How to Get Paid What You’re Worth

Freelancing is work, and work pays. Otherwise, you’re actually doing a hobby. If you’re not careful and savvy, however, the payoff might end up not being worth the labor. You don’t want to do a job for $10 if it’s normally done for $1000. Right? Learn how to approximate what your time is worth, and then get paid.

Maybe you just started freelancing and you’re not sure about the average rates for a blog post or for a website design. I know that I’ve personally been severely underpaid for a large project when starting out because I didn’t ask enough questions about the project upfront, and also because I didn’t know what people normally charged for it. A painful right of passage we hope to help you avoid. But, I was desperate to get that initial job, so I attempted to underbid the other applicants to achieve what I perceived was my goal.

Sometimes, that might be a strategic idea, especially if you’re desperate for funds or just starting out. You should not make it a habit, however, to be underpaid. You’re worth more than you know, plus we all need money to survive. And never fall for the “we-have-a-lot-more-projects-in-the-pipeline-if-you-take-this-one-for-less” approach. Undervaluing is undervaluing.

Calculating the going rate will vary depending on your location, skill set, project scope, and many other factors. There’s no set algorithm for figuring out what to charge; however, we can provide you with a few reminders that should factor in your charges.

1: We recommend electing to be paid per-project, rather than getting paid hourly. Consider this: you’ve been working with WordPress for a while, and you can knock out a theme implementation project in a few days. Just because you can do something quickly does not mean your labor or your finished product is worth any less.

Does it make sense that somebody who has less experience with theme implementation takes longer to do the same thing you’ve done, and gets paid more simply because they worked more hours? What takes you 2 hours may take someone else 10 hours. Say you’ve both produced the same thing, of equal quality and quantity, but you’re paid less because you’re more advanced at this or that kind of work—doesn’t that seem unfair?

2: If you are going to go with an hourly rate, or if your client refuses a per-project payment, then at the very least never, ever, EVER settle for a rate that is below the minimum wage in your area. If you’re going to spend 10 hours a day working for $5 an hour, you’d be much better off getting a job in retail or at a restaurant. You need money to get by, and you’re providing a service for a client; producing something as a freelancer is not something you’re doing as a favor to somebody else. You owe your client a product, and they owe you a paycheck. No questions asked.

3: Develop a running list of charges and projects you’re capable of completing. For instance, if you’re a graphic designer, and you make greeting cards, logos, and social graphics, have a specific amount for each: $20/greeting card; $50/logo; $25/Facebook cover photos; $25/Youtube banners, etc. In your proposal, send 3 examples of logos you’ve done and tell the client you charged 50 for each. Try to find a balance between your experience level and skill set, and the kind of work they want done.

4: Don’t do unpaid work. Seriously, don’t do unpaid work. Cover your bases and establish exactly what you need to do for your project upfront. If your client just requests 2 logos, and you make them, and then the client wants you to upload them to all of their social sites, put them on business cards, make watermark versions—whatever it may be—you need to be assertive and tell them that you need to be paid extra for extra work.

SOME EXTRA REMINDERS:

1: Seriously, absolutely do not do unpaid work. Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of by clients. Most clients will be honest, and will want to pay you what you’re owed. Watch out for the not so nice ones.

2: When in doubt, look up what other people are charging. It might be strategic to underbid a little if you’re strapped for cash or need to get hired immediately, but try to set a standard for yourself.

3: Don’t be afraid to negotiate payment with a client if you feel like you’re not going to be paid enough. The worst thing they can do is say no, and at least you’ll have tried.

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