How to Calculate Your Charge-Out Rate - A Guide for Tradespeople

by Team Tradify, May 9, 2023

Working out your hourly charge-out rate is one of the first things you think about when starting your own trade business. How can you make sure you get it right? The trick is coming up with a rate that matches the market, will cover you and your team's costs, and above all — improve your profitability.

The charge-out rate formula is relatively simple:

(Desired Annual Income ÷ Annual Chargeable Hours) + Business Expenses + Profit Margin = Charge-Out Rate

Click the button below to access our free Charge-Out Rate Calculator:

Free Charge-Out Rate Calculator

Before you calculate your charge-out rate

Calculating an accurate charge-out rate doesn’t have to be hard and you don’t need to be a mathematical genius. But it’s important for you to take some time to sit down and work out your figures properly. The more accurate your numbers, the more accurate your charge-out rate will be.

Below are six key considerations for working out your charge-out rate. Before you crunch the numbers with our free charge-out rate calculator, you should be clear on the following points:

  1. Decide on desired annual income
  2. Work out annual chargeable hours
  3. Calculate hourly rate
  4. Factor in overheads
  5. Now you have your break-even point
  6. Add markup to create your profit margin
  7. Using Tradify's Charge-Out Rate Calculator
  8. Why your charge-out rate is important to get right
  9. Don't forget the competition
  10. What does the market say about your charge-out rate?
  11. Multiple charge-out rates
  12. A note on call-out fees
  13. The bottom line

1. Decide on desired annual income

How much money do you want to make in a year? Take into account the standard of living you require, and any gains you might make from investments. For the sake of this article, we’ll assume a modest annual salary of (£/$/€) 80,000.

2. Work out annual chargeable hours

Using a standard work week (40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year) to estimate the number of chargeable hours isn’t really realistic. You also need to take holidays into account (personal and public), sick days, and all the hours you’ll spend on tasks you might not be able to charge for such as:

  • Sales calls/meetings
  • Errands/supply runs
  • Communicating with customers
  • Generating quotes
  • Sending invoices
  • Managing jobs/employees/subcontractors

A helpful exercise is to keep a running tab of non-chargeable time for a week and see how much time you spend on tasks you don't get paid for. Realistically, you might only be able to charge for 1,350 hours a year — not the full 2,080 that 40 hours a week for 52 weeks would get you.

3. Calculate hourly rate

Once you know how many hours you can realistically invoice for, you can work out what rate you’ll need to charge to cover your income and costs. Using our hypothetical (£/$/€) 80,000 figure and dividing by 1,350 (your billable hours available in the year), you’d need to charge at least (£/$/€) 59.26 per hour.

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4. Factor in overheads

For the sake of this article, we’ll assume a figure of (£/$/€) 50,000 of overheads for the year. Whatever the figure looks like for you, it should cover costs including (but not limited to):

  • Tools and equipment
  • Power/electricity
  • Rent
  • Vehicle expenses (payments/petrol)
  • Payroll
  • Internet
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Taxes

5. Now you have your break-even point

(£/$/€) 50,000 divided by your 1,350 hours means adding another 37.04 to your income requirements. This brings our initial rate of 59.26/hr up to 96.30/hr. But we aren't done yet! This is just your break-even rate, so if you charge this you won't be making any profit.

Learn about running a break-even analysis for your small business.

6. Add markup to create your profit margin

Without a solid profit margin, there'll be nothing for you to reinvest in your business. That's why it's important to add a markup to your charge-out rate. Assuming a moderate markup of 15%, this would bring your final charge-out rate to:

(£/$/€) 96.30/hr + 15% = 110.76 per hour (rounded up).

Use our free Profit Margin Calculator to work your profit on any job!

Free Profit Margin Calculator

7. Using Tradify’s Charge-Out Rate Calculator

Using the six key considerations above, you'll be able to plug the numbers into our online calculator. The calculator will then automatically figure out what your hourly rate should be. If you employ staff, run this calculation for yourself, and then for each one of your employees (unless you intend to charge them out at the same hourly rate).

Now that you know what you should be charging, the next step is to decide if this is realistic and in line with market rates. This calculation should be run regularly because industries change, prices fluctuate, and the number of people you employ may go up and down. You could also enlist your accountant’s help each time you do it, so they can help decide on your final figures.

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8. Why your charge-out rate is important to get it right

What you charge for your services can have a dramatic effect on your bottom line, but also on how your customers view and respond to you. In other words, your reputation is on the line.

People want to be sure they’re getting the best bang for their buck, and sometimes tradespeople are unfairly perceived to be fleecing customers with their hourly rate. Doing the correct calculations yourself means it's easy to explain your charge-out rate to customers who may have questions.

9. Don’t forget the competition

Unless you’re lucky enough to have captured a rare niche in the market, your hourly rate needs to be competitive with others providing the same service. Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to be the cheapest. In fact, most customers are willing to pay more if they know they’re getting superior service. Trying to gain a competitive edge by offering the cheapest hourly rate in town doesn’t always work, since a lot of your customers will be thinking, “you get what you pay for”.

It’s essential to work out an hourly charge-out rate that takes all factors into account, including your profits, market rates, and what your competition is doing. If you’re charging more than your competitors, you need to be able to justify your pricing and provide a service that’s worth it. Word spreads fast in the trade industries. If the quality of your work doesn’t live up to what you’re charging for it, word-of-mouth will ensure - pretty quickly - a damaged reputation that may be very difficult to overcome.

