How transparent should your rates be?
This is one of the most common questions I get asked as a freelance writer and editor, and one of the more difficult to answer – it’s really a personal choice.
Some freelancers publish their hourly rate openly, on their website; some need to be contacted directly for pricing. There are valid arguments to be made for both approaches… but for most individual freelancers, I tend to recommend the latter.
It’s true that being completely open about pricing – publishing a flat rate – cuts out some red tape; you rarely have to deal with time-wasting potential clients who want to hire you for pennies (although you’d be surprised how many still try to quibble).
But being a little more discreet has several, ah, discrete benefits:
**Different projects have different “emotional pricing” **
There are some people I love so much (and some projects that I enjoy so much), that I will work for drastically-reduced money… or even for free!
Conversely, there is some work (and some clients) that I charge a sort of “discomfort” fee for. If I’m less interested in the project, it doesn’t really benefit my career, it doesn’t satisfy creative urges, or I happen to suspect that the client will be obnoxious/super needy/difficult, I up my rate a bit.
It’s never a huge bump… but I’m paying myself extra for the extra angst. If I had flat rates published, all clients would be treated equally, regardless of their emotional benefits – which is fair, but not actually how I operate. There are just some clients and projects I would rather work with – and I price accordingly.
You may be inviting people to poach your business
I believe in the Freelance Community! I believe that we should work together to make the community stronger, and I believe in mutual support and networking.
That being said, I don’t openly publish pricing online because while most freelancers out there are scrupulous, and realize that under-cutting rates hurts EVERYONE, there are a few bad apples who are always willing to charge $20 less than you… and pitch your clients, too.
And that’s just individuals! Creative temping agencies – many of whom woefully underpay freelancers – are ALWAYS looking to poach clients. I don’t publish rates because it’s inviting these decidedly unscrupulous corporate entities to swoop in.
Everyone likes a little wiggle-room
Being a little more close-mouthed about my rates allows me to have a bit of flexibility when communicating with potential clients. I don’t believe in charging widely disparate prices (again, unless it’s a passion project), but being able to communicate a reasonable range to clients is helpful.
It lets potential clients feel like they have some choice, some say – and even if they can’t meet my prices at the moment, it helps me make a contact for the future. What’s more, I often can recommend other freelancers who meet their needs, even if I can’t… and that’s good for that whole Freelance Unity dealio I was referencing above.
Join the nation's largest group representing the new workforce (it's free!)
You control your own information
Simply put, rates are your business. Listen, it’s not that hard for potential clients to find out your pricing. Just make sure that your contact information is readily available, and respond quickly to inquiries.
If they’re interested enough, they’ll enquire. Being slightly more cagey allows you to be the chief conduit through which information is released – and that gives you more flexibility and autonomy.
It’s a pain to quote pricing to each client, individually; it often involves more time reading proposals and writing polite emails in response. But I’ve found that the benefits of a little discretion outweigh the inconvenience.
Wanna find out my rates? Awesome! Shoot me an email.
Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.