So you’ve completed a UX design certificate program and you’re ready to take the working world by storm. We see you!
With remote work reaching new heights this year, maybe you’ve decided to try your hand at becoming a UX freelancer. Freelance work comes with its own unique benefits and challenges. A UX freelancer must figure out how to find new clients, and more importantly, how much they should charge those clients.
Use these tips on how to price yourself as a UX freelancer so you can ensure you receive fair compensation for your work.
Today we’ll get these questions answered for you:
- What do freelance UX Designers do?
- What are the benefits and challenges of freelancing?
- How should I price myself as a UX freelancer?
- How do I become a UX freelancer?
What do freelance UX Designers do?
UX Designers use empathy, creativity, and problem-solving skills to produce intuitive apps, websites, and products. UX Designers work to ensure our digital and physical products are user-friendly and can solve the real-world problems people are facing.
When working as a UX Designer, you can choose to work for a startup, a corporation, or as a freelancer. Working in the startup or corporate world, you’d likely be working as a salaried employee on a full-time basis.
When working as a freelancer, a UX Designer will take on projects for individual clients. They will either be paid on a per-project, weekly, or hourly basis. They do all of the same design work a salaried designer would do, but they usually work remotely and may work with several clients at a time.
What are the benefits and challenges of freelancing?
Working as a freelancer comes with its own unique benefits and challenges. As a freelancer, you’ll have more freedom with your time and you don’t have to stick to a standard 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work schedule (unless you want to because you’re the boss now).
Those doing freelance UX work usually don’t have to worry about a commute as they can typically work from wherever they choose. While we’re all working from home right now, being a freelancer in non-COVID times means you can work from coffee shops, a home office, or a beach in Bali.
Additionally, freelancers have the potential to earn more since they aren’t operating on a standard annual salary basis. This can prove to be both a benefit and a challenge. For one thing, freelancers have the potential to earn more. But on the other hand, their income can be inconsistent since it is all dependent on how many projects they pick up each month. Thankfully, the longer you work as a freelancer, the more you’ll build up your portfolio and client list. But be prepared to face challenges when you’re just beginning your freelance UX design career.
How should I price myself as a UX freelancer?
Here’s the big question. Like we mentioned earlier, there are 3 ways to charge for your freelance user experience design services: by the hour, by the week, and by the project.
Each of them can be useful pricing methods, but choosing the right one will largely depend on the job. And, once you decide how you’ll charge, you’ll need to determine how much you’ll charge. Let’s look at the different pricing strategies and some ways you can get a clearer idea of what your work is worth.
Per Hour vs. Per Week vs. Per Project Rates
Overall, you will likely make more by charging per project or per week.
But, an hourly rate can be useful too. Someone may come to you and say they have a project that will take X number of hours. In this case, giving an hourly rate makes sense. In other cases, you’ll earn more by choosing a weekly or per project rate.
Freelance Product Designer Jared Erondu shares how he went from charging hourly to charging weekly in a YouTube interview with Dann Petty, creator of the documentary “FREELANCED.”
“What I quickly found is that when you’re working on an hourly basis and as your skill improves over time, you start making the same decisions a lot faster,” Jared said. “In the beginning, you probably spent a lot of time thinking about that onboard flow. And fast forward 12 to 18 months, you’re like, ‘I’ve seen this 10 times. I can do this in 1/10 of the time.’ If you’re charging hourly, you’re making 1/10 the money for providing the exact same values at the company. So I quickly realized I was actually losing money by charging hourly.”
Jared’s story is one that many freelancers can relate to at one point or another in their UX career. And, it illustrates a key component of freelancing: flexibility. Once Jared realized he was not making as much money as he could be, he adjusted his rates and earned more.
Once you’ve considered the scope of the client’s request, you can make an informed decision on whether you want to charge per hour, per week, or per project.
Other factors to consider
It’s important to take into account the location and size of the business you’re considering working with. These factors can give you a better idea of not only how much the company can afford to pay you, but also what the market value for UX services is for the area and business size.
Additionally, you should consider the scope of the job. In your job interviews with the potential client, you can ask them what kind of role you’d be serving and for how long. Is this a long term assignment? Will you be overseeing the entire UX process from start to finish? Or, will you be stepping in to help with tasks like graphic design, information architecture, or user research? Will you be serving more of a consulting role?
All of these are influencing factors to think about when deciding how and how much to charge your new client.
