Monday, July 27, 2009


I recently tried to book a junior art director for a 9-day stint. My staff person went on vacation and we couldn't be without the resource for that many days. I had a few people I was considering, quite a few in fact, as the pool of available people has been getting bigger and bigger. It felt great to have so many options.

One thing that is hard to contend with when recruiting junior freelance is proximity. If they don't live in Southern California, it makes it fairly difficult to book them. It's not like I can offer to fly them in or put them up in a local hotel. Heck, I can't even do that for senior freelance anymore. If a junior creative lives in another state, I pretty much have to rule them out.

Two weeks ago, though, I lucked out. An out-of-area junior was going to be in Orange County visiting family and was available to work the exact days I needed. She had a strong book, which made me all the more thankful it would work out. Then we got to the part about rate.

I offered an hourly rate, a bit on the low side. Not low if you are a junior and out of work. But low if you want to say, buy a house. My offer was turned down. The response was that she was currently getting $650 a day freelancing. Six Hundred Fifty Dollars. A day.

Grab your calculator, multiple by 5 days a week, then again by 50 weeks a year. Yea. That's no typo folks. It's an annual salary of $162,500. So either she is really f-ing good and should not put the word junior anywhere near her resume --or-- the agency who hired her at that rate is printing money down in the basement and shoveling out the top floor window.

I am going to go with she is really good. But my gut tells me, no junior can command that rate and get away with it for very long. A few years ago, I would certainly believe it. But not in today's economic climate. Every freelancer who contacts me has offered to cut their day rates, substantially.

If you are going to freelance, get your rate in line with your title. Or your title in line with your rate.

*6 years later I am adding a comment to this post. First, I am incredibly stoked people are still finding, reading and commenting to me on this topic. Next, let me clarify a couple things: this post was written with regard to fresh-out-of-school talent. Like their resume ink hasn't even dried yet. Ones that warrant bookings for $25-$35 an hour. Based on the number of healthy, heated comments I (still) get over this post, I am sure there are many, many creatives out there who feel they are worth more than some of the day rates out there (which of course are higher to cover taxes, insurance, unstable bookings, and so on). My point above was that if you are pulling $650 + a day, you probably aren't very fresh-out-of-school any more.


Anonymous said...

get out YOUR calculator. and your common sense.

A) she's bullshitting you to negotiate the peanuts you offered up to something acceptable.

B) she's on vacation so you better make it worth her while or why would she bother working through her vacation.

C) you claim to be some sort of professional recruiter? and you don't realize that freelance rates always add up to high yearly rates. but since freelancers rarely work full time they don't actually make that much. duh.

you're a moron

Cecilia Gorman said...

Moron perhaps. But a moron with jobs to fill which I am quite happy to be in this economy.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I guess one of the drawbacks of writing a blog that a lot of juniors read, is getting junior-like comments. What a douche.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cecilia,

I'm a freelancing junior art director and am currently working for an agency with 10-hour workdays. Since my hourly rate is $65, my day rate happens to be $650 as well.

Is this really an absurdly high rate for a 2010 graduate? Was the $650 rate for an 8-hour day? Or have things changed over a year?

By the way, great blog!

Cecilia Gorman said...

If you are getting that rate, more power to you. I know an LA agency that is paying grads $350 a day. And my hourly rate for grads is right around there as well. Consider yourself very lucky, and most likely, worth it.

Anonymous said...

I'm working in New York, so perhaps the rates are slightly inflated (to cover this exorbitant rent!).

Thanks, Cecilia.

JJ said...

I know this is a REALLY old post, but as a freelancer I'd like to set the record straight.. even if it's years after you wrote this.

Freelancers typically work at a higher hourly rate than most, and cannot be directly compared to, say, an art director who works on salary.

Freelancers are taxed a lot more than part-time and full-time employees, since we are working temporarily on a 1098T.

Furthermore, freelancers often have to pay numerous out-of-pocket expenses, such as our own rented office space, computers, software, office supplies, legal fees, and advertising. For full-time employees, all of these things are accounted for by the company they work for.

Not to mention... we do not receive any paid vacation, medical, or insurance benefits as many full-time employees do.

With all of these things in mind, it is not so simple as multiplying the hourly rate to come up with $162,500.

Anonymous said...

With what JJ commented on about that freelancers have to pay a higher tax and also office/travel costs that a company for an employee usually pays for, it then makes sense that yes the freelancer would charge close to double what the employee's yearly salary would be divided into per hour. I see on average the Art Director (JR) getting $70,000 - $110,000 a year in various competitive regions. Therefore, factor in the freelancer paying his/her health costs, travels, supplies, and so on that an "employee" does not - then yeap, I think that person's math was pretty close to fair.

Anonymous said...

Seeing as I make (and it is very common) 550 a day as a motion designer, it really is not an astronomical rate. Obviously you are not used to working with freelancers.