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The secret of how to charge more as a freelancer

Charging low hurts not only you but also the economy.

Alex Dovhyi
Alex Dovhyi
6 min read
The secret of how to charge more as a freelancer

Here's what I mean. Setting low prices for your services creates a race to the bottom where prices keep lowering.

Lowering prices will eventually turn in the poor quality of the services, which negatively impacts the economy.

Besides creating a situation where you are barely making ends meet, you also have no resources to invest in developing your business, skills, and tools, which leads to lowering your prices even more.

Now, you're stuck in the loop — you can't charge more because you don't have skills; you can't build skills because you don't charge enough to invest in them. Eventually, to make more, you'll have to take on more work, leading to burnout.

I've met dozens of freelance designers who have plenty of reasons to charge low:

  • "No one in my space, geographic location, or sector will pay that..."
  • "I can't charge more since everyone else does."
  • "No one has ever heard of me or my company."
  • "If I charge more than I already do, I won't get any business."
  • "They don't understand why I think I'm worth what I think I'm worth."

If you struggle with pricing and your explanation is on this list, chances are you haven't made a serious or consistent effort to raise your price long enough to discover if it is possible. Or you instantly start negotiating against yourself soon you suspect the client is interested. Or maybe you attempted it but they said no due of your new higher price.

If any excuses apply to you — you're not in control of your freelance business — you're just a passenger. Instead of sitting in traffic with everyone, I encourage you to take the driver's seat and take the next exit, which can take you to the wider road.

You might be afraid to take the wheel because increasing your prices will take work, figuring out the unknown, and getting rejected. But this step is a crucial change. It will help you understand what you're truly made of and how much you believe in yourself.

Accept any excuses, take the driver's seat (even if it's scary), and change the situation if you don't like it.

  • You believe no one has heard of you or your company, which is why you can't charge more? Start marketing yourself so that people are aware of your existence.
  • Nobody in your neighborhood has any money? Consider taking your business online or learning how to travel.
  • You know you're worth more, so why don't others recognize it? Create your brand so that others can see it.
  • Others are taking these steps and succeeding, so why aren't you? Except for your refusal to step up, there is no reason others are successful and you are not.

Sounds easy, so why isn't everyone doing it? Because taking these steps takes serious effort. These moves are easy to discuss but hard to do because they require action and work.

It's easier to blame your inability to charge more on the environment or your current financial situation than to think that it's your unwillingness to try. And when you do try, it takes even more effort to deal with the inevitable results of stepping up and putting yourself out there.

It doesn't work immediately, and you'll have to keep trying.

  • It means that you'll have to say no to the next exciting project or client and turn down potential money when you need them.
  • It means that you might pass on the project when the budget is below your new high price to reinforce your actual value in the market (and your mind) and show that your worth is not for negotiation.
  • It means that you might need to get into debt and see it as an investment to charge higher prices in the future.
  • It means that you'll have to be mentally prepared for a temporary pause in client work when you focus all your energy on doing what's necessary to justify your new price by investing in increasing your perceived (and actual) value.
  • It means that you'll possibly look at yourself and your business and ask hard questions about how you represent yourself and how others perceive it.

All this has to do with asking yourself:

Do I have the courage to bet on myself?

I started betting on myself in 2017 when I 4x-ed my rates and waited for projects to fall on me from the sky. But after a few months of no client work, I understood that things wouldn't happen independently. I have to act on them.

I didn't have much saved, so I financed my endeavor by living extremely cheap (I already had a family to feed) and moved into my wife's parents' house.

Fast forward 12 months, and I was able to buy an apartment after completing a few large projects.

Here's my 4-step approach to raising your freelance rates

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