Fixed or Hourly Pay?

As an Upwork freelancer, there are two ways I get paid – fixed pay and hourly pay. Whether you’re hiring or looking for work, you’re probably wondering which is the best choice for the project. Either is fine. In most cases, I’m going to choose hourly pay over fixed rate pay. However, fixed rate pay may work better for awkward jobs.

Fixed Rate Jobs

If a job will take less than an hour to complete, fixed rate payment works best. Depending on the time it will take to complete the job will determine the amount to settle on. Here are a few examples of fixed rate project ideas.

Once, I had a client who was paying me by the hour and she gave me a quick job to do which involved downloading an image from a website, renaming it, then uploading it to Houzz with a quick description and keywords. That took only six minutes. The Upwork timer doesn’t even register time worked until 10 minutes so I didn’t get paid for that job. I could have charged her at least $5 if I had requested a fixed rate payment. Most of the work I did for that client was less than an hour after a couple of months of heavy hourly work, so I closed the hourly paying job and have requested that we work on a fixed rate scale for any future work.

Many people don’t like to pay an hourly rate for research needed to write an article. If they do allow hourly pay, the time is usually limited to a couple of hours. However, they don’t mind paying a $30 to $45 fixed rate for a finished article. Research typically takes an hour or two depending on the subject. The written material may take another 30 minutes to an hour after that so I don’t mind getting paid a $30 to $45 fixed rate for a 300 – 500-word article. Sometimes a simple re-write of an article to pass Copyscape is all a client may need. I charge $12 to $25 for that depending on the size of the article up to 2000 words.

Once, I was paid $1 for each of my quotes by a client who was using them for Twitter tweets. They paid me by the bulk, whether it was 25, 50 or 100 quotes I could provide in a week. That’s good pay until ideas run out. : )

Transcribing a 60-minute audio or video file can take anywhere from four to six hours depending on quality, number of speakers, use of timestamps, accents and turn-around time. Most clients want to pay fixed rate for transcription work. I prefer hourly pay for transcription work, but if fixed pay is demanded, I listen to the file for quality and speakers’ accents, request the number of speakers (more than three is difficult to keep separated unless they can be seen in a video), timestamp recurrence (I prefer not to have to add timestamps or at least to only have to add a few) and when the work is expected to be completed before I decide on a per minute rate. I’ve charged between $20 and $60 to transcribe 60 minutes of audio. 

Hourly Pay Jobs

Hourly pay is definitely the way to go if quite a bit of hourly work is required. If a fixed rate pay scale works out to appropriate hourly pay in the approximate time you think the job can be completed, that’s fine too.

Research and writing are great hourly paid jobs if the client agrees to this. Transcribing is as well. When I get an hourly transcribing job, I charge only for the transcribing and not the proofreading that follows.

If the job involves copy/paste/data entry, that is very time-consuming, so of course this should be an hourly paid job. Downloading or uploading a large number of files to and from websites, such as uploading dozens of YouTube videos and descriptions definitely calls for hourly pay. If you’re required to sit at your desk for several hours and handle customer support emails as they come in, then charge an hourly fee. Proofreading and editing is another job that partners well with hourly pay.

Note to Clients and Freelancers

Remember, clients, the cheapest freelancer isn’t always the best choice. I have seen so many clients who chose a $5.00 an hour freelancer who worked for hours and hours on a job that should have only taken a few hours. In the end, they may have paid $100 to a freelancer with lower hourly pay when they might have only paid $70 to the freelancer with a higher hourly pay. Bonus! They also received the finished work sooner from the freelancer with the higher hourly pay base. Not all low hourly freelancers extend the work to earn more money nor do all high hourly freelancers provide better work. I’m just saying you should beware, review feedback carefully and don’t be afraid to give new freelancers their first job.

Freelancers, you simply must realize you won’t get top pay for every job. Sometimes charities, churches and new businesses need help and just don’t have the funds to pay your top dollar amount. So, weigh those jobs carefully with your heart. Job sites like Upwork won’t allow free work because they rely on a percentage of your pay to make site improvements and to keep the site running; however, you can accept lower pay for some jobs.

These are only a few examples, but I think this will give you a good idea which pay structure will work best for you. As long as clients and freelancers are fair to each other, everything will work out very well.

When logged in, Upwork clients can hire me and send me messages at


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