My magic number for starting out as a new freelancer web developer on UpWork, in the United States is $30 per hour.
Why $30? Let’s look at this from a the perspective of a client on a tight budget. When they start looking for a freelancer to complete their project, they will find the freelancer they want. It’s the guy that specializes in their niche, with 250 hours, top rated, and 15 five star reviews. The only problem? That person charges $80 per hour (or more) and is not available until 30 days from now.
So they lower their expectations and look for freelancers below $50 per hour. They still want a good freelancer and are looking for some kind of proof that they can complete the job. But they are going to satisfy for less hours worked and far fewer positive reviews. The good job proposals at $30 to $40 an hour, with a solid demo project, are going to catch their eye.
Why Going Below $30 is Bad for You
So let’s say you are happy with $15 per hour (you shouldn’t be). The client is going to see you as an outlier as compared to other freelancers. They know they are sacrificing on proven experience, but they will wonder what else they are sacrificing. Is this developer so new they are incapable of completing my project?
With a very low rate, the client will not take you seriously and will likely pass. Or even worse, you will simply attract the very bad clients who will try to use you and abuse you.
Going Beyond $30
Keep in mind that even $30 per hour is just for getting started. Remember where our client started looking and who they wanted first? Our goal is to be that guy… charging $80 per hour or more, and too busy for additional work. Trust me, it is very possible.