I can feel the panic from here. Clients have a budget and if you seek to exceed that, they’ll just get someone else or get the work done in house, or, or…
Relax. Of course most clients have a budget in mind, and there’s no harm in hearing it, because one of three things will happen:
It will be far higher than you would normally charge. DO NOT say, “Oh, that’s too much!”. Tell them calmly that their offer is acceptable and then later, when you’ve left their office, you’re off the phone or you’ve sent your acceptance email, you may then do your victory dance. While you’re doing that, fill yourself with determination to do such a great job that they’ll be assured you were worth the money and offer you similarly well paid work again.
It will be an acceptable budget; you can decide whether to accept it straight off or negotiate stage payments or a higher rate depending on what’s involved.
It will be less than acceptable. If it’s so low that it’s not even in the right ballpark, it’s time to be polite but honest and let this one go. If it’s a little low, negotiate – more on why and how later.
Why Shouldn’t You Let Your Clients Dictate Your Rate?
You’re providing a service, just like anyone else. You don’t ask a plumber to fit a new shower and tell him, when he arrives at your doorstep, that you will be paying him or her £10. You don’t go to an optician and say, “I’ll have a sight test, a glaucoma risk test and a new pair of glasses with a scratch-resistant coating for £50, please.” They are doing the work; therefore, you expect them to set the rate based on their time, effort and costs.
You know the time, expertise, effort and cost involved in doing the work. They won’t, and may have completely unrealistic expectations. You would be surprised – or not, if you’re in the trade – at how many clients expect freelancers to copy-edit and proofread a book in the time it would take an average person to read it in full.
They will forget you’re a freelancer. You never You need – and should expect to – earn more than an employee. If you’re not sure why, then read on…
Justifying Your Rates
You’re worth what you charge because… Your previous experience, diligence, creative input, ability to deliver work by (or preferably before) deadline, expertise in this niche, ability to turn around this project speedily (or to a tight deadline) … when you think in this way, you’ll see your rates can be justified.
Your work will bring long term benefits to the client because… Perhaps your ideas and expertise will improve the original concept. Perhaps your ability to get the work done this week will give the client an advantage. Maybe your writing is engaging and flawless, saving your clients the time and money they would otherwise spend on editors and proof-readers.
You need to charge what you do because…
You’re saving your client money. He has no obligation to you as an employer; his or her only responsibility is to pay you for your work. The cost of your equipment and its energy usage, the heating and lighting of your office, your training and qualifications, your subscriptions that keep you up-to-date with your industry – they’re all down to you, not the client.
You need to be your own employer. You need to ensure you earn enough to cover the cost of all those things an employer might be expected to provide – a heated, brightly-lit office or workspace, perhaps a desk and chair, a PC and printer, specialist equipment, a phone, sick leave and holiday, maternity and paternity leave, a pension and a regular tax and national insurance payment to HMRC on your behalf.
Next time you feel the need to justify what you’re charging, bear these things in mind – and remember to keep control of your rates and any negotiations.
We will be looking at this more in Part 9: Not Charging What You’re Worth or Raising Your Rates.
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