Three lies that scare freelancers into being average

Do you feel like your work isn’t good enough? Rates too low because you’re afraid clients won’t pay more? Afraid to contact your dream client because you don’t feel like you’re ready?

I’ve had those feelings before. Most of us have.

It’s natural to feel insecure at times.

Check out our most recent podcast episode:

As a freelancer you have to live with those feelings and not be afraid to learn from your mistakes.

Let’s take a look at just a few different types of insecurities that trouble freelancers, and how you can switch your perspective to fuel yourself for the better.

Feel free to share your biggest insecurities as a freelancer and how you deal with them in the comments.

“My work isn’t good enough”

I hear this a lot, and I used to feel the same way when I was a student in college.

Even now when I browse the popular page on Dribbble I think about how stunning the work is.

It’s too easy to feel intimidated and not want to showcase your own.

💔 Falling out of love with your clients? Trade some of your worst clients for the best companies in the world with SolidGigs, our premium weekly freelance job list & course library. Love your business again. Learn more »

Nowadays, I’ve put those fears aside, because I now know how important it is to share what I’m working on.

That’s something I learned when attending art classes in college: receiving feedback, compliments and honest critiques on not only what they liked, but what they honestly thought.

It’s important to become comfortable enough with yourself to take the feedback you want, and leave the rest.

If the popular entrepreneurs you know of today took all of the negative feedback they received too personally, they would’ve stopped creating and probably killed their career by now.

Recognize a critique worth respecting, vs. a jealousy-driven put-down.

Seeing your work as not good enough is a sign that you take pride in your work and that you expect more from yourself.

This is good.

This is motivation.

Embrace this feeling and be worried if it ever goes away, because that means you’ve plateaued and have begun resting on your laurels.

Find the parts that make you proud, hang on to those and learn from your mistakes. Then move on.

“Competition is too tough”

As freelancers we depend on the work we produce. It’s our income, reputation and creative outlet.

I think it’s safe to say that our primary goal as freelancing individuals is to complete each project well, keep our clients happy, build good rapport, and establish a successful business.

With any career path you choose to go with there will always be competition.

There will always be someone better than you, there will always be someone worse than you.

The important thing is just knowing where you fall in that spectrum, and to KEEP PRODUCING and KEEP SHARING your work.

The magical part is you’ll be able to see yourself improving and moving along the spectrum throughout your life right before your very eyes.

No artist is ever truly 100% happy or satisfied with their work (especially when it’s a collaborative effort and there are other chefs involved in the process).

The world is a big place. Figure out your specific market and work towards providing the best work possible. If your work is truly good enough, then you should have no worries. Happy clients will refer you.

“I’m afraid I’ll lose a client if I charge too much”

I still feel insecure sometimes when I send out a quote for a new project.

“Is it too much? Should I lower the price just to ensure that I get the job?”

It’s a common feeling most of us probably get. (Let me know if you ever feel the same way in the comments below.)

What I tell myself every time I get an insecure feeling about a quote is that my time and work is worth it.

The worst thing you can do is sell yourself short.

It’s also important to mention that you should never be afraid to say “no” when the time calls for it.

Slowly push the envelope as you gain new clients – and also don’t be afraid to let existing clients know that your rates might go up a bit as time goes on.

Inflation is real. We all have bills to pay and personal financial goals we’re working towards.

Be fair and honest with your clients – and 9 times out of 10 they’ll be happy to pay you what your time is worth.

A little fear can help you grow

When fear is viewed in the right perspective, it’s a sign that you need to do something. [tweetable]

What insecurities do you find yourself going through? How do you deal with them or how can we help you deal with them?

Leave your response in the comments and add to this post.


tweet share share pin email

Keep the conversation going...

Have a question or something to add?

Over 5,000 of us are having daily conversations over in our free Facebook group—and we'd love to see you there. Join us!

About Brent Galloway

Brent Galloway is a freelance graphic designer, founder of Your Freelance Career, and author of Start Your Freelance Career. Check out his blog and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Dribbble.


  1. Thank you for the wonderful post – I think most of the starting designers are afraid to showcase their works, and a lot of critics that is too popular online is one of the causes. Maybe now more taleneted people will share their works – and it’s worth it – because to get inspiration everybody cheks some existing works – so we all help each other!

