I'm a Senior-to-Lead level UX designer in New York City, who recently decided to go freelance. I since have decided on hourly and daily rates, but was wondering what others consider a fair fare given their skills and seniority.

So in your own experience, given a set of skills and seniority, what do you think is the right hourly rate?

(Considering New York City, but can be converted by the Big Mac Index rate: divide what a Big Mac Menu costs in your city by $6.49, then multiply the hourly rate by that Big Mac rate.)

  • Big Mac Index: Shouldn't you use the Big Mac instead of the Big Mac menu for this to work? (different menu sizes etc.) – Phil Apr 13 '11 at 18:52
  • Also: I don't think that this index works here, it would mean that you could roughly charge half of what we charge in Switzerland (something between $120 and $180 would be a reasonable hourly rate for a senior UX designer). – Phil Apr 13 '11 at 19:00
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    @Phil I realise it is a fictional way to match salaries, but it was the best one I could find. I made it into Big Mac meals, cause, frankly, I don't know what a Big Mac costs in New York City, and I fond the Big Mac menu value online. – argonaut Apr 15 '11 at 5:18
  • Still difficult to make a serious equivalence, so perhaps good judgement should be the indicator. – argonaut Apr 15 '11 at 5:18
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    After making a choice for some rate: use it / try it out. Afterwards change according to people's reaction, your own feeling, your monthly result/balance, etc. For me the rate can change over time, over kind of work (for me programming is more expensive than interaction design because I like the latter more), etc. – Lode Apr 26 '11 at 19:38

There are three ways to do this:

  1. Ask around and just charge some average of what everyone else does.

  2. Actually calculate what you need to earn to make a living at it. I gave an example over on graphic design.

  3. Call up a local plumber and ask what their hourly rate is. Charge that.

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  • Thanks, it seems a good and well thought formula. I'll try to calculate it to get an idea which to compare against. – argonaut Apr 15 '11 at 5:20
  • Option 1 IMHO is not advisable, unless your skills, seniority, client structure and *reputation*(!) are highly similar to the people you ask. Further, I have met too many designers who are obviously unable to do the maths according to my own preference: 2) – Sascha Brossmann Apr 18 '11 at 12:35

$150 an hour. Bulk discount for buying 20 hours or more up front.

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  • @glen-lipka I've been told of $150/hour, but usually it is way above what some companies (well established ones) want to pay, so I wanted to make sure. Which might be a reason in favour of accepting it is $150, as companies naturally would like to have enough margin to negotiate against, I guess (or just bring cheap labour.) – argonaut Apr 15 '11 at 5:23
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    Do you want to be he cheap guy? Or do you want to be the high quality guy? I used to live in NYC and I ran a web development firm there from 1995-2002 in the FlatIron district. No matter what you charge, some people will think its too much. You dont want them as customers. – Glen Lipka Apr 15 '11 at 14:20
  • I guess this is a different moment than the dotcom, and with all the competition and this recession, I feel I need a very aggressive social networking in order to keep getting the $150/hour clients. I feel right now is not just about asking what you want, but I'd love to be wrong. – argonaut Apr 19 '11 at 5:44
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    Getting clients is tough. Being a consultant is a lonely thankless job. There will be guys making $250 an hour and a guy at NYU charging $25 an hour. You cant win being the cheapest guy. If you arent confident, charge less, but it wont earn you more clients. One lesson I learned, they buy YOU not your price tag. By the way, during the heady days, I charged 10,000 per day. I know the current market in different. You asked a question, and I answered. – Glen Lipka Apr 20 '11 at 6:35

Try this calculator (after you make a solid and detailed budget for yourself first that includes all your actual expenses). http://freelanceswitch.com/rates/

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I would like to add to DA01's list of already sensible options:

4) Do some field research what yearly salaries comparable senior UXers get payed, add all expenses and benefits covered by the employer, further add some % for your entrepreneurial risk. Divide the result by a conservative estimate of your billable hours per year. Rough formula for the latter: billable hours = (working days [~ 261] - holidays - vacation - buffer for illness etc.) x working hours/day [~ 8 h] x average utilisation [~ 60%]. (Time tracking will help you to make better estimates after a while.)

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  • Hey Sascha, that is a great formula too. I'm afraid those formulas give you a number one wants to ask the client to pay, and I'm more interested in hearing stories of people hustling it out and telling the numbers that work around. However, your formula gives me a number I like, and that's good. – argonaut Apr 19 '11 at 5:46
  • Well, while I unfortunately do not possess any first-hand experience w/ clients in NY, my personal experience is that numbers that work generally depend on the people asking them. Working on your persuasion and negotiation skills will most probably improve your results (see e.g. amazon.com/Negotiate-Win-Rules-Successful-Negotiating/dp/… – highly recommended). BTW, you do not want to work with clients that are not willing to pay professional rates for professional skills. (At least unless there isn't significant other compensation offered.) – Sascha Brossmann Apr 21 '11 at 2:01

A starting point is to look at what rate contracts are being offered at in your area, for your sort of work. Or something with a relationship to that, and add on/subtract some. That was the way I approached when I was freelance a number of years ago.

At the very least, this will give you a measure to look against. And always be prepared to negotiate - taking a little less money for a good role is sometimes worth it. and keep an eye on the market, because it can go up and down.

Good luck.

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I'm surprised no one has provided an actual answer here. I know it's a bit late, being that this question is now 2 years old, but the going rate for a Senior IA in NY is roughly $100-120/hour at larger companies and slightly less, $85-95/hour, at smaller companies. This is assuming that you are working direct and not through a staffing agency, who will pay no more than $45-60/hour even though they pimp you out at about $130/hour.

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  • Welcome to UX.SE! The reason no one "actually" answered it is because it has been put on hold as an opinion-based question. While everyone can give examples of different pay rates, there's no way to have a correct answer. – elemjay19 Aug 30 '13 at 17:47

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