Freelancing

Value what you do and what you charge

Admittedly, as a part time freelancer I don’t need to worry about money, or more to the point, about an income, as much as full time freelancers do but that never made it any easier for me to talk about the subject of money.

I fell into part time freelancing by accident, it was never really my intention to want to go home after working my 9-5 design job and do more work up until between 11pm and midnight. My freelancing was initially doing small bits and pieces of graphic design or putting together small WordPress based websites for friends or organisations that I was a part of and due to that I never charged much if anything at all.

Before I continue, I should point out that I am not advocating that anyone should ever work for cheap/free but funnily enough what these smaller projects did was allow me to put together a portfolio of work and build some reputation by word of mouth. Due to this it wasn’t too long before ‘real’ enquiries started coming my way and this was of course when the money issue raised it’s head.

Questioning your self value

Being in a full time web design based job meant that I never had to question my self worth, I didn’t need an hourly or even a daily rate as I was getting a monthly wage for a job that I did well… but would that be reflected in my freelance work? How would my rates compare to other freelancers? Would it be up to the standards my clients wanted and would I be offering value for money? More questions than answers at this point.

Don’t undersell yourself

My first ‘real’ freelance project was the redesign and development of what was a relatively straight forward WordPress blog based site. The client and I arranged a meeting to discuss their brief, get a chance to suss each other out and it all went very well. At the end of the meeting I was asked to get back in touch with them and provide a quote. Here we go.

This was where I knew (or thought at least) that the project would be won or lost. I had a rough figure in my head from the meeting about what to charge, but would that have been acceptable to the client? Would it have been too much, just right or on the other hand would it prove to be a bargain?

Rather than say to the client, your project will cost X amount, what I did was break the quote up into several smaller chunks and also offer options with pricing and timescale estimates. By doing this the client would recognise the time and work that goes into each part of the project and by offering options, the project could fit into their budget as they saw fit, a budget in all fairness I had absolutely no idea of – but more on that later.

Revising your pricing

To my delight, the client signed off on the project and not only that but chose the most expensive options on the quote so it was now up to me to deliver a project that met their expectations. The next question that triggered in my mind was, did I charge enough?

To this day I don’t feel like I undercharged for that project, it was a nice little earner for me and that particular client, whom I now consider friends, still comes to me for the odd bit of work here and there. Whilst I didn’t charge for that project what I would do if approached for the same work now, the experience that came with that project was invaluable as it was the first time I had to personally deal with clients, supply quotes, contacts, invoices, time manage myself and obviously meet project deadlines.

Budgets

I have learned over time that the topic of money is a two way conversation. It’s just as important for any freelancer to know what the client’s budget is as much as it is to the client’s advantage to know what a freelancer’s rates are. All you have to do is ask and I’ve found with a number of clients, if they don’t know what their budget is, they’re essentially looking for who’ll do the job to the highest standard for the lowest amount of money.

By asking you will cut out a lot of bullshit and time wasting enquiries from the get go if you know that your client is only willing to part with hundreds for thousands worth of work – simply don’t do it and just let them go.

I’ll admit, it can be difficult to let go, you’ve invested your time going to meetings, assessing your clients requirements and not trying to give too much away but being helpful at the same time – you know you could make a difference – but on some occasions all a client sees is a price. The whole experience can be frustrating but you live and you learn.

As I briefly mentioned when asked to quote for the project I used as an example earlier, I had no idea what their budget was and it put me in an awkward position when pricing the project for the client. Thankfully that particular project worked out well but there have been others when I have supplied a quote and the clients have scoffed at the potential costs.

We’ve all been there and heard the excuses, “I had no idea a website would cost that much…”, “I saw an advert on the television…” or the classic, and my personal favourite “my nephew does this kind of thing and he said he can do it for £50”. That’s great, give your nephew some pocket money but please don’t come back looking for any work from me any time soon.

That particular client also had thousands of pounds worth of unused fliers, leaflets and other promotional material lying around in their reception. Go figure.

More questions

As before, nothing plays on your mind more when it comes to money, maybe I was charging too much? Perhaps the client doesn’t see value for money? Maybe the clients that were approaching me don’t appreciate the work that goes into a project or maybe they’re just looking for something on the cheap. Who knows.

Everyone is different, that’s why when it comes to money you should just be straight with people and if nothing else it can save a lot of time and effort.

Honesty

What every freelancer needs to do is work out a rate, whether thats hourly, daily or by the project, that they deem to be acceptable for their time and effort. This rate should cover both the actual work costs and any associated time spent on project administration and above all else, be honest about it.

Never let people that either don’t or won’t value your time and work properly take advantage of your services for a rate that doesn’t reflect what you offer.

I worked out a rate that I felt is acceptable through research. There are a lot of resources and calculators available online that can give you a rough guide of what you should be charging; for me, most notable was an iPhone app called MyPrice and the UK Freelance Rates Calculator based on the results of Cole Henley’s annual Freelance Survey.

You can help keep Cole’s findings up to date by filling out 2014’s survey.

Respect yourself

It takes confidence to stand by what you charge and stand up for yourself in general; I’ve taken plenty of knocks over the years that have lead to me questioning my abilities and whether or not what I was doing was right. As I’ve found out it’s very easy to suffer from Imposter Syndrome in this industry but thats another post for another day.

Stick to your guns, your rate is your rate and if a client isn’t willing to pay that then it isn’t going to be worth your while working with them. By all means negotiate but respect yourself, the work you do and of course, the industry we all work in. An unwilling client is the first and last red flag you should need about whether to take a job enquiry any further.

It does get easier talking about money over time and experience has taught me that. Money is just part of any project conversation now and to be honest it always should have been but due to a lack of confidence and experience, it was something that I struggled with. Hopefully writing about my experience helps any of you in the same position.

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