    • I’ve been a graphic designer for over 30 years and I’m still fickle when it comes to what to charge. I’ve had clients burn me and put me through negotiation hell. My least favorite are the clients who never tell you that they are asking you to do work for them while they are also asking other designers to do the same job…and then they kick you aside because someone else does what they like better. All without paying a dime. But then again, I can still use my ideas for portfolio pieces at times. I also had a client who I agreed with to pay an individual flat fee for a number of branded product labels I created for him. This was the first time we had worked together and I eventually realized this client had a pattern of making an average of 15 revisions per label and later…per everything I created for him. From the beginning, he had me create multiple designs until he said I finally hit it out of the ballpark. This client seemed to also think that the posters, packaging and display labels was in this flat fee realm. The project was so grand that I allowed myself to get swallowed up by the opportunity but eventually the reality of the numbers showing my flat fee turning into $3/hr was what began to give me a lot of anxiety and resentment. I became mad at myself for not addressing this from the beginning but also I was mad at the client for not understanding my side of the business and that I had to call it quits before everything was done. The client would not renegotiate, pleading he didn’t have that kind of budget. Champagne taste on a beer makers budget. What is most disappointing is that this client went from paying me here and there to not paying me since December 2012. He owes me close to $2000. I know what lessons I’ve learned but then again, it can still be tough knowing there will always be more to learn in the future.

      • “My least favorite are the clients who never tell you that they are asking you to do work for them while they are also asking other designers to do the same job…and then they kick you aside because someone else does what they like better. All without paying a dime. ”

        Hi Kathleen. Quite simply: those people are not clients. They are wasting your time by trying to skim people for spec work. You shouldn’t be working without a contract or any upfront payment or guarantees that you are being paid for your time and skill. They have no respect for you or your profession. Not only do you make things hard for yourself but you make the whole profession suffer in the long terms.

    I find that clients will pay more for talent AND a trusting relationship. So THAT is what you should focus on, and charge a reasonable hourly rate. The last thing that goes to the client is the bill, and that is when you don’t want any surprises. It doesn’t foster trust. So- in making estimates, I always include 2 rounds of changes– and of course I tell them that in the estimate. (2 rounds seems to be protocol for most jobs). Then I tell them that I have to charge them for any changes after that. Three things will then happen…

    First, it ensures that there are some clear boundaries, and you will get paid if they keep making changes after round two. (you won’t feel held hostage then)

    Second, you will notice that they will consolidate their changes, so you aren’t doing minor things in one round. This makes the client more organized, and it saves you time.

    And third, when you send the bill– and it should be immediately– it will be what you said it was, and anything additional they already know they would be accountable for. Hence, fostering that long-term trust.

    P.S. Integrity first! Don’t rip anybody off, and make sure the job is delivered on time. It doesn’t matter what you charge, if it’s late!!

    • Setting clear boundaries is a very smart thing to establish in the estimate or project agreement. Great tips here! Thanks for sharing, Sue! 🙂

  3. Thank you for this post! It was encouraging. I sell myself short too often! No more, yo!

  4. When I either take on a new design project that I’ve never done before, or I’m in the middle of coding a website for a client and run into a feature I know nothing about, I get really overwhelmed and feel totally out of my element. Sometimes I think, “why did I ever get myself into this? I’m not capable of this!”. But those are the times I find someone else who knows and I get help. It becomes a learning tool and a time for growth for me, and I have a happy client!

  5. This was a great read.
    I’m still a budding “newbie” freelancer graphic and web designer, and I can say that I feel these thoughts creeping up on me regularly.

    Honestly though, we need to stay positive about ourselves and the work we output. I’d never consider lowering my rates or prices for the simple fact that; 1) I have bills to pay, and… 2) I would never lower my standards or cut corners. Ultimately, I’ve found lowering your prices or rates once you have found the right threshold is asking for trouble. Clients will refer you as they can easily sway your pricing and negotiate freely on budgets. This makes us seem desperate for work and will lead referred clients into trying to make you undercut competitors, or yourself time and time again.

