Managing rates and expenses: finding what works for you and your client

Expenses

The Facebook Community of Support Workers has been active lately as workers exchange tips about how to set rates and manage expenses. The beauty of being an independent worker through the Better Caring platform is that you and your client can directly negotiate with each other. Clear communication can go a long way! Here are some tips for making it work for both of you.

The Big Five

1. It’s all businessThink about what costs are just part of running a business and what should be factored into your hourly rate.
2. Travel timeTry to factor travel time into your rate and discuss this with your client.
3. At the moviesIf you’re doing fun things with your client, make sure you have a companion card, or speak to your client about covering additional costs upfront.
4. Do your researchAsk your buddies what they’re charging and think about whether you’d like to request specific rates over weekends and public holidays. Read our tips on what to consider.
5. Tax timeRemember to keep your receipts and a record of all your expenses. Many of them will be tax-deductible.

Expenses as an independent worker

Whether you’re a freelancer, writer or support worker, some costs are part of running a business. There are also additional expenses that can be factored into your hourly rate, or which may be considered additional expenses that you can discuss with your client. We’ve provided some tips below to help you think about how to manage this for your business.

Travel time

We see a lot of conversation amongst independent support workers about what to do if you’re travelling 45 minutes to and from your client’s home for a short shift. Try to factor this travel time into your rate and discuss it with your client upfront. Most clients will be understanding, especially in areas of high demand. If you’re transporting a client during a shift, you may also be able to increase your hourly rate to take this into account.

On the whole, it’s not standard practice to be reimbursed separately for travel costs to and from your shift. It’s up to you which jobs and shifts you accept, and as a worker on the platform you have the freedom to choose. You can decide that you’re only going to work shifts with a minimum length, especially if you’re covering a broad geographical area and want to feel the travel is worth your while.

Outings with your client

For clients with NDIS funding, if a participant goes to a movie and is supported to do that, the funding pays for support but not for the movie. Some venues offer free entry for a worker using a Companion Card, otherwise it’ll be easier to request that your client to pay for both of you. There are lots of fun activities you can do together where a client’s support worker can get in for free so why not do some research or check out our blog for ideas.

If you’re supporting a client on a weekend away, and need to be reimbursed for meals and accommodation, we encourage you to have a conversation with your client about what they’re willing to cover for the arrangement. Ensure you’re clear on this, and if possible, ask your client to cover these expenses upfront.

There will be other times where you’ll need to cover your own costs, e.g. bringing a sandwich to work. We strongly recommend you have a discussion, before the shift, about any potential expenses which may be incurred, so you can both set some boundaries and make the necessary arrangements.

Good news at tax time

Other expenses for an independent contractor can include the cost of your mobile phone, an internet connection and mileage. These type of expenses would need to be considered and factored into your hourly rate (rather than charged separately to your client) – and can most likely be claimed as a tax deduction when it comes to tax time. The standard rate for mileage, in line with the SCHADS industry award, is 78c per kilometre. Make sure you always keep your receipts – and check out this blog from our partners Airtax for a list of tax deductions for health care professionals.

Setting your rates

When setting rates, you want to feel you’re being paid a rate which rewards your time, skills and experience. But you also want to start a relationship with a client and grow your business. The average worker on the Better Caring platform is charging $35 an hour, so use this as a starting point. When it comes to setting rates for public holidays, weekends or overnight shifts, this is entirely up to you.

If they’ve been supported by workers employed by large service providers in the past, clients are used to paying a lot more for support over weekends and public holidays, whether for aged care or disability support. However, large providers have large overheads, whereas you’re flying solo!

Don’t be afraid to communicate to your clients that you may need to charge a bit more – you’re giving up time with family to work on a public holiday – but also think about the long-term relationship with your client.

Do some research about what workers are charging in your area, for your expertise. You can search for other worker profiles in the Better Caring portal. If you have buddies, you can ask them too. And if you’re sharing clients and delivering the same service, we recommend charging the same rates. Check out our tips for setting rates.

Got some more questions about running your business? Check out our Care Worker resources, ask a question in the Facebook group or contact us on 1300 73 65 73.