In a Pricing Rut? Try These 3 Strategies

pricing rutIf you want a truly profitable freelance business, pricing and estimating aren’t just a matter of crunching the numbers on your hourly rate or looking up the ranges on an industry association website. We’re accustomed to putting most of our energy into creativity for our writing, editing, and design clients—but when was the last time you devoted some brainpower towards freshening up your pricing methodology?

Different prices for different clients. I recognize that there are freelancers who price everything the same, whether the hourly rate or the calculation for a firm quote. (I won’t argue if that’s what works for their businesses. It’s certainly the simplest route.) Unless you have a truly uniform clientele, however, you’re likely leaving money on the table. To cite an extreme example, it doesn’t really make sense to charge a lawyer or Fortune 500 company the same rate as a local animal shelter. But the principle is also applicable to situations when you can detect that a client is going to be high maintenance with meetings, phone calls, etc.

Seek out other resources. If you’re depending on industry rate sheets and surveys as your primary basis for pricing, you’re overlooking one of the best resources around: solid networking with people who use freelance services, but aren’t necessarily a client. Think graphic designers, marketing and advertising folks, web firms, magazine editors, and even freelancers who subcontract. Caution: This isn’t a shotgun cold-call situation; it needs to be people who you have a relationship with. (And if you don’t have cross-industry relationships, put that on your to-do list!)

Always be experimenting. It’s easy to imagine that an annual price increase is sufficient. While that’s a good start, it’s worth trying different strategies with how you present estimates. One example would be what I call the car sales approach—give the client low, medium, and high options, with additional bells and whistles as the price goes up. My favorite is to provide an estimated range rather than a firm price. That gives you more negotiating wiggle room—and it also encourages clients to go easy on the phone calls and rounds of revisions in order to keep their invoice down.

I’ll be discussing these strategies in more detail—and lots more about pricing and estimating—at the “Gateway to Success,” the 14th annual “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference, October 11–13, in St. Louis. Hope to see you there!


Improving Your Vision

I attended an academically rigorous high school, where As were hard to come by. My senior year, I taped a handwritten note above my desk that simply said HONOR ROLL. It was a constant reminder of what I wanted to achieve.

Truth be told, I missed the honor roll by one letter grade in the final term. Still, it was the closest I’d ever come to making it…and I was confident that putting my goal in writing (and in a place I couldn’t ignore) had pushed me psychologically.

Fast forward to life in the working world. During my early career in magazines, the goals weren’t of my choosing, but they were clear: Brainstorm the topics, assign the articles, hound the writers, edit the copy, get it into the art department’s hands, and stay up late gorging on pizza when it was closing week and we had to send everything to the printer. Rinse, repeat.

Putting Your Goals in a Place They Can’t Be Ignored

As freelancers, it’s on us to determine our goals. At least once a year, I’ll sit down at a local coffee shop for a few hours and write down an unedited list of things I want to achieve over the near and long term. But I made a mistake two years ago: I left the list inside a notebook, which I filed and forgot about for months.

If I’m honest with myself, it’s probably because it’s a bit overwhelming—and maybe counterproductive—to look every day at a piece of paper with 50 or more handwritten goals on it. That’s where a vision board comes in. Much like my honor roll reminder way back when, being able to glance at a poster board helps with inspiration. (If you’re interested in some great info about vision boards, I highly recommend Christine Kane’s process.) For me, it’s an extra step toward keeping the big picture, quite literally, right in front of me.

Obviously, a vision board doesn’t solve everything. You also have to create systems for your freelance business, a broader topic for another day. Nonetheless, for a daily reminder of why I’m doing what I’m doing, investing in a poster board, some magazines, and a glue stick pays significant mental dividends—especially since a vision board is far too big to tuck away and forget!

On a business note: I’m truly looking forward to my stint on the NAIWE Board of Experts and talking shop with fellow freelancers. If you have freelance topics you want me to address in my upcoming blog posts, articles, or webinars, please share them in the comments. You can also ping me on Twitter: @DrFreelance

Here’s to a fantastic, prosperous 2019—whatever your vision is!

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash