I wondered if this lady just realized how ridiculous she sounded. In one breath, she told me she charges thousands of dollars for her business consulting and teaches others how to do the same. In another breath, she hesitated at paying me $100 a week to be her virtual assistant.
“Seriously? Did you just hear yourself?” was raging in my head. Needless to say, I don’t even talk with this gal anymore.
At the social media and blogging conference Ya’ll Connect, there were a lot of awesome brain nuggets I took home. One of them is that fantastic headlines don’t need to be short. (Thanks David!) Another nugget is that the cost of doing work is so much higher than you think it is.
Content strategist Laura Creekmore challenged us to calculate things like:
- How much time it takes to come up with an idea
- How much time to create one aspect of the project
- How many other people are involved?
- How often should the content be reviewed?
And that’s just a snippet of her presentation. It kind of blows my mind, because for nearly three years, I’ve been told to “value myself” more and to charge accordingly.
But the problem wasn’t my prices. It was my clients.
My writing mentor, Carol Tice, has a crap ton of resources about finding the right clients to market writing. The first step is finding one that can actually afford you. We’re talking 7 figures, not just 6. We’re talking 20 employees and higher, not just a solopreneur.
Devaluing freelance services began way before the internet was invented. I also noticed this as my time as a VA. It’s inexplicable how this could be, but I’d like to name the current phenomenon the Ferriss Fallacy.
Yes, I’m referring to Tim Ferriss, uber-popular and rich business guru who wrote about the “four-hour” work week. It only took me a few reader reviews to convince me not to buy his book. The other hours were being worked diligently by outsourced VAs who worked for peanuts. Like single digits per hour.
People read books like that and think, “Oh! Well then. If I put my budget at $15 per hour, surely my VA/writer/graphic artist will *love* me.”
That’s a big negatory there, good buddy.
Besides the actual value of the content itself that Creekmore talked about, I’ve added other things to consider. In fact, it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with this list, because they’re expenses in every business budget.
- Insurance (car, home, health, etc.)
- Out of pocket medical bills
- Emergency Savings
- Car repairs…
…you get my drift? And unfortunately, a pro freelancer would need to work for a ton of people just to make enough to live off of. Guess why?
Because they’re great at what they do! What could take hours for you, could take a freelance web designer 30 minutes. So do you still think that $20 per hour is awesome?
It’s time to think like real businesses and to treat others like they have real businesses. And a real business would end up in poverty for $20 an hour.
My web site is still DIY, because I’d like to pay a web designer what they’re worth. I’m eventually hiring an accountant and a business coach, but I’d like to pay them enough to not dread an email from me.
So here’s the thing: I love entrepreneurs. I’m an entrepreneur! They’re really fantastic people, and I could list about 10 people you should be following right now. But I can’t work with them as clients. Much like I can’t do uber-detailed free consults.
I’m zoning in on large companies and well-funded start-ups.
Even if an entrepreneur I came across could afford me, for whatever reason, they often choose not to. (Hence, insane story above.) Or they back out after one project and never return emails. Or they’re indecisive and have no goals. And that’s okay.
But my fellow freelancers: Please don’t keep scratching at doors that’ll never open. Stand up, brush yourself off and go to the next door – ideally one that’s hand carved and lined with gold.
So if you’re a freelancer of any sort, take note. Start pitching the big boys. You’re worth it.
Need more inspiration? Here’s a blog post from my other writing mentor, Linda Formichelli over at Renegade Writer and a post about “value pricing” from Paul Jarvis on The Write Life.
So are you comfortable with not only the prices you’re charging, but the folks you’re working with? How have you gained your client roster? Let’s chat below in the comments.