What Your Freelance Rates Really Say About You

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When you’re running your own freelancing business, your image is critical. That’s because you most likely don’t have millions to spend on marketing, so your branding and image have to do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to getting new clients.

But there’s one aspect of your brand, I’m willing to bet you haven’t given enough thought to—particularly in regards to how it impacts your business.

That’s your pricing.

The truth is, your freelance pricing reveals A LOT about the kind of freelancer you are, the types of clients you want to attract, and the kind of business you’re building.

When you talk about your pricing or send out a brochure with your pricing listed on it, you’re broadcasting more than just numbers to the world.

Without even meaning to, you’re sending messages to future and current clients about your brand simply by talking about pricing.

Below, I’d like to unpack some of the unspoken messages you send with your freelance pricing.

None of these is necessarily good or bad, right or wrong (unless, of course, you’re sending a message you don’t intend to), but instead offer an outsider’s view into what your pricing reveals about you and your business.

You can also know exactly what you should be charging to grow your business and hit your financial goals by using our free freelance rate calculator.

If Your Pricing Is Low

First, if your rates tend to be lower than most of your competition, you might be saying:

“I’m a good option if you care most about your budget.”

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is plenty of room for plenty of business and revenue at every price point.

In fact, you might enjoy working with clients who are more budget-conscious—there are certainly a few perks that come with that territory.

The risk you run when competing on price alone is you might also inadvertently be saying:

“I’m not good enough to compete on talent or skill, so I compete on price.”

Self-awareness is good. And maybe you aren’t the best at what you do (yet). Low prices are great for making a break into a new market, getting started as a young freelancer, or making some extra money.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with competing on price. If it’s what you’ve got to work with now, leverage it. There may come a time when you consider raising your rates. And remember what Michael Port says in his popular freelancing bookBook Yourself Solid: “People rarely buy professional services based solely on price.”

If Your Pricing is Average

Of course, you could raise your rates up a bit if you find you charge less than your competition. Here’s what you might be saying to potential clients if your pricing is on-par with the rest of the freelancers in your space:

“I’ll do good work for a fair price.”

And, honestly, there’s nothing wrong with doing good work for clients at a fair price. The only risk you really run here is being a bit too…. Vanilla. A bit too… plain.

You could get lost in the crowd.

Without an outlier price (high or low) to draw attention, you may find yourself only getting 1 of every 12 slices of the proverbial pie.

If Your Pricing is High

Of course, you can charge premium rates for the work you do as a freelancer—an action that also speaks loudly in its own way.

If you have rates that are higher than many of the other freelancers in your industry, you should probably be prepared to back up those prices because one thing you’re inadvertently saying is:

“I’m the highest quality option (or at least I believe I am).”

Of course, if your portfolio isn’t mind-blowing, you run the risk of accidentally saying:

“I’m cocky.”

It’s safe to say you probably don’t want that. While cockiness works for some people, it’s a turnoff for most business relationships.

Another unspoken message you’re saying when you charge higher-than-averages prices is:

“I’m in high demand and only take clients I want.”

When your prices are higher, your desperation level appears to go down. This can actually be a great psychological tool to use when booking new clients. If you truly can live without their business, it makes some clients want to work with you even more.

If Your Pricing is One-Time

Of course, the amount you charge isn’t the only pricing detail you’ll want to pay attention to.

How you bill your clients can also speak volumes about your brand, your business, your services, and you.

If you primarily offer one-time pricing, you might be saying:

“I solve one-time problems.”

This particular model works well for certain people. After all, a wedding photographer (hopefully) doesn’t get hired on a repeat basis.

If you’re not careful, though, you might accidentally be saying something like:

“I’m not committed to helping you succeed in the long-term.”

While that may or may not be true, freelancers who do “one-off” jobs for clients instead of working with them on a more medium- or long-term basis are simply more expendable.

If Your Pricing is Recurring

On the other hand, if you offer recurring pricing (a monthly subscription to your services, for example) you’re showing your clients that you’re interested in supporting them over a longer period of time.

In essence, you’re saying:

“My service is so valuable, it’s worth paying for every month.”

Of course, it could backfire. There are plenty of shady service providers out there who just send a freelance invoice on autopilot every month whether they’ve done any work or not.

Not cool.

That means that some client who see recurring pricing may think you’re saying:

“I’m going to bill you every month because I care most about money.”

While, of course, that’s not true in your case, it’s important to recognize how your recurring pricing could be interpreted.

If you’re concerned recurring revenue could turn off a potential client, you may want to start with traditional one-time pricing and then convert your one-time clients into recurring revenue down the road.

If Your Pricing is Non-Negotiable

Many freelancers are willing to negotiate with potential clients on their rates. In fact, most clients almost expect to be able to haggle after sending a proposal.

But if your pricing is non-negotiable, here’s what you’re really saying:

“I know what I’m worth and if you’re not willing to pay it, that’s ok with me.”

Of course, this pricing strategy only works if you truly can live without the extra business. If you’re firm on your price, you will lose some business—no doubt about it.

But you’ll also gain back all the extra time, headache, and stress that comes along with haggling, negotiating, or remembering each client’s unique pricing structure.

If Your Pricing is Flexible

If you choose to go with a more flexible pricing plan there are also unspoken things you might be saying. For example, your client might think you’re really saying:

“I’m willing to work with you on price because I need your business right now.”

This can be particularly true when you’re just getting started as a freelancer and need clients in order to build a solid portfolio.

However, if you’re not careful, you might accidentally be saying:

“You can talk me down and don’t have to pay full price for quality work.”

You definitely don’t want that. It’s a fine line and you may choose to adjust your strategy as your business grows.

What does YOUR pricing say about YOU?

Now that I’ve given you a few ideas on what your pricing might actually be saying about you and your business, it’s your turn.

Take a moment this week to reflect on your pricing and if it’s really saying what you want it to say about your business.

If it is, great. Continue on.

If, like many freelancers, you’re sending the wrong message, it may be time for an adjustment.

This post was originally published on the Honeybook blog here. It has been republished here with permission from the copyright holder.

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Written by Preston Lee

Editor at Millo.co

Preston Lee is the founder of Millo where he and his team have been helping freelancers thrive for over a decade. His advice has been featured by Entrepreneur, Inc, Forbes, Adobe, and many more.

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