Freelancing has many benefits but also has drawbacks. One of the drawbacks to freelancing is hidden costs in the form of overhead and scope creep. This is why job costing is your best friend and advocate.
Since I came from an accounting background, I’m passionate about this subject and gave a talk at WordCamp Los Angeles in 2018.
Understand Freelancing Costs
Opening up your laptop and writing marketing copy or spinning up a website isn’t free. Your time matters. You paid for the machine you’re typing on. You paid for the internet to upload your code to GitHub. You may be paying for SaaS services like accounting software, Slack, web hosting, and more.
We haven’t even talked about the value of your time in the form of salary or befits like paid time off, sick days, vacations, and health and life insurance. Freelancing isn’t free. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring these hidden costs let alone the dreaded scope creep from clients. But that’s another blog post.
What is job costing?
Job costing is an accounting term that helps you determine whether a project is profitable. In construction and manufacturing, this is commonplace. WordPress freelancers can use job costing to decide if their estimate was accurate.
“Job costing is accounting which tracks the costs and revenues by “job” and enables standardized reporting of profitability by job. For an accounting system to support job costing, it must allow job numbers to be assigned to individual items of expenses and revenues. A job can be defined to be a specific project done for one customer, or a single unit of product manufactured, or a batch of units of the same type that are produced together.”Wikipedia
In order to properly do this, you need to factor in and measure your time. Fixing something “real quick” is not free time. For example, when I work on projects for agencies, I bill for my time in 15 minute increments. For my social media business, I know how much time it takes me to manage an account based upon the plan purchased. I figured this out with sample job costing.
Sample Job Costing
For one day, take a sample of how much time you are spending per task per project. Use a manual timer or a program. Whatever works. Write it down. You could also do this per project to determine how much time you really spent on that client or project. This can also help you block out your time. Time blocking is a more efficient way to work allowing deep work.
Samantha Zengut gave a great presentation at Women Who WP about job costing. Her slides are online and should be referenced.
Evaluate Your Numbers
Once you find out how much time you spend spinning up a website, calculate that by the wage you’d like to earn. Here’s the trick. Subtract the per diem cost of your monthly overhead.
“No matter what type of freelancer you are, you incur overhead costs. Of course, if you rent office space, use a lot of equipment, or outsource tasks, you know you have some pretty hefty expenses. But even if you’re a newbie copywriter or developer armed with just a laptop and a coffee, you still have many costs you might not even think about.”Aimee O’Driscoll
Oh yeah. Go calculate your monthly overhead (electricity, SaaS, etc.). Divide that by 22 days (normal working month). Now you have your per diem overhead cost.
Are you making good money? If you’re not, it’s time to sharpen your pencil.
Sharpen Your Pencil
I’m willing to bet that $25 an hour you’re charging is much smaller. I’ve mentioned that it’s my mission to get WordPress developers to charge upwards of $100 an hour. What’s the number you’re comfortable with?
Regardless, freelancing isn’t free and it’s not without a personal cost. Your employer would have covered most of those costs. Making $25 at a job is not the same as making $25 as a Freelancer.
“If you pick up some extra freelance work on the side, you likely won’t bear many ongoing costs. But if you’re making it a full-time business, educate yourself before quitting your day job. The better prepared you are for these financial uncertainties, the better.”Small Business Trends