What Are You Worth? How To Gauge Your Fee When Freelancing

Freelancing, while a flexible way to make a living, does come with its challenges.

If you’ve just gotten into the world of freelance services, starting your own business or independent consulting, you may have a difficult time deciding exactly how much to charge for your work. Without the name of a corporation or company behind you, it can be daunting setting a fee for yourself, but it’s incredibly important that you figure it out as to not damage your wallet or reputation. Charge too much and you risk losing the client. Charge too little and you end up selling you – and your brand – short. Creating a fair price for your services will help sustain and increase the value of your work overtime, while keeping you and your clients happy.

1. Don’t sell yourself short.
While you may think that underpricing or offering a low price for your first job might be a good tactic – it’s not. Underselling yourself can actually make your employers doubt your credibility, as it makes you seem inexperienced. When you price your work, you’re saying, “this is the value of my time.” If you set your fee too low, employers may question as to whether or not they want to work with you. Of course, many people will happily take advantage of good work for little pay, but that doesn’t help you as a freelancer; you want to sustain client relationships that are worth your time and effort. When it comes to setting a fee, aim higher. A good rule of thumb is what you’re comfortable with + 10%. Remember – it’s easy to lower your price with a client than higher it when negotiating pay.

2. Develop a network of peers in the same field to help gage what your price may be.
If you’re new to creative freelance, you may not know what mid-level freelancers of your same craft are changing for their work. With social media, it’s now easier than ever to send a quick Instagram, Linkedin message or email inquiring about someone’s rates. Find a couple people with work that you consider to be similar to your own and simply shoot off the question; for all they know, you could be a potential client who would like a quote. Compare the prices you receive and see what the consensus is. These prices are by no means your prices, but rather give you an idea of what the going rate for your quality of work may be. Having a conversation with a peer about fees may also take the pressure off asking for more money; knowing that X asked Y for the same amount may give you confidence in knowing your work is of similar value.

3. Don’t commit to an hourly rate.
I’m looking at all you fast workers out there. If you’re truly experienced and skillful at your craft, sometimes a project truly does not take that long. If you know you can whip up an amazing website in 3 hours, you should not be charging an hourly rate of $60. You have to measure your price on the quality of your product and how valuable it is to your client. Yes, it didn’t take you very long to do, but it is a high quality product. You should know the worth of your own work.

4. Only you can make yourself a living freelancing.
No one is going to offer you a ‘build-a-salary’ workshop – you need to create a healthy balance between you and your clients. Taking on a select few, more meaningful clients will pay off a lot more than running yourself ragged. It’s far better to work 20-30 hours a week for a handful of clients than 60+ for more than you can count. Over-exerting yourself will only hurt you and the quality of your work. By keeping your rates higher, you’re only allowing yourself to be employed by those who respect your work and will likely want to continue your working relationship, benefiting you in the long run.

5. When all else fails, trust your gut.
Each client relationship you have will be different, just as each project will be different. If a small business is going to steadily give you work over several years, you may give them a lower rate than a big corporation with a fat budget to match. You can also play with your fees as you get more experienced and your clientele expands. Freelancing at the heart of it is a guessing game with no strict rules in place. Actually, there is one that you should always, always stick to: they can’t say yes if you don’t ask.