Freelancer Mini Series: Charging What You're Worth

Charging what you are worth is fair  – it's actually a lot more than fair  – it's the only element that will take you beyond "just making ends meet." Discovering your true value as a freelancer can push you to start doing really well, without actually having to work that much harder.

When you charge too little, you find yourself working on projects that are not fulfilling with unreasonable clients. In the long run, this is unsustainable and can do damage to your emotional well-being, slowly becoming exhausted and demoralized.

As solo business owners, we tend to view our hourly rate as an indication of our worth. If you continue to undersell yourself, you'll begin to believe that your worth less than you are and plateau. 

Stop feeling guilt for charging what you want

Asking for what you deserve can be scary, especially when you feel you don't have enough experience. Early on, it's definitely okay to negotiate and give a little, especially if the client relationship is beneficial and sends you regular business or high-profile work for your portfolio. The first client I ever landed, is still one of my best clients – 3 years later.  

Properly pricing your services is key for self-employed freelancers or small business owners. Charging too much can turn customers away, while not charging enough can create a large demand in workload, but you'll be unable to actually earn anything from it.

When quoting for projects, never apologize for your prices. There's definitely been times where I've hesitated before sending an invoice. Or doubted myself when having to give an exact quote on a project when I have no idea how long it will actually take. Here's a couple tips to overcome the obstacle of feeling guilty when you quote a client:  

  • Always give quotes through e-mail. I always give quotes over e-mail to avoid any awkward situations on the phone if my quoted hourly rate is completely off from what the client was expecting. This way if the client tries to negotiate you down, you can avoid being put on the spot and making a quick decision out of embarrassment. You'll also be less likely to make promises you can't keep.  
  • Ask for their budget first. This way you can see if the project is do-able with their budget and timeline expectations before you even give them an hourly rate or estimate.  

Charge based on the value you bring to each project

Think of your services as a value exchange. You're providing a solution to your customer's problem. 

Each year of experience you gain, you should be gradually raising your freelance rates. The value of your services increase in correlation to your responsibilities and expertise as a professional. 

That being said, you also have a responsibility to communicate the value and benefits that your potential customer will receive if they hire you. This becomes much, much easier once you have some experience under your belt and your solutions speak for themselves. You don't have to prove yourself as much.

Look like an expert 

If you completed the Finding & Attracting Your Dream Client exercise I posted earlier, you will find that clients will be willing to pay what you charge because they perceive your services to be of a premium. Educating your target audience with podcasts, blog posts, ebooks or courses will make you more attractive to people seeking your services. If you're one of the best at what you do, clients will come to you by choice.

Accept rejection 

Smart clients understand that they have to pay for results. They aren't interested in saving a buck. Clients that do not understand that design takes an investment in both time and money, are not clients you likely want to work for.

Weeding out the clients that aren't a good fit for you and your brand means you'll have to say "no" to a few projects. But remember that when you say "no" to a project, you're saying "yes" to something better – something that pays you what you're worth.