    If you are horridly woried about your rates or prices, start on the lower end and climb or raise your prices and rates accordingly with demand and deadlines etc.

  6. I freelance full-time and I’m still worried about my client’s perception of the bill. I’m worried about losing long standing clients because they’ll feel they need to find a cheaper alternative or I’m worried I’ll lose out on some work that I really want to do. When I’ve been successful at overcoming this it’s usually with a lot of time to think about pricing out a quote and telling myself “Look, if they argue the cost I can tell them that me working at a partial rate is me missing out on work that will pay my full rate.”

    The one thing I have done though is if I come across a really exciting opportunity that would be good for my portfolio by a startup that doesn’t have a lot of dough, and I know the job won’t take too long, I’ll price the quote for the cost of my car payment or my student loan that month. Then my bills are at least covered and I got to take on the job.

  7. Samantha says:

    I’m very new to the freelance world and for various reasons I am soon to be leaving my full-time job to pursue freelancing. Right now I’m selling myself short…the reason why is because I’m still very new to freelance and I also work full-time right now. Thus, turn-around time is a lot slower so I don’t think it’s fair to charge my clients with a higher rate. Is that the right thing to do? Or am I still selling myself short. My rate is $20/hour =/

    • If you’re ever lowering your rates, then you’re selling yourself short – BUT you seem to be doing it for a justifiable reason. I think you should charge whatever you feel you deserve. If you feel that $20/hour with a slow turnaround is fair, then it’s fair.

      Just don’t be afraid to raise your rates when you feel like you’re ready to put more time into your freelancing.

      Hope this helps. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

    • Samantha, how much to charge is an age old question. This online rate calculator will give you a general idea of what you need to charge to pay the bills: Keep in mind that this tool just gives you a ballpark figure. You will need to decide if you can increase or decrease the suggested amount to fit your particular situation in your region of the country.

      I will say, though, that $20 per hour is pretty low, unless you are living in a third-world country.

    • Make sure you have a definite timeframe for setting your rates to what you think you really should be charging.

  8. Nice post. Just a few days ago, I was asked to lower the price. I had to decline. Price your self, time and work and keep tight to your word. I learned that the hard way. It’s true that we need money, but respect yourself and your skills. If you price yourself low, the is as good as giving your services for free.

  9. FACT: I have one major client right now.
    FACT: I don’t charge him enough.
    FACT: if I raise my rates on him, he WILL find someone else.
    FACT: I don’t know how to get more clients, and am worried I won’t be able to handle the more work.

    • Rick, I started as a freelancer in London, then set my business up 15 years ago. I felt the travelling was getting too much. I always wanted a design business, so I went for it and proved the right move. The thing to remember is that sometimes it’s not the client, but the Financial Director that set budgets. The way I have found to raise rates is not to bottle it up, but to talk to the client and express that your time is devoted to his business and you want to give him a great service, but in return you need to try and get a decent rate with his work. Tell him rather then bringing in new clients, you would rather work for him so you both get value. Also sometimes if you work out a monthly retainer that sometimes works well.

      You are right to be concerned he might go else where and it’s his choice to do so. But never be afraid to price yourself correctly. Clients don’t just buy on price, they buy you also and your principles as a designer. Rather than talking over the phone take him/her to lunch and always near a Friday as they will be more relaxed. Just be honest and up front with them. It’s not in their interest to try and find other designers and try and build a new relationship all over again. That takes time and the client wants an easy life as possible. ( you do that for him by adding continuity and trust).

      As far as getting more clients is concerned. You just have to do it, if you want to survive on your own then get out there and spread the word about yourself. Set 2 days a week just for sales and as time goes on you will find clients. Also selling is all you have to get business in, so train yourself to sell if you feel it’s not your strength. If you get to much work (overtrading), just find local services to help you out. If you cannot do it – find a man that can, the clients just want the job and they are not interested in the background workings.

      Fact: I have 12 clients and I am really pushing on
      Fact: I charge my clients a good hourly rate that makes a PROFIT
      Fact: I raised my rates, the client did not leave and he even refereed me more business
      Fact: I worked on my sales skills and clients wanted to work with me first then my design business.

      Just have a plan and stick to it – Don’t focus too much on the detail and the what if, otherwise you stand still.

