How much you can expect to earn as a freelance web developer
In my previous post I explained how I got into freelancing initially. And that it has a few advantages over permanent positions. One of these advantages is increased pay.
How much can you earn?
Of course there is no generic answer to this question because the sky is the limit unlike in most regular jobs. Your salary as a freelancer is variable and depends mainly on two things:
- The amount of gigs you get (Ideally enough to keep you busy full time or even more)
- How much you charge for your work (be it hourly or per project)
Your salary as a freelancer is coupled to the amount of hours you put into your work directly (hourly rate) or indirectly (project based pricing).
To give an example and fill these variables with my current values: I currently have a freelance contract with one company that pays me 70€ an hour and requires me to work 1600 hours in the year of 2021 for them. Which is a total of 112.000€. 1600 hours is absolutely doable in my opinion. That’s less than 40 hours a week with 30 days of vacation. I think 70€ is a fair rate for a developer with my experience (4,5 years fulltime developer, ~7 years in IT).
Compare that to my last permanent position before freelancing which payed me 51.600€ yearly. That was in early 2019 so I’d guess that I could find a regular job paying maybe 80k?
But still, freelancing more than doubled my previous salary over the course of two and a half years. Obviously you can only do this if you are proficient in a skill that is in high demand. For me that is a specialisation in frontend development (Angular) and solid knowledge of the whole web development sphere including system administration.
Comparing freelance pay with regular job salaries
Now you could argue that you can’t compare these numbers because you need to pay for more stuff yourself which previously your employer paid for and that is a good argument. You have to pay for your own equippment like a Notebook, Keyboard, Monitors, etc. On the upside that stuff is tax deductible so you could look at it in a way that you don’t pay full price but you have to pay obviously.
Also in a permanent position in Germany at least, your employer pays half of your social security fees and as a freelancer you have to pay both the employee and the employer parts yourself.
Now these are some downsides which reduce your net income but lets look at some upsides, again specific to Germany but I’m sure it is comparable to other countries.
When you are self employed in germany, you qualify for switching from the statutory health insurance to a private health insurance. This is a huge topics with a lot of heated arguments but to show you what that meant for me: I previously paid 431€ monthly in a permanent position (862€ total) and after switching to freelancing with private health insurance I now pay 336€ monthly. So in the end I pay less even though I need to pay both the employee and the employer part of the health insurance. Also my the private health insurance pays way more stuff than the statutory one.
Also you are no longer forced to pay into the statutory pension insurance which there is also a huge topic with heated arguments but for me that meant I can use my money for insurance that does not force me to do so and I can pay as much or little as I want and historically speaking that kind of pension insurance yields a much higher return on investment.
To come to a conclusion. It’s not easy to compare the two salaries but for my case I would prefer a 100k freelance salary over a 100k permanent position salary.