Never Knowingly Undersold

Don't undervalue yourself as a freelancer

About a week ago, I lost out on a fair sized freelancing job because I undersold myself.  I was talking to a prospective client on the phone and when the subject of my costs came up, I gave an approximate figure. There was a silence from the other end. This I’ve come to learn is the first rule of valuing yourself: Hold firm! Don’t fill the silence! But as the seconds ticked on, I felt the need to impress and show my efficiency so I uttered the fateful words “Of course, I may even be able to do the work in less time and therefore my price would be X.”

Stupidly, I’d gone lower when the client was in fact expecting a higher price! The client in this case was fortunately completely honest and told me the price he would usually look to pay. It’s perhaps no coincidence that I didn’t win that work. By undervaluing myself I probably didn’t install much confidence that I could do the job to a decent standard. Luckily for me, he has taken me on for another project.

Turning Work Down

On a similar note, I was recently offered two regular freelancing jobs. Both blog writing for two very different clients. I thought long and hard about them before turning them both down. Why? Because it would have been a fair amount of work, commitment and in one of the cases – research into a subject matter that I didn’t know about, for not very much pay. If it was a one off job, I probably would have done it, but I didn’t want to be tied into work that takes up a lot of time for when other projects hopefully start to come in.

It’s all about getting the balance right and this is yet another tricky element of the freelancing world; weighing up whether you can afford to take on the work or afford to turn it down. There’s a risk of not knowing what’s around the next corner, but I believe you’ve got to give yourself a certain value. You’ve got to place a value on yourself and your time.

A Life Lesson

Surely the principle of valuing yourself isn’t just a rule for freelancing, but life in general too? Whether you’re thinking about finding a new full-time job, or even when meeting a new friend, a new partner or buying a new house. The notion still applies even if we aren’t fully aware of it. How much do we want this? How much time and effort are we prepared to put in with it? What will you get from it in the long term? How much do you value yourself?

The Moral of The Story

There are several lessons and I’m still getting to grips with them:

  • Know your self-worth. In terms of freelancing this means having a clear understanding in your head of your rate of pay. Whether it’s an hourly, daily or project rate.
  • There is probably more to a project than meets the eye. A brief chat with a client on the phone will only convey so much. Once you get going with a task there is likely to be more work to do such as research, admin and meetings. You need to think about these extra tasks before committing yourself and a price to a client.
  •  Think about the long term and what you want. A regular freelancing gig may initially seem great, but if it’s not paying well it may later become a burden and a cross to bear.

What do you think? Freelancers do you agree with me? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!

0 thoughts on “Never Knowingly Undersold

  1. Cheryl,
    Great post! Every freelance writer goes through this. Heck, I’m sure every entrepreneur goes through this as well.
    I recently read an article by Samar and it really really really opened my eyes on my rates.
    I thought I was charging a lot, but after reading her article, I should be asking 3x more. My worry is that I will lose the client, but then again, if they can’t pay my rate, they were never my client to begin with, right?

    I’ve botched my fair share of interviews! It’s much harder to speak to someone about your rates and negotiate, than to email them and take the time to finesse your approach. I normally charge $100 for the length and type of writing this client wanted, but looking at them and hearing them, I lowered my rate to $75. They would’ve accepted more than $100 I later found out, but I was okay with that. I was able to up-sale my work by offering social media marketing and finding and modifying a feature image and was able to command the appropriate rate.

    This is the process you have to go through as a new freelance writer. When you start asking yourself, are you worth it? doubt can creep in. I just keep reading articles like Samar’s and it helps me gain the confidence I need.

    Great post!


  2. Thanks for your comments Elna, it’s good to know that there are others in the same boat as me! I completely agree that a lot of it is down to self confidence which is harder to possess and push yourself when you’re on the phone. You’re right, it would have been easier to deal with if I’d been having this conversation on email, with time to think.

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