      Good luck Rick, I do not usually make comments on the web and hope this has helped.

      P.S You are born to work for yourself – so don’t short change yourself with worrying about the FACTS, just make it happen – you deserve it.

      • Insightful reply … also important to rest and take time off. Get enough sleep and be hands-on with financials/admin, if these lack stress will erode creativity.

  10. I totally agree with the above. I doubt myself very often, regardless of the praise my clients give me. But this motivates me to do better. I’ve been on my own for over 5 years. A great way to let clients know why you want to charge more is setting up a timesheet. Write down the hours worked and the rate per hour. This will give them an indication of how much time was spend.

    • I am always self conscious about the time it takes me to complete a job. I know I tend to be very detail oriented and tweak a design to death before I’m happy with it… But do my customers appreciate that? Would they rather spend more for perfectly tweaked detail or do they just want something that’s good enough for less money? I’ve tried doing flat rates and always under estimate the time I end up putting in it. I try charging hourly and then feel rushed because I don’t want to run up the bill. I feel like I’m in design limbo, as far as pushing my talent to get better and learn more because I feel like I have to either take a pay cut or look like I’m taking to much liberty with hourly pay… what can I do to become better and get bigger jobs without losing pay or “overcharging” clients and losing thier trust?

  11. This is really exciting topic and i found some very useful info with regards to keep clients happy and business growing. In my opinion for keeping your existing customers happy with your increasing rates you must build the strong level of trust by providing complete client satisfaction. In that way the client is more consciois about your quality of work and will not take risk by selecting another designer. resulting in high rates with no customer retention.

  12. Great post, as usual.

    If you have a client, slightly putting you on the spot with regards to your rates: let them go! It’s not worth the trouble of putting yourself down/ cutting yourself short.

    Let’s look at it how it is; the client wants you to be cheaper for the quality, amount of the work, and the time it takes you do the project. If the client says right out to your face ‘I’ll find someone else’, doesn’t that show to you, HIS conception of you, thinking there are plenty of you out there? And aren’t you doing yourself a disfavor, for letting him think that about you, and of course that snowballs into putting yourself down? Isn’t really a waste of time and effort? You really really do not require the hassle.

    Let them go, there are thousands of other clients out there.

    You are a creative person working in a creative field, and you are bound to find someone who appreciates your skill set and what you bring to the table for an assignment.

  13. Thanks for this post. Really needed it, today felt as my ultimate low point on this journey. It’s hard. I think I can make it as a professional design consultant, but sometimes I just don’t see it anymore. Critique, rejection, not knowing where to look for success… Don’t know what critique I should take serious and what not. Will get there finally…I hope! It should be time for some good and positive feedback!

    • You’ll soon overcome those insecurities, I know it! Just stick to that “I can” attitude on making it as a design consultant and you will. Best of luck with everything, Cathy.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

      • Hi Brent,
        thanks for the reply! Keep on writing, I really like the openness and honesty of the articles. Thanks so much.

    • Stick in there Cathy, if you’ve got faith in your talent, it’s worth toughing it out through the hard times… I’ve been working as a designer for 19 years, seven of those as freelance, and have had all manner of [email protected] thrown my way in that time… Even in the last month I’ve had a bunch of rejections, it just comes with the territory – I think it would’ve bothered me more when I just started freelancing, but my skin’s just got tougher over time… Plus it’s really easy to overlook the clients who love the work we do and focus on the rejections… Great article TBW 🙂

  14. Great article, yes, I can validate all of this for a new freelancer. However, I find it fascinating that on the same page there is an ad for someone who will desgn a logo for FIVE DOLLARS. Gee, I wonder why graphic designers “get no respect”?

  15. Just want to say thank you for writing this newsletter. I don’t have much time to read anything these days but yours gets through. As a freelancer myself you absolutely have nailed what its like to be in my world. I’m big fan of open and honest discussion and I admire your writing. If you are not surrounded by people yourself who help you feel this way, then at least one person out there does.

