Consider these top 3 alternatives to hourly freelance rates

More and more people are ditching the traditional 9-5 and enjoying the benefits of freelancing: taking on as many clients as you want, keeping things interesting with different types of projects, working from anywhere in the world (while in your pajamas). This all sounds great… but, just like anything else, freelancing has its downsides.

One of the biggest headaches all freelancers face is deciding exactly how much to charge per hour. According to a global survey of freelancers, the majority (68%) of respondents cited increasing the amount of money they earn as the top aspect they wanted to improve, above finding more work.

Plus there’s more competition entering the market. In fact, freelancers are now the fastest growing group within the EU’s labor market and represent 35% of the US workforce.

The influx of new freelancers every day is only making it that much harder. Charge too much and you may be passed up in favor of freelancers with lower rates. Charge too little and you undercut the effort and value you provide. Hourly rates work for some, but depending on the type of work you are doing, they may actually be costing you more time and money. Consider that, on top of the work you are already doing, charging hourly rates also means:

  1. Having to predict project timelines and justify when the job takes longer than expected
  2. Constantly having to keep track of hours worked
  3. Actually being penalized for finishing a project early
  4. You risk losing clients when raising your rate to match your growing skill level

Ultimately, the biggest downside to the pay per hour model is that it makes the market all about who can charge less or complete a task in less hours, rather than who can bring in the best expertise and quality to a project.

That is why more and more freelancers are beginning to ditch hourly rates in favor of other alternatives. Here are three of the most popular methods being used in 2019:

Performance-based pricing

Interesting if you are working in:

  1. Growth marketing
  2. Social media marketing
  3. PR
  4. SEO

Performance-based rates can be a great way to get in the door with a higher payout, even when you have fewer past clients to recommend you. Rather than basing pricing on output, this method ties your earnings to expected results. This can be based on any metric: from media impressions to website traffic. For example, instead of charging $x per hour for social media marketing, entice new clients by offering to boost their Instagram followers by x% with your next campaign.


Obviously, the biggest downside here is that, once you do the work, it can take time to actually see the results. It is a big gamble which you should only try if you are very confident that you will get the results you are promising.

Fixed monthly or weekly rates

Best if you are working as a:

  1. Consultant
  2. Researcher
  3. Software prototyper

It is hard to put a price tag on expert advice or set a clear timeline for research and development. Charging an hourly rate means you will either have to undervalue yourself or risk scaring off clients concerned about racking up hours for each call or text. Consider charging a monthly or weekly rate, otherwise known as a retainer. The interesting thing about this payment method is that it gives you the security of longer-term client relationships, while still giving you the flexibility and independence you need to carry out your work effectively. If you decide to go this route, here’s more information about how to calculate your retainer fee.


With no defined hours or tasks, you are on call to help with projects that may take you beyond the scope or amount of hours you would have originally spent per client. You’re more demanding clients may have unrealistic expectations of what can be done within the contracted period of time. If clear expectations are not set from the beginning, it may also be difficult to demonstrate the value of continuing to pay a retainer fee.

Packages or project-based pricing

If you have a clearly defined deliverable, such as designing a website, creating written or video content or designing a logo, package-based pricing may be the best option for you.

Great option if you are working in: website and graphic design, copywriting or marketing automation

Having too many options is not always a good thing. In my personal experience as a freelance content writer, I have found that many clients know they need more content but are unsure what the right frequency, format or style should be.

Instead of making them do the guesswork, I have created a clearly defined blogging package on HelloMaaS. Based on my past experience working with early-stage start-ups, I have included a list of tasks, execution plan, project length and price for the whole package.

The great thing is, instead of spending time searching for new writing gigs, I now have clients reaching out to me directly. This means I can really cut down on the time it takes to: find my next gig, negotiate terms, and actually start working. I am even getting requests from clients who have not posted a freelance job online yet.


Make sure your packages are not too narrowly defined, otherwise you may limit yourself. Instead, try providing a range for the deliverables and the pricing. For example, 4-6 blog posts at a range of $x- $x. This way your package also has the flexibility to serve as you are jumping off point for negotiations. You can also create a few different packages based on your skills or basic and premium packages to show potential clients your flexibility.

With this in mind, instead of opting for the traditional hourly rates, take time to really consider which payment method works best for you and your skill set!

Photo by Marc Schäfer on Unsplash

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