100 is the magic number

Ever hired a freelancer? Maybe you hired a designer or a PR guru? Or brought someone in to help you with a particularly knotty HR issue.

And you boggled at the day rate didn’t you?

£200, £500, £1,000 per day? ((not me though, for MY rates you need to get in touch obv.))

And then you did a quick mental calculation and compared that figure to your annual salary.

And then you thought “I’m in the wrong business”.

And then you followed that thought through and took the plunge yourself.

And then you found that you were earning a lot less than you were expected. A lot less than when you were in that job ((working all day for a mean little man with a clip on tie and a rub on tan)).

And then you found yourself here. Hoping that finding out how I failed will make you feel better about yourself.

But it won’t.

Your error was introduced right at the start. When you did that mental arithmetic. Because 100 is the magic number ((obviously three is really the magic number)).

As a rule of thumb even a really successful freelance can’t expect to bill more than 100 days in a year.

Why not?

Well first of all you need to get the work. That all takes time, that web content won’t write itself and business breakfasts are less effective networking events if you don’t attend.

Then when you do get the work it will actually take longer than you said it would ((which is why billing based on days is rubbish see my yet to be written post ‘bill by the hour’)). You can’t bill more so you just have to get on with it.

Then there are administrative things that need to be done. The government requires a tax return for example, the dog needs walking.

And as you start to get busier you get diary clashes. You really want to run that workshop in March but you are already committed, how’s April? May?

And you’ll get no work in August or December.

So you will be doing fabulously well if you bill 100 days in a year.

And 100 days at, say, £400 a day is a decent income ((though obviously it isn’t a salary, lacks sick pay, holiday pay and any certainty it will ever appear again)). It isn’t what you probably thought that consultant was earning though.

If you do want to earn the big bucks try interim-ing or running a proper business ((where you employ people, the secret of making money being that you shouldn’t have to be there while it is being made, though there’s all the stress of managing people, booking leave and generally having to think about others your hatred of which was why you left your job in the first place)). Subjects, sadly, beyond the scope of this blog.