Working as an instructional design freelancer can be both fun and financially rewarding. Coordinating with clients directly, being your own boss, and getting paid well are all big advantages of going this route. But some parts of freelancing can feel kind of high stakes—like negotiating with clients. 

If talking about money feels scary to you—don’t worry. In this article, I’ll walk you through some tips that’ll help you feel more comfortable with it so you can ensure you’re paid fairly.  

1. Do Your Research

Some clients will contact you about work and lead with an hourly rate they want to pay. This is actually super helpful because it lets you rule out work that doesn’t fall within your hourly rate range from the get-go. But what if they don’t immediately share a number with you? In that case, do a little research on your own to see if you can find out what they usually pay. For example, you could try checking their company job board to see if they mention an hourly rate. 

LinkedIn and Glassdoor are also great places to check to find out what that client is paying people in similar roles. These websites have areas where companies can share what comparable positions are making. And Glassdoor even lets former and current employees and contractors report actual numbers—which is super helpful for you as a potential freelancer! 

While both Glassdoor and LinkedIn have areas to share hourly rates, salaries are a little more common. But if a position shows a salary instead of an hourly rate, you can easily convert it with some quick math. A standard work year consists of around 2,000 hours. So just take any salary and divide that by 2,000 to get the hourly rate. For example, here’s what that calculation would look like for a yearly salary of $80,000: 80,000/2,000=$40 per hour. If this seems low, that’s because it is! Salaried employees are usually paid less than freelancers since they have job security and other benefits, so I usually add 50% to the hourly rate. Going back to the example, if a company has comparable positions paying $80,000, you could reasonably ask for an hourly rate of $60 or more as a freelancer. 

If the client doesn’t share a number and you can’t find anything online, don’t worry! That’s where tip number two comes in. 

2. Get the Client to Name a Number 

I don’t know about you, but my heart rate always kicks up a few notches when clients lead conversations with “what do you charge per hour.” If this happens, don’t panic—and don’t automatically share your hourly rate either. Try to get the client to share a number first, as this will put you in a better position to negotiate. Sometimes, you’ll be thinking of a number and the client will say something much higher. In that case, if you had already shared your lower number, you could be losing out on a big chunk of change.  

So next time a client asks what you charge per hour, counter with a question of your own instead of answering straight away. Here are some examples: 

  • Do you have a rate in mind we need to work within? 
  • What have you paid someone similarly qualified in the past? 
  • What’s your budget for this project? 

Hopefully, asking these questions will get the client to share the number they have in mind. Once you have that information, you can decide whether to counter with your own offer or accept what they’ve offered. 

3. Get the Details First

Another good practice is to make sure you have enough details about the project before giving a rate. You don’t want to jump into negotiations without understanding the specifics. Some examples of question to ask are:

  • When do you need the project completed by?
  • Will I be the only person working on this project, or will I be part of a team?
  • Is the content already written, or will I be writing it and developing the e-learning course?
  • How many hours per week would you like me to dedicate to this project?

If during the course of this conversation the client still won’t share a specific number, at least you’ll be armed with all the information you need to come up with a rate that makes sense on your end. 


Remember, all conversations around pay are a negotiation, and it doesn’t hurt to ask for more money. The worst thing they can say is no! And while negotiating with clients can feel intimidating at first, it’s a skill that gets easier with practice. By following the tips we covered in this article, you can be confident you’re in a good position to negotiate the best price for your work. 

For more information on freelancing or other career tips, check out the articles below.

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