you WANT to work every year. Be sure to factor in holidays and vacations.
Read Also: How to Avoid Upwork Fees: Ways to Reduce Fees from a $600k Freelancer
For example, if a freelancer wanted to net $100,000 per year, had roughly $20,000 worth of annual business expenses, and wanted to work 35 hours a week with 4 weeks of time off each year, the equation might look something like this:
($100,000 + $20,000 + $28,000) / 1680 = $88 per hour
Ideally, whatever number you come up with should also make sense for your industry.
Speaking of which … let’s take a look at what Upworkers in a few popular industries are charging as we speak.
What is the average rate per hour on Upwork?
I recently took the liberty of cross-referencing a few industries from Upwork’s 2023 list of most in-demand skills and made mini-job posts for each on the platform. For the sake of this exercise, I narrowed my focus to the following 15 niches:
- Full Stack Development
- Mobile App Development
- Web Design
- Social Media Marketing
- Recruiting & Talent Sourcing
- Graphic Design
- Video Editing
- Presentation Design
- 3D Animation
- UX/UI Design
- Email Marketing
The interesting thing about creating a mini job post on the Upwork platform is that it actually gives the job poster a bar chart, like the one below, that offers real-time data on what professionals in a given category and experience level are charging on the platform.
This is a pretty neat little trick if you want to gain the inside track on what your potential competitors are charging without having to pay for Upwork Freelancer Plus.
For the sake of this exercise, my job posts all assumed a 3-6 month project length, short-term work and medium scope.
I also included five popular skills for each industry and limited my search to talent in the United States. And, for this article, I narrowed my scope to hourly project pricing.
I then examined the rate range for entry-level freelancers, intermediate freelancers and expert freelancers on each job type.
These are the numbers I came up with:
What Upwork freelancers are charging 2023
|Full Stack Development||$15-$20||$35-$70||$40-$70||$65-$85||$160-$165|
|Mobile App Development||$5-$10||$30-$65||$50-$71||$70-$90||$120-$125|
|Social Media Marketing||$5-10||$20-$50||$30-$65||$60-$100||$205-$210|
|Recruiting & Talent Sourcing||$10-$15||$25-$50||$35-$55||$51-$68||$130-$135|
Pretty interesting, huh?
It may be important to note that I originally also included SEO, Lead Generation, Email/Phone Support, Virtual Assistance and Data Entry in my research – but found it strange that each of these categories seemed to produce the same results ($5-$10 lowest, $60-$100 for entry/intermediate/expert and $205-$210).
These odd numbers raised my suspicions that Upwork may be filling in generic Upwork data where they don’t have enough industry-specific averages to create an accurate chart. And so, I ultimately decided to exclude these categories from the list.
Read Also: What is Manual Time on Upwork? Should You Use It? Advice From a Pro
What I personally charge on Upwork
Just to add some personal perspective to this data, I wanted to share a snapshot of my own rate journey on Upwork over the course of the past six years.
When I first joined Upwork as an expert-level graphic designer, I set my rate to $20/hour just to get my foot in the door.
After the first couple of projects resulted in 5-star reviews, I quickly changed my rate to $34 per hour, then later to $45 per hour, then again to $55 per hour, then to $75, then to $95, then to $120. Today, I charge $150 per hour on the platform.
Basically, I made a rule that every time I found myself booked solid for weeks, I’d bump my rate up just a smidge. After all, what did I have to lose if I already had more work than I needed?
I also found discovered an interesting phenomenon along the way.
Every time my rate increased so did the quality of my clientele.
It’s true what they say – cheap Upwork clients tend to be more difficult than well-funded, more experienced clients.
Increasing my hourly wages not only improved my bottom line, but also my mental health. So don’t be afraid to experiment a bit with your own rate from time to time to see if you can attract some of those more desirable, bigger fish.
Connect with me!
Where are you in your Upwork journey? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to connect with me on social media.
Also, be sure to check out some of my other popular Upwork-related blog posts including:
- Can You Make Good Money on Upwork? How I Made $600,000 in 5 Years
- 11 Upwork Cover Letter Samples and Examples
- 8 Methods: How To Get More Connects on Upwork
- Upwork Profile Examples and Tips From Six-Figure Freelancers
- How To Find Your First Job on Upwork: Advice From a $600K Freelancer
- Upwork Job Success Score: How to Increase It from a $600k Upworker
PS: If you’ve found any of the above advice helpful, and you feel so inclined – buy me a coffee (leave a tip) on Kofi!