How much should I charge - pricing your work, part 1 | This is part one in a two part series on pricing your work - a crucial skill when you are beginning to work with brands or restaurants.  When you're done here, don't miss part two.

If there's one question we hear more than any other here at FBC, it's this:

"I've been asked to develop a recipe/take a photo/write a sponsored post/review a restaurant/all of the above by BrandABC/RestuarantXYZ.  Should I charge/how much should I charge?  They're offering coupons/a fee/exposure/free meal/none of the above/all of the above.  What should I do?"

This is one of the biggest mysteries of freelancing.  How much should I charge?  What's everyone else charging?  What's too much?  What if it's too little?  What if I lose the job because I'm too high/too low?

Full Time Freelancer or Part-Time?

I've been freelancing as a designer, photographer and writer since 2008 - first as a sideline from my regular 9-5 job and then, from 2010 onwards, as my only source of income.

While I didn't realize it at the time, my attitude towards getting compensated for my work was dramatically different when I had a steady paycheque from an employer every two weeks than when I had to hustle for every dollar myself.

And that's where it can get tricky pricing your work.  Because in all honesty, one of the biggest obstacles in setting your pricing is the stuff that goes on inside your head.

Pricing shouldn't be emotional - but it often is.

Should You Charge For Your Work?

The answer is yes.

Or no.

Fabulously helpful, right?

Personally, I think the answer is yes - most of the time.  That's because as a freelancer, my time really is money.  Idle time means no paycheque.  Doing work for free means the time I put into that job leaves less time for work that could be paying my rent.

But, if blogging is a hobby and you don't need the extra money, working for free is your prerogative.  But you do need to be aware that every time a blogger works for free because they don't need the money, they make it that much harder for those who do.   Don't devalue your work.

What Should You Charge?

There is NO secret number that those of us who get paid are charging!!   Us freelancers don't hold secret club meetings to set the rates.  We figure it out by doing the following:

  1. research
  2. writing down and tracking our time on various projects so we become confident in estimating to a client how long a project will take
  3. determining the value we can add to a client through additional add-on services
  4. finding a mentor (or two) who is willing to share their industry knowledge and give you some hard numbers (if somebody helps you out with this, remember, it's important that you give back to other up and comers when they are looking for advice - basic Karma)
  5. being honest with ourselves about our skill levels and experience
  6. a little gut instinct and a lot of trial and error.

While a Honda Civic and a Mercedes with both get you from A to B, they have very different sticker prices.  Freelance rates are the same.  They vary across the board because pricing is individual and should be based on two criteria that vary from person to person:

  1. covering your costs
  2. charging for your time and skill

This week we'll look at covering your costs.

Covering Your Costs

At the very least, any work you agree to do should pay you enough to cover the costs of the project. There are two kinds of costs:

  1. expenses that can be billed back directly to the client - these include ingredients for a recipe you are developing, groceries or specifically requested props for a photo shoot or cost of a meal for a restaurant review.
  2. expenses that you incur as a cost of doing business (see the full list further along)

Expenses that can be billed back directly to the client should be separated out on your invoice.  Expenses you incur as a cost of doing business should be factored into your hourly rate.

A simple example is this: Brand ABC asks you to create a recipe and photograph it for use on their website's recipe index.  They offer you $25 in product coupons as compensation.

Dilemma #1:  working for only product coupons is fine but... remember, those coupons are only paying for the Brand's product - not the flour, butter, sugar, etc that you will require to make an entire recipe.  If you're being given $25 worth of coupons for Maude's Amazing Mocklate, that may cover far more product than you need to develop your recipe, in which case you may be willing to use your own ingredients in exchange for the extra product.  But, you still haven't been paid for your time.  Are you ok with that?

RELATED:  Top FBC Posts of 2013 Countdown: #3

Dilemma #2: You realize it's  actually going to cost you $45 in ingredients to create and test the recipe.  This is a conservative estimate and will depend greatly on the type of dish you're creating.  If you're developing a recipe for use on a brand's website, you need to work up something original and test it multiple times to ensure it works. $45 is... at best... highly optimistic.

$25-$45 = -$20.

