Go Big or Go Home: Setting Your Rate As a Freelancer

by Beth Rifkin

2 min read

Too often, freelancers lead with price when trying to sell their services. Because freelance competition is endless, selling on price results in a race to the bottom. Someone is always willing to work for less, which means you have to keep lowering your rates to remain price-competitive. Many freelancers earn close to minimum wage after subtracting expenses from the lowball rates they agree to.

Working for yourself as a freelancer doesn’t mean you should work for peanuts. Successful freelancing involves getting paid what you’re worth, and many clients are willing to pay big money once they see the value you provide.

You can make money as a freelancer by going after the right clients, establishing value and not being afraid to ask for more.

Find the Right Clients

Find freelance jobs with clients that see the value in what you do and are willing to pay for quality work. These clients rarely hang out on freelance job boards. When you search there, you’re much more likely to find clients looking for the lowest bidder, and if you aren’t willing to work on the cheap – which you shouldn’t be – finding jobs is fraught with difficulty.

Locating high-paying clients requires more legwork, but the payoff is well worth it. Assess your strengths and determine where you can provide the most value, and then seek out clients that have the most pressing need for your expertise. Put together a compelling pitch, and contact these clients directly instead of waiting for them to come to you. For example, if your specialty is freelance writing in the financial arena, gather your best work and construct a portfolio to send to the big financial websites.

Establish Value

Figure out the minimum you’re willing to work for, and then sell prospective clients on why you deserve to be paid that rate. Base your minimum acceptable rate on factors such as the specific skills you possess, your experience and education, and the cost of living in your area.

Once you’ve established your minimum acceptable rate, demonstrate to clients why they should pay it. Clients want to know what’s in it for them. By showing them the return on investment they can expect from hiring you, you present your price as an investment and not a cost.

Ask for the Money

You’ll never earn big freelancing rates if you’re afraid to ask for them. Set your prices high, and when clients ask how much your services cost, deliver your rates with confidence. This improves your chances of landing high-paying jobs and weeds out clients who aren’t willing to pay for quality work.

When you demand high prices, you establish that you’re a professional rather than an amateur, hobbyist or someone desperate for any work that comes your way. Setting your prices high leaves some room to haggle, so that you can still earn a good freelancing rate if the client bargains you down a bit.

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