Building credibility is hard if you’re burned out, stressed out, or working for clients who are both.
One of the most common and fatal flaws new freelancers make is setting their rates too low.
It’s almost like a twisted rite of passage to try and get as many clients as possible by charging the lowest possible rates.
It might seem counterintuitive, but if you really want to make your clients happy and build credibility as a freelancer, it starts with raising your rates, not lowering them.
I’ve spent more than a decade building my freelancing business, hiring other freelancers, and mentoring people as they grow in their own freelancing careers. And one thing I know for sure is that the best clients aren’t looking for bargains. They’re looking for results, and what they really want is someone they can trust to deliver them.
Here are 5 reasons to overcome any hangups you might have about raising your rates.
Consider it the next step to attracting quality clients, making them happy, and building your freelancing credibility.
1. Trust is in high demand, but reliable, trustworthy freelancers are in short supply.
New freelancers often assume that clients will only pay premium rates if you have loads of experience. And maybe that’s true in some cases, but experience is not the only, or even most important, thing that clients value.
They have war stories about flaky freelancers who failed to follow up or deliver on their promises, so what they want more than anything is to be able to trust you. If you do what you say and genuinely want to serve, you already have a valuable advantage in the market, so charge accordingly.
Instead of trying to buy your clients’ trust by working for less than you’re worth, try charging what you deserve and delivering more than your clients expect.
Do that, and you’ll see your credibility growing like gangbusters while you build a business sustains you instead of burning you out.
2. Deep attention is the secret sauce, and good clients pay for it.
Stress suffocates the creative process.
If you’re constantly worried about paying the bills and/or stretching yourself across an excessive client roster, it’s hard to deliver impeccable service and give your full focus to any one assignment.
To build deep empathetic trust with our clients and contribute the kind of creative solutions they value, you need a degree of blank space in your schedule.
Innovation comes out of a yin/yang-like balance between profound focus and deliberately unfocused timeframes during your workday.
This is one of the simplest ways to spark creative thinking, but seemingly impossible to implement in our always-on culture.
Take an afternoon walk, and you might finally figure out how to organize that offer for your client.
Stare out of your office window, and you could come up with the perfect title for your next article/lead magnet/ebook.
Turn off your phone while you steep a cup of tea, and the architecture for that site redesign could fall into place effortlessly.
This kind of attention isn’t possible if you’re endlessly grinding, hurrying, or stressing out.
When you allocate time for free-flow thinking and reflection, you come up with solutions, ideas, and suggestions that would never surface when your attention is spread thin.
By charging more per project, you can afford to take on fewer of them, which means you can give deeper attention and more creative energy to each. There are plenty of clients who will gladly pay you for the higher caliber work you’re capable of delivering.
3. Adulting is not cheap.
Price your services like a grownup.
You need to cover your current bills AND save for future emergencies. It’s not only stressful to work for less than what you really need, it’s also a breeding ground for resentment.
And it’s nearly impossible to do your best work while you simultaneously resent it.
You tell yourself that the “deal” you gave your uncle’s friend is fine, because you’re just getting started, and he can’t afford much, and he’s nice, and your uncle’s nice, and everyone’s nice.
Know what’s not nice?
Being overwhelmed with anxiety by a potential car repair
Living paycheck to paycheck
Making less as a freelancer than you could in a regular job
If you’re going to take on the burdens and risks that come with running your own business, you should be compensated at a higher rate than if you’re working a job in someone else’s business.
So start charging more for your services. It’s actually the responsible thing to do, and grownups do responsible things.
4. Lower pay does not mean lower pressure.
One of the ironies of clients who pay on the low side of the spectrum is that they’re often disproportionately demanding and high-maintenance.
On the flip side, clients who pay premium rates are often easier going and a pleasure to serve.
This might seem completely counterintuitive, but it actually makes sense if you think about it.
Clients who are struggling financially are probably feeling stress in the same way you feel stress if you’re not making ends meet. And just as your own stress impacts your work, a client’s stress can cloud the way they engage with you.
If they’re barely covering expenses and worried about survival, their desperation can cause them to put intense or unfair pressure on your work.
So, despite pricing yourself low, you might be facing expectations that are unrealistically high.
Some hypothetical examples:
Two different clients need the freelancing skills you most love to deliver. The scope and level of effort for their projects are exactly equal, but their stress levels are completely different.
- Client A has $3,000 in cash reserves. He pays you $1,500 for the project. That’s a whopping half of everything he has.
- Client B has $100k in cash reserves. She pays you $5,000 for the same project. That’s a mere 5% of what she has.
Despite paying you more than double for the same work, it’s easy to see why Client B might be more laid back than Client A.
So don’t take it personally when Client A hovers over your every move like a jittery dragon. He’s just genuinely stressed. Rather than holding it against him, you could just avoid these situations going forward, and work with Client B instead.
5. Invest in the help you need.
If you lack important skills or tools, you won’t fix that with cheap pricing.
Raising your rates can put you in a better position to invest in the professional development, tools, or outsource support you need to deliver the best possible service to the kinds of clients you really want.
Trying to back into this solution (I.e., waiting to invest in your skill development or outsource support after you’ve “earned” the right to raise your rates) is another invitation to burnout.
Focus on what you know you can do and deliver now. Raise your rates for those services and results. Take the additional income and invest it in the professional development and functional support you need to deliver more and better results going forward.
- Good clients are willing to pay a premium for reliable, trustworthy freelancers who deliver deep attention and quality outcomes.
- Stress and resentment are not conducive to high-caliber, creative service. Price your services so that you can take on fewer clients without worrying about your bills.
- Clients who pay the lowest rates often come with a high degree of stress and pressure.
- By charging more now, you can invest in the professional development, tools and support you need to continuously upgrade your services for the quality clients you really want.