Your clients will thank you for charging moreFeatured

I started my career in the creative service industry 20+ years ago, and I’ve heard everyone from freelancers to agency owners sigh about the same things over and over:

“I should just get a job somewhere because my income can’t cover my living costs”

“I feel like I'm on a hamster wheel and burning out.”

“We have a good portfolio, but we always seem to attract clients who aren’t right for us.”

But, inevitably, when I asked, “Do you feel you should have charged more?” - the answer was always a resounding, “YES!”

What makes us charge less than we should?

1. Impostor syndrome

Simply put, we think we are just not good enough. We question our competence and charging less seems like the right thing to do. Sometimes we think we’re not as “legit” just because we’re going solo or running a small firm.

2. We believe we can limit the effort

The classic “let’s work around the client’s budget”. I have written countless statements of work, thinking through every detail imaginable, in hopes of controlling the scope and output. But because so much of the work is often in the thinking, it’s very difficult to limit scope when it comes to ideation and creativity. So what happens? We charge 50% and deliver 100%.

3. We plan around the best-case scenario

Nothing ever goes according to plan. Ever. Materials will arrive late, extra revision requests will come in, more meetings will be needed to get know, all those things that don’t even surprise us when they happen. And they always happen. It’s natural to feel overly optimistic and excited to take on something new while overlooking reality.

4. We are afraid of losing the opportunity

We try to stay competitive in order to win the work. We worry about lost income and wonder when the next opportunity will come through.

Or, we feel like it’s hard to justify our seemingly “high price” when clients push back, which can then lead down a dangerous path explained in point #2 above - limiting the effort.

Or, we come across a dream project that we really, really want, and the next thing you know, we priced way too low.

5. We don’t charge based on value

My financial advisor charges me $5,000 for a consultation.

Do I care how many hours she spends reviewing my financials, talking to me and drawing up the personalized plan? Nope.

What I do care about is how much money she helps me save or make when I follow her advice.

Very often we only price our work based on our “costs” to produce it without considering the value we bring. Value can be time, money, opportunity cost, mitigated risk or even reputation, but your operating cost is not part of that value.

Why is it important to charge what you are worth? Hint: It’s not about having more in your bank account.

If you don’t charge enough, you are doing a disservice not only to yourself, but also to your client.

1. You become more focused and efficient

Juggling multiple projects all day long decreases your efficiency. When you charge more, you can reduce your cognitive load and cut down on constant context switching.

Since there’s a “base cost” associated with every project no matter the price you charge, the fewer projects you run at the same time, the better off you are, financially and emotionally.

2. You can delegate

When you charge enough, you can delegate. You won’t have to do everything yourself, because you can afford to pay someone else to take things off your plate that aren’t the best use of your time.

3. You can win better clients and projects

Clients who don’t want to pay your price or appreciate your value are typically more difficult to work with.

I have come across quite a handful of challenging clients when I ran BeansBox, and they all had one thing in common: they did not pay the price we would normally charge, but we ended up working with them anyway for one or more of the five reasons mentioned above.

A higher price almost always guarantees better clients. Someone who is willing to pay what you are worth values your ideas and expertise. They focus on the results and want to set you up for success.

4. You can do your best work

When you charge appropriately, you have the space to do your best work. You can delegate, increase efficiency by running fewer projects, and free up time to provide your client with the attention and care they deserve.

Doing your best work builds trust between you and your client, and that’s really the only currency that matters in the long run.

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with making a profit doing what you enjoy. If you are providing a service as a professional and making a profit while you’re at it, then you are doing exactly what a healthy business should be doing.

All it takes is the first step - charge more, and your clients will thank you for that.

This article was originally posted here.

@belleliu: Thank you for posting. I am a freelance tech consultant myself, and I can identify with all of the above -- I've struggled with these at some point in my life/career. I especially agree with your point regarding delegation: even though you discount your services, others won't, and that can put a serious limitation on your flexibility of managing a large project. That often just results in a missed opportunity. I had imposter syndrome for much of my life. How I identified it and overcame it is a story in itself -- maybe I should write a psych blog or something hahaha -- but I see my teen daughter struggle with it sometimes, and it is heartbreaking to see how it impacts the most talented and most sensitive people the most! Anyway. Thank you for writing this piece. It's awesome.
You're welcome! Glad it resonates!
Such a goor reminder this post, thanks for sharing!
@belleliu Thanks for posting this! As a freelance writer myself, it's hard to charge based on value when you're stuck thinking about whether or not your work is worth it. Dealing with imposter syndrome all by yourself is hard enough as it is.
Glad you like it! I wrote another article about how to put a price on what you do: yes I agree with you, the imposter syndrome is the hardest to overcome!