About Bonsai's Rate Explorer
for Freelance Designers and Developers
We have released this tool to visualize freelance designer and developer rates by experience level, skill, and geography. We’ll discuss how the tool was made, how to use it, some interesting findings, and its implications for the freelance industry.
Why Build a Freelance Rate Explorer?
Simply put, knowledge is power. New and experienced freelancers alike find a hard time defining the right prices for their services. Once they’ve decided on a rate, justifying it to a client who has little experience working with freelancers can be challenging.
There are many sites like Glassdoor that offer salary data comparisons for full time employees. However, there isn't a site like this dedicated to provide insights on freelancers rates. We had this data, so we built the Rate Explorer to make it easy for freelancers to compare their rates in the largest publicly available rates database on the internet.
How the Freelance Rate Explorer Was Made
Bonsai’s core product is a free work contract creator for freelance designers and developers. To create a contract, freelancers must describe their work and enter terms like payment details and deadlines. Users have created over 30,000 contracts for work ranging from iOS development to Wordpress design to graphic illustration.
This data is already quite structured, so aggregating and analyzing it was straightforward. The only complicated step was mapping the free text description of work to skill set tags (e.g., front end development, iOS development, UI/UX design, etc).
To do this, we wrote a small script to programmatically identify these skills in the job description and tag them. We also hired freelancers to spot check and review these tags to ensure accuracy. We completed this data together with clients and freelancers surveys which helped us precise our figures and findings.
Bonsai only supports contracts in the US, UK, and Canada for now, so there’s no visualization for freelancers in other countries yet. However, we allowed users to enter their own rates for any type of work and in other countries so we can enrich the tool with additional locations or skills in the future.
How to Use the Freelance Rate Explorer
Pricing can be a complicated subject, and many factors should go into pricing your work. These can include the demand for your services at that time, your short and long term career goals, your relationship with the client, and the non-monetary value you get from working with the client (e.g., adding a big name to your portfolio, networking, etc).
The Freelance Rate Explorer should be used as a directional indicator to help you position yourself against the community. Beyond that, you should take into account all the other factors particular to your relationship with the client and project.
There are a few general points that held true across the data:
Developers earn about 30% more than designers across experience levels and geographies
This happens to be true even for highest charging designers (ie Product Designers) when compared to lowest charging developers (Front-end / Android)
Design rates (in particular graphic design) hardly reach $60 per hour for all locations and experience levels
While developers can see their rates increase quickly with their gaining experience (typically after 3 years), most experienced designers grow rates at a slower pace. The most common explanation we’ve heard for this is local or international competition at lower rates, including from part time designers. The lower barrier to entry for design types, plus the smaller project sizes, leads to lower rates.
Freelancers in the US west and east cost earn more than those in the midwest and south by around 10%
This could be due to higher competition and / or costs of living in those areas, but coastal regions generally had higher rates than the south and midwest. This was surprising to us, giving how much design and development work can be done remotely, but it’s a reminder of how important local relationships can be in finding work (and determining your rate!).
The most significant shifts in rates happen between 1-3 years and 3-5 years
For all skills and locations, the most significant jump in compensation per experience level comes between the 1-3 and 3-5 year categories. Having spoken with our users, this can be most often attributed to them developing essential business skills (project management, negotiation...), developing their knowledge about their market and their clients, building a strong portfolio and leveraging their network.
We’re continuing to add data and features to the Rate Explorer. Our contracts data for the US feeds directly into it. As soon as we have sufficient data for other geographies and skill types, we will open those visualizations.
You can help by adding your rate and sharing with others to do the same. The more data we have, the more valuable the tool becomes for everyone!
When we have time, we also write analyses of rates in individual markets. Here are a few of our recent write ups: Android Developers Rates (US East Coast), Web Designers Rates (US West Coast), Front-End Developers rates (Canada), Product Designers Rates (US East Coast).