Day Rate Calculator
“If I paid you that, you’d be making twice what our staff reporters make, that’s ridiculous!”
Quick, back-of-the-napkin math will tell you that 40 hours a week times let’s-round-to 50 weeks in a year is 2000 hours. Therefore, anyone billing $50/hour should wind up with an income of $100,000 per year. Sounds pretty comfortable, right? So why don’t the numbers add up in practice?
As handy as it is to multiply by 2000, you’re skipping over time spent pitching, negotiating contracts, and billing. You’re not counting paid vacation, holidays, sick leave or health insurance -- all of which a salaried employee would be eligible for.
In our 2019 updates to AIR’s rate guides, we began strongly encouraging independent audio professionals to think in terms of day rates, particularly when estimating fair costs for feature stories and other work typically paid by the project.
So how do you know what a comparable salary would look like at your day rate?
And if you know what a fair salary for your skills is, how do you come up with a fair day rate?
Enter a day rate or salary below and hit "calculate" to find the corresponding figure. 🧮
Enter a day rate to calculate a commensurate salary.
Enter a salary to calculate a commensurate day rate.
Keep in mind that a day rate is typically not just an hourly rate multiplied by 8. Most independent professionals who work by the hour charge for the hours they spend working, not for a lunch hour or time they spend maintaining or updating gear or getting coffee. And the more clients the independent professional needs to make a full billable day, the more time they have to spend billing and establishing relationships.
Our calculator is based on the assumption that your expenses are fairly minimal and that you're able to work paying gigs every single day that you spend working. Some freelancers will need to adjust the overhead to account for more time devoted to professional development and pursuing clients.
How many working days are there in a year?
There are 261 weekdays in a year (365÷7 × 5). A typical salaried worker is also entitled to vacation leave, sick time and at least a few paid holidays. We assumed:
- 15 days of vacation leave, which was typical in the organizations we reviewed.
- 11 paid holidays -- the Federal calendar for 2021 included 12, but one of those was inauguration day which isn't typically a holiday for other workers.
- 4 sick days -- research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that professional workers take an average of 4 days of sick leave each year.
That adds up to 30 weekdays that a salaried employee wouldn't expect to spend working, for a total of 231 working days in the year.
The calculator assumes that you're able to spend all of those 231 days on paying gigs. Is that consistent with your experience? or do you find that you have to spend a substantial chunk of time connecting with clients? The ratio of paid days to unpaid working days will vary with the kind of work that you are doing.
There are a few expenses borne by independent contractors that an employer would typically cover. These include matching retirement contributions (up to 5%), payroll tax (7.5% in the US), health insurance, equipment acquisition /maintenance, as well as time spent on pitching, negotiating, and billing. We add 26% to the salary, to account for those added expenses.
Do these assumptions add up? We'd love to know how your experience compares with our assumptions.
One More Note
This calculator is not designed to translate the full cost of a staffer into an independent contractor day rate -- we don’t take into account costs like HR, office space, or workers’ compensation insurance that an independent contractor doesn’t typically bear.
AIR's work on rates
This calculator is part of AIR's work on rates. AIR’s rate guides are designed to help independent producers set fair and reasonable rates, and to help everyone create accurate and realistic budgets. We want to hear from you.
This calculator was posted in August 2021 and has not been updated since.