  16. The biggest fear is the “what to charge” nightmare. Unfortunately, the money I bring in through freelancing is it: No work = no money = no food on table, electricity, etc. Never let the client smell the desperation though – I always act like they’re one of many, and I’ll fit them in somehow. Sometimes clients will have a rate card: “we pay this much for that”, particularly if it’s for a magazine or publisher. Ask – they might have one, and that helps. No-one will ever get rich enough to retire on one job – it’s a long term thing where you build a relationship, based on trust and quality. That might mean undercharging to start with, but always remember that the best client is the one you don’t have to go out and find, and there’s nothing like a steady stream of regular income to settle the nerves. You can always build on it. Working for free? Sometimes it’s an option, if it means you can get in and get your face known. Only you can tell if it’s right or not, or if it’ll lead somewhere. My major client I got by initially working for free – now they’re my biggest and most regular payer and they absolutely will not let me go!
    But let’s be honest: It’s a marketplace, and you will inevitably be asked to cut your price at some point. They have a business to run too, and will make more profit by trimming overhead – that is, you. You’ll also be judged on price, and will pitch for work against others without you knowing. I’ve sat on that side of the table too.
    One thing that gets overlooked or not mentioned is working for friends and family: My policy is that I will not do it. They always want “mates rates” or not to pay at all, and once the word gets out you’ll be deluged by requests for “just this” or “just that”. Resist! Be firm! It’ll save a lot of sleepless nights and grief later on.

    • Amen Adrian regarding working with friend and family! A lot of family/friends really don’t know all that you do and think it’s just some little artistic thing you do. I really don’t like to do work for them because you sometimes don’t want to charge them your rate so you always discount it or do it for free and they ALWAYS work you harder, longer and more pickier than actual clients. And it is usually not ultimately appreciated.

  17. Great post, Brent!

    After reading the comments and hearing the echoes in each of them to my own business and experiences, I would like to throw something pretty awesome into the discussion: a free eBook fromFreshBooks (what I use for billing and tracking time) called “Breaking The Time Barrier”.

    NO, this is NOT a selling post – and NO I don’t work for Freshbooks or have them as a client, I just really like their software and found that I could relate to every single page of the ebook.

    It’s a fast read and worth every second you can spare. It’s made me re-evaluate what I’ve been doing up to this point and I’ve already started making changes in how I do estimate and invoice.

    I’ve got clients that grind me on charging them $10/mo for stuff or ask me “does the clock start as soon as we sit down?”… It’s embarrassing and disheartening when you’re charging by the hour and even more nerve wracking when you’re about to send your invoice and those 2 or 3 lines for “meetings” are staring you in the face…

    If I can offer some small wedges of advice that have helped me in times of worry and faltering bravery, it’s these:

    Good work ain’t cheap, cheap work ain’t good. -Anonymous

    If you don’t build your dreams, someone will hire you to help build theirs. -Tony Gaskin

    Believe in yourself, and go download that book NOW. Seriously.

  18. As a newcomer to the idea this article puts me at ease. Critiques are necessary to help gauge where on that spectrum you are. But they are far from accurate. Gauging yourself by other peoples perspective is an art nobody owns.

    Follow your dreams, or someone will hire you to help follow theirs.

  19. There is a definite link between rates and “perceived value”.

    I found that when my rates were lower, I attracted a lot of work that I didn’t want, as well as clients that were unorganized and keen to heap other responsibilities on me. As my rates rose, I attracted both better, more interesting work, and more organized clients… I’ve even seen existing clients become more organized when I raised my rates.

    There was a time when I was struggling to pay my bills and very reluctant to raise my rates because of the fear of losing work/clients. It took some time to get over that fear, but it is probably the single most valuable lesson I’ve learned from this industry.

    I’m always reasonable & flexible with billing issues for my existing clients, when there is a tight budget, unexpected shortfall or we go over-budget because of a change in scope or unforeseen issues. But in my experience, having higher base rates does a good job in filtering out crappy work and unreasonable & unorganized clients.

  20. Awesome article Brent and thanks everyone for sharing! Your discussions are very inspiring to someone just entering the freelance world. No matter what you’re doing, the one thing I’ve concluded so far is JUST DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY! You can adjust, do over, renegotiate, learn from your mistakes or move on. It’s worse to hold back and do nothing.

