I know, I know. You’re NOT hourly—but that’s exactly why I ask. If you’re not keeping track of how much time you spend on each assignment and project, you have no idea what you’re making an hour.
So why is knowing your hourly rate important?
Because you can’t take control of your income if you don’t understand it. Maybe your earnings have plateaued, or you’re not sure if a new client will be worth the effort. You might be due for a raise or a client upgrade and not even realize it.
If you’re serious about taking control of your earning potential, you have to determine what you make—but since you’re a self-employed, freelancing badass, you’ll have to figure your rate a little differently.
Figuring Your Hourly Pay
Instead of dividing your earnings for the week by the number of hours you worked, you’ll need to know how long it takes you to complete each article, project, assignment, or whatever. This will help you accurately estimate your hourly wage for new projects and identify your lowest-paying clients and projects, which you can replace with more lucrative ones.
You’ll also want to pay attention to how long different work-related activities take you—editing, rewrites, research, etc.—both in general and for different clients. Knowing how long it takes you to research, write, and edit can help you estimate how much time you’ll spend on each new project and assignment, before you commit.
For example, maybe you earn $40 for each 400+ word article you write for a website. Hell yeah! Knowing that each article takes a max of 2 hours, you’re earning nearly $20 an hour, even if the number of articles you write per week is limited. In contrast, you take on a gig that pays $50 each for 750+ words of highly researched health evidence. That’s almost seven cents a word. Not bad. But these articles take longer, roughly six hours, and always come back with at least an hour of edits. At an average of seven hours each, you’re now earning $7.14 an hour—less than minimum wage.
Of course, new projects can take longer just because they’re new and your ‘time’ may improve with experience. Keep that in mind, but use your hourly earnings as a guide to what projects and clients you want to continue with, and what assignments you’ll accept in the future.
Use What You’ve Learned To Earn More An Hour
If you identify any low-earning outliers in your current stable of clients, it’s time for a decision. Ask for a raise; explain that the amount of time you spend isn’t proportionate to the pay, especially if you’ve been working with the client for a while. The worst that can happen is that you’ll be told no and it will more than likely be because of a budget. So you continue the work—or you continue the work while marketing for another (better-paying) client.
Unpaid Self-Employment Hours
Being self-employed, you’ll no doubt also work un-billable hours: responding to email, marketing, keeping the books, updating your portfolio. Nobody pays you to do these things, but they have to be done if you want to keep your business running and earning. It’s a cost of doing business and makes the hours you spend on paid work all the more important.
If you’d like to track these hours, by all means, do so. A lot of writers recognize that they organize to procrastinate. Anything to put off actual writing. Others find that tracking administrative activities helps them streamline and schedule these tasks into batches. One marketing day a week to scout new clients and guest posts, one social media scheduling day a week, you get the idea. It’s up to you if you want to keep track of these hours.
Old School Time Clock
I admit that I’m still a bit of a dork when it comes to bookkeeping. I used to ‘keep the books’ for a number of companies in my twenties and I actually miss preparing my taxes by hand. Eventually, I may switch over to a digital system (even if only for the tax reports) but for now, I’m still pretty old school.
So I’m going to share with you the sheet I use to track my hours, and since I’m a dork, it’s kind of pretty. Using a time sheet has helped me differentiate between sitting at the computer and sitting at the computer, doing actual work. Sometimes the line blurs and I realize I’m not doing a damn thing but procrastinating.
Clocking in, so to speak, helps me stay on task.
What’s your favorite way to procrastinate? I usually click around the same pages, checking blog and affiliate stats.