Bill Rate Calculator - How Does A Staffing Agency Make Money?

Published on 9/13/2022 by David Webb
Last Updated on 9/6/2023

Categories: Staffing Agency Software

Tags: recruitment software freestaffing agencies

Maximizing Profits in Staffing: The Ultimate Staffing Calculator

Staffing agencies operate in a competitive industry where profitability hinges on strategic decision-making. Two primary revenue streams fuel the engine of staffing agencies: contract placements based on billable hours and direct hire placements with associated hiring fees. In this article, we'll explore the importance of the Ultimate Staffing Calculator, a tool that aids in optimizing the profitability of contract placements, while also shedding light on how staffing agencies can calculate hiring fees for direct hire placements.

BrightMove has developed a tool that helps sales representatives within staffing agencies to estimate how much money they could make through contractual placement. We call it the Ultimate Staffing Calculator.  It will also tell you your funding needs and profit margin as a function of time based on the terms of the placement.  The BLS (US. Bureau of Labor Statistics) produces wage data by area and occupation for workers in the United States.  This is a great free resource to determine market rates across the nation.  Using this bill rate and pay rate calculator and some free data from the BLS, you can determine what hourly wage you should charge for a specific occupation.  

Why Do You Want A Bill Rate and Pay Rate Calculator?

It's not obvious why a staffing agency would want a bill rate and pay rate calculator.  To understand why, you first need to understand how staffing agencies make money.  A staffing agency makes money through the spread.  The spread is industry jargon that refers to the net profit on a job.  In other words, it is the difference between the fully loaded bill rate (the amount charged to the customer) and the pay rate (the amount paid to the placed employee or contract resource).  A bill rate and pay rate calculator can provide you with an estimated job profitability based on the spread.  It's important to remember to fully load both bill rates and pay rates when using a bill rate and pay rate calculator.  Otherwise your estimated spread could be inaccurate.  It's not uncommon for the estimated spread to be higher than actual.  This means your actual job profitability could be lower than you estimate, which could get you in trouble with the branch manager, or even worse...the CFO!

Contract Placements: The Role of the Ultimate Staffing Calculator

Understanding the nuances of contract placements and achieving optimal profitability can be challenging. This is where the Ultimate Staffing Calculator comes into play. This tool assists sales representatives in staffing agencies in estimating potential earnings from contractual placements. It also provides valuable insights into funding requirements and profit margins based on the terms of the placement. By incorporating data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the calculator enables users to determine competitive market rates across the nation. By leveraging this comprehensive bill rate and pay rate calculator, staffing agencies can accurately establish appropriate hourly wage rates for various job positions, ultimately enhancing profitability.

Calculating the Spread and Net Profit: A Step-by-Step Guide

Calculating the spread and net profit for contract placements is crucial for staffing agencies. Here's a step-by-step guide to understanding and calculating these essential metrics:

1.  Determine the Bill Rate: The bill rate is the hourly rate that the client will be charged for the services of the contract employee. This rate is typically negotiated with the client based on market rates, the skillset required, and other factors. The bill rate can vary from one contract to another.

2.  Determine the Pay Rate: The pay rate is the hourly wage paid to the contract employee. It includes the employee's base salary and any additional compensation, such as overtime pay or bonuses. The pay rate is determined based on factors like the employee's qualifications and experience.

3.  Calculate the Spread: To calculate the spread, subtract the pay rate from the bill rate. The formula is as follows:

Spread = Bill Rate - Pay Rate  

For example, if the bill rate is $40 per hour, and the pay rate is $25 per hour, the spread would be $15 per hour.

4.  Consider Additional Costs: While the spread represents the initial profit margin, it's essential to consider other costs that may impact profitability, such as taxes, benefits, administrative expenses, and recruiter fees. These costs are collectively known as the "burden," and they reduce the overall profit margin.  They can erode away the profitability of a contractual placement.  Or worse, they can result in a placement going from being profitable to unprofitable if you don't "mind the gap".  In fact, it is due to this very reason that the BrightMove software was originally created.  These fees are:

  • Burden % - These are fees like employment taxes, recruiter fees, benefits and other administrative costs
  • Interest Rate % - If your funding isn't backed by cash, you'll need to take into account the fees to barrow money.  Factoring companies can make a fortune with high interest rate loans by factoring invoices from staffing companies.
  • Weeks to Payment - How long until you get paid based on the terms of your contract.  Typically, customers want to pay over 30, 45, 60 day terms.  Sometimes these terms are longer and will require you to barrow money.
  • Placement Length - How long will the applicant be engaged in the contract.  The bill rate and pay rate calculator will tell you how long it will be until you break even.
  • Commission Cap % - Does your commission cap out at a maximum percentage?  If so, this is the field to set that amount within the bill rate and pay rate calculator.

