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5 Questions to Help You Charge What You’re Worth

Also known as “why there isn’t a wrong answer to the ‘rates’ question”

I wasn’t always as transparent as I currently am about my rates.

In fact, when I first started freelancing, I adjusted my rates based on the client’s budget. This turned out to be a really bad idea.

Prospective clients thought that it was a good idea to charge low, low rates, and had short-term goals and expectations.

And that’s a bad thing because I had to spend a lot of time searching for new clients. This lead to:

    • Not nearly enough time to write
    • A lot of dissatisfaction

A major creative block, that was so bad that I nearly gave up on my freelance business.

Yet, I’ve now been freelancing for two years now. And I’m proud to say that I didn’t give in to the temptation to “give up and do something else.” But what changed my mind?

It started with one of the most important realizations of my freelance journey so far:

No matter what, you’re the boss, not your client!

When you’re new to freelancing saying, “yes” to every offer is extremely tempting.

But to really grow your business, and reach your long-term goals, you have to:

  • Learn to say “no” sometimes
  • Only charge what you want to charge
  • Confidently take ownership of that rate.

New freelancers often ask what they should charge. And that is what often causes someone to chime in and say:

Charge what you’re worth!

Although that’s not necessarily bad advice, there’s a really serious problem with that statement. “What you’re worth,” means something totally different to everyone. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want you to pick a random, numerical, dollar value and stick to it. What I’m really telling you to do is pick your rate, based on a per project rate that suits your individual needs.

Because the truth is, there are no right answers to the rates question.

Here’s what you need to ask yourself that will help you “charge what you’re worth”

1. Why are you freelancing?

People’s reasons for freelancing are extremely diverse. This is exactly why telling people what rates are right or wrong is a really bad idea.

For example: are you doing this full-time? Are you doing this while juggling a full or part-time job? This is a great way to figure out how to freelance comfortably.

2. What’s the cost of living, where you currently live?

Are two freelancers with the same specialty charging two different rates? Because the cost of living varies worldwide, their location might be to blame.

Small town or rural county-based freelancers are often okay with charging less. And this isn’t about how much experience they have. It’s as simple as the lower cost for essential expenses such as food, rent, and clothing.

Freelancers based in large cities, have a higher cost of living and are more likely to charge more.

So where are you located, and how much do you have to pay for everything from rent, to a nice night out at a restaurant? Don’t compare and contrast yourself to other freelancers. Instead think carefully about what you need to charge to live comfortably.

3. How long does it take you to complete your freelance work?

If you don’t know the answer to this question, do a practice round of the freelance work that you specialize in.

That’s a time-consuming activity. I get it. But that’s what slow periods are good for. This is an amazing opportunity to know exactly how much time it takes you to complete a task. It’s also a great way to enhance your skills, and make your clients love you even more.

Use the amount of time it takes you per task to figure out how much you need to charge to reach your income goals.

4. Are there any extra expenses?

I offer copywriting, blogging, and editing services, so all I need to get started is:

  • WIFI
  • My computer
  • A really good cup of coffee

Yet, this isn’t the case for everyone’s niche. If you need anything that actually costs money, to complete your work factor it into your quoted rate.

5. What are your long-term income goals?

People’s income goals are extremely diverse, and everyone’s got a dollar value that they want to make:

  • Per month
  • Per year
  • Per week
  • Etc.

And I’m sure that’s the case for you as well. Don’t be afraid to raise your rates, if you’re not reaching your income goals.

When you raise your rates you’re going to only attract clients that can afford you. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

Keep on pitching with your brand new rate, and don’t give up! You’ll likely find that the right client for you isn’t just anyone. It’s someone that’s happy to pay whatever is necessary to produce high-quality work.

No matter what rate you decide on, don’t use how much or how little experience you have to justify how much your clients should pay you.

And don’t let the opinions of other freelancers determine what the right or wrong rate happens to be for you. Because let’s face it, they likely don’t know you well enough to judge what’s suitable for you.

Rosemary Richings Rosemary Richings (@rosiemay_r) is a copywriter, editor, and blogger, specializing in marketing and lifestyle B2C web & blog content. She creates and edits one-of-kind, customized web content for busy small business and marketing professionals. Her work has been featured on a variety of marketing and lifestyle blogs including Stories By Buffer, Problogger, and the Weebly Inspiration Centre. To learn more, or book a spot on her package deal or individual services project rotation visit: www.rosemaryrichings.com, or visit her blog for creative people, Rosie Writing Space.

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • James

    Good article!

  • Great post! I would also note that you can adjust your prices depending on the scarcity of your work within your niche. So, for example, the industry I primarily serve with my VA business, there are (no exaggeration) no other virtual assistants currently. Now, that may change in the future for sure; however, for now I can charge more for what I do. And I do charge more. 🙂

    • I agree with you about the “scarcity of your work” comment. My significant other also freelances as well, in a very specialized niche, and it has allowed him to charge more because clients are paying for a very specialized skill & niche where there’s literally zero competition. I found that once I narrowed my niche down even further, it made it easier to justify higher rates. When I was a new freelancer, and I was just trying to build up portfolio charging higher rates didn’t seem like something I was ready for, because I just wanted the experience.

  • I need to ask myself more how much time it takes me. I often estimate how long for a task when it’s done without any issues that come up. I really need to take into account times when things don’t work out.

    • Yeah, that’s for sure so important, because there’s always room for error. I think that’s one of the most challenging parts of being a freelancer at first: having the right system in place for managing your time, even when things go wrong. Because it always happens without notice.

  • Great article!

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