Rates for freelance developers?


This is for you freelance developers:
I was wondering: what are common hourly rates for audio programmers?
How much should I charge? For example for programming VST GUIs or doing DSP work.

I am thinking about doing some freelance work in the future and that’s why I am wondering. :slight_smile:

charge what you think your time is worth. there is no right answer.

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One thing to consider if you live in the States, is that you’ll have to end up paying about an extra 7-9% more in taxes because you’re self employed. You’ll also have to foot your own health insurance coverage.

As a freelance, then, I think it’s reasonable to ask for a little more than you would at a conventional job. In any case I always ballpark somewhat higher than what I’m expecting/needing.

Again, if you’re in the States, there’s a wonderful free service called SCORE (https://www.score.org/). They’re staffed by retired small business executives & lawyers who mostly work as volunteers (they also get a bit of government funding). You can get paired with a small business mentor who can help you navigate these sort of questions, and their lawyers will look over your contracts for free. I’d highly recommend it if there’s a chapter near you :slight_smile:


I’ll give you my answer, which is from the perspective of someone who hires programmers. It depends greatly on your level of experience. If I hire a new programmer with limited experience, then I am actually going to lose a lot of hours as they make mistakes and learn along the way. It will take them years to sufficiently grasp the systems that they are working with, and therefore they are likely to be significantly less reliable as a coder. On the other hand, if I hire someone who has experience working with projects very similar to what I am hiring them to create, then I will pay a premium purely because I am getting better value. They have already made and learned from years of mistakes. So I can have have greater confidence that they will have enough skills and experience to avoid a lot of problems and save me a lot of time and money.

TLDR; If you can get the same or better job done in significantly fewer hours than an inexperienced coder, then you are worth significantly more per hour.

Thanks for your insights :slight_smile:

I disagree that there’s “no right answer”. The right answer is that a person’s time is worth the amount that they can convince others to pay for it. (Which is basically capitalism 101: supply and demand). If you want to convince people to pay more then you better have a strategy to make them believe that they are receiving more value from you than from any alternatives.

that’s exactly what I said. “charge what you think YOUR time is worth”. What you @DrTarantism think your time is worth is different than what I think my time is worth. That’s why me quoting your rate to a client is not the right answer for me. same for you quoting my rate to one of your clients. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how much you should charge.

No it’s not exactly what you said. You and I have opposite opinions. You’re saying that the freelancer should charge what HE thinks he is worth. And I’m saying that the freelancer will end up being paid what the CLIENT thinks the freelancer is worth. Very different things.

not if he invoices what he thinks he’s worth…? Clients don’t get bills for $600 and say “I’m only going to pay $200” unless they’re Donald Trump.

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Your last comment makes no sense. Who hires somebody without first agreeing on the cost? Hiring a programmer without knowing in advance what the terms are is absurd. I wouldn’t just ask somebody to start work and then wait for an invoice. I wouldn’t do this for anyone… not my lawyer… not my attorney… not any of my consultants… I always have at least a rough idea of how much people are going to bill me.

Guys, calm down! :slight_smile:

Calm? Who isn’t calm? I’m just opinionated.

lol of course you’re not going to hire or start doing work without laying out some ground rules. I’m talking about being hired at an hourly rate. i’m guessing you’re talking about being hired for a flat fee. Flat fees can definitely be negotiated before work begins. Hourly rate, not so much. Also, where I live (america) doctors and hospitals perform allllllllll kinds of work without even discussing the cost with the client (patient). If you don’t have to deal with that, consider yourself lucky.

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Number of hours might not be known in advance 100%, but I would definitely figure out an hourly rate before hiring a freelancer. I think there is a huge risk of being considerably unethical if you decide on an hourly rate after having done the work. And if you choose a rate thats very different from what the client was expecting, you will have lost a customer and created a bad reputation.

ok but none of that has to do with charging “what you think YOUR time is worth”. AKA setting your hourly rate and telling the client. How does telling the client “I charge $80/hr” and them expecting $20/hr give you a bad reputation if YOU think YOUR time is worth $80/hr? That’s on them!

Because any client who doesn’t negotiate the rate in advance, is probably naive. They’re probably new to entrepreneurship and they’re expecting to be treated fairly. But instead, their perception is going to be that they were taken advantage of. They thought they were being kind and generous, thinking that the freelancer would add on an extra $10 an hour. And to make matters worse, the freelancer might have taken twice as long as expected to get the job done, making it even more expensive, and also delivered work full of bugs.

again, that’s ON THE CLIENT. that has nothing to do with the freelancer charging what they think their time is worth.

Actually it is very relevant. The person asking the question probably wants to make informed decisions that will deliver good results in the long term. An attitude of “that’s on the client” is a great way to have a terrible career. And at the end of the day, anybody who is seeking advice on how to make it as a freelancer or a consultant has to ask themselves what their goal is. Do they actually want to rise up and make a tonne of money in the long term? Or do they want to burn a bunch of bridges and make inconsistent money that decreases over the long term?

Take whatever you think you deserve and multiply it by 1.5.

More often than not, they’ll go along with it (leaving you wondering if you should have doubled instead). If they complain, you can reduce it a bit and be sure you’re not going below your fair market value.

Also, increase that amount a bit with each new client. You’ll have an expanded portfolio and more experience, so you’re worth more.

Fresh out of college I thought I was worth $25/hr because I didn’t have as much real-world experience. I asked for $50 and they agreed on $40 — was very glad I didn’t start at $25!

The next job I asked for $60/hr and got it (smaller job, so fewer hours total, which probably helped).

My next job after that I asked for $75/hr. They offered $50 because there were some budget constraints. It was a very fun job, so I took it and made sure I never worked more hours beyond what they could pay me (except for occasional critical stuff).

They ended up just hiring me with a salary when they raised some more money. I definitely think they would not have done this if I hadn’t strictly stuck to what I thought my time was worth and always stayed within those boundaries. If I accepted $30/hr as a freelancer and was flexible when they had budgetary constraints, they probably would have kept me a freelancer and never fully hired me.

So whatever value you pick, ask for more than that. Increase the amount you ask as you continue to work and learn. Be very strict in sticking with the valuation you set for yourself (and adjust it if necessary). Only grant exceptions when there’s a good reason for it, like the job will give you great experience or it’s a very fun project, or charity, etc.

When people get an intuitive feeling for what you’re worth they’re less likely to screw you over. People don’t cajole their lawyer to take less pay or to sometimes work for free, because lawyers don’t put up with that. Programmers should be the same. I’ve run into a lot of companies that try to marginalize and underpay freelance programmers when that technology is at the core of the company. For some reason they don’t do the same with their lawyers.