5.  Determine Net Profit: To calculate the net profit on a contract placement, subtract the burden costs from the spread. The formula is as follows:

Net Profit = Spread - Burden Costs

Accurately accounting for burden costs is crucial to obtaining a realistic estimate of profitability.

6.  Review and Adjust Markup: The markup is the percentage added to the pay rate to determine the bill rate. It represents the agency's profit margin. The appropriate markup can vary depending on factors like industry standards, market conditions, and the agency's pricing strategy. It's crucial to ensure that the markup covers all costs and provides a reasonable profit.

By following these steps, staffing agencies can calculate the spread and net profit for each contract placement accurately. This allows agencies to make informed decisions about pricing, negotiate with clients effectively, and maximize profitability.

Check out this easy to use tool to help!

Payroll Funding for Staffing Companies Is Critical For Success

Once the contract is in place and the candidate goes to work, payroll funding for staffing companies is the next major factor that will impact profitability.  Yes, you made the sale.  Congratulations!  Now the staffing company must bridge the cost of the candidate's payroll until payment is received from the client.  Sometimes this is 30 days, sometimes longer.  As part of your contract and likely within the master services agreement you have with your client, the payment terms should be defined.  You must be sure to factor the cost of payroll funding for staffing companies into your business plan.  If your organization has enough capital available to self-fund payroll, that's usually best.  In many cases, payroll funding for staffing companies is done through an internal or external line of credit or by factoring the accounts receivables and invoices.  Whether you are funding payroll through internal capital or by way of other capital, you should consider the cost of borrowing that money in your plan.  The Ultimate Staffing Calculator provides a quick & free way to understand your the payroll funding needed for your staffing company.  Simply enter the interest rate you expect to pay to barrow the capital and the number of weeks until you think you'll be paid by your client,  Viola!  The payroll funding needs are estimated for you!

Direct Hire Placements: Calculating Hiring Fees

In addition to contract placements, staffing agencies often engage in direct hire placements. These involve recruiting and placing permanent employees within client organizations, and revenue is generated through hiring fees.

Calculating hiring fees for direct hire placements involves a straightforward process:

1.  Determine the Fee Structure: Staffing agencies typically charge a percentage of the new hire's first-year salary as their fee. This percentage can vary depending on factors like the complexity of the role and the agency's pricing strategy. Common percentages range from 15% to 30% of the candidate's annual salary.

2.  Identify the Candidate's Annual Salary: Collaborate with your client to ascertain the agreed-upon salary for the candidate. This salary serves as the basis for calculating the hiring fee.

3.  Calculate the Hiring Fee: Multiply the candidate's annual salary by the agreed-upon fee percentage. For example, if the agreed-upon fee is 20%, and the candidate's annual salary is $50,000, the hiring fee would be $10,000 (20% of $50,000).

4.  Invoice the Client: Once the candidate is successfully hired by the client, invoice them for the hiring fee. This fee represents the revenue earned from the direct hire placement.

By mastering the calculation of hiring fees for direct hire placements, staffing agencies can effectively tap into this revenue stream and diversify their income sources.


Staffing agencies operate in a multifaceted industry where profitability is contingent on efficient decision-making. The Ultimate Staffing Calculator empowers agencies to optimize their contract placements by accurately estimating earnings and understanding funding needs. Simultaneously, mastering the calculation of hiring fees for direct hire placements allows agencies to broaden their revenue streams and enhance their overall financial health. By embracing these tools and strategies, staffing agencies can navigate the competitive landscape while maximizing their profits.

About the Author, David Webb

David is the CEO of BrightMove and is a seasoned technology executive & entrepreneur noted for creating successful businesses. Over his 25+ year career, David has developed multi-platform expertise in the domains of computer science, data analytics & business transformation. Starting in 1995, David worked with his best friend, Jimmy Hurff, to develop one of the world's first Internet job board and resume bank applications. David is the primary architect of BrightMove and has an active role in the product's evolution to this day. From then to now, David has been consistently helping his customers to build great teams, using best practices and world-class technology.

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