I’ve recently acquired a skill I wish I had ten years ago. I learned how to cooly and confidently ask for the price I want. Hint: learn this now and your swole wallet will thank you. Here’s how it happened.
Thought one when I started this adventure: I need to make bank. Like real money. Commence worrying: now.
I’d investigated blogging for dollars in 2010 by looking through online job posts and quickly gave up with the low payoff.
Writing takes time. Ten dollars for a piece of writing that might take me an hour to create is not going to pay my bills. This won’t work.
And that was it for a while. Then I quit my job.
THE SOCIAL MEDIA MAVENS. I CAN’T EVEN.
When I first quit my job, I was going to initially focus on social media. Business people don’t really understand it, but they know they need it. There’s a ton of smooth-talking mavens who really aren’t giving any ground-breaking advice or creating anything amazing. In other words, a lot of people are paying good money to tread water. Or worse.
I’ve made solid contributions to Internet culture, I’ve gotten people to take out their wallets, I know how to lead the biz people through the process. I got this.
Not quite. I didn’t really have enough confidence yet. It turns out that’s why the mindless mavens are doing so well—blind confidence (or good bluffing) in their abilities.
So I started doing more research. I needed a model. Someone who was doing this right, who, in my estimation, wasn’t all that different from me.
Early on, I discovered Alexis Grant, who blogs very frankly about her social media and freelance writing work. I first ended up on her site to read her take on setting rates for social media work. I liked everything I read here, but I was intimidated because Alexis had previously been an accomplished mainstream journalist. I was not.
From Alexis’s site, I discovered Tom Ewer’s blog. Tom chronicles his move from working in a family business to building his own blogging and Internet business from scratch over the last four years. Tom’s blog struck a chord with me on some basic level and his writing served up rational no nonsense advice that clicked for me.
Tom has a whole system for how to determine fees for your work. It starts with your “MAR”—minimum acceptable rate. This is the baseline price you set for yourself when you start out.
PAY ATTENTION: IMPORTANT THINGS AHEAD.
This was an important moment. When I decided I didn’t want to take on a writing project for less than $20 per hour, I was able to eliminate a whole pile of low-paying job offers.
This rate doesn’t have to stay the same either. With a couple positive experiences, I quickly decided I could safely up this number.
The host of blogging and writing jobs out there for $10–15 per article makes you think that’s the average market rate. It. Is. Not. There are plenty of $40–100 jobs out there as well.
The second thing I got from Tom—that I think is important enough to pass on to you here—is that working fast means more income.
If you and I are both writing short $20 articles for someone and you write two per hour while I write one per hour, you’re making twice what I’m making. Because now you can fill your extra time with a second client project while I’m still doing the first one.
So speed is another area I’m working on right now.
OWN YOUR VALUE.
A lot of people can be their own worst critic. I’m a perfectionist at heart so this is often the case for me. But we all need to snap out of it.
You. Are. Worth it. Whatever you want to start out charging or up your current rate to—you’re worth it.
At first, you’ll probably feel like this number is too high. That’s fine. Just do some research to reassure yourself that this is a good number. It doesn’t matter if there are people who are more experienced than you charging this rate as long as you’re price isn’t an insane outlier.
Mainly it comes back around to confidence.
Getting the price you’re worth is really about confidence. You tell the prospective client your hourly rate or project estimate with self assurance and authority. Through this confident delivery, you communicate that you 1) know what the hell you’re doing and 2) that this is a perfectly reasonable price.
Sometimes people will say no.
Think of it as a numbers game for you, not a race to the bottom for the clientele.
If you pitch enough people who are serious about solving their problem and you demonstrate that you can solve their problem, people will start saying yes.
SOMEONE ELSE IS CHEAPER.
Realize there’s always going to be someone cheaper. There are clients and projects you are not going to be able to compete with. You’re not looking for hundreds of cheap projects, you’re looking for several good projects.
I stay away from the typical freelancer sites like Odesk and Elance for this reason. This is largely a race-to-the-bottom hell for prospective clients and projects.
You’ll find massive days- or weeks-long projects that are being bid on for $50 out there.
These are the kind of clients who would hire tiny Southeast Asian children to hand sew their logo together if it were possible. That is not your ideal client.
NEGOTIATION HAS ITS PLACE.
For me right now, I’m still open to negotiating for some projects. If say, there are a number of blog posts to do and you want to pay $5 less, sure, that’s ok for now—because I think this could be a long term client, because it’s not a huge difference, and because there’s always next time.
MY “NEXT-TIME” MINDSET.
Sometimes I find myself thinking about how what I’m writing is worth more than what I’m getting paid. I thought I could do it in an hour but it took three, the original ideas on a topic of expertise that I’m selling you for not all that much, etc.
This is a raw nerve for me because there’ve been so many occasions where I’ve worked on a project or at a job that paid me a woefully inadequate rate compared to the value I was making for the CEOs upstairs.
My new advice to myself and you: That’s a normal feeling, but this time is different.
Here’s why: Writing jobs are often short-term and limited in scope. So I try to channel that feeling of being taken advantage of into a “next-time” mindset.
I wanted $50 for this but they’ll only pay $30. Ok, I’ll do it because it will be helpful to my portfolio and a cool project to take on. So I’ll ask for more next time.
Or I’ll ask the next person for more.
There’s no reason you have to charge all the clients you have the same price. You’re not making them identical widgets.
Each project is different. Your base knowledge and the research time you need for a particular project will vary. Your relationship with clients will vary (always charge the shitty-to-deal-with clients more!). And your experience and expertise will increase over time.
AND HERE WE ARE.
So that’s how I started. I’m getting people to hire me for the rate I feel is fair and looking to the future. There’s still a long way to go, but for right now I’m super happy with being able to create writing for people who value my work.
Now if I could start getting more clients, we’d really be talking. More on that next time.
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