You have just lost $2o on this project and you haven't even been compensated for your time yet.  This is how most small businesses go out of business in under a year.  You've also just set a precedent with this brand that you are willing to work for less than you, and the final product, are worth - it's very hard to climb out of that hole should you decide to freelance recipe develop full-time a year from now.  I know from experience.

You should never be subsidizing a client's costs.  Ever.  Even if you are giving your time for free. That is entirely their responsibility and one of THEIR costs of doing business.

Costs of Doing Business

Don't just consider client costs.  You also need to consider your costs of doing business such as:

  1. electricity/gas to run your oven, stand mixer, dishwasher etc
  2. the computer you're using to write your post on
  3. your internet connection to send your finished work off to Brand ABC/RestaurantXYZ
  4. the kitchen space where you will develop your recipe
  5. your camera equipment and editing software required to photograph your recipe
  6. all the other potential costs of running a small business: accounting fees, gas to get to the grocery store for ingredients, your marketing, web hosting, a small business license, insurance, software etc

Suddenly, that $25 in product coupons starts to feel very, very small, doesn't it?  And, once again, you still haven't been paid for your time!

Now obviously, you're not going to charge your very first client the entire cost of everything listed here.  But if you plan to do this on a regular basis, you do need to start factoring those costs into your cost of doing business over a year if you ever hope to earn a profit.  They should be included in your eventual hourly rate as part of your cost of doing business, as opposed to your client's cost.

The good thing is, a lot of these things can be deducted come income tax time - so keep good records (and talk to an accountant for advice on what you can and can't deduct).

This week we discussed the first part of pricing your work - determining your costs.  Next week we'll look at charging for your time and expertise, making a profit (so you can have a life after paying your bills!) and when it's ok to work for free.  We'll even talk about the "myth of exposure".

More Reading:

How Much Do I Charge - Pricing Your Work,  was written by FBC co-founder Melissa Hartfiel.  Melissa is a freelance web designer and photographer at Fine Lime Designs by day.  She lives and breathes CSS and HTML.  By night she writes Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach as well as being the all round FBC design & technology gopher. Connect with Melissa on Twitter: @mhchipmunk, Pinterest, or Facebook: Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach and Fine Lime Designs.

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I’ve been a (profitable) freelancer for 20 years, in another field than blogging. I disagree with the idea that’ ‘if you work for free, you make it that much harder for other bloggers on 3 fronts:
i) you’re comparing on the basis of price rather than quality and if they are superduper good, they’ll get paid, regardless of what you charge or don’t charge. Their business is their business and yours is yours.
ii) if you work for free, what you do is make it much harder for YOU ever to make a profit. Once you set a price, whether it’s $0 or $1000, it is hard to raise the price. So don’t box yourself into a corner at the outset.
iii) if you’re just starting out, you need to prove yourself. So you make a deal if you’re going to do something for free, that i) you get a testimonial and insight into the results you generated and ii) that you get first consideration on the next project.


All good points. And as I mentioned, there are times where working for free is totally acceptable – I’ll be talking about those next week 🙂

Ian Dixon

Some very good points that I would fully agree with.
Even if I allow that the cost of the food and the cooking time is something that I would do anyway in order to get food for myself then there are still other things to consider.
Once I create some food then the first thing to do is to get pictures. A few minutes perhaps.
Then the pictures have to be downloaded and tidied because they are never quite right.
Now write the actual recipe.
Get the pictures neatly into the recipe.

It can easily take me 2 hours to get a postable recipe for something that may have only taken 10 minutes to prepare. I’m far from slow but the attention to detail takes time.

So I would say that a reasonable price for writing a recipe would start at somewhere in the region of $100

Helen @ Fuss Free Flavours

Excellent article.

I think that the tide is turning here in the UK and I’m getting more and more paid work.

Some bloggers are getting paid up to £250 for one simple recipe with one photo. This is still cheap when compared with hiring a home ec, stylist, photographer and paying for studio hire.


I agree with all this, but one thing that never seems to be brought up is the fact that if $50 in groceries is considered a business expense, it also has to be taken into consideration that you get to keep those $50 worth of groceries – it’s not the same as an expense for a caterer or restaurant, which would prepare and sell the food itself. And yes, preparing a recipe takes time, but it also erases the time you’d otherwise spend making dinner (for free).

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