So, how much should I charge?
Well… there are no hard and fast rules to go by when coming up with your price.
An excellent way to figure out what to charge is to first ask the company what their budget is for the job. This takes some of the pressure off of you to come into discussions with a fixed number of your own.
They may come back and ask you again what you estimate a job of that scope will cost. So just in case, you can come up with a ballpark range of your own. We encourage you to do your own research before meeting with a company so you can get a better idea of how much they could and should offer you.
By the Hour
If you’re charging by the hour, you can use this handy chart Upwork shared with the latest data on what people are charging for freelance UX work in the U.S. Here’s what they found:
|SAMPLE UX DESIGNER RATES
(Estimated billing rates charged by intermediate-level, U.S.-based specialists)
|Project Type||Average Price (per hour)|
|UX Design (General)||$25-$75|
While these ranges are quite wide, it’s a good starting point if you’re totally lost on what to charge. Be sure to consider how much time you estimate you’ll be spending on this job, as well as the non-billable work you did to land it (personal branding, searching for jobs, interviewing).
Per Project or Per Week
Again, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pricing freelance UX work. But, like Jared, you’ll get more knowledgeable about what to charge as you gain experience. If you work on a per project or per week basis, you could consider calculating how long it will take to complete a project and multiplying it by an hourly rate. Or, you could use our tips above and conduct independent research, taking into account the size and location of the company, before coming up with a figure on your own.
Danielle of the Freelance Travel Network has been freelancing for over 7 years. Her biggest tip is to focus on the value you bring to clients, not on upskilling or nebulous income goals. For Danielle, when you focus on the market value, it’s easier to have a sense of how much you can confidently charge for each project. You’ll also be more focused on the project itself and delivering beautiful results as opposed to the anxiety of bringing in cash.
Jared stands out from the competition by doing independent research and telling a company 3 things he would change about their product. This strategy often impresses companies and has landed Jared many freelance gigs.
How do I become a UX freelancer?
When launching your freelance career, you might be unsure of where to find clients or even how you can get started. Here are a few steps you can take to become a full-time user experience freelancer.
Set up an online portfolio
So you want to be a freelancer? It’s time to start marketing yourself. One of the most effective ways to brand yourself is to create an online portfolio. Your online portfolio will show potential clients your past projects and give them a glimpse into the human behind the resume. Your portfolio should be visually appealing, show some personality, and make it easy to find the awesome work you’ve done.
Polish your LinkedIn and other social media profiles
There’s a lot of value to be found on social networking sites like LinkedIn, especially for those doing freelance UX work. Turn on the #OpenToWork feature to let recruiters know you’re seeking new clients. You can also professionalize your Instagram and Twitter accounts and use them to network with others in the design field and tech industry. There’s definitely something to be said about actively engaging in social conversations about what’s going on in your industry (Hello, engagement!). Interacting with companies you want to work with on Twitter can be the thing that sets you apart from others when competing for freelance jobs.
Leverage your network
Word of mouth is the No. 1 way freelancers land clients. There’s a reason we say, “It’s not always what you know, it’s who you know.” If you’re a Kenzie learner or graduate, you have access to Kenzie Employer Partners and other incredible companies doing big work in the tech industry. We encourage you to look around you and start having conversations with the people you already know in user experience design and tech. You might be surprised at how the people in your network can help you land new clients. Don’t have a network yet? It’s never too late to start building relationships with professionals and industry experts, which brings us to our next point…
Get involved with local startup communities
For those who haven’t quite built up a solid network yet, getting involved with the local startup community is a great way to get started. You can use Facebook’s event feature and websites like Meetup to find upcoming events for web design professionals and freelancers in your area. You never know who you might meet.
Join freelance job boards
Websites like Upwork are a great way to find new clients, especially if you’re just starting out. These websites allow freelancers to respond to job listings. They also provide a space for clients to search for a freelancer with the specific traits and skills needed for their project.
While there are downsides to using these kinds of services (Upwork takes a small cut of your final pay, for example), they can be a great place to get acquainted with lots of different companies, build up your portfolio, and start a freelance career with little to no startup costs.
Want a few more pointers on how to launch your UX career? Check out these blogs for more information:
- What Skills do I Need to Become a UX Researcher?
- What is UX Design?
- What is a Typical UX Designer Salary?
- How to Build Your UX Design Portfolio