How to find the value in your work and stop pricing out of fear

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“I’m always thinking about the client’s finances as though they were mine.”

I got this message the other day and hear this all the time from other freelancers.

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The basic message here is freelancers telling themselves, “I wouldn’t buy the work for X amount so why would my client?”

On the one hand, thinking like this means you are probably a self-aware person. It’s good to be self-aware when freelancing, but when it comes to pricing your work you have to throw that particular feeling out the window.

Thinking about how much you would pay for the service is a common, self-limiting mindset that can keep you from increasing your prices when you legitimately should.

How you feel as the seller doesn’t really matter, and you need to get comfortable with the idea of selling your work in order to make a living.

When you are selling, what matters is what the buyer or buyers will pay for it. Not what you would pay for it.

I keep using the word “selling” but I don’t mean that in a “sleazy salesman” way—you don’t have to be like some robot salesmen. My point is that your client doesn’t think about you in those terms when making the decision to buy.

Whether or not you would pay the price you are offering it at doesn’t even cross their mind.

Sidenote: Once you finish, read how 4 freelancers built recurring revenue models that changed their business. You'll love it.

What they want to know is what kind of value they are going to get from working with you.

Value is in the eye of the beholder

Instead of thinking about whether or not you would buy it, think in terms of the value to the customer.

“What’s it worth to the client?”

That’s the question you should be asking.

What the client values is often different than what you value.

For example:

If you were selling a house near the ocean, it wouldn’t matter if you are not an ocean lover, but it could matter a lot to the person purchasing it.

The value of the house isn’t based just on its utility (a roof over your head), but also the other details that go with it: it’s in a safe neighborhood, you wake up to a beautiful ocean view every morning, etc.

When pricing your design services, you need to factor in all of these other intangibles as well, but most freelancers just price the deliverable and forget about the other intangibles and valuable things they provide their clients.

What are you selling?

Here’s a small list of possible things you provide to clients when you sell them your services:

  • Risk avoidance
  • Quickness of delivery
  • Increase of revenue
  • Increased brand status
  • Your expertise and access to your knowledge

These things can be very valuable to clients, and all of these things can be factored into the price. Don’t stop at the deliverable when you price! Ask yourself what else you bring to the table.

You are not just selling a website; you are selling more revenue, or a way to get more leads.

You are selling lowered risk of something going wrong because you have so much experience creating websites.

You are selling a better service because you are available to them 24/7, or you do training on how to use their new site.

You’re selling the fact that they will get their site up and running in 4 weeks (instead of the 6-8 weeks they were quoted elsewhere).

You get what you pay for

Not all clients are looking for the cheapest deal, but they are looking for the best value. That value is personal to their situation.

A client who believes the cheapest deal is not always the most effective is going to look for someone they feel confident is going to get the job done or is going to solve their problem.

So when that little voice in the back of your head says, “My business wouldn’t be able to pay $3,000 for a website. Why would anyone else pay that?” Don’t listen to it.

You are making the mistake of confusing your internal value with your client’s.

Take yourself out of the equation. You are pricing for them and the value you bring to their business. Their situation is entirely different than yours.

What they value is different than what you value.

Stop leaving money on the table

Once you make that mindset shift that you are selling to a client based on their needs (not your needs), you should go through your process and think through all of the valuable things you provide clients in addition to the deliverable.

Look at your last project and list out all of the things you provided your client, both tangible and intangible.

Refer to the list above, but also go beyond that. I’ll bet there’s something else you provided that wasn’t listed in your proposal.

It could be sourcing stock images and optimizing them, or small tweaks to the copy your client provided. There is always something more.

These are things you do to make the final output better (which is honorable), but you are not getting compensated for.

Once you take stock of what you regularly provide your clients, you can include those intangibles in the proposal and your marketing communications. Just like the house by the ocean, don’t just sell the utility of the deliverable. Sell everything else that comes with it.

