When you're considering entering the world of freelancing, money is a big issue. You want to earn a competitive freelance income that covers your personal and business expenses (yup, those not-cool things like taxes, pension, insurance, work gear, and more!).
The last thing you’d want is to shoot yourself in the foot by charging less than enough to cover your spending. But you’re also afraid to scare the clients away with your rates (which happens a lot less often than undercharging!).
So let’s have an honest conversation about how much money you can make from freelancing. We’ve got a bevy of fresh stats on freelancer salaries, along with hourly and project rates.
Similar to the regular job market, freelance income rates depend on the industry, region, and experience levels. The average rate among experienced European freelancers is $98 per hour. French graphic designers bill €54 per hour on average, while a third of US independent workers take home a freelancing income of $150,000 or more. An approximated average annual income of British freelancers is £63,796 before tax,
That said, you can also find reports about much lower freelance rates. Upwork says its users earn $28 per hour across all professions, which isn’t that much in net income. Global survey data from Payoneer also states that male freelancers earn $28 an hour on average vs. females billing $23/hour. This cross-checks with Xolo data which shows that freelance solopreneurs, on average, bill 50% less than their male counterparts. (Ladies, time to catch up!)
So what do those numbers tell us? People’s freelancing income varies a lot.
Here’s why: The freelance economy is a marketplace. Each participant can set their own rates based on their experience levels, demand for their services, selected niche, and other factors.
While you should aspire to charge a “going” industry rate, you shouldn’t limit yourself to a certain number. Be prepared to negotiate your freelance rates and increase ‘em as the market conditions change.
According to a 2022 Freelancer Map study, the following types of freelancers make the most money
Other well-paid freelance skills and professions include data science & machine learning consulting, UX/UI design, copywriting, Agile Coaching, and financial advisory. In other words, traditional professions with a high paycheck also end up being profitable freelance services.
Freelance beginners usually fall into three categories: People who’ve ditched the corporate world in favor of self-employment, recent graduates doing work on the side, or career changes looking for a fresh digital start.
Corporate escapees usually earn more as freelancers in the first year because they already have valuable skills. Recent grads and career transitioners are still “entry-level” and have to work their way up to justifiably higher rates.
Here are three first-year freelance income reports to give you some ballpark numbers:
Based on the figures you may guess who was already an established pro (Nathan) at that time and who was just starting out. But it all ended well for Kayla and Jessica too as both are now pooling much higher freelance incomes!
It’s no secret that some work pays better. Here’s the type of freelance income you can expect from different professions.
Freelance writers charge $250 to $399 per blog post on average. The majority (91%) of first-year freelance writers make less than $30K per year. Across experience levels, 28% of freelance writers take home between $30K-$75K — and 9% earn north of 100K annually.
Not surprisingly, 50% of six-figure earners have been in the writing industry for 6 to 10 years.
That was according to a 2022 Peak Freelance survey.
Other experienced freelance writers also shared the following income data:
Overall, freelance writing has a high earning potential. The industry has experienced a "glow-up" over the past few years. Businesses across the board doubled down on content marketing investments — 89% of the most successful B2B marketers have a content marketing strategy in place.
The other reason freelance content writing has experienced a surge in popularity is prosaic. It’s a freelance niche where everyone assumes that they'll be dazzlingly successful, right from the start! (Spoiler alert: it's not that simple.)
To become a high-earning freelance writer you need more than solid writing skills (though it certainly helps!). The best content writers also have fantastic research skills and a solid understanding of both business fundamentals and human psychology. If you have the ability to inform, entertain and persuade your reader, all at the same time, then you'll have a bright future ahead as a freelance content writer.
Freelance copywriters charge an average rate of $3,200 for a website copy project, $4,000 — for an email sequence, $1,750 — for sales letters, and $2,175 for landing page copy according to a 2022 survey by Ashley Cummings. Her study sample includes 340+ people (67% female and 31% male) with the majority (46%) having 8+ years of industry experience.
A survey by ProCopywriters says that British copywriters charge an average day rate of
£387. Senior copywriters, content strategists, and content designers usually command rates of £800 – £2000+ per day.
While there is definitely overlap, copywriter and content writer are two very different roles. Both require creativity, research skills and you guessed it — solid writing abilities. But while content is a mechanism for teaching your target audience about the benefits derived from using your product or service, copywriting is where the persuasion and the hard sell come first.
Project-wise, freelance writers typically specialize in blog posts, eBooks, case studies, and thought-leadership or journalist-styled content. Whereas copywriters primarily work on direct-response or conversion copywriting for landing pages, product pages, email sales sequences, and other types of marketing collateral.
Copywriting means a significant chunk of your day will be spent mining voice-of-customer intel, researching the client’s line of business, and obsessing over website analytics numbers. Having solid wireframing skills can also help since many conversion copywriters work closely with designers.
SEO freelancers charge $68 per hour on average and ask $1,364/month per month for retainer projects, an ahrefs survey found. Yet again (unsurprisingly), over 15% of more experienced SEO freelancers bill $100+/hour for their services.
An earlier Search Engine Journal survey also found that the average annual income of SEO freelancers is below $34,000. For comparison, Junior in-house SEO specialists earn $35,000-49,000 in median salary.
Overall search engine optimization is a broad field with many sub-niches freelancers can choose to specialize. For example, the going industry rates for SEO audits are $501-$1,000, whereas site content audits can net you as much as $1,000-$2,500 per pop.
Similarly, you can command higher project rates for labor-intensive (but high ROI) services like link building, outreach campaigns, or digital PR activities. The agency price tag for such services stands at $3,000 - $15,000+ per month.
The average hourly rate of a freelance web developer is $61-$80 per hour according to an Arc rate database. In Europe, developers’ freelance income differs a lot by location. According to a Malt survey, German developers charge €735 per day, French — €492, and Spanish — €230.
Glassdoor, in turn, sets the annual freelance web developer salary in the US at $75k per year. In the UK, freelance software engineers make £46,172 per year on average.
Again, the above are ballpark estimates and should not limit your ability to negotiate higher project rates. Obviously, your compensation rate will be in accordance with both your experience and the “stack” you know.
There's a reason that programming jobs, especially software and mobile app development, are the highest-paying freelance jobs out there. It's really hard work that requires you to constantly hone your skills and adapt to an industry that moves at lightning speed.
Machine learning (ML) engineers and data scientists are among the best-paid freelancers. In the US, the average freelance machine learning engineer salary is $129,097 annually, with senior people pulling in $200K+.
Interview Query, in turn, puts the average data science consultant compensation at $110K and the average data science project rate at $5,000 to $7,000. French platform Malt says that the average day rate for local data scientists is €637.
As for hourly rates, machine learning contractors with 4+ years in the industry usually charge between $180-$200 per hour. Masato Hagiwara, a freelance AI engineer, said he charges $150/hour for long-term commitments (10+ hours per month) and $200/hour for short-term engagements.
A freelance machine learning engineer can be hired to do everything from helping businesses to automate routine tasks, updating analytical models, and ultimately building a new cool AI-driven product.
ML engineering requires a strong foundation in applied math and algorithms, probability and statistics, and distributed computing as well as data science. This specialty also requires advanced knowledge of programming languages such as Python/C++, R, and Java. Having a “specialty” like NLP, computer vision, or neural network training can also help you command higher rates.
Glassdoor puts the average freelance social media marketer salary in the US at $64,000 annually. Treat it as a ballpark, you can use to work your way back to an hourly, date, or project rate.
A survey of 300+ UK freelance social media pros has more telling data on average SMM project rates:
Social Media Pro suggests that beginner SMMs usually charge $250-$500 per month for managing one account. Whereas more established pros ask for $2,500-$5,000 per month, per account.
As for day rates, Ben Matthews, a seasoned digital comms agency owner, says that junior freelance social media marketers charge £70 – £250 per day, whereas mid-level specialists ask for £250 – £500 per day. Top-tier SMMs, in turn, can negotiate £750+ per day.
Social media marketing remains a hot employment niche. Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, TikTok, LinkedIn, Clubhouse — there’s no shortage of platforms where businesses want to generate exposure. As social commerce also picks up speed, retail brands are also looking for people who can engage their community during live streams (and in between).
Social media managers are also often tasked with paid ad campaigns. So if you know how to get the maximum traffic with the lowest cost-per-click, you're sure to have clients falling over each other to work with you.