  21. This is one of the best freelance advice articles I’ve read in awhile. I experience all of these fears on a daily basis, and it’s great to know there’s others out there in the same boat. Freelancing is one of the most rewarding careers I’ve ever had, but it’s not without challenges. Thank you for sharing!

  22. Thank you for this article. These are a lot of insecurities that I have. I am working on becoming better at promoting myself but it is a little scary out there. Good to know that some people understand.

  23. Excellent article! As someone who started off as a freelancer before starting my own web and graphic design company, I have faced these fears on many occasions. In my case, I just had to put the blinders on and forge forward.

    In our area, we have more than our share of competition. I believe that by proving outstanding customer service for our clients has helped us to be successful.

    It’s surprising how many people/companies fail fall short when it comes to customer service.

  24. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my feelings about being a freelance designer. However, one of the points you mentioned is becoming the raspberry seed in my wisdom tooth. Losing clients because of pricing is becoming more and more common. That being said, prices are definitely falling, not only because of a recessionary economy but because of supply and demand. Too much supply and not enough demand. I cannot count the times I’ve heard, “My brother has a friend that will do this for free”, or “The last guy who did this for me charged half that much”, or the classic “I can have this done by a kid in China for $10 an hour”. In all these cases, I had to let the job go. The race to the bottom (in pricing) is truly a frightening proposition, especially for those of us who actually make a living at this rather than as a hobby or additional income.

  25. Lori Calderon says:

    This was nice to hear as I’ve been down in the dumps after being laid off from my first graphic design job. I’ve been doing free lance since then but haven’t been very serious about it since I feel I’m lacking confidence. No one really talks about how much a layoff affects people. And I hate going to their site and seeing everything I’ve done for them and how I turned the place around and took them out of the paint program. They have a whole new identity because of me. Its something I should be proud of but I just feel used.

    • Their Loss. Keep producing and moving forward. Nobody can “make” you feel a certain way just trust your instincts. You got where you are for a reason.

  26. This is an amazing article! How true it is, especially in my opinion because I’ve felt like that just right before I read this. Thanks! I think I can try to fight off those feelings from now on. :3

  27. Awesome article. This is exactly how I was feeling a week ago. When my clients ask me for the quote and they want to see my samples they don’t come back to me. I start thinking to myself that am I charging too much or my work is no good. Some people say my work is great but maybe I need to work harder at it.
    I usually charge my clients according to project. Is that ok? One of my client asked for a banner, logo, and business card. Altogether I charged her $225. Do you think i charged her too much? She said to me that waaayyy out of my budget. I just don’t understand why she said that I mean people should understand some of us have kids who we have to feed.
    I guess everyone wants free work. I just had to let it out and that made me feel great.
    Thank you so much Brent for sharing this article.

  28. Thank you for this write-up. I’ve always done freelance work on the side of full time jobs, but the past 5 years I’ve been pretty much on my own as a full time freelancer. I have to admit I’m getting a little burnt out – and all the things you touched on I can 100% relate to, especially the money part! Good to know others feel the same way.

  29. This was a great article to come across. Ironically enough, those 3 questions pop up no matter if you’re just starting out or even a “vet” such as myself. It was good to see that I’m not alone. In any event, I’ve been a designer for 18+ years full time at a job and on my own combined and it’s always been a daunting task to be sure not to price yourself out of a job. I’ve also been concerned that while being on your own, you’re kind of isolated and you want to be sure to keep up with trends, latest applications, tips/tricks, etc. so that you won’t feel that you’re work doesn’t measure up. I’ve learned over the years that you’re not going to please everyone and you’re not going always get the job. I was told or read someone to never discount your price because it will not be appreciated and it sets a precedence of devaluing your worth. I try to find out up front if there is any kind of budget but what I’ve discovered is that most people do not have one or they’re afraid to say up front for fear it will be more than what you will charge (most often not the case). I pretty much stand firm on my estimates and will let a potential client walk and tag it as they are not my market. I had to get that point though because I’ve always felt bad about losing out on potential money. However, before actually letting a potential client walk (unless I don’t want to do the job), I would do some kind of negotiation by altering the estimate to possibly match their budget or what the client is willing to pay. I am very clear on what they will receive for that amount and no deviations. I had a potential client who wanted quite a few items designed and redesigned and he needed to have had this done, quite frankly, some time ago as things were dated and had no continuity. After meeting and discussing his needs, I gave an estimate and it was too high for him and want me to do it all for almost half the cost. Well of course I was annoyed but instead of flat out saying no, I turned it around on him and asked what his expectations were for the amount he wanted to pay. I wanted to show that I was flexible to negotiate but also explained that I do not discount my cost especially on first time clients. So even after showing a willingness to work with him, he flat out just said never mind…no regrets!

