How YOU Can Charge $300 AN HOUR As A Freelance Developer

Written By John Sonmez

Imagine you are a freelance developer and you want to raise your rates. I got a question today about my billing rate, so whether it’s real or not and I found a few questions like this. I just want to say upfront that when I say something or do something or do something like if I post on my blog post or if it’s on a marketing message or an email or something, it’s generally true.

When I first started out I think I was charging like $30 or $40 an hour and to me that was really, really good. I had gotten this one contract where I was charging $100 an hour and I said, “Wow, this is crazy how—I can’t believe someone would pay me $100 an hour.” Then I heard of people that were charging more than that like $200 an hour.

As I started marketing myself and building up the reputation in the industry I started raising my rates and I got to the point of charging $300 an hour and the first time I threw that out to a client and they didn’t even blink. They didn’t try to negotiate me down. They just signed the check.

It took some time to get to there and I can understand the scepticism about it, but honestly, and I’ll tell you this right now, just this last couple of weeks was the first start time I started turning down people at $300 an hour because it’s not worth it.

While it might seem like something you won't EVER be able to accomplish, this is way way more possible than you can imagine.

In today's video I'm going to share some tips on how you can bill $300/hour as a freelance developer and how you can do it too.

Transcript Of The Video

John Sonmez: What's up, John Sonmez here from and today you're going to learn how to bill $300 as a freelance programmer. I'm going to tell you exactly how I did it and how you can do the same. It does require some work, but it is possible for any developer out there if you know how to do it.

What's up guys? John Sonmez here from If you're just joining me for the first time, congratulations. You are in the right place to improve your career, to learn soft skills for software developers. That's all the non technical parts of software development that are actually going to be the most beneficial parts of your career and making more money and being successful in this field. I'll tell you how I did it and I'll tell you a little bit about my story. And then you want to stay tuned to the end because I'm going to tell you how you can do it and that's the most important part.

So I started out in software development. I think my first contract job was around $20 an hour, maybe $15 an hour. I was like 19 or so. I ended up getting this really good job at the .com bubble and all this stuff at $75 an hour. I had to move to Santa Monica. I moved to LA, jumped in my Geo Metro, took everything I owned and drove down there for this opportunity. I got that job and I was like, wow, I'm rich. I'm making like $150,000 a year, I'm 19 years old, I'm such a badass. It turned out, no, not quite rich. Turned out that yeah, even living frugally and saving all your money it would take like 10 years to even come close to being a millionaire, which is unrealistic goal.

That's why I got involved in real estate investment and all that. That's yet another story. I eventually made millions of dollars in this field, but it wasn't from a $75 an hour job.

Long story short, I ended up, eventually that job expired and I got some jobs that were paying around that. The next one was like $65 an hour. I was a consultant, I was a contractor. I was really “an employee”. I was working full time. I wasn't really a freelancer. Then I bounced around from different companies, had some success in my career, worked salary, worked hourly. Never quite reached that same level, until right before I had kind of left to go out on my own, I got a job again as a contractor, this time in Boise, Idaho, kind of back to where I had started. Then eventually from that job I transitioned to another contract there and get $100 an hour. Bam. I've reached the top, the pinnacle, $100 an hour, full time. Seems like the best. No, not the best.

What ended up happening was that I was pretty much capped there. I was stuck there. I couldn't go up. Actually I was like well, what is the point? What is the point of working harder? There's no point. There's nothing that I can do to go up from here. Even if I go salary, you're not going to get a salary much higher than this. It just doesn't make any sense.

What ended up happening was at that job, it was a good thing that that had happened, is I realized that I've got to do something else. And I was kind of bored. So what I started doing was I started writing a blog posts. So that's where Simple Programmer came from. Actually it was 10 years ago because Simple Programmer is now 10 years old.

What ended up happening was at first no one was reading them, some of my coworkers were reading them.b you think then some local people in the Boise area, it was kind of getting spread around because someone would share it and whatnot. I was sitting at my desk one day and I got this call and this guy was like hey, we'd like to hire you. And I was like, what are you talking about? He's like, no, we'd like to hire you. I was like oh, you want me to come in for an interview for your job? I'm not really looking right now. And he was like, no, no, no. All the developers on our team, we all read your blog, we know your qualified. We just want to give you an offer. Hmm. That's interesting. I'm like, I'm not really looking, but that's kind of interesting. So that was kind of my first hand, right?

