How much do freelancers earn?

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So how much can you earn as a freelancer in India or elsewhere? It’s more than you think. You can indeed earn as high as USD 5000 a month – perhaps even more – as a freelancer. The caveat is that you have to go about it the right way. Freelancing is not as smooth sailing as it is made out to be. So let’s see how much you can earn as a freelancer:

What is Freelancing?

Freelancing is when you use your skills and talent to work not for an organization or a single boss but multiple clients. Yet it’s not a business though there are many similarities. Neither is it a work from home job although it is often bundled into the WFH category. That’s because most freelancers operate out of their homes – although some do set up offices either at home or a place close by – if only to be away from the many distractions that home offers. Another point of difference is that a freelancer does not work for one person or organization. He has multiple clients and works on “gigs” or projects.

Here is a tongue in cheek categorization of the different types of #WFH workers.


The biggest advantage of freelancing that is touted over the internet is that you are your own boss. But this is a double-edged sword. Yes, you do not have to report to anyone and you can work on your own time as and when you please. That is true. But since you are your own boss, you also have to supervise yourself, discipline yourself, and make sure that the work assigned gets done on time. That can be hard.

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There are other pros and cons too. The pros are perhaps obvious – you save on travel time and expense. You can do more per day. You are more focused. But wait are you really more focused? What about all the household activities that could distract you? What about working in isolation? That can be difficult. Freelancers face many challenges. Consider not knowing where your next paycheck will come from – or whether it will be as lucrative as last month?

Challenges that Freelancers face and how to overcome them

How is a freelancers salary computed?

The biggest challenge you face as a freelancer is not knowing where your next paycheck will come from. At least, that’s what most freelancers are concerned about. That’s perhaps because freelancers work on a project to project basis and some projects are bigger than others. Some clients have smaller budgets than others. So are never sure how much to charge – lest you lose the project altogether. And then there are those clients who get the “sample” done and disappear. But then the reverse is also true.

With that said, your pay as a freelancer depends upon five factors:

  1. Experience
  2. Skill
  3. Reviews – Number of satisfied clients
  4. Proof of work – samples
  5. Intuition

Technically location does not matter but it can have an impact in certain circumstances. For instance, consider a startup in the USA recruiting a transcriber in India. This may be difficult because many Indians are not fluent in English and have trouble understanding the American accent. But then if you can prove that you are capable of doing it, it may work for you.

We’ll dig into these factors in a bit. For now, suffice it to say that the more experienced you are the better you can price yourself.

How much can you earn as a freelancer in India?

Well, as we said, location is not relevant except in certain circumstances. Still, we cannot deny the fact that freelancing rates in certain regions are less than those in others. As reported by the StaffingIndustryAnalyst, one 2018 survey by PayPal – the oldest and largest money transfer gateway – revealed the following facts:

  1. India is the largest freelancer market in the world
  2. There are over 10 million freelancers in India
  3. The number of male freelancers in India exceeds the number of female freelancers in India.
  4. Freelancers in India are predominantly under 40 years of age.
  5. An average Indian freelancer makes about 2 million INR or over 31K USD per annum.
  6. The most popular projects include web and mobile development and design, research, data entry, and graphic design.

The pandemic has of course changed that scenario. But for better or worse is yet to be determined. Only after things “normalize” and the dust settles will we know where we stand. With that said the question uppermost in the minds of freelancers is:

On what basis do freelancers charge for their work?

Well, the answer to that depends upon the work you do. Graphic designers for instance may charge per design while a content writer may charge per word, per page, or for every completed piece of content. Another way to categorize the payment for freelancers is whether to charge on an hourly basis, per project, or a retainer. The thing to note however is that what matters is not how you charge them but what you offer them. After all big brands talk about value and so should you as a freelancer. So what are the price determinants for a freelancer? Or to put it another way what are the factors on which pricing for freelance work depends?

Factors determining Freelance Rates

Time to dig deeper into the factors we mentioned earlier:

  1. Experience

As we said the more experienced you are the better you can price yourself. Experience does not only mean success. It includes failed or lost projects too. As you deal with all manner of clients, you learn their typical quirks and how best to deal with them. You might be victim to a scam or two – that’s par for course. Put it down to learning experience and write it off as training cost. Your experience also hones your skill making you more capable and efficient. It also gives you a wealth of knowledge about the industry – or niche – you work in. Besides, after you have done a few projects – depending upon the work you do  – you would have built some great resources that can make your work easier. All these things put together can help increase your rate.

  • Skill

Depending upon how, why, and at what level you began freelancing, you set out with a certain skill set. As you work on different projects, you might have to learn new skills along the way. These new skills can and will contribute to the added value you bring to the table. Consequently, you can command a high price for your services.

  • Reviews

Most freelancers these days work online. Even if they are working a job that requires a physical presence, they have an online profile on the internet. The number of people who appreciate your work and express this appreciation online can add to your credibility – thus allowing you to command a higher hourly rate or price per project.

  • Proof of work

Your experience also allows you to build a portfolio of work. Showcase this portfolio online and invite potential clients to take a look. If your portfolio is impressive enough you’ll find clients who are willing to pay a high price for your services.

  • Investment

Freelancers rarely invest capital into their work. What they do invest is time, intellect, and effort. So what you get paid for is your effort, your knowledge, and above all time. Often you’ll find clients telling you, “I’d do it myself but I don’t have time.” This shows that your clients are not dependent upon your knowledge or skill. They come to you to save time. You should take into account these factors when computing your rates.

  • Intuition

This is the last factor. As a freelancer, you will – or should – develop an intuition about clients. When talking to strangers, it’s important to be cautious about scammers and hackers. With time, you’ll learn to recognize such people and avoid them You’ll learn to deal with all manner of clients and people – and decide which projects to accept and which to turn down. You’ll learn to sense why a client has approached you – and offer exactly that.

Freelancing is not as easy as it is made out to be. Indeed, it can be harder than working a 9-5 job – whether from home or in the office. The freelance work model leans more towards business than employment. It is dynamic. It is situational. It is highly flexible.

That said, it’s not that hard either and if you go about it the right way, you can make a decent income out of it.


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