    In terms of not thinking your work isn’t good enough is that little insecure part of yourself that will raise it’s ugly head from time to time and you just have to “gut punch” it! I try to look to see what my peers are doing (which might be the reason that thought pops up) and get inspiration or see how what I’m doing compares. I also take tutorials and webinars to keep abreast and learn something new or different. Going out networking (like Meetups) with like kind helps as well.

    I have a growing frustration regarding crowd sourcing sites that really do diminish our value and create a different type of competition. I’ve checked out sites like oDesk, 99Designs, and Crowdspring. The problem I have with the latter two is that it seems the client benefits greatly as they receive hordes of comp design ideas for free and just have to pay for the design they like best while you the designer spends time and effort only not to be selected against many others competing. oDesk is a little different, usually you don’t do any work before you’re selected but the site is global and people are willing to do all kinds of work for $2 and $3/hour! I did a job on that site and I pretty much paid the client by the time I was done. The other issue with oDesk is there’s a catch 22…can’t get an assignment unless you’ve worked one and you can’t work an assignment unless you get one! At least with the other two, the payout is better.

    One final insecurity is that I didn’t see mentioned here is the getting a bit older and just plain keeping up and having the speed. On occasion depending on my work flow, I’ll seek onsite gigs or even temp contract work and speed is one of those things most are requesting as they describe the environment as “quick-paced” or “face-paced” because time is money. I worked a production job where the place did everything in Illustrator! While I knew Illustrator, I did not do a lot of layout and production in Illustrator, I used InDesign or QuarkXpress for that. Well the company knew this and expressed that my work was great and accurate but I wasn’t going quick enough to their satisfaction. While you want to turn your projects over in a timely manner, being a freelancer you may not always have or want that kind of stress and as you get older, it’s not all that attractive.

    At the end of the day, it’s comforting to know we’re not alone out here and it’s good to get insight what others are feeling and what they are doing about it. Thanks!

    • So “with you” on all you had to say. It’s tough to compete with the online crowd practically giving it away for free! Or the expectations of clients to get something-for-nothing. The great clients, who understand quality creative, are getting fewer and fewer, forcing me to think early retirement is sounding better and better!

  30. Remembering back, probably the major problem for students is the fear of not being good enough, but like you said, there is always someone better. There is always a Fastest Gun in the West. If you wait until you think you are good enough, it will never happen. So get out and try, someone will give you a chance. It is that drive to be better that keeps you improving, but it shouldn’t cause you to freeze in your tracks until you get better, you only improve by working. Confidence comes with completing projects and pleasing clients, but you will still never be good enough. There should never be a “good enough” goal that you reach.
    I think your article nailed it. Thanks for putting it out there.

    • You are exactly right. My art director told me once to stop comparing myself to others. Especially ones that have been in the business for years. I was told to find my own style and refine and practice.
      I wasn’t ready to start my business yet either because I didn’t think I was ready. I ended up jumping in head first and I am glad I did. I stll feel my way through at times.

  31. When I was in design school there were so many ego driven critiques along with favoritism which made me a little insecure at the time. Knowing that I am capable of producing better quality work helped me grow tremendously. I feel that sharing our work is a major thing that will allow us to appreciate our work even more as designers.

  32. Convincing today’s client why they should hire ME. It seems to be getting harder and harder these days.

    I’ve been a designer for 25 years, and it seems clients are getting less and less respectful on my time and talent. I think the reason is that they can get cheap work via anyone with a computer and some software…and they are satisfied with lower quality. Gone are the days when you HAD to hire a professional, now the secretary can throw together a brochure in Publisher. I’d laugh, but it’s not funny to my bottom line.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “why will it take that many hours?” after they look at the bid. It’s as if they think all we do is push a button on the key board. They don’t take into consideration the creative idea, the skills, or the years of experience. They don’t think about the overhead, equipment and software costs, or continued learning designers have to do. I just get the impression keeping their costs down, not the success of their marketing is the goal. That is so backwards.

