Why I Will Not Work for Free as a Creative Freelancer

Posted on in Career and Finance, Lifestyle, My Creative Content

And neither should you.

Listen up.

For the #BalanceForBetter International Women’s Day, I would like to share an important business revelation I had with all the creative and freelancers out there who are running their business and wondering why they feel cheated when they get remunerated or how to charge for their services.

One of the skills I acquired from my work experience in the Contracts Department was that of quantifying a service rendered.

Sometime last year, around July-August, as an experiment, I decided to breakdown all the costs that my freelance business costs me in an Excel sheet. By the end of the exercise, I realized that I need to charge for any freelance service rendered. The so called experiment is now a regular practice I do ever so often to “check my books”.

I no longer work for free.

In fact, I should never have worked for free from the very beginning.

Some of the free services I have given to friends and others include free portrait sessions just because I had my camera with me, proofreading for free because I am a good friend, taking free photos at baby showers and events just because it is something I love.

No more.

All the tools and resources that someone would expect you to use to give them a free product costs money.

Take for instance, my freelance services are freelance writing, photography and proofreading and/or copyediting. All these require particular tools or software, the skill-set that takes years to acquire and perfect and my time to come up with a good service. As concerns photography, there is my camera, editing software, data to send the photos, time for editing etc.

To break down the costs;

  • The Camera

My camera is a Canon Rebel T5. It costs me 388$ to buy it. In addition to that, I went ahead and bought its bag, a tripod, another lens and bought another battery and all these amount to about 600$ (59,854.78 KES).

Canon Rebel T5, powerful and affordable DSLR
Image Source: Canon

If you are looking to get a similar camera, you could check jumia for a similar DSLR as they do not have the Rebel T5.

  • Editing Software

I bought the Filmora software which is a video editing software and it costs 60$ (6000 KES)

  • Laptop
The HP Folio Laptop – Lights, Sleek and Powerful
Image Source: Amazon

All the freelance services I offer could be impossible without a laptop. And the one I am currently using, the Folio core i5 Hp Elitebook, cost around 360$. (36,000 KES) coz I got a second generation one.

  • Hourly Rate/Day Rate

To make matters simple, I use my work hour rate for my professional job (where I could be better remunerated by the way) but the real hourly rate is much much higher. I cannot reveal these here for obvious reasons.  For proofreading and editing rates I use the current market rates. I use this guide.

  • The Website

A website with a domain costs money. There is the yearly fee for the hosting, costs for the domain name and for a good theme. Combined, all these have costs me 450$ (44,878.56 KES) over the years. This figure does not include the countless hours I spend crafting posts, refining content, marketing the posts, increasing my knowledge of my the fields above so as to offer a better service etc.

  • Internet Costs
Huawei Wifi Gadget Reliable and Faast Affordable at Jumia Kenya
Huawei Wifi Gadget that can connect upto 8 users.
Image Source: Jumia Kenya

None of the work above can be done without internet. Internet is necessary for sending and receiving documents, sending photos via email or Google Drive or We Transfer or Dropbox, researching for a client’s job etc. All these integral parts of the work require the internet. Internet costs are broken in two. Internet for the data bundles (monthly cost is an average of 20$ (2000KES) ) and the internet gadget. I use a Huawei Wi-Fi gadget, and that cost me about 60$ (6000KES)

  • Transport Costs

Some work requires for travel. For instance an interview will require me to see the interviewee, take their photos, spend time with them as I do the interview, and there are the transport costs to and fro. All those are work hours. If it were a regular job, that would call for transport and out of office allowances. These vary depending on the location, fare costs etc. This is a sneaky cost.

Without factoring the cost and time of skill acquisition,  the day/hour rate for the and the transport costs, all the above cost me about 1,550$ (156,000.00 KES thereabout). That’s the bare minimum cost of my business for which someone would expect me to work for them for free.

No, that’s not happening.

And while I intend to keep my services affordable, they will not be cheap.

So to celebrate International Women’s Day 2019, with the Balance for Better slogan, let all freelancers, male and female alike, ask for better pay for their freelance creative work.

No more freebies, unless of course that is part of the plan to expand your business.



    1. Okelo. You should, and you can use the same breakdown model. Best way is to be honest with your self and include all costs. Even what it cost you to ship a gadget, say a camera or your electronics. And share on your blog if you can. I will read it with glee.

      I intend to whip out this article when someone asks me to work for free. 😉

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