When you do that, you’ll be able to confidently raise your prices knowing that what you provide is valuable to the client.

Even if you could never afford it.

Still struggling with it? Leave me a comment below so we can talk more about your fears with pricing. 

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About Ian Vadas

Ian Vadas is a designer and the author of Work With Clients You Love. Get the eBook to learn how to select clients that pay well, treat you with respect and allow you to do your best work.

For tips on getting paid and maximising your freelance revenue, join the FREE email course Pricing For Freelancers.

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Comments

  1. Hi, Ian. How do you find clients who’re willing to pay a quote based upon values?

    For example, one of my clients value my work and I know I’m increasing their brand status and increasing attendance at events, but they’re a small non-profit organization with limited funding. If I truly charge the value I’m providing them, they won’t be to afford it.

    • Hi Danami,

      You attract them to you by sharing your process, sharing case studies of others you’ve helped that have gotten results.

      The key word is that you attract them to you. You don’t go out looking for them. So one question I would ask is if you are actively doing things that will help good clients find and attract them to you.

      As for non-profits with limited funding, work with non-profits that do have funding. Not all of them are broke but many are.

      If you are doing it for charity or just to help out, that is great but try to dictate upfront the terms and why you are doing it at a discounted rate.

      Do what you can to get “final cut” so to speak. The last thing you want is to be in a situation where you aren’t getting paid much and are having to deal with a committee approval process that takes forever.

      If you can create a great portfolio piece from the engagement and make some solid connections it can be worth it but you have to be strategic about it otherwise, you’ll be spending a lot of time with not much to show for it.

      • I would disagree with your comment, Ian. As a freelancer you can’t just sit and wait for those bigger businesses to come to you – regardless of how good your portfolio is. You need to evidence the value of your services to them directly and that means being smart about your approach – this may be a bit scary but stagnation is much worse.

        Usually, the value is the cost saving of a full time employees budget’s which you can exceed their needs with your capabilities and for your rates.

        Hope this helps, Danami.

  2. Hey, Ian.

    Great article. I feel like this is constant struggle for many people. Leaving your client in a better position because of your project is a motivation for the vast amount of people doing this sort of work. It’s hard to feel that way if you know your client is pressed for cash as is.

    Often times, there’s a sticker shock attached to the work we do, and the value for design is often less tangible and pays off over-time.

    We believe in the power of good design or we wouldn’t be doing this work. Important to take a step back and consider, as you pointed out, what you create has many dimensions of impact. Hearing out a client’s needs and using your talent to provide value to the best of your ability is huge to feeling proud of a transaction.

    Thanks for bringing a chance to reflect. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Jared, good clients also believe in the power of good design.

      I agree that the value of design is less tangible but clients that understand it as an investment do so because they see the link between creating a trusted brand and the pricing power and added sales that creates for their business.

  3. Rich content. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Brilliant article, brilliantly written, brilliant things to consider and ponder….

  5. Great article. I agree with the fact that you need to value yourself, but there’s always that conversation happening in your head if its to high you won’t get the client.

    • Thanks Previsha.

      That is a super common thought to get caught up.

      But here’s the interesting thing: depending on the market, if you price too low, you also might not get the client.

  6. Well, this is an awesome post. I’ve being reading a lot lately about pricing for freelancers and sorts. I intend including some of the strategies into my pricing technique but the issue is that I am new into freelancing and my field at large (Web designing) so I don’t really have anything to show when a client ask for previous samples of work I have done to back up my price.

    What do you advise I do in this case?

    Thanks. 🙂

    • Thanks Uthman.

      One question: have prospects actually asked you this question or is that something you are anticipating happening?

      One way to get around this if it does come up is to describe your process in detail to the prospect. If they can see the logic in your process, they are more likely to trust you and less likely to ask you to back up your price.

  7. Hello Ian!

    Great read. I admit, I’ve wrestled with them from time to time. The majority of my work is print related. So, I feel that I can’t charge as much as a web developer or web designer.