How To Name Your Own Freelancing Rates
You’ve finally got a couple of leads for potential clients, and then you get an email that makes your teeth clench and your heart palpitate:
What are your freelancing rates?
How the heck do you answer that as a first time freelancer?
Freelancing rates vary drastically from person to person and from job to job, so deciding what to charge at first is a harrowing experience.
You’re probably thinking:
What if I don’t charge enough? That might make people think I’m not good enough.
What if I charge too much and nobody wants to hire me?
How do I figure out what the going market rate is for this kind of work?
We’ll get this sorted out before the end of this blog post.
Setting Your Own Freelancing Rates
This first bit of advice came from one of my own mentors.
And if you have trouble believing it, you’re in good company. I didn’t believe him, either.
Of course, he was right.
He usually is, but don’t tell him I said that.
Here’s the advice:
Don’t worry about being competitive with market rates. They’re irrelevant. Charge what you’re worth, and be worth a lot.
In other words:
Start out charging premium rates, and do premium work. Competitive pricing cheapens you.
I didn’t follow that advice immediately, and here’s what happened to me:
As a new freelancer, I thought I’d have to start at the bottom and work my way up, so I went for the low-hanging fruit first.
I applied for jobs that listed their rates from $15 to $50 per post, and if someone asked me to name my rate, $50 was the highest figure I would give them. If they wanted to negotiate, I was open to taking less.
As it turns out, there’s a lot of competition for the low-paying gigs like that. And the clients are, more often than not, terrible.
Payment was almost always slow, the clients had no idea what they wanted to accomplish, and none of that work turned into anything long term or significant to my career.
Keep in mind:
I’m always working on improving my skills, even now, so as time passed and I continued taking $50 work, I could have been delivering kickass content.
But I wasn’t. Low-paying work for low-paying clients results in low-quality content.
I was making a career out of this, so I couldn’t spend hours researching, editing, and polishing a blog post for which I was getting paid bargain rates. It wasn’t economically feasible.
My portfolio was full of mediocre work.
My client list was a pain in my…lower back…
And I wasn’t making enough money to call this a real career.
Starting at the bottom sucked, and it was a stupid decision.
Charge Premium Rates – Do Premium Work
After months of full-time freelancing, I did not have a portfolio of work that would convince a client to pay me hundreds of dollars for a blog post.
But I did have the skills.
In fact, I’d had the skills to write effective, top-quality blog posts from the 1st day I decided to blog professionally, so I finally listened to my mentor and started asking for top level rates.
Here’s what I discovered:
Expecting to receive freelancing rates that not everyone can pay seems like it would limit your client options…
But it’s actually easier to find work because there’s far less competition at that level.
On top of that:
- The clients are better – more organized, more respectful, and clearer about what they want
- The work you do is better because you actually have the time and resources to do it right
- Referrals start coming in faster than you can handle them from people begging to pay you what you’re worth
There are 2 lessons to be learned here:
1st – listen to your mentors.
(I could write a lot of blog posts about why it’s important to listen to your mentors, since I’ve made so many mistakes in that area.)
2nd – don’t start at the bottom and “work your way up.” Start at the top.
Of course, then you have to stay at the top.
Earning Top Dollar Freelancing Rates
You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t given you any dollar figures yet.
I’m not going to.
Here’s what you need to know:
Top level clients hire bloggers for a reason. They want to accomplish something with their blog.
Usually, what they want to accomplish is an increase in sales, but that might not always be the case – it’s up to you to ask them what result they want.
How much is that result worth to them?
The quickest way to find out is to ask.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say a manufacturing company starts a blog to establish themselves as the leading industry expert on their products.
By becoming recognized as the #1 expert in that widget, their wholesale orders are likely to increase by millions of dollars.
Therefore, the value of the result is millions of dollars…
If you’re the blogger that can make that happen, how much do you think you should charge?
Figuring that out might be a lot of work…but if this is your career, it’s SUPPOSED to be work.
People who earn top tier freelancing rates don’t cut corners.
Be sure to take into account the length of time that’s likely going to be involved, and set appropriate expectations with your clients from the start.
Then, once you’ve landed your client:
Finding Top Dollar Clients
This type of blogging is, at its core, marketing…which means that a freelance blogger is really a freelance marketer.
If you’re a marketer who can’t find clients, then you’re probably terrible at marketing.
