How much should a freelance trainer’s hourly rate be? This question comes up time and again (and it’s not just new freelance trainers who ask).

It is all too easy to get caught up with this problem when starting out in business. After all, you have nothing to compare with, do you? When you were in corporate life, you got a paid a salary. No matter how many actual days of training you did, you still got paid the same amount, month in and month out.

But what should your rates be when you’re going it alone?

Guides to setting your training rates

Over the past few years, I’ve written some in-depth guides to help you price your training services and I thought it would be worth flagging them up again in case you missed them. You might want to check out the following articles:

Together, these blogs give you deeper insights into the numbers you need to consider when setting your prices, including how to calculate your incoming and outgoing expenses.

Thinking beyond your last salary

Some trainers begin with their last salary when they’re starting out. They divide their annual salary by 12 to work out their monthly pay, then divide it by 20 working days (four weeks of five workdays per month) and then by eight hours a day to get their approximate hourly rate.

If, for example, you’d worked for a salary of £30,000 per annum, this approach would land you on an hourly rate of just over £15 (which is very low for someone who’s self-employed).

As you can see, yes, it’s a place to start – but not one that we would recommend. One problem is that it assumes that you will be able to charge for every hour you work when, in fact, some of your time will be spent on admin and working on your own business rather than doing billable work for clients.

Some pointers for setting your trainer’s hourly rate

How much you exactly charge depends on many different factors. Here are some useful pointers to help you come up with your figure:

  • Stop thinking in hourly rates – You are a business now and you need to be thinking in total revenue. The hours you spend delivering a workshop or a training programme will only be the half of it, so start thinking in terms of contract fees and day rates.
  • Start with the end in mind – Work out how much you would like to earn within your first year (be realistic but set yourself some targets to strive for). Add on business costs, tax and any other fixed costs you know you need to cover and then divide by the number of weeks per year you want to work (remember, you will need time off for holidays).
  • Check out the competition – It can be difficult to ask other trainers how much they charge but it’s worth seeing if people publicise their rates on their websites. In the blog I’ve linked to above about setting day rates, there are a few different sources you can check out to see what trainers are charging per day in different sectors (here’s the link again).
  • Ask the client for their budget first – If you are talking to a client about a specific training project, ask how much they have to spend first. This can be a great way of working out whether it’s worth your while taking the project on and how many prep days to include/charge for.
  • Remember your hidden costs – Printed workbooks have an invoice that is easy to include and justify in your fees. But what about your telephone bill? What about your petrol costs? What about the cost of that networking lunch you attended when you first met this client or the Zoom meeting you had to prep for the training? All of these costs need to be covered and you need to be aware of your running costs before you realise you have under-quoted.

For more information about all aspects of setting up a training business, including what to charge, check out my course How to launch a training business in 30 days.

This blog was originally published in September 2008 and has been updated in February 2021.

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