Hourly Rate Reduction Due to Covid-19

I freelance as an accessory designer where I normally give my rate and the company accepts these terms. Sometimes there are companies that have a fixed price and I can either take it (if it’s not a huge hit and it’s reasonable) or leave it.
Due to Covid-19, I understand there have been mass layoffs, furloughs and drastic salary cuts for full time employers in the industry. Has anyone seen hourly rate decreases for freelancers at any companies? I have been seeing roughly $15-25/hour less with some companies and I’m wondering if that’s just the way it will be for a while until things (hopefully) pick up. I don’t want to accept a project if it undercuts myself or any other freelancer.
For reference, I have 15 years experience (usually senior roles, not director), work in soft accessories (not shoes, handbags or jewelry) and live in NYC.


Haven’t seen that yet since Ive been applying with no success to anything. If I do find out, I will try my best to give an update.

$15.00/hour freelance rate for 15 years experience is completely ridiculous. I was once asked by a headhunter if I would freelance for $15.00/hour. My response was: my 16 year old daughter babysits and makes $15.00/hour. She doesn’t have a high school diploma/much less a 4 year college degree, and has zero Adobe software and work experience. We all need to bond together to say “NO” we won’t be under-cut with our freelance rate!


What the poster meant was that the reduction in the hourly rate is 15/20 as compared to the pre-Covid rates. I have not gotten any consulting jobs since the ones I was already working on beginning of April, so won’t know till I do. If not for Covid19, one client was planning to travel to see me around this time. But now that is on a back burner, till their orders pick up and existing stock sells

Thank you for all of your replies! This thread can really help a lot of contract workers.

I think there is a little bit of confusion from my original post. What I was saying is that rates are $15-25/hr LESS than what I’m used to seeing or receiving per-Covid. In one case it was with a recruiter and I know they take a good chunk of the rate for themselves but this is still a lot lower than I’ve seen in awhile. The rate they’re showing is my rate from 2005!

I completely agree that we need to stick together to say NO, that’s why I’m happy there is a site like this one so we can all receive the same info and spread some knowledge to others. Of course I understand that there are different situations and someone could be desperate for work. What these companies don’t understand is that a) you get what you pay for, and b) if you do get a designer that’s experienced and great at what they do but you pay them poorly, they’re not going to stick around very long. It makes more sense to spend a little bit more money from the beginning to save the time (and money) of constantly finding new designers. Plus, searching for designers that will work with you and your company since we all know that word travels quickly in this industry! This goes for both freelance and permanent employees.

Stay positive!


I don’t think it’s fair to you to have to discount your rates. All you do is devalue yourself and set yourself up to be taken advantage of later because people know they can negotiate cheaper rates. Stand your ground, you worked hard to get where you are. They can either pay full price or move along.


Sadly, I’ve been hearing about reduced rates a lot from recruiters- I’m in LA. The roles they have reached out about have also been $15-25 LESS than similar roles pre-COVID.

I think a lot of companies are taking this as an opportunity to clean house, reduce head counts, and then hire people for much lower rates, with the overall sentiment being “well, you’d be lucky to have a job”. A recruiter I am friends with confirmed this as well.

I’ve noticed this not only in freelance offers, but in full time salaried roles as well. I just went to an interview where I was told that I was “extremely overpaid” at my last company- even though I know I was making the local average for my experience and role. He offered me a job which would have been a 20% salary reduction.

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I completely agree and am happy to get some validation on this topic. It’s a steep hill to climb if you lowball yourself or a client does and you accept it. I am a firm believer that if we all stick together, we will all have wages that reflect our talent and expertise!

I’m sorry to hear that! It’s good to know you have some clarity from a recruiter friend. I have also heard the phrase “you shouldn’t be so picky right now”. I understand the sentiment but I also don’t give my work away for free. Sadly, this mindset is not going away any time soon. I know that companies have reduced their full time employees’ salaries by 20% or more so it’s possible that’s the excuse as to why they offered you that amount. My feeling is that if you can’t afford a designer at 100% their salary, then you shouldn’t be hiring another designer at this time. Everyone is trying to squeeze pennies but that doesn’t give them an excuse to use you (us designers)

Best of luck in your search!

