- Advocacy, Advice
Get paid more in 3 simple steps
This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.
It was 5:00 pm on a Friday evening and I was sitting in my office.
As I filled out my consulting time-sheet for the week, I pieced together 32.5 hours of “chargeable” work for the week.
At my established rate as a Director of $375 per hour, I just made the company $12,187.50 for the week. Not a bad chunk of change!
It got me thinking…
What is my work really worth?
How is someone actually footing this kind of a bill?!
Perhaps you’ve wondered the same about your own work.
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You see, if my work weren’t actually worth the $375 per hour, my company wouldn’t be able to charge that much.
Quite simply, those customers understood the value of what they were paying for – not just the price tag.
My customers understood the expertise they hired would help them make a lot more money than what they paid in consulting fees.
And that’s how you want to understand the value of your own work, too.
I’m going to show you how to use that understanding to get paid more for freelancing in 3 simple steps.
But first, a word about how most freelancers get it wrong…
Undervaluing Your Work
It is a well-known fact that most freelancers undervalue their own work.
It is conventional wisdom to charge cheap at first and then raise your prices over time.
Freelancers do this for a lot of reasons, but one of the most popular is to get their “foot in the door” with customers.
Here’s the problem: When you attract customers with low prices, you educate them that your services aren’t worth much.
Even if you impress them with your deliverables, they’re going to resist any attempt to increase your prices in the future.
Don’t feel bad, though. I witnessed this approach over and over again in my consulting career at a leading healthcare consulting firm.
The sales guys would sell low and we’d struggle to do all the work within the constraints of the budgets – no matter how many late nights we donated.
Even worse, when we got the opportunity to do more work with those customers, they always expected the same low price.
In other words – it’s very common. It’s just the wrong approach.
And now that you know, you can join the top 5% of successful freelancers by skipping the approach that undervalues your work.
There are 3 simple steps you can start following today to get paid more for your freelancing services. Here they are:
STEP #1: Determine What Your Time is Worth Per Hour
Deciding what to charge per hour can be difficult, especially when you are just starting out.
But here’s something simple you can do to help.
Go to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) or some similar government body in your country and find out what the typical annual salaries are for your specific line of work.
For example, here is the data for web developers in the United States.
The latest chart indicates an average annual salary of $68,670 for web developer.
When we divide that by the number of working hours in a year (2,080 hours), we get $33.01 per hour.
This gives you a starting point for what to charge as a freelance web developer. Of course, you can adjust this upwards based on years of experience or personal expertise.
You may decide you’re in the top 75% or the top 90% of developers – the BLS give you the data for those rates, too.
In those cases, your starting point would be $41.69 and $54.17 per hour, respectively.
Now you want to consider other factors that might boost this rate higher.
First, the BLS numbers do not include employee benefit expenses which can add 10% to 15% for an employer. As a freelancer, you know you have to shoulder all these costs yourself.
In addition, you may place a premium on your time for certain sacrifices you make to do the work – a reasonable thing to do if you’re missing family activities, working late nights, or having to pay a sitter. You may add another 5% to 20%.
Overall, you’ll end up with a single hourly rate that incorporates the value of your time to both the market and you.
At this point, you can price out any job with some simple math. You end up exchanging your time for money based on how long you estimate the project will take you.
Most freelance estimates and work are contracted in just this way.
But if you want to be in the top 5% of all freelancers, you’ll want to include step #2 with every project opportunity.
Step #2: Determine the Value of Your Services from Your Customer’s Perspective
Very few freelancers ever move past step #1. They miss their biggest opportunity to get paid more for each project.
Some are unaware, others believe it is too complex, and many think it takes too much time up front.
But I’ll show you none of this is true. I’ll walk you through the process.
Most importantly, you have to shift from thinking and talking about price with your customer. Instead, talk about value.
In order to determine the value of your freelance services from your customer’s perspective, make sure you have answers to the following 3 questions:
- How does your customer define value?
- What pain will your customer avoid by hiring you?
- What will the customer be able to do with your help that they cannot do today?
Once you have answers to those questions, you will be empowered to value your work differently. Instead of valuing your work by its hourly rate, you’ll realize its value within the context of what your customer will achieve.
You’ll be able to charge more for your work since it aligns directly with your customer’s success.
Consider this example…
Let’s say your customer Bob wants you to set up a new subscription membership service on his website for access to “premium” content.
You ask Bob (1) why it is important to build out this membership part of his website; (2) what problem you will solve by doing this; and (3) what he will be able to do with your help that he cannot do today.
Through asking these questions, you will be able to identify the value of your services to him.
In response, Bob tells you that he works hard on his website which receives many visitors a day, but he doesn’t make any money on it. He’d like to build out a membership component and start earning revenue on his site within 1 month.
By asking your customer these 3 simple questions, you now understand much better in what ways he values the work you are going to do for him.
Step #3: Price Your Freelancing Services Based on Value
The third step in how to get paid more for your freelancing services is to price based on value.
With your experience, you estimate the Bob’s project to take you no more than 40 hours. At the BLS hourly rate, you would charge $1,320 for the project.
However, consider the conversation you just had with Bob. What was the work really worth to him? First, he wants to start making money by adding a membership feature – which you can do. Secondly, he wants it done within a month – which you can beat.
If we assume Bob charges a mere $19 per month and averages even 100 customers per month, he’s making $22,800 off your work – every year!
Armed with this kind of insight, you now realize that even if you charged $2,280 for your week of work, that’s a 10 to 1 return on investment (ROI) for your customer. Most customers would be pretty happy with a 10 to 1 ROI. Even better, you nearly doubled your income for the project!
Plus, you delighted Bob exceeding his delivery schedule by 3 weeks – added value most customers are willing to pay extra for.
Those are the kinds of win-win scenarios that surround freelancers like you every day.
Freelancers only need to take a little time to understand the actual value of what they do from their customer’s perspective… and then price their services accordingly.
Making money as a freelancer can be tough – especially in the beginning.
Avoid making the common mistake of undervaluing your services.
Sure low pricing may get you work, but you’ll get stuck in a cycle of being underpaid for your services. Plus, you’ll end up exhausted – forced to take on too many projects just to make ends meet.
Instead, do the following to get paid more for your freelancing services:
1. Understand your hourly value as a starting point for all your work (and all your purchases)
2. Determine the Value of Your Services from your customer’s perspective:
- Know how your customer defines value
- Understand what pain your customer will avoid by hiring you
- Understand what your customer will be able to achieve with your help that they cannot do today
3. Price your freelancing services based on value
Eric Kruep, is a trained clinician, researcher, and marketer by trade working in industries that range from software to healthcare to personal growth. He founded Kruep Outcomes Research Technology, LLC to help others define and quantify their value so they can make more money doing what they love.