Today I thought I would take the time to explain a really basic rate structure of freelancing and do something that advertising agencies are increasing expecting… work for free.
So for the first order of business: the rate structure. What is a freelancer’s time and skill worth? That really depends on a lot of things, but at a vary basic level, it’s really a function of three things: “experience”/experience, talent, and location.
The first area I’ll talk about is the effect of location. This one is pretty straightforward: a freelancer with a New York address is historically going to be able to charge more for their services than a freelancer based in say, North Carolina. It’s silly to assume that just because someone has an NYC address that they are inherently more valuable, but from my experience, it’s the truth. I could attempt to make the argument that the Internet has helped reduce this archaic fact, but I’m not quite ready to do that. The idea of outsourcing creative services to the developing world in order to save a buck pretty much debases that argument. There are simply too many sub-factors such as location based cost-of-operation costs that play a major role in determining location related overhead/variable costs and that’s more detail than I want to go into today. Just take it for fact, location plays a major role in rates.
The second area is talent. At a basic level, it’s defined as one’s natural ability to do something. In the real world, I’ll argue that it’s one’s ability to do something well. That’s a function of natural ability and learned ability. I’ve got a lab tested VO2 Max in the range of 70-75 ml/kg/min. Compared to the average 23 year old male at say 45-50 ml/kg/min, that’s high. In non-science-y terms, that basically means my body can take in oxygen at a level comparable to many professional endurance athletes. The guys winning the NYC Marathon and Tour de France are normally just a wee bit higher at say 80-85 ml/kg/min. That being said, I routinely get dropped by Cat 2 amateur cycling racers. So I may have the natural capability to take in oxygen like a pro, but right now I’m not able to take my natural ability and fully exploit it. And that’s “talent” in a nutshell: it’s not about potential, it’s about being able to exploit it. Those people who can tap into their strengths tend to be really good at what they do and thusly have the ability to charge higher rates.
Now for the most difficult area, “experience” and experience. This is the hardest area to simplify into a few sentences. That’s mostly because it’s the easiest to manipulate. And on that note, how do you really define experience?!? I can’t even begin to give you an answer for the last question, but what I can tell you is experience is very subjective. Just because you have 10-20 years of business experience does not mean you know anything about social media, SEO, etc. It’s a great background, but the fact is “time in the business” or a long list of projects is a poor indicator of value or expertise. What it does do is allow “experienced” freelancers to create strong networks of business relationships resulting in higher wages for the same work. That’s “experience,” not experience. Experience on the other hand is a major asset in setting your rates. And from my personal experiences, experience does not have a direct relationship to time. It’s correlational.
So know for the free work part: some SEO Tips. SEO works like a skyscraper. You need a solid base (good content) before you can build up (increase visibility). Without it, your building will fall down.
1) Content. If you have a boring website, no one will want to read it. If you have content that is both relevant and engaging, you have your solid base. Take for example Rem Koolhaas’s Seattle Public Library. It’s got both and I never miss going to see it when I’m in Seattle. How many libraries have that?
2) Internal Structure. If you get the chance before it’s complete, visit the site of the NYC Freedom Tower. I’ve been lucky enough to see the memorial lights in person two years in a row now and I’ve also made it a point to visit the area once a year to see the building’s progress. Be like a skyscraper: make sure your site has a strong and highly interwoven internal structure (like the prior link). Keep things organized with hierarchal organization and the sky really is the limit.
3) Nepotism works. Ok, I’m not sure that’s the best description, but the principle is the same. People recognize names. Take for example this picture of UNC’s South Building. As much as I would love to say this picture is a popular pathway through which people discover my site because it’s a great picture, it’s more likely because of the way Google classifies it according to its description. In other words, if you want people to find your office on floor 42, don’t label the elevator button, aousdfa.
4) Visibility. I’m going to bet that most of my readers could recognize the Empire State Building without me telling them it’s the Empire State Building. Classic associations like the King Kong films really make the otherwise boring building (The Chrysler Building is much more interesting) a commonly recognized shape. In the world of SEO, link building does the same. Take for example Wikipedia. According to Yahoo’s Site Explorer, it has 240 million in links. I currently have 75 in links. Guess which is going to score better with Google?