Becoming a freelancer isn’t something you fall into. It’s something you choose. Our Freelancing in Europe 2021 study, conducted in partnership with BCG, showed that 76% of freelancers choose to become independent to regain control over their career choices. The good news is that 84% of freelancers surveyed say they are fully satisfied with this new situation. But if choosing how, where and with whom to work is a considerable advantage, being self-employed also means facing new challenges. The first one is getting to know how much to charge for your work.

The importance of the ADR (Average Daily Rate)

Determining your ADR isn’t a simple task – but it needs to reflect your work. Adrian Couesnon, Systems and Network Administrator, says a good way to get an idea of your value is to: research the market and look at other freelancers with similar skills and experience to yours. From there, you’ll be able to set an ADR that works for you.” But several other factors should also be taken into account, such as your past experiences, your skills, the methods you implement with clients, the time you spend on projects, etc. Aladdin Serraoui, Director and Editor, explains: “You shouldn’t hesitate to highlight your expertise. It’s a good way to differentiate yourself from others. For example: it’s quite common to find a cameraman on Malt, but a cameraman specialized in augmented reality shooting or underwater shooting is more rare.”

quote by adrien couesnon

Your rate needs to both reflect your capabilities and contribute to the development of your freelancing career. Lauren Taara Sharma, Communication and Digital Transformation Consultant reminds us: “When you’re an entrepreneur, there are specific charges and taxes to take into account that employees don’t have to pay. It’s extremely important to pay attention to them if you want to be able to live decently and avoid finding yourself in a complicated situation at the end of the year.” Mayghan Dolmy, HR Consultant and timeshare HRM, also underlines the importance of staying on top of things: “Freelance does mean being ‘free’ to choose projects, but also free to manage ourselves. We have to do our research, meet the right people, find the right information, but above all, anticipate the future.”

In our Freelancing in Europe 2021 study, published in November 2020, Dr. Frank Müller-Langer, Associate Researcher at the Max-Planck Institute, and Dr. Estrella Gómez-Herrera, Professor of Applied Economics at the University of the Balearic Islands, analyzed the relationship between freelancers’ ADR and their professional success. Using data from Malt, they concluded that freelancers who charge a higher rate attract more clients. A higher daily rate shows authority and is likely to attract clients looking for high skills. Maurice Wehbe, Lead UX & Service Designer, explains: “You shouldn’t be afraid to charge a high rate. By strengthening your sales pitch, you’ll be able to justify your value and convince clients to accept the price of your services. Talking about money shouldn’t make you uncomfortable: if a client contacts you, it’s because they’re interested in your skills.” 

You should also remember that your ADR can evolve and change. For example, you can consider lowering your rate when a project can add value to your resumé. As a freelancer, it’s important to build a long-term reputation and adjust your rate accordingly. Reviews and recommendations left by your clients at the end of assignments are very important to your visibility and allow you to increase your daily rate. Lauren Taara Sharma, Communication and Digital Transformation Consultant, shares: “I may modify my daily rate if I know that a project will last a long time and bring me financial stability. But be careful, you shouldn’t underestimate yourself. I always make sure that my lowest ADR doesn’t influence my lifestyle”. Alexis Delespierre, B2B Photographer, insists on accuracy: “You have to be as accurate as possible about your ADR. If a freelancer underestimates himself and the project goes over time, they will inevitably lose at some point. They won’t be able to back out: it discredits the freelancer and the whole freelance ecosystem.

Freelancers are their own managers

Don’t forget that you’re your own boss and that you shouldn’t dedicate your entire schedule to your projects. While marketplaces like Malt can help, you still need to put aside some time for administrative tasks, actively searching out new clients and, of course, rest. Paul Dufour, Consultant in Webmarketing and Digital Strategy, tells us: “Outside of my projects, I remain attentive to my freelance accounting, but also to my side projects like toitoimontoit.fr or whede.fr“. 

You’re also your own manager: you need to think about what you need to grow your career and then turn that into numbers. Maurice Wehbe, Lead UX & Service Designer, suggests emphasizing transparency: “I don’t hesitate to explain the details of my ADR to my clients and what it includes: charges, Malt commission, insurance, equipment. My ADR shouldn’t only allow me to have a roof over my head. It should also allow me to think about my future, including savings for example.”

Differentiate yourself with training

Another aspect of freelancing to keep in mind is training and certifications. According to our study, every freelancer dedicates on average 6.5 hours a week to professional development. These efforts allow them to differentiate themselves on the market and offer clients the latest skills. Adrian Couesnon, Systems and Network Administrator, shares: “As a freelancer, technology updates, training and certifications are elements to take into account when setting your rates. They can make a difference on the market. You also have to emphasize your communication skills and know-how.” Training is also a key element for Aladdin Serraoui, Director and Editor: “Training is essential for me. I regularly train online or through reading books. It’s also important to create a network, in-person or remotely, even via Facebook groups or applications like Shapr or Club House.”

At Malt, we know how difficult it can be to take all these elements into account when setting your daily rate. To start,  you can rely on the one suggestion that came up in each interview we conducted for this article. For Adrian, Lauren, Maurice, Alexis, Mayghan and Aladdin, the most important thing to remember is to not underestimate yourself.