In a previous post I wrote about appreciating the value of things and knowing the value of your time. Absolutely tied into knowing the value of your time is knowing how valuable your time is — how much money does your time command?

This was a question I was forced to ask myself when I lost my job early in 2011. Faced with working as a full-time freelancer for the first time I had no idea what to charge for my services, nor what I needed to earn to survive. I’d been doing freelance work on the side for years but only for extra spending money — never to pay the bills. Not knowing what to charge I did what I had done with every other problem I’d had since working on the web — I asked Twitter. The response, however, was silence.

In our industry we are so open about sharing our knowledge and expertise, we freely help strangers when they struggle with code or need design feedback yet we find it incredibly hard to talk openly and constructively about money and what we do (or should) charge for our time.

Not knowing what I should charge for my time I rephrased my rather vague question as a survey for freelancers working on the web and the response was fantastic. The anonymity of submitting a survey made people feel much more comfortable about discussing what they charged.

I’ve held a similar survey in subsequent years, each year asking more questions hoping to flesh out the working practices and lifestyle of freelancers and earlier this week we posted the preliminary results of this year’s survey.

Over the course of holding the survey it has never ceased to amaze me how diverse rates are but also how we continue to struggle to hold an open discussion about what we charge for our time. Sadly, this lack of conversation puts few freelancers in a position of power when it comes to determining what they charge.

Of course there will always be a diversity of rates and there are things that we cannot account for in a survey: quality of work, personality, communication skills, efficiency, etc. However without a very public and transparent conversation about what to charge for our time too many freelancers will continue blindly charging the lowest amount that market forces are happy to pay.