Beginner freelance graphic designers usually charge $25-$50 per hour, whereas more experienced people go for $65 to $150 per hour, according to Air. Yet, most freelance designers choose to go with project-based rates.
These can vary a lot depending on your niche, project type, and experience level. A 2022 survey by Morgan Overholt says that experienced freelance designers usually charge the following per project rates:
A Folio survey also found that freelance designers charge the following average rates:
Designer Union also has a longer recommended minimum price list for various project types. Yet, you should remember that no two design projects are absolutely the same. So you should always adjust your price quote based on the task at hand.
Like so many other entries on this list, with graphic design, it can pay to specialize in a specific industry or niche. Not only will it be that much easier to curate your offerings and keep your clients happy, but it'll be that much easier to gain recognition as being the best of the best when it comes to "logo design for artisan beekeepers based in Northern Europe." (A rather specific example, but that's exactly the point!)
Other in-demand skills for freelance designers include UX/UI design, user research, and infographics design, plus knowledge of popular front-end frameworks like React, Vue, and SolidJS.
Freelance photographer rates fluctuate a lot, based on the type of project and the number of key shots requested by the client. Per Fash, freelance photographers charge $100-$250/hour on average. Wedding photographers usually ask for $1,000-$3,000 for a 6-hour photoshoot, whereas an average rate for a portrait photography photoshoot is $150-$300.
You can also find sample freelance photography rates in a Freelance Solidarity public database. For instance, a beginner photographer (under 5 years of experience) received $2,000 for a photo essay for print from Bon Appetit. Globe and Mail, in turn, offers freelance photographers a $365 day rate.
Format also shares some going industry rates for freelance photographers working with print and online media. Mashable, for example, pays $450 for a photography feature, while Teen Vogue paid $500 for 26 street-style images.
Freelance photographers have so many niches to specialize in. You can do product photography for ecommerce stores or create blissful social media visuals. Or you can pick up assignments with the media and specialize in travel, fashion, architecture, food, or nature shots. Finally, you can always brand yourself as a “wedding”, “events”, or “news” photographer and build your reputation within one lane.
Want to charge more? Master drone piloting to offer some aerial shots and videography alongside regular photos.
Most freelance translators charge per word of the submitted text. According to a global survey by Inbox Translation, the average rate per word is $0.096 for general texts and $0.109 for specialized texts.
That said, a rates database by ProZ suggests that many freelance translators charge higher rates starting at $0,09 for English to a popular language translation (e.g. French or Arabic) to $0,13 for rarer language pairs like English-Yiddish, English-Norwegian, or English-Kongo.
A survey done by Germany's Federal Association of Interpreters and Translators pegs the average rate even higher at €0.15/word. Typically, translators who are members of professional associations can charge up to 30% higher rates.
As the world gets smaller and globalization becomes the name of the game, companies are adapting their websites and marketing materials for new audiences who communicate in different languages. There's a growing demand for translators who can effectively and authentically translate these materials into different languages.
To be an effective translator calls for a lot of reading and writing — much like a professional writer would need to do. However, translators also need advanced analytical skills so they can fully grasp the meaning of the original text and then reproduce this same meaning in a second language. There are certain language combinations that will earn more than others. For example, Finnish to English, Japanese to English, Danish to English, English to Arabic, and English to Japanese are known for being in the very highest tier of demand. German, French, and Mandarin Chinese also fall into the category of sought-after language skills.
Freelancers make a vastly different amount of money. But unlike regular employers, you have no upper limit on income generation. You can (and should!) increase your rates regularly proportionally to your experience levels and demand for your services. By charging more, you attract the type of clients who value your experience and advice (rather than just want to get a job done fast & cheap).
Also, a freelancer at the top of their game will want to make sure that they can maximize their billable hours aka the time you spend on paid client work, not the boring business admin stuff (which Xolo can handle for you!) Xolo automates complex, repetitive tasks like VAT calculation, expense management, and client invoicing, while you focus on making mo’ monies freelancing.
Elena Prokopets writes content for tech-led companies & software development businesses, marketing to them. Her empathy for the customer, expertise in SEO, and knack for storytelling help create content that ranks well and drives industry conversations.
Elena uses Xolo Leap so she can focus on her solo B2B content writing business without stressing over the compliance and admin overhead.
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