Money is a touchy subject that I’m not sure anyone is fully comfortable talking about. You see all these blog posts that hark on about how much you SHOULD be paid but rarely do people get into the nitty gritty of the numbers.
It’s frustrating. It’s annoying. And it’s disconcerting, especially if you’ve just started freelancing or if you’re thinking about taking the dive any time soon.
As humans we like cold, hard facts. We like to be in the know and we like to be able to plan ahead. That gets tricky when numbers get airy and everyone starts getting tight lipped about income.
This isn’t a post about what you SHOULD charge clients because, heck, who am I to tell you that?! Every individual is different and only YOU can know what feels right for you (I’m talking about pit of the stomach vibes).
Yes, I know I just said that people like cold, hard numbers, but this post isn’t going to give you any. Feel free to get red in the face with me. Instead, I want to highlight some ways you can change how you think about pricing to make it easier to discuss your freelancer rates with clients.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve dithered with pricings, often not getting back to clients for a couple of days simply because I can’t settle on a damn number (anyone else do this?!). In the end I’ve often settled for a number that’s lower than I wanted to go for, but that I still feel semi-comfortable with.
Then I kick myself when the client gets back to me saying “sure, that’s great… your price is perfect for us.” I’m left thinking about whether I could have charged more and at what point I can propose a pay rise (more on this in another post).
The Mindset of Discussing Freelancer Rates
As freelancers I think we are notoriously self-conscious when it comes to our rates and discussing them with potential clients. We’re pretty much the least confident business people out there and there’s often a lot of mumbling and “no you go first” when it comes to setting prices.
I know for me personally I’m always a tincy bit afraid that someone’s going to come back to me and be like “whoa, hell no am I paying you that much, you’re not very good at what you do – you’re so not worth it.” Just to clarify no one’s EVER said this to me and, if they did, I’m almost 100% sure I wouldn’t want to work with them anyways.
Sure, some clients will come back humming and hawing because you’re prices are a little too high for their incredibly tight budget. So, when this happens, I want you to ask yourself a couple of easy questions:
- Would I REALLY be upset if I didn’t get this client?
- What’s the worst that could happen?
- Would I feel like I’m selling myself short if I lower my rates?
Really think about these. I know if it’s a client I’d really like to work with I’ll consider dipping my rates but if not, I think about the time it’ll take away from finding better paying clients if I take them on.
One thing I would say is don’t go from one extreme to the other. Going in all guns blazing with a quote of $300 for a 500 word piece and then back-tracking and quoting $50 instead is not doing anyone any good. Not yourself (and your reputation), or the industry as a whole.
By all means charge $50, but don’t drop your prices so drastically that clients will think you’ve gone mad.
Think of Yourself as a Service Provider
When I had a car I’d book it in for its MOT every year. I’d call up, ask them how much it costs and hand over my card details (and a whole lotta money when it failed miserably).
At no point did it even cross my mind to say, “Oh your prices are a little out of my budget, can you go any lower?”
In every other industry the service provider gives the prices not the client. For some reason freelancers missed this memo. Would you go into a restaurant and say, “actually, my budget’s only £10 so can you do me the venison steak for that instead?”
It’s laughable, right?
So why do we keep doing it to ourselves? Why do we think it is okay to pander to the client’s needs and undervalue ourselves time and time again?
Sure, there’s some wiggle room for negotiating, but you want to have the upper hand all of the time. If the mechanic had asked me “what’s your budget?” when I asked to book my car in for its MOT, I would have quoted a lot less, right? So eliminate this option.
Which brings me to the tricky point of setting your rates in the first place.
How to Set Your Freelancer Rates
If you search Google for advice about setting your freelancer rates I guarantee you’ll be swimming out of your depth for the next few months. There is so much contradicting advice out there that it’s both mind-boggling and absolutely hilarious (in a bad, if-I-don’t-laugh-I’ll-cry sort of way).
There’s only one person who can tell you the right price for your services. Oh hey, that’s YOU! Not some blogger from some famous blog, not your granny, and not your clients.
Like most people I had a hard old time setting my freelancer rates when I first struck out on my own. I’d charge wildly differing amounts for different clients depending on THEIR budget.
Not anymore. Yes, there’s some leeway in there for different kinds of projects, but for the most part I’m charging a similar rate for everything.
How did I get to this point?
A lot of trial and error and a lot of self-motivating talks in the dead of night. You can’t possibly know what you’re worth when you’re starting out, unless you’re going into things with years of experience in writing or marketing anyway.
You need to think about:
- Your experience (how long have you been freelancing for?)
- Whether you have any unique skills to bring to the table (are you the best headline writer in the world?)
- Your knowledge of the topic (is it a brand selling hardware goods and you used to be a handyman?)
But most importantly you need to think about the value you’re bringing to the table. The client wouldn’t be seeking a freelancer if they could do the work themselves, so you obviously have something (or can provide something) they want. I’ve touched on freelancer rates a bit more in this post.
Always Look Forward (and Up)
Becoming stagnant is one of the worst things you can do as a freelancer. It’s so easy to get comfortable with a regular set of clients who pay you the same to do the same each month.
It’s comforting. It’s safe. And it’s never going to get you anywhere. It’s great having regular clients (in fact, they’re a must-have for your sanity and bank balance), but you want to always strive for more.
In the beginning I’d suggest upping your freelancer rates every six months or so in line with your blossoming portfolio and your experience. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but just seeing that little jump in pay can do your motivation levels the world of good.
Discussing Your Freelancer Rates with Confidence
Still feeling self-conscious when quoting your prices? Remember:
- You are the service provider and you set the rates
- Only you will know whether you feel comfortable with what you’ve charged (throw lemons at the nay-sayers)
- You need to eat and pay the bills
- Clients usually always have a bit more budget than they let on
- Respect yourself!