One of the things I get asked most is exactly how much to charge for something. Sometimes people will email me entire messages from their prospective clients asking them how much they charge for something. And then they want me to tell them what their answer should be.
But I can’t.
I get it. I do. You’re afraid of getting it wrong. You’re afraid of charging the wrong amount and FAILING AT FREELANCING AND LIFE ITSELF. And so you want somebody else to tell you exactly what to do.
So here’s what you need to know: you’re going to get it wrong sometimes. And more importantly, you need to get it wrong sometimes to learn how to get it right.
And do you want to know why I can’t tell you exactly what you should charge? BECAUSE I DON’T FUCKING KNOW.
I have no idea what your prospective client is willing to pay. Maybe they’re a cheapskate. Maybe they think you’re wonderful and would be willing to pay you four times as much as you’re thinking about quoting them.
How Much You Should Charge Depends on So Many Factors
Like, who is the client? What are they like? How much do they value quality? What’s the market looking like right now? How GOOD are you? How confident do you come across? Is your portfolio up to date? Do you have decent testimonials on your site? Were you recommended to the prospect? Has this client worked with other freelancers at super low rates before? Or super high rates? What do they expect you to quote them?
I know you want to be told the exact amount this client is willing to pay you for this specific piece of work. But that’s just impossible. I can’t help you with that.
The way you figure this stuff out is by experimenting for yourself and seeing what sticks. Sometimes you’ll fuck it up and end up way off base. Sometimes you’ll quote too low and end up doing yourself out of some cash. Sometimes you’ll quote too low and scare the client off, because they’ll think your low rates mean you’re crap. Sometimes you’ll quote too high because the client can’t afford that right now. And sometimes you’ll quote too high and the client just won’t think you’re worth that much.
Want to feel better? Here are some of my own fuckups from when I started out:
I charged £10 per page of web copy. I lost a client because I told him I could write 10 articles in 24 hours. And maybe you’ve heard how one of my first ever clients paid me less than £5 per article. I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without those experiences though.
So no: I don’t know the answer. I don’t know how much you should quote. No-one does. THERE IS NO RIGHT ANSWER. You could ask ten different people what they’d charge for the exact same thing, and you’d get ten different answers back. So you’re going to have to figure this out for yourself.
For one thing, if you’re a total newb at this, you’re not going to be able to charge what more experienced people charge. I mean, there’s no way I could have charged what I charge now when I first started out, because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Only by charging £10 for a page of copy did I learn that I shouldn’t charge £10 for a page of copy.
I know you don’t want to be ‘undervalued’, but let’s face reality here: if you’ve never done this before, which I’m guessing you haven’t, otherwise you wouldn’t be asking me exactly how much to charge this particular client who wants this specific thing, you probably won’t be able to charge the ‘going rates’. You won’t seem confident enough to command those sorts of rates. And maybe you shouldn’t anyway, because you’re not worth the going rates yet. You don’t have the experience or the know-how to charge the same as professionals who’ve been doing this for years.
So you want to know what you have to do? You have to throw a number out there and see what comes back. If your client doesn’t even hesitate, you probably went too low. If they try to beat you down, like way down, they’re probably an asshole. But maybe you should work with them for a little while anyway, just so you can know what working with an asshole who doesn’t understand value feels like. Then you can recognise that in the future, and know how to deal with it.
You’re inexperienced. Which means – shocker – you’ve got to go out and GET EXPERIENCE. Not just of doing the work itself, but of dealing with clients, negotiating, quoting, and all that other stuff you have to do when you’re a freelancer.
What You Can Do Instead
So no, you can’t ask me how much you should charge for something. Here are some things you CAN do:
- You can ask me how much I would charge for something, but that’s not necessarily going to be useful information for you. And I may not even have an answer for you, because maybe I wouldn’t even consider quoting for the job you’re after. Maybe it’s just not what I do. Maybe I think it sounds boring as fuck. Or maybe it just requires too much thought on my part to figure it out, and I really don’t want to deal with that right now.
- If you’re going to ask ME, you should ask ten other people too. And then you can stare at all our different answers and think, ‘What the fuck? This is not helpful’. Or you can figure out the average and use that.
- You can ask yourself questions like, ‘How long do I think this will take me?’ and ‘How much would I, ideally, like to earn per hour?’ Those questions are good starting points.
- You can also hunt down some ‘going rates’ guides on Google. And don’t tell me they don’t exist. Because they do. Though I’m certain you’ll find that even the rates listed on those pages vary wildly.
- You can find other freelancers’ websites who are doing what you want to do, and see how much THEY charge. And yes, you can use Google to find them too.
- And then you can do what you should have done in the first place: decide on an amount you’d be happy to receive for the job in question and go with that.
You need to experiment with rates for yourself. Find out what different types of clients are willing to pay you for different types of work. Decide what you’re going to quote and then QUOTE IT. Maybe you’ll get the job. Maybe you won’t. But what I can guarantee is that you will learn something. And you’ll be armed with new knowledge you can use the next time somebody asks you for a quote.
And just remember, your entire freelancing career does not hinge on this one singular fucking client. So stop asking somebody else how much you should charge, and go and find out for yourself.