How Do You Put a Price on Your Own Time?

Working for free isn't something I preach very often

Salaries, wages and income — oh my! How does one put a price on time? More specifically, YOUR OWN TIME. How does one ask someone for a certain amount of money, boldly explaining that they can and will exceed expectations for a potential job? Pricing yourself and your abilities are often the most difficult tasks for anyone new to the workforce or new to beginning to market themselves as an individual, freelancer or business.

If there is one thing I always say to encourage those who are about to put a dollar sign on their time, it's that they always do so with confidence.

You see, if you are a business or a wholesaler, there are equations that make your life much more simple.

Total Cost/Hour = (Fixed Costs + Variable Costs – Materials) / Hours 

Boom. Done.

But what about those of us that aren't a business? What about those of us that are just us? We have to provide a number, a dollar sign and on top of that — we need to be able to back it up.

First of all, it is essential that you become an expert in your industry. What is the average individual charging for similar services? What are your competitors charging? Although they are your competitors, engage with them. Ask them for their advice. Sharing incomes and pricing models do not harm us as we may think, rather they protect us and advance us as a group. If one of you charges 50% less, the other will have a more difficult time earning an income that they deserve.

Once you are aware of the industry standards and behind the scenes price that others value their own time at, it's essential to be able to back up that number. Why do you deserve that amount? Can you provide them with numbers, a unique resume or an in-person meeting to share your multitude of ideas? People are willing to pay you if you provide valid reasoning and experience.

It's always a good idea to have a general idea of your pricing and then adjust that pricing model as necessary. No one project is going to be the same as another. If a business opportunity arrives, be prepared to work around their budget. However, do the research and know what that budget should be. If you aren't educated and aware of who you are about to work with, you could miss out on a healthy income — or you could shoot too high and miss out on something you were really looking forward to.

Set standards for yourself before going into any meeting or opportunity. What is the least amount of money you'll accept for your time? What do you plan on asking for? Leave room for negotiation by asking for 10 to 15% above what you would accept. If you are already stretched thin with a variety of contracts, you might be more stringent with the way you price yourself.

Don't let them shake you down for a limited amount of money — or for free time.

Asking someone with education, experience and the need to make a living financially to work for free is not fair, realistic or appropriate. However, I often give up my time for free, which a lot of people find silly. And trust me... same. But I also find that for me, there are times I can justify working for free. But only because I am financially equipped to do so.

I'll start by saying that you should never work for free if:

  • You "think" this will turn into a paid opportunity

  • You're hurting yourself and others in the industry by bringing down the standard of pay

  • You are running a business

  • The operation or company you're working with or for can afford to pay you

But there are also some legitimate and valid reasons why I do work for free (sometimes). Providing my time and services to certain tasks and roles happens quite often. Maybe it's the Canadian in me, or maybe it's that I also like to see others succeed. Therefore, if this means I do them a solid for free one time, I can expand my network and in turn, continue my tear through the world of communications and marketing.

Besides never, when is it okay to work for free?

1. To gain valuable exposure and further opportunities

I said it before and I'll say it again — working my blog as my side hustle has netted me many paid opportunities. However, I spend around 10-15 hours per week (unpaid) to keep up this online resume slayer. When I started this blog nearly four years ago, I was paying off my debt and didn't feel it necessary to apply pressure or standards on something I enjoyed doing. It was a hobby that has transformed. If I wasn't willing to commit this time for free and blog without the intent to earn an income, I would not be where I am today professionally.

2. To learn from a mentor

When it comes to valuing my time, one of the ways I value my time the most is by spending any time I am not furthering my financial stability furthering my education. A few times a week, I help coach college soccer and college volleyball. To squeeze this 12-hour commitment into my already jam-packed schedule as a new mom is not always easy, but it is always powerful. I learn about leadership, the sport I am most passionate about and I also provide myself with free time to stay fit and clear my mind. Finding a mentor is one of the best ways to fill your time that you do not use to earn money. Working with coaches has always been my favourite way to earn (without earning financially). You make time for the parts of your life you value most, and some of those parts are what I like to call income-zero-opportunities. Just as you may spend 12 hours a week watching TV or reading books, there are effective ways to better yourself and your abilities.

3. To be a mentor

To learn from a mentor is extremely valuable and I have appreciated every opportunity gained from these relationships. Therefore, in the same way I expend those 12-hours learning from my mentors, I am also guiding the athletes on those teams in the best way I know how — through committing my free time. Literally — free time. Wait a minute. Is that why they call it free time? Holy $hit.

Working for free isn't something I preach very often. In fact, I tend to preach the opposite. Which is why it's important to note that on the flip side of things, remember that you are volunteering your time. You decide your hours and how much of your personal time you are willing to give away. Each hour you work for free is an hour that you could be earning an income — passive or not.

Now that I am a new mom, I price my time a little bit differently than I used to. My hours are less flexible, my time is more valuable and any opportunity that I jump on will be one that I am extremely passionate about. Before my daughter, I had a hard time saying no. Now I have a hard time saying yes. You may price your time differently each day, month or year. And you should. Your experience grows, your knowledge base increases and your idea of what suits your working style becomes more clear. It's hard to be confident when you first start pricing your time, but once you reach that level, it's honestly hard not to be overconfident.

What are some key indicators for how you'll price your time or your business? Do you ever work for free? Let me know in the comments!