Don’t be afraid to charge for rush work

Among the many focuses I had as a new freelance designer, one of the big things that I was always concerned about was client satisfaction. I never wanted to drop the ball or give clients reason to fire me, or worse, not want to work with me again. 

As a result, if a client came to me with a rush project, I was apprehensive to charge a rush rate. I’d charge my normal rate under the guise that it was good karma… or something like that.

However, I was only short changing myself. As a result, I had to adjust my own schedule based on someone else’s timeline. It would also mess up the rest of my schedule and eventually it even affected my other clients, too.

Something I’ve often mentioned on the show is that we need to be confident in our rates. You should be comfortable standing by what you charge and not negotiate it.

If a client does come to you with a rush project, you have to stand up for your rush rate too. This should be something you’re including in your contract. Crucially, you need to define what rush work means, too. Everyone will have a different definition — especially if its their own project they’re trying to rush.

Sometimes clients think things take five minutes when we all know it takes much longer. This is why our own definition is so important.

A good rush rate will help us in a couple of different ways.

Crucially, it makes a client think how urgent the project really is.

This is like an electrician or plumber charging more to come to your house on a weekend or holiday. If its a true emergency, we know we have to spend the extra money. If it’s not, then we reconsider and schedule an appointment during normal business hours.

Just because someone thinks its an emergency doesn’t always mean it is. Is it worth getting it done now and pay extra? They have to decide now.

I’ve seen typical rush rates set from 125% to 200% of a normal hourly or day rate. I think that’s a decent place to be. Depending on the size of the project, you can adjust accordingly.

No matter where you end up, it should be high enough that it makes the client stop and think. You don’t want to gouge them either — we need to keep a good working relationship. At the same point though, the rush rate should strike a happy medium. 

If you are marking your rates up at 200% and they still don’t flinch, that opens up a larger discussion. Are you charging enough in the first place? It opens a can of worms, as there is an art form to finding your rates.

It does take a few tries to get this right. But once you do have your regular and rush rates down, it gets easier. You’ll know better when you can pick up rush work or if you have to say no. You’ll have a better idea of how to rearrange your schedule to accommodate the fast-past work if you need to.

You also need to keep in mind the schedules and rates of third party vendors too. Rush rates may need to include those factors as well. It’s not just your time, but you’re eating away at time you spend with other vendors or clients. There’s a lot of different factors that you’ve got to keep in mind when creating a rush rate.

At the end of the day, if a client thinks it’s worth it, then you get that extra compensation. I would imagine that most designers aren’t solidly booked all the time. So it’s a great way to earn a little extra cash along the side.

If your client respects your relationship, you’ll find that rush rates typically don’t negatively impact it at all. What they may learn is that they do need to do a little bit better at scheduling projects with you. That can be a great conversation to follow up with after a rush project wraps up.

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