10. What does the market say about your charge-out rate?

Once you’ve used our charge-out rate calculator, it’s important to get a sense of whether it is competitive in your local market. When you’re deciding how much your service is worth, it’s important to get a feel for the market of similar services.

Note: The figures below are not charge-out rates, but the average hourly labour rates for different trades based on employment data (what you might get paid if you're working for someone else).

Tradify infographic - hourly rates

Buyers’ perceptions of risk can be one of the most important factors in getting a higher price. Think about what you can do to reduce or reverse the risks a customer might see in your services to validate the higher price.

For example, you could offer a better guarantee than your competitors. Then if they ever question the price, you can tell them the exact reason why you're worth it.

When deciding on your charge-out rate, it could be useful to ask yourself:

  • Which services do customers see as offering the best value?
  • What do customers expect to pay for my services?
  • Which services are likely to be the most successful?
  • What are my competitors charging?
Now work out if your rate is competitive in the industry. Your competitors should influence your pricing to some degree.

Think about:

  • Who your competitors are and what they offer.
  • What the key features and benefits of their services are.
  • How their prices compare with yours.
  • If your rate is lower than the average, you don’t have a problem, you have an opportunity. You can look at increasing your charge-out rate and improving your income.
  • If your rate is higher than average, it could be that you need to review your figures. Have you been honest and realistic about everything? Can you justify the higher rate with value such as guarantees, superior quality, and a better customer experience?
  • Does your business have a clear point of difference?
  • Is there anything that sets you apart from the competition — something you do better than anyone else?

Remember, unless you’re planning to seriously disrupt the market (which most tradespeople aren’t), you should be aiming to charge as much as you can.

11. Multiple charge-out rates

It could be that your business needs more than one hourly charge-out rate. We took a look at the different rates being charged by Tradify customers and most of them have more than one charge-out rate including:

  • Standard rate
  • Apprentice rates (these differ based on whether the apprentice is in their 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th year)
  • After-hours rates
  • Callout rate
  • Same day and emergency callout
  • Statutory Holiday, Sundays, and Public Holidays
  • Custom rates for different customer types (loyalty discounts)

Some generous Tradify clients even include pre-set billing rate categories such as 'Mates Rates', 'Family', or 'No Charge' in order to charge out jobs at discounted rates.

Our Charge-Out Rate Calculator should be used as a guide — a way to check that the rate you’re charging will cover your costs and provide the income and profit you’re aiming for.

12. A note on call-out fees

Charging call-out fees willy-nilly isn't a great way to keep customers on your side. Often, clients will see this as a cash grab and it may cause them to use a competitor in future. However, there are some instances where it's more than fair to charge a call-out fee. Here's when you can include a call-out fee without burning any bridges:

  • If the client is asking for last-minute services.
  • If you are having to come to the call-out past reasonable working hours or on holidays.
  • If you have to cancel or reschedule other jobs in order to make the call-out.
  • If you are having to travel long distances simply to provide a quote.

Whatever the reason for charging a call-out fee, make sure that you're upfront about this charge before you agree to come to the site. This will avoid any disputes that could arise from a lack of communication, and make charging for it much less of a hassle.

13. The bottom line

By now you should be able to see why it’s essential to look at all the different factors when you’re deciding on your hourly charge-out rate. It can seem a bit daunting at first, but it’s a crucial exercise that will instantly benefit your business.

Charge-out rate calculations should be conducted on a regular basis. This will help you make sure that your prices remain competitive, that they align with market rates, and are helping to increase your profit margin.

We hope we’ve made this task easy with our Charge-Out Rate Calculator, so get all your details together and start crunching the numbers. If you’ve got any questions about our charge-out rate calculator, get in touch.

If you’d like to find out how Tradify can help boost your business’s bottom line, try it free for 14 days.

Want to take your business to the next level? Use our free Marketing Plan Template!

Marketing Plan for Tradespeople

Charge-Out Rate FAQ

What is a charge-out rate?

A charge-out rate is the amount you charge your customer for an hour of labour. This is different to the 'hourly rate' you may get paid by an employer, or pay your employees and subcontractors.

What is the difference between a charge-out rate vs hourly rate?

A charge-out rate is your hourly labour rate plus all other related expenses like materials, fuel, equipment rental, etc. It's the amount you charge your customer, as opposed to the amount you get paid.

How do I work out my charge-out rate?

Simply read the guide above and use our Free Charge-Out Rate Calculator to work out your ideal charge-out rate.

Who uses a charge-out rate?

Every service business will use an hourly charge-out rate to determine how much to charge their clients. This includes self-employed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, gas engineers, builders, landscapers, cleaners, HVAC technicians, and all other tradespeople and service businesses.

How do I work out a charge-out rate for apprentices and other staff?

You can use this same guide and our Free Charge-Out Rate Calculator to work out the charge-out rate for your apprentice, employees, or subcontractors. Just use their numbers and other details instead of your own.

How do I calculate a call-out fee?

Like your charge-out rate, simply work out exactly what the actual cost is to you, and then add an appropriate margin. For a call-out fee, you may wish to include mileage (a variable cost that changes depending on the distance to the job and the price of fuel). For an emergency call-out fee, or call-out fee for a day you would usually have off, +50% on your standard rate, double-time, or even triple-time is common.