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.