Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Rates
If nothing else, I’ve learned during my time as a freelancer is there’s one key thing that you need to ride out the ebbs and flows of freelancing: confidence.
Yes, you need to have training in your field. Yes, you need to make connections and have work samples.
But one’s freelance career — or any career at all, really — begins with confidence. The confidence to believe you can succeed at what you do. The confidence that freelancing will work out despite your loved ones’ contradictory predictions. The confidence to assure clients that you’ll do the job better than the next freelancer.
I’m getting better at most of this. I finished my degree early and worked at some internships and entry-level jobs. I worked hard to develop my portfolio not only into something I can be proud of but also a body of work that would persuade editors who’ve never commissioned me to take a chance on an up-and-coming writer. And I’ve changed my pitching strategy a bit.
But there’s still something that’s uncomfortable for me to endure: telling leads my rates.
With the goal of leveling up my income in mind, I look for clients who I think can afford my rates, evaluating everything from the company size and revenue to staff size and current content strategy. I check resources like Who Pays Writers and the Writer’s Market for a sense of what to charge or what the publication has paid in the past.
Despite trying to vet clients, I occasionally get my rate shot down. I always try to make my case by explaining my prior experience and expenses associated with the deliverables. Sometimes, I even have references who speak on my behalf. And when I get a ‘no,’ it still stings.
No, I don’t expect to get a ‘yes’ every time. I know that companies have budgets. I also know there are plenty of other freelancers out there willing to do work for a lower fee. Whether their work is equal to or better than mine is a question they’ll have to find out for themselves. I’m not arrogant enough to assume I’m the best writer they could find, but I do know I work a lot better when I’m not stressed about money.
I suspect that a client to whom I sent my rate recently may have ghosted on me, but I can’t say for sure. I plan to follow-up soon as well as circle back to additional leads.
It’s been difficult for me to send out rates with confidence. At first, I think to myself, “Who am I to ask for $X per word or $X,XXX for this project or per month?” And then, I look at my student loan balance, my rent, and my portfolio and think differently. I then remember that are likely people out there charging more. (Don’t believe me? Look at the 2019 Writer’s Market. The high end of people’s hourly rates or project rates are eye-opening.) And remind myself that, as a freelancer and as in life, if you’re feeling uncomfortable, you’re probably moving in the right direction.
How do you become comfortable with charging your rates? Do you have a mantra for boosting confidence? Tell me in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.