4 Reasons You’re Not Getting Paid What You’re Worth as a Freelancer

Is there a wrong answer to the question “How much should a freelancer charge?” It’s a complicated yes and no.  

On the “no” side, you’ve probably realized that freelancer rates span a mind-boggling range. Some freelancers are sitting pretty at $25 per hour, while others are somehow raking in $200 per hour or more. And yet both are considered valid, and both are getting work. 

There IS a wrong to the rate question when you aren’t getting paid what you’re really worth. This can happen in a number of ways, including the following: 

1. You haven’t calculated what freelancing really costs you. 

Many freelancers make the mistake of basing their rates off two things: the time it takes to do a project and their expenses. That’s not a bad place to start, but you also need to consider other less obvious expenses. This includes:  

  • Time spent on marketing (e.g. LinkedIn, ads, etc) 
  • Time spent emailing clients back and forth before, during, and after a project 
  • Ongoing training and education to be the best at your craft 
  • Self-funded retirement, health insurance, and “paid time off” 
  • Employment taxes 

Now you can start to see that freelancing can be expensive for the freelancer, and your prices should capture these costs. 

2. You base your rates on the client’s budget. 

Many new freelancers make the mistake of basing their rates on the client’s budget. A client tells you what they can pay for a project and you accept. Yes, you’ve gotten work this way, but this does nothing to define the real value of your service. Plus, if your client refers you to another client, they may expect the same generous discounts you’ve given others. 

3. You maxed out your schedule with too many low-paying clients. 

When you’re a new freelancer, you’re eager to take on whatever projects you can to get started, even if they pay peanuts. That’s not always a bad thing, but you should recognize when you’ve outgrown those earlier projects. Know when to let go of long-term clients that don’t want to pay you the higher rate you deserve. This gives you the bandwidth to serve clients who recognize your worth. 

4. You only base your rates on your end and forget about the client side. 

Using your own expense portfolio is a great way to set your rates. But don’t neglect factoring in the value that you bring to the client. For example, if you’re a freelance ad master and a client wants you to do a campaign that will likely bring them in tens of thousands of dollars, charging just $50 for a couple lines of ad copy doesn’t make sense.  

Think about the value your service brings to clients. Do they stand to get a lot of new customers from what you do? Do you save them a lot of money, time, or frustration? Look at how your skill set benefits them and use that to justify your worth. 

How to Charge What You’re Worth 

Being able to charge what you’re worth is a freeing experience as a freelancer. To do so, remember these three things: 

Learn how to say No. 

Be confident in your pricing.  

Know your value.  

For more freelance insights, head back to the CitronWorks blog


Nick Brandt

Nick is a keen internet consultant and developer who has focused on the Internet since '95 and been involved in most aspects of the Internet business in positions ranging from web designer, developer, to manager of websites, databases and online projects. He headed the web for Teletubbies.com, "We Are What We Do, Plastic Ain't My Bag and Industria Web" with Ericsson in Italy. He won the Cisco IBM E-Commerce Award 2000 and E-handels konferensen 2001 (The annual E-commerce conference - Copenhagen). He is currently the co-founder and CTO for Zenvoy.com & Citronworks.com and active in several other online projects.


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