Tips & Advice, UX Career Guidance

What to charge as a UX freelancer or consultant

If you work for yourself (or are considering it), one of the hardest things to figure out is what to charge as a UX freelancer or consultant. It’s a difficult question to answer, because it largely depends on you experience and what any particular market will bear. That said, it’s a question I get often — so I’d like to share some recent advice I gave on the topic to a UX consultant just starting out in the field.

Q: A global management consultancy recruiter reached out to me about a consulting opportunity for understanding overall market opportunities, key players and their product offerings in an industry that I am somewhat of a SME in. The email states that I would be compensated at my preferred consulting rate.however, I wouldn’t begin to know what is a reasonable rate for product consulting. Any advice would be welcomed.

A: This is always a difficult question, and client expectations certainly vary. But here’s my take.

First, I believe that anything less than $100/hr places you in the “commodity” category, says you’re just another freelancer. Which, looking at your profile and experience, you are certainly not. So for starters, I’d consider $100/hr your absolute floor.

Past that, it gets tricky. So I’ll tell you what I do in the hopes it’s helpful.

I don’t ever explicitly expose an hourly rate in proposals to clients. I am a firm believer in value pricing, especially if you are a consultant.

So instead of a “rate,” I offer pricing based on blocks of time, where, if they do the math, they can see that the cost per hour decreases the longer they work with me. I have a minimum 1-day engagement that represents 8 hours of my time; I present this as “nothing you’re going to ask me to do will ever cost less than this.”

I’m not interested in 2-3 hours worth of work, because clients who want to take a piecemeal approach (1) have no idea what they’re hiring me for in the first place and (2) will almost never be repeat clients. You will almost always lose money on engagements like this, and the frustration factor for all involved will be very high.

So, past the 1-day option there is a 3-day option, where the total price decreases by 15%. Then a 5-day option where the price decreases by 20%. I also have retainer fees for 1, 3, 6 and 12 months.

The point is that in all of this, I do not EVER disclose an hourly rate. It’s not mentioned anywhere. The emphasis is on time over the target and value: here’s what I can do for you, here’s what it costs.

So I’d say this: figure out what a full day of work with a single client — which includes lost opportunity of not promoting yourself or doing other work during that time — is for you. A number where you say to yourself “I’m not getting out of BED for less than this.”

Then use that number to create chunks of time for engagements, as I’ve explained above.

The other thing I’d like to say is this: when you put that number out there, do it very matter-of-factly, and do not ever apologize for it, or offer to discount it upfront.

Any client worth working for will be honest with you, will come back and say “Hey Joe, we respect your experience, but our budget will only allow us to spend X. Can you work with us?” That’s the mark of maturity, of an organization who understands that good is never cheap.

From there, you negotiate, and remember that when the rate goes lower, something has to give on their end (e.g. your time spent), and you state that. I always tell clients (only after they ask to negotiate) that nearly any budget can be met — it’s a matter of what changes in terms of scope.

I hope all that is helpful to you. Go forward with confidence 😉


Starting a career as an independent UX designer or consultant is just one of the topics I’ll be posting monthly training videos on at my NEW UX 365 Academy. I’ll be releasing new training videos, courses and eBooks every month, and you’ll also get every course, training video + resource I’ve ever created for students + clients — all for less than $15 a month.

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