A to Z of things that freelancers don’t get paid for (and other benefits we lose out on)

Dee Primett

Wicked Creative UK

The subject of rates is one that regularly comes up in the freelance world. As independent contractors, we have the freedom and flexibility to set our own rates. We do this based on varying factors – our skill and experience, how quickly the client needs the work etc.

Some freelancers charge per hour, per day/half day, or per project. In the case of writing/editing jobs, some even charge per word (ewww, but that’s a whole ‘nother story). Regardless of how we set our rates, all freelancers have something in common. We’ve all had someone question what we charge at some point during our career.

It felt like the right time to do this blog post as I know many freelancers put their rates up in the first part of the year. I’ve also seen a lot of posts with people looking for advice on what they should charge for specific projects, and I don’t want many people to make some of the same mistakes that I did early on in my freelance career.

I’ve seen many freelancers (me included!) fall down the rabbit hole of not charging enough because they haven’t taken into account all of the time and energy spent on aspects of their work that aren’t necessarily things that they get paid for – especially if they charge for a project per word! Not to mention all of the ‘workplace/employee’ perks that we as contractors miss out on.

So, grab yourself a hot drink as I bring to you, the A to Z of Things that Freelancers DON’T Get Paid For, and other ‘employee’ benefits that many of us miss out on, in the hope that it helps you to remember all of the things that you should take into account when setting your rates for freelance work.

Thank you to everyone on Freelance Twitter who also contributed to this blog post!

A – Admin

And boy is there loads of it! From updating client information to filing our tax returns, we spend a good part of our time doing paperwork. Also, Auditing our own ProcessesAdvertising and Answering Unsolicited Phone Calls.

B – Bookkeeping

Even if we have an accountant to do our own business finances, most of us are responsible for issuing and then chasing our client invoices. Also, Business Planning and Biscuits. Freelancers eat a lot of biscuits. Put a post about biscuits on Freelance Twitter and watch your notifications go wild.

C – Contracts

As freelancers, we put contracts of work in place to protect you and us. And since every client is different, these take time to create. If you have a contract for us, we need to take time to read it and make sure we are happy with it too. Also, Client Management and Conversations with Colleagues.

D – Deliveries

It genuinely looked like the Royal Mail sorting office at Wicked Creative HQ in December. Freelancers may work from home, but if you need us to keep taking in parcels, please sweeten the deal with biscuits or booze. Thanks.

E – Emails

Many freelancers receive so many emails that they actually pay a virtual assistant to deal with them on their behalf, making email management even more costly. Also, Equipment. The highlighters, staples, paper and printer ink that other people take for granted in their offices? Yeah, we have to buy them ourselves. That goes for our computers/laptops and other very expensive techy stuff too.

F – Free Work

Lots of people looking for freelancers still ask for unpaid samples/trials. While we’ll happily share examples we’ve already got, we won’t produce brand new work for free. Also, Furlough. Two words…. we wish!

G – Ghosting

Please don’t let us put time and effort into a proposal and not give us the courtesy of a response, even if it’s a ‘thanks but no thanks’. It’s professional courtesy. I’ve blogged on this recently – twice!

H – Holidays

No cushty 20 days paid annual leave for us or bank holidays. No work = no pay. Probably one of the main reasons why freelancers take so little time off. Also, Healthcare. Many employed jobs come with the perk of private health cover. No such luck for freelancers, you can find us at number 43 in the phone queue for the GP.

I – Invoicing

And indeed, chasing invoices. Please pay on time. It costs us time and money to chase you. Also, IT Support. When our tech goes wrong, we don’t have anyone to call to rectify the situation. Plus, if it stops us from working, it stops us from earning, so we need to resolve it ourselves pretty quickly. Also, Insurance. It protects our clients and us in case things go tits up.

J – ‘Just picking your brains’

Freelancers often have the best ideas, but often, people want them, but they don’t want to pay for them. We don’t mind sharing some of them, but please don’t take advantage of our creative powers. Genius takes time people!

K – Krispy Kreme donuts

You caught me out – genuinely couldn’t think of anything beginning with a K. In a late addition to this already published post: Knowledge (thanks to Chris Guiton on Twitter). Whether your freelancer has been working for six months or sixteen years, they’ve accumulated plenty of knowledge, skill, and experience that enables them to produce amazing work. Senior freelancers deserve their more senior rates – they’ve earned them!

L – LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a bit like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. But for many freelancers, it’s a necessary evil. And if you want anything other than the very basic package, you have to pay for it. Also, Lunch Breaks.

M – Marketing

No business can succeed without some marketing, including any freelance enterprise. We need to spend time and effort creating our own content, networking and generally getting ourselves out there to keep the work flowing in. Also, Memberships. There’s lot of platforms, associations and alliances to be part of, many of which help grow our business. But again, they often come at a price. Also, Maternity Leave.

N – Networking

Many freelancers rely on word of mouth and referrals from other professionals. Networking can be fun, but it takes valuable time away from client work.

O – Out of Hours work

Setting client boundaries is important. A freelancer I know recently got a text from a client at 8am on a Saturday morning with an urgent request. Please respect your freelancer’s regular working hours. If you aren’t sure what they are, ask – they’ll be happy to tell you!

P – Pitches and Proposals

Another time-consuming element of securing new work. Also, Parental Leave/Paternity Leave and Professional Accreditations.

Q – Quiet Periods

Which can happen if we don’t put plenty of effort into marketing ourselves. Or if something like COVID throws a spanner into the works.

R – Referrals

Most freelancers are always happy to pass on work that they are too busy for, or that they aren’t the right fit for, but hooking clients up with the best freelancer for their needs does take time. Also, Research (prospective clients and our own business shiz).

S – Sick Days

Never has this been more obvious than over the last year. Many a freelancer has dragged their snotty nose, rasping throat, or fever-ravaged body to their desk before. Again, no work = no pay. Also, Social Media. Many of us rely on an active social media presence to stay visible in our industry. Also, Software.

T – Training and Development

Whether you are a freelance designer, a freelance coach, a freelance copywriter or a freelance music producer, there is always something new to learn. Training and development help keep us at the top of our game, but yes, you guessed it – it also takes time that keeps us away from paying client work.

Not to mention actually paying for the courses themselves! Pssst, if you are looking for great marketing courses, Soph from Thoughtfully Marketing School has some epic ones! Also, Teams (the Microsoft Variety), Tea Breaks and Troubleshooting.

U – Utilities

Water, electricity, heating – yeah, we need them too.

V – Vacations

For our American friends. Also, VAT Returns.

W – Workplace Pensions

Nobody contributes shit towards freelance pensions. I’ll probably be working until I’m 111. Nevertheless, there are some tax benefits to saving for a pension. My friend Martin at Gold Stag Accounts has some helpful advice. Also, Website Hosting.

X – Xtra Deliverables

Scope creep is a pet hate of most freelancers. If you’d like to change the deliverables, we may want to amend the contract too.

Y – Yodelling

Just in case we fancied taking it up while we work.

Z – Zoom

Like Teams, Zoom is now a go-to platform for talking to prospective and contracted clients. But unless a client is signed, freelancers don’t get paid for the time they spend on discovery video chats.

Have you got anything to add that we haven’t covered?! Tweet me and let me know!

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