A Look at the Hourly Rates of Freelance Designers and Developers

Freelancers often struggle with how to price their services. There are many sites that offer salary data for full-time employees, but none that do so for freelancers.

We’ve managed to collect data about freelance hourly rates over at Bonsai, and we wanted to make it public, so we built Rate Explorer to make it easy for people to see our data on how much freelance designers and developers charge by the hour.

We obtained the data from among the 15,000+ freelancers that use our app. We supplemented it with user research surveys, and that added another few hundred data points.

Currently, we only have data from freelancers operating in the U.S. Once we gain a critical mass of hourly-rate data for other countries, we will share those as well.

Interesting Trends

We spotted some noteworthy trends by analyzing the data.

Developers earn 30% more than designers.

The hourly rates of designers (especially graphic designers) remain sticky at under $60 an hour at all geographies and experience levels.

In addition, whereas developers quickly begin increasing their hourly rates after gaining 3 years of experience, designers tend to increase their hourly rates at a slower pace.

Read: Why Designers Should Learn How to Code

The most common explanations we’ve heard for this trend are:

Freelancers in the Coastal regions have higher hourly rates than those in the Midwest and the South by an average of ~10%.

Freelancers in the West Coast and East Coast generally have higher hourly rates compared to freelancers based in the Midwest and South.

This trend was surprising to us because freelance design and dev jobs can easily be done remotely, so it would be reasonable to think that a freelancer’s location would not have a whole lot of influence in his/her hourly rate. The difference might be linked to the higher living costs in coastal regions, which in turn might necessitate higher hourly rates, — but this is just speculative.

Read: The Best Sites for Finding Remote Work

The biggest increase in hourly rates happens when freelancers reach 3–5 years of experience.

Across all skill types and geographies, freelancers significantly increase their hourly rates when they gain 3–5 years worth of experience.

Having spoken to some of our users, we’ve learned that this trend can be attributed to:

Read: Three Simple Steps to Maintaining a Razor-Sharp Skill Set

What This Data Can Mean for You

Pricing can be a complicated subject, and many factors should go into pricing your work. The Rate Explorer is most valuable as a directional indicator. Are you above, below, or within the average for similar freelancers?

Matthew Brown is the founder of Bonsai, a San-Francisco-based contract and payment app for freelancers. Connect with Matthew on Twitter and GitHub.

Read Next

7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Rates and Keep Your Clients

Making Money Designing Themes: What You Should Know

How I Earned A Lot More on Projects by Changing My Pricing Strategy

5 Tips for Making More Money as a Freelance Designer

This was published on Mar 11, 2016


I’ve often toyed with the idea of crossing over from web designer to developer. I’m self taught in building WordPress sites for clients going on 4 years now. I get tons of word of mouth and love what I do. So what I want to ask is how would you recommend one going about getting the education needed to cross over? There are so many online courses for this but patience in learning is not a strong point and I don’t want to dump tons of money into mediocre courses. Any recommendations ?

charleshenry Apr 29 2016

Thanks for sharing this. I appreciate you.

Rob Knapp May 06 2016

I’d have to agree with why designers make less than developers. Graphic design is easier to learn. It’s a low-barrier field.

With code, you can’t really survive unless it works. Working code requires some understanding of programming logic. A working design only requires that you understand the software you’re using.

Just my 2 cents. I’d encourage all designers to learn some aspects of development to increase their value. Personally, I’m a freelance designer with some front-end skills (CSS, HTML, jQuery)… the design aesthetics catch clients’ attention and the ability to execute a Web project closes the deals.

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