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Understanding Your Worth as a Freelancer

on Freelance Design

Having a successful career as a freelance web designer requires hard work and dedication to your craft. But above all else, you must be really good at what you do. In such a competitive worldwide marketplace, your talent is one of the areas that will help you stand out from all the rest. It’s part of what keeps you in demand and thus keeping you in business.

However, staying busy doesn’t always translate into financial success. That’s often because we don’t necessarily price our services relative to the level of service we provide. In this line of work, too many of us sell ourselves short when it comes making money.

Quite often, being a freelancer means working alone. We’re the ones who call the shots regarding our business. And, because our strong point tends to be design (and not business), it can be difficult to properly gauge the true worth of what we do. There’s no CFO to set us on the right course. It’s all up to us.

With that in mind, let’s talk about the pitfalls of pricing and some things you can do to ensure that you won’t undersell your hard work.

A Skewed Perspective

When you look around at how much a website costs, you find an incredible amount of disparity. Many agencies charge through the roof (they have employees to pay), while freelancers are a mix of being way underpriced to perhaps a bit overpriced. Finding where you fit in can be confusing.

As an example from my own career, I’ve often tied pricing to my own sense of self-worth. Because I work alone and am mostly self-taught, I thought of myself as being just a small-time player. This had nothing to do with the actual results of my work – more of a mental picture of who I am. As a result, I’ve often undervalued my services.

In retrospect, this was a mistake. The value of your work is a reflection of the quality of what you produce and your ability to satisfy clients. Your sense of self-worth has nothing to do with it. But that’s a problem quite unique to freelancers. It’s better to take an objective look at your strengths and all the positives you have to offer.

A Skewed Perspective

Factors That Determine Cost (Beyond Project Requirements)

Now that we’ve taken personal feelings out of the equation, 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. Of course, we know that the actual requirements of a project should be a major factor. But there are other things to consider, including:

Experience and Expertise
Formal education may have some role in determining a price, but experience should be counted as well. Think about the types of projects you’ve worked on and how that helps you come up with the best solution for your clients. And if you specialize in something – whether it’s PHP or front end design – you should consider yourself at least somewhat of an expert in that area. An expert’s time shouldn’t come cheaply.

The Demands on Your Time
If you’re constantly busy, it probably means you’re doing something right. The busier you are, the more it should cost to grab a piece of your time. On the other hand, when things aren’t going so well, you may be more open to pricing your services to sell. Even so, you shouldn’t lower yourself too much. You still have that experience and expertise to lean on – and that’s worth something.

Project Timeline
If you set pricing on a per-project basis, then it stands to reason that prices should go up as a client’s timeline shrinks. When a client is in a hurry, it puts more pressure on you to get the job done within a tight window of time. Make sure you’re compensated for that extra headache.

Factors That Determine Cost (Beyond Project Requirements)

It’s Ok to Say “No”

In some ways it seems a bit counterintuitive to ever politely refuse a project. We’re in business to make money, after all. But saying no can sometimes be for the best.

Along your freelance journey, you’ll be offered projects that just aren’t a good fit. The client’s budget may be too low, their concept might be flawed or they could just seem very disorganized and messy. In any of these situations, you shouldn’t feel guilty for turning down the work.

Sometimes in our quest to please clients, we tend to bend over backwards for them. While it’s great to have a satisfied customer, you never want to do this in regards to price. That doesn’t mean you should never be willing to negotiate something worthwhile. But it does mean that you shouldn’t completely sell yourself out, either.

Remember that it’s not your responsibility to take on a project simply because someone wants you to. In reality, you have to pick and choose what works best for you.

It's Ok to Say "No"

Getting the Most Out of What You Do

Finding a realistic representation of your worth to clients can be uncomfortable. In my case, I love what I do – regardless of the money involved. So it feels strange to sit there and make a case for why I need to charge more. But it’s an inner dialogue worth having on many levels.

First, growth in any sense is extremely difficult to attain when you consistently charge too little for your hard work. Even if you’re earning every moment of the workday, you can still struggle to pay the bills. To keep your career on an upward trajectory, you have to determine what your services are really worth.

Plus, pricing yourself too low can lead to working with clients who will nickel and dime you for everything. The experience just doesn’t seem worth it. Instead, focus on bringing in slightly higher-end gigs that pay better and strengthen your portfolio. It will make you feel more confident and will also draw the attention of other clients in this class.

Your goal shouldn’t be to become the richest freelancer in history. Rather, it should be to put yourself in a position to grow while making enough money to live the life you want. Coming to realize what you’re worth is the first step on that path.

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