Fast forward a little bit, and I'll spare you all the details of the story. But what ended up happening was eventually I built up a brand. I started creating a podcast. I started getting on podcasts like Hansel Minutes and Software Engineering Radio and all the kinds of podcasts. I don't know how many hundreds of podcasts I've been on, but I started building up this brand. I started building my own podcast. I started blogging a lot more. I started creating some Pluralsight courses. I started really working on building a brand for myself and marketing myself.

I started to build this reputation in the industry and all a sudden, and I ended up leaving my job and working for myself. But even when I was working for someone else, I would get these emails from people saying hey, I'd like to hire you to work for me on a contract basis. What is your rate? At first I was like oh, it'll be $150 an hour.

Then eventually when an up happening was that as I kept on getting these requests and I eventually quit my regular job, I was like well, I wonder if I could just, I'm busy, I'm trying to work in my business. I'm working on Pluralsight courses. If someone's going to take my time, I'm going to bill them $175 an hour. And I thought that was ridiculous.

And then sure enough, there's takers. So I'm like well, okay, I'm getting too much business here. So instead I'm going to have to bill $200 an hour. Then it went to $250. Then finally I went up to $300. And I was still getting, I didn't get anyone saying no at $300 an hour. So here I was working, making good money from the courses I was doing, from running my business. And then at the same time I was freelancing for $300 an hour, about maybe 10 hours a week. SO more money than I was making at my regular job, just working 10 hours a week. And guess what? I wasn't doing any kind of outreach. I wasn't calling anyone, I wasn't looking for clients. I was just billing that kind of money.

So that's my story. I've kind of condensed a lot of pieces in there to make it not too long. But I want to tell you how you can do the same thing and really what you can extract from this. And what I learned from this, and I've taught a lot of developers, I've coached a lot of developers on how to raise their hourly rates, how to increase their salary. By the way, if you haven't already, click that subscribe button and click that little bell there to make sure that you're subscribed to the channel and you get these kind of videos because this could be worth a lot of money in your career. Also check out the Simple Programmer website when you get a chance.

Basically what I learned, and what I learned from running a business and from building a brand is that inbound marketing is the best and most important kind of marketing that you can do. Outbound marketing is when you go out and you look for people, you look for clients. The problem with outbound marketing is it costs money. It costs time, it costs effort. You have to close people. You have to have a pipeline. There's a lot of work involved.

Inbound marketing is when people come to you. When you outbound market, what ends up happening also is you have to negotiate. You're in a bad negotiating position. You want someone to hire you and your coming to them and propositioning them. You're not going to bill $300 an hour like that, right? They're going to say hey, well I would hire you but you need to charge, I could do it for this rate or you need to do this rate. They're going to be negotiating you down.

On the opposite side, if it's inbound marketing, if people are coming to you specifically because of your name, because of your reputation, because of your company's reputation, because of recommendations and they say, I got to have you for the job, I got to have the John Sonmez, then what's going to happen is whatever rate that you name, if they can afford to pay it, they're going to pay it. So you get to name the rate. You get to negotiate. You're on the stronger side of it because there's only one you.

You can become a freelance developer and you can bill hourly and it's fine trying to go and get prospects and you can go on Upwork and you can go and places and try, and that's hard. It is hard. It's difficult to do. It can be done. You can put ads in Craigslist. I know a lot of ways that people do this, or run Facebook ads. Yes, you can do that kind of stuff, but it's not really the most effective way because you're going to spend a lot of time, you're going to spend a lot of money and overhead doing that.
You as a software developer need to learn how to build a brand, a personal brand, and market yourself. I know it's not really a popular word in the software development community, but you need to know how to actually build a brand and mark yourself.

Now, there's a lot of ways to do this today. You could do this through a blog like I did. It's still totally viable. Through podcasts, through YouTube. There's a huge opportunity on YouTube to do this. You could do this through writing books. You could do this through writing magazine articles, through speaking in places. And I've done all of these things.

If that's what you have to do and it's going to take some time, it's gonna take a few years to do that, to build that brand. But once you have that, and once you have that reputation and people know who you are, you're going to be able to get any kind of job that you want. At a drop of a hat, you're gonna have multiple offers. And you're going to be able to bill at a much higher rate. And you could even bill higher than, I know some guys that are building in the $400 and $500 an hour rate because their reputation is so good and they have a very specific niche they're serving. They're an expert in a particular area.

I hope you found that useful. If you did click that subscribe button definitely. Give us a thumbs up and share this out to someone who might be able to use it. And I will talk to you next time. Take care.