Infuriating. Remember before you accept any pay cut - the cost of living isn’t going down 20% because of COVID. And any time they pressure you to accept a large pay cut now with a promise of a raise at some later date, it 99% won’t happen.


This is a great point! Definitely evaluate your own cost of living to see what jobs you’ll be able to accept.

If you must take the job, get the “promise of a raise at some later date” in writing.


For the most part, work is better than no work. Take what you can get now. Track your efforts, build and ROI and get paid what you are worth when things recover.

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Yes, everything in writing! When I couldn’t get the salary I wanted at a full time job once, I was able to negotiate more time off. At the time, my time outside of work was worth way more than missing some money. Everyone is different though, so you have to weigh what’s best for you.

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I guess it really depends on your situation. Again, it’s best to weigh the pros and cons of any given situation and hope it’s best for you at that moment. Personally, I wouldn’t take a job that wasn’t paying my bare minimum and they have a reputation of treating their employees terribly. It’s just not worth it for me but I also have savings to rely on right now. Not everyone will agree with me or has this option so it really depends on a case by case basis. This won’t last forever…(fingers crossed!)

Agreed, it is really hard to say. My viewpoint is rooted in what happened to me and many of my colleagues in 2008. I lost my job and was pressured into taking a salary cut when I found a new one. All of my future salaries were based on that cut, and it depressed my earnings for several years. Colleagues who did NOT lose jobs in 2008 didn’t experience that dip, and their salaries progressed at a higher rate that I could not match*. Add on top of that, I am a woman, so I was making less to begin with. If I were a POC, I more than likely would’ve been making even less. When I do the math for how it has affected not only my net income, but also my lost projected retirement savings, it makes me feel sick to my stomach.

I am very concerned that employers will use this as an opportunity to chronically understaff and depress salaries across the board for years to come.

*Yes, technically it is now illegal for employers in NY to ask you about your previous salary, but they still do their research and can easily find out.


That has happened to me before. Went to a company that said they will match what I made previously within a year and when that year came around, nope they did not meet it. :face_with_symbols_over_mouth: And they would promote your title but not give you a raise … does this make any sense?

That’s rough! It’s definitely an uphill battle. I think most employers try to find outside reasons to decrease salaries, unfortunately. Remember what you are worth and stand firm!

Oh, boy! I have always said, I don’t care what you call me as long as you pay me what I’m worth!

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I’ve been in the same boat. It’s important to always get that “we’ll review in 6 months and then adjust your salary” in writing, in your offer letter. If they drag their feet, they’ll do the same thing when you bring it up in 6 months…

Also, I’ve learned that it’s important to get other “perks/benefits” in writing in the offer letter as well- including vacation time, if they will be paying for relocation, if they are offering you insurance before the probationary period, etc.

My last company I was offered (because I insisted) 3 weeks paid vacation… sure enough, I noticed my vacation time wasn’t accruing as fast as I thought… and they tried to say that I would get get the standard 2 weeks… so I was glad I had that offer letter as proof!

In these tough times, remember that while money is important, you can usually try to negotiate perks and benefits, if the pay isn’t quite right. Vacation is important to me, so I fight for that; and also to get health insurance for the 1st month (instead of waiting the typical 3 months). Having a company pay for your internet & cell phone (especially now being remote) is good too. At larger companies, stock options could be a possibility.

I once heard that before you accept an offer, you should request to get a company handbook. I got an offer back in January that I was on the fence about- there was just something (besides the payout I would be taking) that just didn’t feel right. I requested the handbook, and that’s when I could see how rigid they were with PTO, sick days (none-you used vacation days), expense reimbursements, company hours, etc. It reinforced my bad feeling, and I passed on it and accepted a better offer someplace else!