how much do you charge?

Here’s an “ask scatterplotters” for mid-career folks. I got an email from a younger colleague that I don’t know the answer to: “I am being asked by a government contractor to provide an estimate of how much I would charge to write a white paper and two fact sheets. Do you have any clue what kind of fee would be reasonable?” Do you? More broadly, I’ve never known how much to ask when I’ve been asked to consult with lawyers or NGOs, or asked how much I charge to speak. I’ve asked back: can you tell me how much other people charge? Can the more experienced scatterplotters among us give some idea of the going rates are for the various types of consulting sociologists might do? In particular, I’d find it helpful to know how the acceptable rates vary by: (1) what exactly you are doing, (2) your level of prior academic or consulting experience, (3) your status in the profession, (4) the nature and resources of the client, (5) region of the country.

If you are able to provide some benchmarks or answers, please specify what type of consulting/work you did, what kind of client it was, your region, and what you charged. If you are using a pseudonym, it would be helpful to provide some kind of status or experience indicator to help us calibrate.


Author: olderwoman

I'm a sociology professor but not only a sociology professor. I keep my name out of this blog because I don't want my name associated with it in a Google search. Although I never write anything in a public forum like a blog that I'd be ashamed to have associated with my name (and you shouldn't either), it is illegal for me to use my position as a public employee to advance my religious or political views, and the pseudonym helps to preserve the distinction between my public and private identities. The pseudonym also helps to protect the people I may write about in describing public or semi-public events I've been involved with. You can read about my academic work on my academic blog --Pam Oliver

5 thoughts on “how much do you charge?”

  1. I don’t do much of this anymore, but I did a bit of consulting and testimony for the Department of Justice on freedom of religion cases 6 or so years ago, and my standard rate was $750 a day, for testimony (sitting around, mostly), and $200 an hour for research.


  2. A reader forwarded to me answers to the same question that were made through another network. I have edited out the names and identifying information and included the answers here, assuming they are of more general interest.

    Answer 1
    My consulting work has been limited to UN and INGO work. My daily rate is about $500/day plus expenses (travel, per diem, etc.). Work with INGOs can be $250-350 per day. For desk review work or paper writing as you have been asked to do, often times the organization will ask for a flat total rate based in an estimate of how many full days work it entails. I know consultants who charge more (and get paid more) than $500/day based on seniority and type of expertise. Even if they charge more though, there may be a cap on the budget the office was given, and then one can negotiate expectations for the paper or work expected. Like a first salary, once a rate has been established, it can follow you to other jobs, so negotiating a first rate is important.

    I am assuming a government contractor would have done this type of work before and might have established rates. I don’t know how you would find out what others have been paid, but it seems it should be public access information.

    Answer 2
    I charge $400 – $500 day, and only down to $400 for very special circumstances (i.e. NGOs I care about). Once in a while, an agency’s budget or HR requirements won’t let me get above $350 so we negotiated more days to cover my fees. Each place has their own HR benchmarks for fees, but $450-$500 seems appropriate.

    I’d suggest drafting a short (1-page max) scope of work and sending them your estimate based on a daily rate. If they have a budget cap or daily rate allowance, then they can respond if it’s too high and you can negotiate from there.

    For the SOW I always build in three phases: 1-3 days project development (to get their input/ideas — emailing and all that to make sure your fitting their criteria takes much longer than it should.); research and writing (for you to estimate based on length, research time, your writing speed — fast, I know :) — etc.); and 2-5 additional days for editing and feedback, depending on the project and number of deliverables.


  3. OW: You gave me the best answer ever to this question: Admit you don’t know what the going rate is and then ask them to pay you enough so that if you find out what other people got for doing the same thing that you won’t be pissed off! I’ve actually used that a couple of times to pretty darn good effect.


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