Everything You Need To Know About New Client Start-Up Fee for Freelancers

You’ve just landed a new client and it goes without saying that you’re excited about the opportunity. But as you start working together, your excitement comes to a screeching halt as you realize that the onboarding process is lengthy and time-consuming.

Did you know that many freelancers charge a new client start-up fee to compensate for this extra time and effort?

In this article, we’ll dig into the concept of the new client start-up fee, why some freelancers charge it, factors to consider before implementing it, and tips on communicating this fee to your clients.

What Is a New Client Start-Up Fee?

A new client start-up fee is an additional charge that freelancers impose on their first-time clients. This fee covers tasks like understanding the client’s needs, setting up project-specific systems, and familiarizing yourself with the client’s brand and style guidelines. By charging this fee, freelancers can ensure they are fairly compensated for the extra work involved in onboarding new clients.

Why Some Freelancers Charge It and Others Don’t

The decision to charge a new client start-up fee varies among freelancers.

Some choose to charge the fee to filter out clients who aren’t serious about investing in their services, while others feel that their time and expertise should be compensated accordingly.

However, some freelancers might worry that charging a start-up fee could deter potential clients, especially when they’re trying to build their client base.

Factors To Consider Before Charging a Start-Up Fee

Your experience level: Experienced freelancers may be more likely to charge a start-up fee, as they have a proven track record and can justify the additional cost.

  1. Your target market: If your target clients are large businesses or agencies, they may be more willing to pay a start-up fee than smaller clients or individuals.
  2. Your niche: Freelancers in specialized niches may find it easier to charge a start-up fee, as their expertise is more unique and valuable.

Pros and Cons of Charging a Start-Up Fee


  • Fair compensation for your time and effort spent on onboarding tasks.
  • Attracts serious clients who value your expertise and are willing to invest in your services.
  • Helps establish your professional image and sets clear boundaries with clients.


  • May deter potential clients who are not familiar with this fee or unwilling to pay it.
  • Could create a barrier for entry for freelancers who are just starting out and trying to build their client base.
  • Requires careful explanation and communication with clients to avoid misunderstandings.

Determining the Amount To Charge and What To Include in the Start-Up Package

When deciding how much to charge for a new client start-up fee, consider the following factors:

  1. The amount of time you typically spend onboarding new clients.
  2. The complexity of the projects you work on and the level of customization required.
  3. Your hourly rate or project-based pricing.

The start-up package should include services like initial consultations, project setup, research, and any other tasks required to get the project up and running smoothly.

Communicating the New Client Start-Up Fee

To effectively communicate the new client start-up fee to potential clients, follow these tips:

  • Be transparent: Clearly state the fee on your website, in your proposals, and during initial conversations with clients.
  • Explain the value: Help clients understand what they’re getting in return for the fee, such as customized solutions and a smoother project experience.
  • Offer flexibility: If appropriate, consider offering a discounted or waived start-up fee for long-term projects or clients who commit to a certain number of hours or projects.

In conclusion, understanding and implementing a new client start-up fee can help freelancers fairly compensate for the extra work involved in onboarding new clients.

By carefully considering the various factors and effectively communicating this fee to clients, freelancers can strike a balance between maintaining a strong client base and ensuring fair compensation for their work.

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