Creating a Rate Card for Estimating

Monday Marketing Morsels

It’s a perennial question, so let’s talk about it again . . . How do you set your rates? (This is a topic we also discuss at length in the Coaching Program, which starts October 5, 2015.)

When I first started freelancing, I never knew what to charge. After a year or two, however, I learned how long it would take me to do various kinds of work and to gauge how easy or difficult a client would be to work with.

I created a matrix that I would use to estimate project fees for clients. The matrix was something for my own purposes — I did not show it to clients. It gave me an easy place to start, and then I could adjust from there.

For example, it’s common for consultants to include what I call a PITA Surcharge (or “pain in the ass” fee) of an additional 10-30% when estimating for certain clients! Of course, you don’t openly discuss this with most of your clients; it’s just part of your own calculations. (I have discussed this openly with long-standing clients who are self-aware enough to know when certain projects are going to require a ridiculous number of drafts because of certain personalities involved. But that’s rare.)

Here’s the rate card I personally used to use to estimate writing jobs. You’ll see the two main factors were how hard the job would be (which affects the speed with which I could write, a rate I calculated for myself after carefully tracking time on many projects) and how much I thought the work was worth on an hourly basis.


The type of work (e.g., annual report versus press release) and the client (e.g., small versus large) influenced which hourly rate I used. Again, I did not actually give the client the hourly rate. I just used it to estimate the project fee, which is what I gave to the client as the estimate.

I don’t use this anymore, because I don’t do this kind of work anymore. I am not suggesting you use this chart or these fees; I am suggesting that you create your own kind of tool!

What’s your favorite way to structure your fees for your nonprofit clients? How do you calculate estimates for your clients?¬†Please share in the comments.¬†