Early on in your freelancing career, you’re mainly focused on finding clients and establishing a name for yourself. When you’re unknown in your field, it’s easy to take on projects for the sake of building clientele. Having a successful career as a freelancer requires hard work and dedication to your craft, and it can be easy to keep your prices at a minimum to stand out from the competition or to solidify more consistent work.
It’s true that earlier on in your freelancing career you may not make as much as much as you hoped. However, taking on too much work to make up for it or lowering your value also aren’t positive solutions in the long term and will leave you dissatisfied. Staying busy doesn’t always translate into financial success, nor do lower rates equate more work opportunity. Patience is necessary, especially in the beginning. However, as you start gaining experience it’s important to start understanding your value and what you deserve on the receiving end.
Oftentimes, we don’t necessarily price our services relative to the level of service we provide. Many freelancers determine rates based off of their own personal sense of self-worth. In this line of work, many freelancers sell themselves short when it comes to making money. Since we work alone, we’re the ones who have control over our business dynamics and don’t have outside points of reference to guide us. And, because our craft usually is linked to creative work or design, it can be difficult to properly gauge the worth of our work.
The value of your work is a direct reflection of the quality of what you produce and client satisfaction. Your sense of self-worth has nothing to do with it and it can emotionally affect the rate you decide on.
Try to focus on client feedback and overall customer satisfaction rather than what you necessarily think your rate should be.
Now that we’ve removed emotions as a factor of determining value, it’s time to think about the things that really do matter when it comes to figuring out what your time and effort are worth. Some factors to keep in mind are:
How long have you been in the workplace? Think about past projects and skills associated with work you’ve done. If you specialize in something, make sure this is highlighted as a factor. Anytime you’re an expert or specialist in a particular area, this spikes up the price.
Being busy doesn’t necessarily equate better work, but it’s likely that if you are busier that you are doing something right. With this in mind, it should cost more to get some of your time since it’s a scarcity.
If you’re project-based and the client is in a hurry, it puts more pressure on you to create quality work in a tight timeframe. Make sure to take this factor into account if it arises.
If you live in a city with a higher cost of living, it’s natural to up the hourly rate a bit due to local competitors. A helpful resource for me has been Freelancing Females. It was founded in 2017 by Tia Meyers, a freelance Social Media Consultant, after not getting paid for her work and now serves as a global community of over 13,000 freelancers. On their website, you can anonymously enter your demographics and specialized service and see how rates compare to you locally. Seeing the rates of other people in my trade really helped me determine how I compared.
Another important tip is to have income goals. Having income goals (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) will keep you focused on what you’re actually making without the fluff. It can be easy to get caught up in the creative side rather than the finances, but really keeping track of this as well as budgeting will help you stay focused.
While it’s great to have a satisfied client, you never want to accommodate so much that you don’t feel fulfilled. That doesn’t mean you should never be willing to negotiate a price, but it does mean that you shouldn’t sell yourself short.
It’s not your responsibility to take on a project just because someone wants you to, so don’t be afraid to turn down work if necessary. In reality, you have to best decide what works for your time and finances.
Content courtesy of Michelle Finn, Founder of Pop Design Shoppe
Contributing Author, Michelle Finn
Michelle has a strong marketing background in a versatile set of roles including social media, events, and field marketing. She fell in love with design and combined it with her skills to create her business, Pop Design Shoppe. In the future, she hopes to continue her work within design or the arts (including interior design, fashion, the visual arts, and event design). She wants to continue working on projects that create impact. Her perfect day includes a morning workout, sunny day at the beach (preferably with her dog joining) followed by an evening out with friends at an event.