As a freelancer, specialising doesn’t only refer to the sector you choose to work in but also the kind of clients you take on. Here are a couple of hard-earned lessons on pricing to make sure your clients are the keeping kind:
1. Don’t say yes to everything that comes your way. Remember, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. It may seem counter-intuitive (especially when you’re worried about keeping the wolves from the door) but if the price is not right, or if the work is bringing you into an area you don’t want to be in, then sometimes the best thing you can do is to turn it down. What happens if you accept the job, then the job of your dreams comes in tomorrow? Will you be able to give it the attention it deserves? Sometimes, no work really is better than crappy work.
2. Don’t worry about over-pricing. Clients won’t think less of you if you lower your rates, but it’s much, much harder to increase your rates after you realise they’re too low, – especially when you’re starting out. Premium rates will attract premium buyers (of course, it goes without saying that standard of your work is also premium). Peanuts, on the other hand, will only attract monkeys
3. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. So don’t make the mistake of thinking that after a few low paid jobs your client will suddenly see the light and start offering you better paid ones. In fact, the opposite usually occurs – your clients will see you as either someone naïve who doesn’t know the value of their work, or quite simply cheap. Not the personal brand any of us really want, now is it?
4. Work for free rather than for cheap. If you are really struggling to find work in your field and are tempted to take on a poorly-paid job, resist the urge and look for some genuine pro bono work instead. (And by genuine I mean not-for-profit organisations, not just unscrupulous agencies or cheap-scate companies looking for a freebie). There are lots of perks to this approach. Geniune pro bono clients are often more flexible with their deadlines and are usually generous with feedback, so you can really take the time to hone your skills. Even if it means taking a part-time job in another field to tide you over financially, you’ll gain a lot more than if you’d taken on work from some shark offering below industry rates.
There are companies out there who are willing and able to pay for excellent professional services. So put a price on your time, and stick to it – it will pay off.
*for a wordier version of this post, see What are you worth? Don’t be a monkey.