How much are you worth? Good question!

Throughout my education, something I have never been taught is how to work out how much I am worth (as in pounds sterling).  I expect I am not alone.

At a recent postgraduate enterprise conference ‘Enterprising Futures’ I was part of a Q and A panel of ‘enterprising postgraduates’.  One question asked by a conference attendee was “how do you know how much to charge for your work?”  This question has stuck with me as 1) it’s a good question, 2) I don’t feel the question was or could be fully answered at the time, 3) ‘how much’ requires constant renegotiation, and 4) I keep meeting postgraduates doing a whole host of different jobs that are ‘favours’ or ‘freebies’.  Some of this ‘free’ work is mutually beneficial as it adds to the postgraduate’s portfolio and career development.  But certainly not all it.

At the same time, I am now teaching Psychology at the University of Salford.  One of the things I am most passionate about is Psychology becoming more enterprising and innovative, and in turn, its graduates more employable in a wide and diverse range of industries.  There is a real push now to weave enterprise-related skills into Psychology courses to ensure students have transferable and relevant skills as they head out into the graduate market.   Subsequently, some assignments seem to be moving away from the traditional essays and research reports I completed in my Psychology degree to research proposals bidding for a particular sum of money, or ‘imagine you are a consultant for [insert well known company here]’.

The ‘how much’ question also reminded me of workshops I carried out with people from industry and community organisations as part of a project called Media and Digital Futures.  One of the emerging themes from the workshops was the increase of freelancing and being self-employed as businesses ‘buy in’ skills as and when they need them.  As freelancing becomes more commonplace, working out what you are worth is even more important.

When I’ve asked people how they work it out, answers are usually something like ‘Well, how longs a piece of string?’ and ‘Just lick your finger, stick it in the air, and see which way the wind blows’.  In other words, there is no right or wrong answer to how much to charge.  To some extent I agree.  To a larger extent I don’t.  The researcher in me says do some research.

Try find out what others doing similar work charge.   This can be difficult to find out but not impossible.  It’s amazing sometimes what people will tell you if you ring them up and ask.  If you can, get your hands on bids that have been submitted for work.  I’ve found it quite easy to find out things like day costs for researchers in a university environment (not sure how easy this is beyond academic circles).  I’ve then used that information to justify my day rate.

Search online.  I’ve looked on sites such as Guru, PeoplePerHour, and LinkedIn for info before -people post jobs and specify the available budget and those looking for freelance/consultancy work specify their hourly rate.

Try find out what the ‘commissioner’ has in mind.  If the budget hasn’t been disclosed, people commissioning work usually have a figure in mind.  Again, people have been forthcoming with that figure and I work around that taking into account the number of hours the work needs, the resources I have, whether the project compliments my ‘portfolio’, and most importantly, is it a one-off or is it likely to lead onto future work.   The other thing that can sometimes change is what the ‘commissioner’ wants.  If a budget is unrealistic in comparison to the work that wants doing, say so.  I’ve worked with people before to create something that works for both parties.

Compare the work to other work you do.  As a postgraduate, I’ve done a whole host of different jobs from assisting on research projects, data collection, data analysis, survey work, part-time hourly paid teaching, consultancy work, talks, events and other random bits and pieces.  For a while, I compared any potential work with what I got paid for part time hourly paid (PTHP) lecturing.   This is usually above £30ph.  However, if the work includes marking (which in my experience, it always does), it probably works out not so far off the minimum wage!  Erm, on reflection perhaps this is not the best type of work use as a comparison.

For me, working out how much you are worth is a mix of research, common sense, negotiation, and justification.  If you can justify it, you can charge it.   The important thing to remember is that we (I have postgraduates and undergraduates in mind here) are worth something and therefore we should not underestimate our value. There are probably infinite number of ways to work out how much.  It’s also highly dependent on the type of work involved.   I’d be really interested to hear what your experiences and methods are too.



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