As freelancers, we’ve ventured off on our own to take charge of our careers and have greater control over our earning power. While most of us have the “take charge” part down, it seems the topic of money is an ever-constant source of frustration and uncertainty, especially for those just starting out in the world of freelancing. I’m going to bring up that awkward topic, and bask in the uncomfortableness with you, sharing why talking about money will ensure that you make more money.
Ask for what you want
I have two friends who work for small businesses, both of whom have been talking about wanting a raise for ages (one talked about it for four years). The problem is that they were talking about wanting, no, deserving a raise with me instead of their bosses. Most people aren’t mind-readers, especially people running small businesses and juggling multiple roles, so it’s not enough to expect for that raise to fall into your lap after sending strong “raise vibes” in your boss’s direction.
The same concept holds true in the freelance world, where writing forums are constantly peppered with questions about getting clients to pay more. Ask. That’s my simple advice. You have got to ask for more money when you believe your services are worth more.
A recent question came up in one of my writing groups, with a writer asking how she could get a publisher to start paying her. Over the course of eighteen months, this writer had written over a dozen pieces for a publisher’s site, gratis. While I don’t know the reasoning behind her working for free, and I’m definitely not going to get into the exposure debate here, I do know that this writer developed a relationship with the editor/publisher over the course of eighteen months. My advice was to simply ask the editor to start getting paid, and if she didn’t feel comfortable coming right out and asking (which she should, because the editor obviously likes her work x12), to let the editor know that she was focusing her time on paid writing opportunities, and would likely not have as much time to contribute. There is not a person out there who could fail to understand that paying jobs take priority.
Value what you do
For some reason, I am the go-to person when freelancing friends have questions about what to charge a client. Every single time, the response is “Oh, I couldn’t charge that, I was thinking more like $___.” Every time I’m asked, I wonder why they asked me if they didn’t want to hear my answer.
In another lifetime, I was in publishing sales, and an experienced salesperson I admired gave me some of my greatest career advice: “Fake it ‘til you make it.”
You would not be freelancing if you didn’t believe in your skills, would you? No? So why would you devalue your skills when it comes to being paid? If you’ve researched how to figure out what you need to charge, charge it! In fact, ask for more.
Trust me, if a client is interested in you, they are not going to walk away when you quote them a number they feel is too high, and if they do, it probably wasn’t a good fit. Give that rate or quote with confidence, and then step back. Don’t explain or overtalk your rate, simply offer it and step away.
If the client can’t afford your rate, one of three things will happen: 1.) the client will come back with a counter-offer, 2.) the client will negotiate or barter with something like guaranteed monthly work in exchange for a lower rate, or 3.) the client will come forward and tell you what their max budget is, therefore being completely straightforward with what they can pay (this happens frequently).
No matter which option the client comes back with (hopefully it’s “Sounds good. I’ll have something over to you next week.”), the ball is in your court to decide whether or not it works for you.
If you’re uncomfortable talking about money, step back and look at what it is that’s making you comfortable. Do you lack confidence in your abilities? Do you think the client will say “no”? Or even worse, do you think you’ll “lose” a job if you charge too much? If the latter is the case, then a.) you never had the job to begin with, and b.) it probably wasn’t a good fit for either of you, and you’re free to take on a client who will pay you what you’re worth.
The reality is that you’re running your own business, so you have to talk about money — you’re freelancing to earn a living! One of the best ways to become comfortable with talking about money is to chat with other writers, and ask them what they charge.
I will say that I’ve yet to encounter pushback with my rates, which I think is due to the fact that I have them openly listed on my site. Publishing my starting rates for different projects gives prospective clients a ballpark idea of whether they have the budget for me. I’m assuming those who don’t have the budget, or think my rates are too high, pass by, saving both of us time in the process.
Think about posting your rates as an ice-breaker; you get that initial uncomfortable moment out of the way before you even speak to your potential client. Once a prospective client sends you an inquiry, you can get right to discovering what that client’s needs are (and how you can help them).