how much to charge... freelance


How much do people generally charge for a freelance model building project?
the model is for a single-practitioner architect, the project a 4000 s.f. home.
I'm an MArch student (final year), working part-time for another architect, doing freelance on the side for extra cash.


Jun 23, 05 1:40 pm

Or, in the same respect, how much do people charge for freelancing in general? Whether its construction drawings, design work, or just advice, I wouldn't even know where to begin.

Jun 23, 05 1:49 pm

Come up with a number based on what you consider to be fair. Then double it. When the client retorts that you're too expensive, ask her to counter-offer. Then counter back until you both hit somewhere in the middle.

Determining your price for your work is no differentthan negotiating w/ a car dealer. Sometimes, you get the job, sometimes you realize that it's not worth your time to deal w/ a cheapskate, or a deadbeat. Negotiating will help you determine if that's who you're daling with.

Also, GET SOME $$$ UP FRONT. Don't contribute to our collective poverty by jumping at any price the client is willing to pay because your (ours, collectively) is worth more than they think.

Jun 23, 05 1:53 pm

depends on detail and costs...

being a need to figure out how much time it will take you, how much it will cost you and finally how much are you worth! (per hour) then you can give a final number!

think about it...if you can make more $$ working at blockbuster for the same amount of time...wouldn't that make more sense?!? only way i would do it for less is if i am trying to get a future job with them...HOWEVER, if you are cheap when you get an offer from the it will be CHEAP...

don't charge per sqft, don't charge a number you think it approriate WITHOUT figuring out the above.

just continuing my DON'T WORK FOR FREE CAMPAIGN!!

Jun 23, 05 1:53 pm

Where do I sign up?

Jun 23, 05 2:01 pm

I'd much rather spend my time building a model than working at blockbuster for the same price, since its something i enjoy and am good at...
but i get your point.. thanks!

do you think i should charge more for freelance than i get paid hourly as an intern?

Jun 23, 05 5:43 pm

Professional model makers charge a mint, we are paying $30,000 for one right now.

I agree with Raj, estimate the time it will take (based on size of model and detail required). Make sure and multiply your estimate by pi, we (architects) never think it will take as long as it does.

At least double your currently hourly salary. You can always negotiate if they thinks it is too high. You could probably charge $40/hour and still save them money over hiring a professional.

Add to that the cost of materials and tools (blades, glue, etc.)

Good luck.

Jun 23, 05 6:12 pm

reed who the hell pays 30000 for a model, what model is that???

Jun 24, 05 2:32 am

It is a rather large model, 7 feet by 3 feet and about a foot tall (1:200). Fairly complex in terms of detail as well, it is of a WPA building that we are renovating.

Jun 24, 05 9:13 am

$30k for a model is pretty reasonable. A steal for something that big. I've seen $100k models and know of many that cost much, much more. I've worked a firm that paid $10k for a model for us to plug the sketch models in, the real one was well above $100k.

People have to realize, as harsh as it is, architect's are the only profession that I know of that gets paid so horribly, or, rather, architect's are the only profession where people will work so hard for so little. Model makers, renderers, graphic/web designers, etc., etc. all get paid much better and require less stress, no overtime (without time and a half), and less experience.

$40/hour is very reasonable if they are having you do it outside of their office.

Jun 24, 05 9:43 am

freelancing as an architect and model builder are two separate things. that being said, as you are a m.arch student, $35-$40 per hour is what i'd expect to pay.

figure out how long its going to take you, then multiply that number by 1.5. that's probably how long its really going to take. ask for 15-30% up front, plus a portion of the estimated cost of materials. bill weekly.

Jun 24, 05 9:56 am

Also, check to see if your architect friend is going to issue you a 1099. If so, then increase your fee to compensate for the taxes.

Jun 24, 05 10:26 am

you will likely charge more than $600, but if you charge/they pays you less than that, then neither of you have to claim it. the only problem is he may want to anyway for him/herself.
i agree also that 40 is pretty reasonable. much less than that and you're giving it away. You need to remember that most places will pay an employee around a third of what they charge out for their time. Covering overhead, insurance, and all of that. if ever thought about freelance full-time then all of that has to come out of your $40/hr. Your take home wouldn't be very much in the end. (this also applies to the architect paying you, because as freelance they don't have to worry about your 401, medical/dental and taxes that they would if they hired you)

Jun 24, 05 10:51 am

good grammar helps sometimes too

Jun 24, 05 10:54 am

what a mess you are in!! you just want to know an easy number to give to the man and we give you an essay on working for free and how to run a business.

just one added tidbit for you. remember if you charge what a "professional" model builder charges, make sure to give them SERVICE like a professional. if you EARN it...then you become "professional" as well. remember professional is not a degree or a is what you are.

Jun 24, 05 11:15 am

As a consultant starting arch school this fall, I think this is all good advice, and I would back up what's been said. Double your current hourly pay if you're going to bill for your time and multiply your time estimate by 1.5 or even 2. Track your time carefully and submit periodic invoices if it takes that long. Your value is proportional to what you charge, even when you're young. You'll feel more responsibility and impetus if you're spending $40 of your client's money every hour rather than $15.

I'm curious, though, since that I have little architecture experience: is it realistic to offer an hourly rate and a suggested amount of time? (Obviously that protects the worker, b/c you can charge for the time invested.) But is that how the model-building business works? Do architects charge hourly fees for design?

What about a flat fee for the finished model? feelandtriple has said the model is for a 4000 sq ft home...what's the range of reasonable cost for this? How much does the end-use of the model matter to the cost? What are other questions to ask in estimating the cost of such a model?

