6 ways to make sure you’re charging what you should be

Ever come across clients that want your valuable service for a song? Freelancers often find themselves in a vulnerable position of agreeing to ridiculous rates just to get the work – and avoid famine! So here’s how to fight back and make sure you are getting what you need and what you’re really worth:

1)    Know your numbers!

Above all else, do you know what you actually NEED to earn – as in the minimum you need to earn to survive and put food on the table? If you know your absolute bottom line you will be less tempted to make silly deals. Write down your minimum earnings and your ideal earnings per annum – then work backwards to calculate what you need to earn per billable hour and how many hours you need to work a week to achieve it. That is your lowest possible rate – any lower and you won’t sustain your freelance career. Now add what you need to live comfortably – then you have a genuine margin to play with in negotiations.

2. Don’t be cheap – learn to sell better

Don’t allow yourself to be negotiated down to stupid rates. Instead know your worth and learn how to sell it. Write down everything you have had to go through to be able to offer your clients what you do today: University degree? Specialised qualifications? Lengthy industry experience?  Additional training?  Perhaps you can offer something different to the competition, or perhaps you are just really good at doing the basic stuff well. You might be more flexible than Mr. Big Corporate, you might have an in-depth knowledge that few others have. Always have your unique benefits to hand and gently remind clients of them if they try to haggle you down.  Always be selling and let them know what makes YOU stand out from the crowd. In short, never sell on price, always sell on value!

3. Undercut at your peril

Occasionally lowering your price to beat the competition and get a deal you really want, because it might result in long-term business, is one thing. Permanently undercutting your competitors to get business is something else – and just plain wrong. You might get the deals now, but long-term all you are doing is devaluing your own business, your service and the industry. There are certain types of freelancers who are guilty of this. I call them the ‘dabblers’. They’re the part-timers out there who always walk around boasting that they don’t really need the work as they don’t need the money thanks to hubby’s/wifey’s big fat monthly salary/large pension.. They charge what they like just to keep their hand in. And ultimately do no service to their industry. Don’t be one of those guys. In the end you will teach your clients that your industry is worthless – and you will end up scrounging off your spouse. True professionals are hungry, which makes them creative at ways of earning money and makes them better at selling their worth. The less you NEED or WANT to earn, the less pressure, the less wolves at the door, the less imagination you have. And the less you earn.

4. Tier your rates

Do you have different ways of charging for your services, even if it’s just one service? Just think of EasyJet and how they manage to charge extra for the most basic of items. They’ve even turned bringing luggage with you on holiday into a perceived added value and they charge you £35 per suitcase for the privilege – and people  pay it! Ditto if you want to board the plane first. If someone wants something quickly from you, meaning you have to set aside other work to complete it– add a premium. Have a standard rate and a rush fee. Equally, offer discounts for large volumes or repeat business. Think of ways to ‘platinum, gold, silver’ your service – thus making parts of your business more valuable.

5. Don’t give too much stuff away for free

Learn the difference between a taster and plain giving away your service and thus devaluing it. No solicitor is ever going to give you two hours of their time for free. But most offer a free 30-minute session.  Apply this to your business – limit the amount of time or advice you give a client for free (if any) and stick to it. That way you come across as professional, you offer them a taster of what they might get if they were to do business with you, but you also teach them that if they want more, they have to pay for it. Never get into a position where you are offering your service entirely for free.

6. Remind your clients how brilliant you are:

If you’ve done a good job for someone, shout about it. Get some testimonials and pass them round. Let other potential clients know what you’ve done for businesses in their industry.  Keep a ‘brag file’. The more experience and the more positive feedback you have, the greater your perceived value.

Happy selling!