“Should I be setting my fee rate by industry sector?”

This is another common question for freelance trainers. Should we change our fees for different clients in different industry sectors or is it better to have a set price structure across the board?

As with most things in life, both sides of the argument have merit!

The argument for setting your fee rate by industry sector

From personal experience and talking to other freelance trainers, the type of industry a client is in can have a huge bearing on their ability to pay. I used to find it was easier to charge higher fees in the professional services sector, rather than in the public sector. However, other trainers have told me that public sector clients often have budgets they want to hang on to, so may pay more for training to reflect their budget.

A report by Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning highlighted that the current high levels of competition in the IT training subsector are driving prices down. Still, trainers in this sector are still able to charge comparatively high prices.

An article by findcourses.co.uk about the cost of professional training in the UK showed that finance trainers have the highest average day rate, while training courses for the oil and gas industry command the highest prices.

It’s clear that the industry sector really can influence what we can charge as trainers. My advice is that if you’re asked to write a training proposal for an unfamiliar industry, it’s a good idea to ask around people in your network for information on the ‘going rate’.

Alternatively, ask the client what they’re expecting. It may not be what you want to hear but it can save time in the long run.

As you become more experienced you will get a feel for what you can realistically charge within each sector and then you can decide whether it’s worth pitching for the work.

The argument against setting your fee rate by industry sector

If you’re a trainer who works across several sectors, you may prefer to have a fixed pricing structure regardless of the client’s industry. This can be a simpler approach if you receive lots of referrals. After all, how might a client feel if they learn you are charging them lots more than someone else for the same service? There is a risk of this damaging your credibility. People value fairness.

Having a fixed pricing structure can save you time. If you’re asked to do a pitch, you know what your pricing is and why, based on value. There’s no need to research the industry if it’s unfamiliar.

The downside to this approach is that not all industries can bear the same rates. If you work for not-for-profit/third sector clients, for example, they may struggle to pay the same as a business in the private sector.

Explore what you feel comfortable charging

As much as you might want me to give a definitive answer on whether or not to charge by industry, I think you have to be led by what works for you.

Yes, the industry sector of your clients may influence what you charge. Also, if you’re an expert in a particular industry, you should be financially compensated for your knowledge.

Ultimately, it’s YOUR training business, so you get to decide how you charge. You can always test the water and adapt your pricing moving forward.

I’ve written quite a few articles about setting your fees as a freelance trainer. You might find these helpful as they will give you different pointers for your pricing model, factors to include in your pricing, etc.

Finance essentials for freelance trainers is a great starting point.

NB: I originally published this article in May 2011 and updated it in October 2021.

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