Most freelancers charge by the hour. Typically, they have an hourly rate range they adapt based on the project and client. This allows them to customize pricing as needed and maintain a competitive edge when giving clients quotes. When they look at calculating the total cost of a project, they multiply their hourly rate by the number of hours they estimate it’ll take to complete. 

But knowing how much to charge can be tricky when you’re just starting out. You don’t want to price yourself out of projects, but you also don’t want to sell yourself short. If you’re feeling unsure about how to settle on a number, then you’re in the right place! In this article we’ll talk about the different factors to consider when making that decision. Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!

1. The Amount of Experience You Have 

One of the most important factors to take into account as you’re defining your hourly rate is how long you’ve worked as an instructional designer. But years of experience isn’t all that matters! It’s also important to consider the complexity, size, quality, and value of the projects you’ve worked on. No matter what your situation is, make sure your hourly rate accurately reflects your experience. The more projects you’ve completed, the more you can charge per hour.

2. How Competitive the Market Is

If you’re entering the freelancing world now, you’re probably aware that instructional designers are in high demand. This is good news for you, because it means you can charge more per hour! However, if you find yourself competing with others for work, it’s important to consider how much they charge and adjust your price accordingly if you don’t want to miss out on opportunities. That said, make sure you don’t undersell yourself and charge so little you regret taking a project on. 

3. Who Your Client Is

Knowing a bit about your client’s background—approximately what they can afford and whether they are profiting from your services—is another factor that can help you land on an hourly rate that’s fair for everyone involved. For example, banks and pharmaceutical companies often have larger budgets to devote to e-learning development, whereas nonprofits and educational institutions typically have much less. Keep this in mind as you determine your pricing. 

4. Your Dream Rate 

An old boss once told me to negotiate pay based on “an amount that’d make you laugh if you got it.” While that might sound strange, it’s actually helpful advice. Think of a number that’s so much higher than your anticipated hourly rate that you can’t imagine getting paid that much. Make that the top end of your range. While this isn’t a number you’ll lead with in a negotiation, it’s good to know what it is in case you’re asked! For example, imagine a client comes to you with a project that you aren’t excited about, so you turn them down. But then they come back to you saying they really want to work with you and asking what it’ll take. That’s when this number comes into play. 

5. Your Overhead Costs 

As a freelancer, you pay for everything out of pocket, so you want to be sure your rate covers your bottom line. This will ensure you’re earning—not losing—money when you take on a project. 

So how do you calculate your overhead costs? Start by identifying your monthly costs. Include things like office supplies, authoring app subscriptions, mortgage or rent, and utilities. Once you have a general idea of what it costs you per month to freelance, you can calculate what you need to make per hour to break even. From there, you’ll want to decide how much more you need to make to live comfortably. After all—breaking even isn’t the goal! You want to have money to put in the bank.


Deciding on an hourly rate and range can feel intimidating. But by following the tips we covered in this article, you can feel confident that your hourly rate is fair and reflects your worth. For more information on freelancing and other career tips, check out the articles below.

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Nancy Woinoski