After all, it’s literally your job to help your clients find clients.
Landing the right clients is the key to freelancing success, though, so here are some tips:
Don’t be afraid to say “no.” Not everyone is qualified to be your client.
People like us who can write effective, valuable, and high-quality content are in constant demand.
Most freelance bloggers stay in the shallow end – they get stuck in that endless loop of completing mediocre work for mediocre clients to build a mediocre portfolio, which lands them more mediocre clients…
But you’re not mediocre.
And you’re not going to accept mediocre clients.
- Answer emails within a reasonable amount of time
- Communicate their expectations clearly
- Have a marketing plan and a defined goal
- Don’t haggle for bargain pricing
- Give honest feedback on whether or not your work meets standards
Keeping high-maintenance or low-quality clients is never worth the fee.
Your time and your work are too valuable (and too in-demand) to be wasted on the wrong businesses.
Offer real proof, not a portfolio.
Most of the clients who want (and can afford) you don’t care what you’ve done for other people.
They care what you can do for them.
So, instead of showing them a list of links to work you’ve done for other people, make a bold promise that a smart marketer would never refuse:
“If you’re not satisfied with the work I deliver, don’t pay me for it.”
Then do the work, and stand by your guarantee.
There is a small chance that they’ll take a look at what you’ve done and decide not to hire you after all, but that will only happen if your work is substandard. In that case, you’ve at least got some honest feedback that you can use to get better. Learning is expensive, but it’s also necessary.
The most likely scenario is that they’ll pay your asking price, though.
Know what you’re worth. Doubt is a killer.
The key to all of this is confidence in your own value.
There’s a common misconception that might be weighing on your mind:
Most new freelancers think that they’ll land better clients when they’ve “proven” themselves with good work.
That’s why so many people never get beyond mediocrity – they’re still waiting for the proof.
Here’s the truth:
If you’re stuck in that loop, it’s not because you haven’t proven yourself to potential clients.
It’s because YOU don’t believe you’re good enough.
You’ll never get hired to do the work you think you need to prove yourself if you don’t already know your value…
And if you know your value, you don’t need to prove it to anyone.
Answering That Email
We’ve talked a lot about the concepts behind your rates, but you came here for some tactical advice, didn’t you?
Let’s go back to that original email.
What are your freelancing rates?
Here’s how to answer:
1st, ask questions to determine what this potential client is trying to accomplish.
You want to know what they expect from you, as well as why they’re hiring a freelancer in the first place.
This conversation will prove your professionalism and clarify exactly what you might be getting into, but that’s not all.
It will also give you a better idea of the value of the job itself.
Note: If the value of the job is significantly lower than your value, it’s usually best to decline. Even if the client would pay your fee, it reflects poorly on you if they’re not getting a return on their investment.
2nd, determine how much time you’d have to invest if you worked with this business.
Adjust your rates accordingly.
3rd, evaluate whether this client meets your standards.
Look for red flags like shoddy websites, social media rants, and any unprofessional comments (especially if they seem to be hitting on you.)
Finally, name your price and make your promise.
“I’ll complete my first assignment on spec. If you’re not satisfied with the work I deliver, don’t pay me for it. If you want to use it, here’s my rate.”
Make sure you fully discuss expectations, such as whether you’re supposed to provide graphics or pay for traffic, before you start the work.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions while you’re completing freelance assignments.
And once you’ve delivered fantastic work, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for referrals.
Soon, you’ll have more work than you can handle…
At a price that makes it worth your time.
On a piece of paper (or in a Google Doc if you’re paperless, but by hand is best) list at least 10 reasons why a top-dollar client would want to work with you.
Once you’ve got at least 10, rewrite those reasons as direct benefits to a potential client’s business.
If a client would hire you as a blogger to make a better connecting with their customer base, the benefit might be that their conversions are going to increase and they’ll make more money per customer.
Then, do it again to find the deeper benefits.
Why is it important that conversions increase?
Why do businesses want to make more money?
When you have a list of core-level benefits you know you’ll bring to potential clients, write down the most important ways you’re going to make your clients’ lives better on a sticky note or small piece of paper.
Post that note beside your computer monitor where you’ll see it every time you solicit a new client.
Because when you know the impact you can have for your client, it’s much easier to remember what you’re worth to them.