5 Alternatives To Hourly Billing For Freelancers

Jan 25, 2024

Let's be honest, nobody likes tracking hours. Or even selling hours for that matter. Conversely, your client also doesn't like buying hours. They are looking for a concrete solution for their problems and have a clear budget.

So why do you continue to make proposals which list a certain amount of hours, for a certain amount of money per hour?

Often there are better earning models than hourly billing.

Curious to which ones you can use?

In this article, I will show you five models that can offer an alternative.

A Performance-Based Commission Model

If you believe you offer high performance as a freelancer, consider a commission model. Let's say you're a marketer. For every $1,000 in revenue, you could ask, for example, 5% of this revenue as a free. You can also have a  monthly flat fee, with a bonus model based on performance. 

The downside? You're dependent on certain factors. No matter how much you believe in your abilities, your fee is linked to what kind of mischief your client gets up to. What if they suddenly increase prices? Or overhaul the website and the results plummet? Make sure you set up clear agreements, especially if you let your commission depend 100% on the result.

Also ensure clear contracts regarding the duration of the collaboration. If you perform extremely well, the client suddenly sees a substantial cost. Ironically, it may then be attractive to replace you with someone who works on an hourly basis.

Who might this model be interesting for?

  • Social Media Marketers
  • Conversion Specialists
  • Business Coaches
  • Web Designers
  • Copywriters

Subscription with a Fixed Monthly Price

Your client wants clarity and you want a predictable income. The solution could be a subscription to your services. Instead of doing design work at $85 per hour, you offer a subscription for, say, $1,500 per month. Clients can choose how to spend this themselves: 15 blog images, 5 e-book designs, or 3 landing pages. Or a combination.

Who might this model be interesting for?

  • Allround Marketers
  • Virtual Assistants
  • Video Editors
  • Photographers
  • Designers

A Tiered Model Based on Results

Instead of commissions, you can also use a tiered model based on results. When a client scales up in terms of revenue, they can also invest more in your services. Let's say last month's revenue was $5,000, and you work for $500 this month. Now the client grows to $10,000 in monthly revenue. In your proposal you could already take into account that your efforts (and fee) will double. This way, you scale with your client.

I use this model myself for my Google Ads services. I set targets with clients and if they are met, the budget usually goes up, to which my fee is linked.

Who might this be interesting for?

  • Allround PPC Marketers
  • Google Ads Specialists
  • Email Specialists
  • CRO Specialists SEO
  • Specialists

A Total Price for a Project

As I said: clients want clarity. Selling a website at $100 per hour is harder than selling a website for $5,000. Using an hourly rate as a freelancer only will cause the other party to (1) calculate and (2) wonder if the website will be completed in the mentioned hours. A website for $5.000 is easier to budget for and to give a  go on.

If you're reading this, you're probably ambitious hard working. Reminder this: especially if you consider yourself more efficient than your competition, a total price is a win for both parties. Let's say the average web designer takes 50 hours to build the website, averaging his pay to $100 per hour. 

You on the other hand, work with AI tools, have mastered most parts of building the site and can complete the project in 30 hours. This means you'll be rewarded an hourly rate of ($5.000 / 30) = $167.

Not only that, the client will be able to go live faster than with the average freelancer. Win-win.

Who might this model be interesting for?

  • Social Media Trainers
  • Business Strategists
  • Website Builders
  • Copywriters
  • Coaches


A retainer is a fixed amount your client pays. Unlike a regular subscription, a retainer is more non-committal. You ask for $1,500 per month, for example, and it's up to the client to use your services. It's also common for retainers to be offset. So one month your retainer might not be used, but the next month you might expect double work.

We used this model for the marketing consultancy at the e-commerce agency I worked for five years for. I would do pro-active work and work partly reactively based on the clients' problems and ideas. The model worked well. Especially because I was able to bundle together ideas for all clients. This meant I could spend one day working out marketing ideas, and pitch the ideas to 10 clients, saving me time, or effectively earning my fee x10.

Who might this model be interesting for?

  • Content Creators
  • Programmers
  • Web Designers
  • Copywriters
  • Coaches

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