So, I used to do freelance/contract work consistently for years. Mainly full LAMP stack developing. Now I am doing purely Linux/Unix system administration work with dabbling in development when the task dictates.

That said, I am getting approached for some freelance/contract work that would use a small slice of my skill set & I am unclear if there is any common method of tiering an hourly rate based on skills.

Meaning, for me I would value my hands-on Linux/Unix system administration skills as well as development skills at the highest tier. But if someone—let’s say—wants me to do a project review, code review, code cleanup, training or one-shot management of a system admin task they know I can handle well, how would I properly bill for that?

In my mind, the less hands on my consulting would be the less the hourly would be. And perhaps it would be best to have a clearly delineated one-time engagement fee.

Or am I just overthinking all of this & should just see all my services as one flat rate irregardless of how much hands-on “heavy lifting” I am doing?

I know this question might veer into an opinion question, but perhaps there are established guidelines folks commonly use that I am unaware of?

1 Answer 1


As an Electrical Engineer who knows enough programming to get offered programming related tasks on a regular basis, I have to deal with this particular situation quite often. These are a couple of things I consider while deciding on a price:

Do I really have the skills to do this job?

While your client may think you do have the level of skills required, do you think you can do the job? If you are working in a field that you don't specialise in, you may not be able to perform to the standard that the client is used to seeing from you, because you aren't as skilled. This can leave the client disappointed because you're slow or not meeting their expectations in some other way.

The way I see it, is I have a responsibility as a professional to hold up a particular standard of work. If I think I won't be able to do that for a particular job or task, I won't take it.

Do I want to do this job?

Is it what you enjoy? If a client is asking me to perform a task I don't enjoy, I charge them more. How much more? Until I'll be happy to perform the task. If you're not happy with working for your current rate, but would be happy with an increased rate, charge that.

Do I have time for the job?

My last 10 hours a week are always charged at a premium rate. If you have no time for the job, or are super busy, or need to fit them in somewhere, charge more.

Do I want to work for this client?

Is the client difficult? Do they have unrealistic expectations? Can you forsee scope creep? If I do decide I'm going to work for them, charge more.

A note on supply and demand

My rate is almost always determined by supply and demand. If I have no work, I'll charge less because I'm not in demand but need the money. Each time I get a new client and my hours a week start to get taken up, I charge a bit more each time until my week is full and the last 10 hours are sold at a premium.

At the end of the day, you are selling your time and skills as a professional. It's a balance between what you think you're worth and what the client thinks you're worth. If you ask for what you think you're worth, and the client isn't happy, you can negotiate a rate that works for both of you, or decide to call it off altogether, depending on how much you need the money, of course :)

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