Jun 24, 05 11:52 am


Jun 24, 05 12:36 pm

Don't you just love a straight answer.

Jun 24, 05 12:37 pm

CCC brings up a good issue: To charge hourly, or to charge a flat fee. Obviously, hourly is gonna benefit us better, but the client will quickly get turned off if you don't give her a ballpark idea of what the 'big picture cost' will be. You ain't gotta be dead-on when the project starts, but in order to be a professional, you've got to develop a feel for how much you will cost for a certain type of project. Once you give the client a degree of predictability and advise them early about the impact changes & 'mission-creep' will cost. Just put everything on the table EARLY & write it down & recap w/ the client as much as possible.
Don't forget to include variable expenses like travel & supplies. Don't go nuts, but make sure that you're not losing money. Don't be timid about discussing dinheiro (dough) because not discussing it will build grey areas & distrust. later down the road, when Mr. Client wants to build anothe model, your candor is going to be remembered good or bad.

As an old-timer told me once: "What you make is our way of keeping score." So far it's Clients: $999999Trillion -to- Our $40/hr

Jun 24, 05 1:34 pm

this is great fun, thanks
its a pretty small project, not very detailed. tiny firm (no interns), small scope. so I think I'll start asking for $35/hr plus materials and we can negotiate. I think he's trying to get a price to submit to his client to see what the client will pay for.
thanks for the discussion (straight answers are boring)

Jun 24, 05 1:36 pm


Model builders generally charge a set fee. They base their fee on how long they think it will take and the cost of materials. The question is 'what dollar amount do I multiply the time by'? The consensus seems to be $30-$40 per hour. The client only sees the final cost, not the math that went in to the cost.

They could concievably work on an hourly scale. This only seams likely if there are anticipaged changes to the design as the model is being built. In this case they would set an hourly fee, and estimate the number of hours detailing the extent of changes expected.

Jun 24, 05 1:40 pm

Yeah, I'd suggest a set fee but show how many hours you'll are estimating it taking and your hourly fee. This will give them a better understanding and validate your flat fee. Plus, you should have a contract that states something like 'anything above and beyond the scope of this project is subject to the agreed upon hourly rate of $40'. That keeps your ass covered when they say 'oh, we've changed that, can you build ita little differently? It's only a minor change...honest.' Then you get screwed by being a 'nice guy' and rebuilding 50% for free. If they know that you plan to charge for things beyond your agreement, they won't argue with additional fees and won't dick you around.

I'd do at least a 25% break down. 25% upf ront, at some point another 25, etc. Ideally, you get 50% up front and the rest on delivery, but if it's really big, get it broken down. I've gotten screwed by thinking because they paid the first portions they'd pay the others, but I did have it broken down so I got at least some cash.

Last thing - I agree you need to know your abilities and charge accordingly. Those pro model builders are laser cutting and making perfect models, you can't do that by hand, but if you craft is superb, charge for it and explain it to them, if not, make sure you don't elevate their expectations and make an unhappy client that won't pay.

Good luck.

Jun 24, 05 2:07 pm

one thing to remember: don't deliver until paid in full. judging from your description of your situation, the final product is your only leverage here, so don't give it up.

Jun 24, 05 2:19 pm

Payment brake down 50% upfront 50% when finished. ......people, this is a model we are talking about here not a lease on the Sears tower.

Jun 24, 05 2:48 pm

50/50 is nice, but sometimes breaking it down more gives you more protection.

ex. - 20% in five payments - if you completed the first 4 increments and were paid, but then at the end they wouldn't pay that way you only lose 20%. If it was 50/50 you'd lose all of it.
For large projects I prefer a larger break down, but for small jobs 50/50 works better. But that's just what I prefer.

Jun 24, 05 5:16 pm
vado retro

why would i pay you 40 bucks an hour to build a model? even if i was going to bill the client for it and probably include a little mark up for me? these dollar amounts seem ridiculously high since another arch student would probably do the job for six bucks an hour.

Jun 24, 05 7:51 pm

i asked for $35/ hr. he did not balk at that. plus 100-200 for supplies. he's billing the client directly, so we're waiting to hear what they think. because he doesn't have the cash flow, i don't think i can get anything up front unless he bills the client up front.

Jun 28, 05 1:53 pm
R.A. Rudolph

Be very careful about starting work before getting paid if its freelance. If he's going to pay you bi-weekly and you trust him that's one thing, but if he tells you he has no cash flow and can't pay you unless the client pays, that's a bad sign. He should have some money in the bank if he's operating a proper company, and it's not fair of him to not pay you if the client doesn't pay. If that is the set-up, you should ask to have a contract directly with the client, so at least you have leverage and can talk to them in person if they don't pay. Sounds like a potentially messy situation - my feeling (as the owener of a small firm) is if he can't afford to pay for the model, or advance you the money before he gets paid (and be willig to lose himself if the client doesn't pay out), he shouldn't be hiring other people to work for him.

Jun 28, 05 2:24 pm


Jun 28, 05 2:32 pm

i did a 10'x10' model in 2 weeks, all foamcore, fairly simple mass modeling project...1/16th scale of a urban design proj in arizona. it was pretty interesting... but im an intern that pays 10/ that good / bad?

Jun 30, 05 2:28 pm
David Cuthbert

jonathon - that was bad. You were ripped off. But wait wanna come work for me? nevermind about the bad fee.

Jun 30, 05 4:49 pm
A Center for Ants?

did you work for a firm while doing that model or was that freelance, jonathan? cause if you're working for a firm, that's expected. if you did it freelance you got robbed.

Jun 30, 05 4:57 pm

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: