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Can 15 year olds charge hourly?

  • # June 30, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    So I’m 15 years old, turning 16 in a few months, and I’m a web designer. I was wondering, and I don’t know if this is the appropriate place to ask this question, can I charge hourly? For example, $40/hr? I was inspired by this article. I don’t know if that article applies to kids like me.

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    # June 30, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    The only thing that “might not apply” to you is the whole concept of doing business. As a minor, there may be legalities around entering into a contract that you don’t expect. Some places, some contracts with minors are _void ab initio_ (meaningless from the start). Not that you should expect it to be a regular problem, but this means you may well have _extra_ difficulties in collecting for your work.

    Contrariwise, you might also find yourself in a contract that is very unfavorable to you (because the client added terms to the contract that you didn’t catch the meaning of), with no way out.

    I don’t mean to “talk down” to you, by any means, but have you talked to your parent(s) about this? If you plan to do work for anyone outside of friends and family, it might be a good idea to sit down with them (and maybe a lawyer/paralegal) to “iron out the details.”

    As to _how much_ you can charge, I don’t know. I’ve never seen your work, nor dealt with you as a provider of a service. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that you can charge however much people are willing to pay you.

    # June 30, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Charging hourly only makes sense in certain circumstances.

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    # June 30, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    >Charging hourly only makes sense in certain circumstances.

    True. I almost never* charge hourly.

    *In fact, I usually charge hourly only when I know the work is going to be a pain, and would honestly not mind if the client dropped me (the notable exception being that some clients actually require an hourly rate for their own purposes – accounting, etc.).

    I spend a lot of time, conversing with potential clients and creating a basic spec for the project before ever making an offer. Some people get impatient or “freak out” because I’m so involved before any money has changed hands. I let them go. The ones I keep _more_ than make up for it.

    # June 30, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    Wow, that linked article is REALLY a bad article to post on a supposed industry site/forum.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_fixing#Legal_status_in_the_United_States_and_Canada

    “Under American law, exchanging prices among competitors can also violate the antitrust laws. This includes exchanging prices with either the intent to fix prices _or if the exchange affects the prices individual competitors set_.”

    # July 1, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    @traq – how long have you been doing that? I’m just curious how well that’s worked over the long haul.

    For me, I spend a good amount of time talking to a potential client about the value, educating them on the industry, examples etc. But I wouldn’t do spec work until a contract is signed. Really in-depth discovery and the spec work is a part of the paid process for us.

    It’s interesting to me how your process still basically vets a client because only a high quality client will actually go through that phase with you prior to signing anything.

    But I’m definitely with you on the hourly rate calculation. I rarely do hourly rates and it’s either a scenario where:

    1) I honestly have absolutely no idea what’s involved, which is on me (I recently did work with a really, really big company’s intranet. Numerous groups, VPs and developers were involved, so it was very difficult to know how much time was involved). What I do prepare the client for however is the amount of work this could take. These scenarios I’ve only encountered a couple of times and the work hasn’t been bad – I just hate not knowing the value and the total scope.

    2) It’s a client I KNOW is going to be a pain in the ass because they are asking for an hourly rate, which in my experience probably much like yours, are the specific clients that ask for an hourly rate :P. I usually 1.5x to 2x these from the rough baseline.

    # July 1, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Sorry, got off topic to the OP :P

    I think traq summed it up. But those laws regarding minors might even differ from state to state.

    What I would do if I were in your position is just simply do it without contracts until you know the rule. You’re 15, so honestly at this point unless you are on your own in an apartment buying your own food, this isn’t something that is going to put you on the street if a client refuses to pay. And likely if 2 of 10 clients don’t pay, the remaining 8 will provide about 3x the income your buddies working at McDonald’s will make.

    As for what to charge? Honestly, $40 seems REALLY high for a 15 year old. That’s not to say you don’t have great abilities, but to a business owner, contracting a 15 year old is a gamble to begin with. So you may need to price it accordingly so that someone would actually be interested. If you do a great job you’ll probably attract a few clients willing to give it a shot. I’d at least half that rate.

    So I’d say use email to discuss the final pricing so it’s in writing and then use this to gain experience. Then go figure out what the laws specific to contracting with someone as a minor really look like.

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    # July 1, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    @JoshWhite I’ve always done it that way – but than again, I started freelancing “on the side,” so vetting clients wasn’t an issue (in fact, _not_ “being picky” (if that’s how you want to look at it) would have left me worse off).

    It only feels like “vetting” to the impatient clients – definitely not making anyone “jump through hoops.” I try to be convivial and build a real conversation about the project to understand what they’re really looking for. That kind of relationship is what gets me clients (of course, it also helps that I’m not a total programming retard). Participating on forums helps build that kind of friendly, “interested” reputation as well (though that’s far from the only reason I am …here, for example… :) ). The other benefit is that, once they send along the deposit, work can start almost immediately.

    And (to clarify) I was talking about writing a specification, not “spec work.” Sorry for any confusion. I **do not** do spec work, and to anyone who does, I say **STOP**, it’s bad for you. Once in a while, a request comes along that I’m completely unsure about how to build, and so I’ll do some exploratory work to make sure I can “pull it off,” but that’s it.

    I’ve done this for about five years now, and I have the amount of work that I can handle. At the moment, that’s one “big” job, a smaller site that I’m doing some basic support for while the client prepares for the actual launch, and a few “odds-and-ends” in the past couple weeks (a logo and an upload form).

    # July 1, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Ahh gotcha that makes a lot more sense :)

    Are you planning on ever expanding or are you looking to remain a single person freelance entity? (I’m always looking for input here – I’m in the process now of deciding to expand or to scale back and simply be more selective).

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    # July 1, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    I’m considering “expanding” (with a local group that hopes to open a co-working tech office). I’m also looking for a full-time position… we’ll see which pans out. I’m rooting for the co-working thing.

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