    Stressing the quality of work, service, and my skills is all I know how to do, but that doesn’t seem to be enough these days. Would love it if anyone with more modern sales advice would speak up. Thanks!

  33. So much of what you say here is true. About 6 months ago I made a conscious decision to increase my rate and guess what, not one person blinked. It was only by £5 per hour which made an estimated £6-7k extra a year – nothing to be sniffed at you see! What amazed me is about 50% of people complimented me on doing so and would have been prepared to pay that earlier. If you know you’re good enough, then have the confidence to back it up in your rate. I still lose jobs due to someone being ‘cheaper’ but I dont lose sleep. Those clients are the sort you don’t need as they will be the sort to pay £100 for a logo, or £200 for a web design. Live without them and prosper 🙂

  34. I absolutely have that fear that I’ll lose a client if I charge too much. It happens every time. A person asks for a quote but say that they have a really tight budget and hope that I’ll be able to help them. Then I think, “I really want to work on this project ’cause it sounds like fun. Maybe I should charge a little less to be sure I get it.”

    I really need to start believing in myself and end this vicious cycle.

    Thanks for the great article, Brent. You always write something that resonates with me 🙂

  35. Of all the fears, pricing has been the most difficult for me. I came to realize the single most importance factor in negotiating is knowing my self-worth as a creative professional.
    I won’t explain how to know that, because for each individual it can vary. But for freelancers, the added expense of doing business, insurances (medical/dental)…etc, they should approximately triple what they would get as an in-house employee [I read it some where].
    Once the you establishes their fees, avoid negotiating them. You must be able to walk away. Knowing this was a starting point for me to become a better negotiator. It is still challenging. Ever situation is different, and circumstances may need to be considered. Nevertheless, I feel more confidant. I know what I am sacrificing if I decide to take a fee cut. It keeps me focused and more professional as I deal with clients.

    Make a strong effort to cultivate good working relationships with good people, and avoid clients who are difficult to work for, and don’t pay well.

    Finally, make sure you’re doing your part. Be professional. Stay on top of the work. Do a little extra when possible, (make it’s noticed). Continually, think of how to make the relationship better.

  36. I just started my graphic design business and feel quite overwhelmed. I’m a stay at home dad with two little girls and all the chores that come with staying at home. I did go to college and for my AAS in visual communications, but other than that I have taught myself most of the adobe programs myself. I am home almost all day everyday. I get about two 2 hr blocks to work and feel it isn’t enough. I read all the information i can get my hands on.. I guess the insecurity is from lack of experience. Although I haven’t let that stop me, it has slowed me down in the past. I have done some freelance work for our local Chamber of commerce and that was good for exposure. I didn’t want to start just yet because I thought i lacked the proper skills. The truth is, you will never be ready! I still don’t know everything I need to know…yet… such as creating fillable forms, Like everything else i will figure it out! Thanks to blogs like this, i have plenty of knowledgeable designers to seek advice.

  37. I have found that customers who pay the least expect the most. They simply don’t see the value.

  38. I also have this problem Rhonda. Custom site design has become harder and harder. I am tired of people who always tell me they cannot afford my hourly rate. I have grown very resentful towards my own business often the last 2 years.

  39. EVERYONE wants free work. or they tell me “i can’t afford your hourly rate”. I have gotten to the point i wanted to quit the web design business for good.

  40. This is is a very reassuring post, I am in the process of starting to freelance, but i’m often telling myself that i need to improve before i can begin. The issue is that its crippling as i’ll always feel that i need to improve rather than taking the leap and improve as I go along.


  1. […] build a portfolio of professional work, learn as much as you can about the freelancing process, and boost your self-confidence so that you can say (or think) the following to those bigger potential […]

  2. […] Be sure to check out the entire article at Graphic Design Blender. […]


Need more clients?

Download our free guide:
25 Top Freelance Job Sites for Real Clients with Big Budgets