Pricing freelance jobs for a former employer

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Dr. Freelance, I just started a new job, but my former employer has asked me for pricing on some freelance jobs on the side to help them with a large proposal they’re working on. I’ve determined that a set hourly rate will work better than a lump sum fee, due to fuzziness on the scope and my previous experience with this group. I’ve always been a salaried employee and am clueless how much to charge! I can do a simple calculation on what my “hourly rate” is based on my current salary, but they will obviously 1099 me, so I’ll have to pay taxes, etc. What’s your advice?—Boomerang Baby

That’s great news, Boomerang Baby, and a testimony to why it’s important to depart jobs on good terms—if you keep the bridge intact, a former employer can be a terrific resource for future work. Here’s how I’d approach the situation:

  • Contact someone in your previous company who hires freelancers, maybe an art director or creative director in an area that’s unconnected with the department you’d be working with. If you did it stealthily, you might be able to get an idea of what the going rate or range is. (And I’d shoot 10% higher than that—because you have inside knowledge and will be able to hit the ground running, which is valuable.) If it’s a small company, it may not be possible to accomplish without the project manager knowing…so handle accordingly.
  • Use the freelance rate calculator “top-down calculation” toward the lower part of MoreCowbellBooks.com, and add 30% or so to your salary to account for the fact that they’re not paying you insurance benefits, vacation, sick time, etc. Since your previous employer knew what you were getting paid, this number should be right in line with their expectations.
  • Check Writer’s Market and Editorial Freelancers Association to see if there’s an analogous project type to what you’re working on. The pay ranges are pretty wide for a lot of the categories, but those will give you additional data points to consider.

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Photo of Tempe Town Lake bridge courtesy of 36Hundred.

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