In any sort of hiring process, there are two sides, the one providing the service, and the one seeking the service. For this article, we are going to look at the provider as an entrepreneur/freelancer, and the seeker as a general member of the public (though often it is a fellow entrepreneur or business owner/decision maker) and discuss points that are important for both sides when talking about that ubiquitous and usually uncomfortable topic: money. So with that, let’s dive in!
Freelancer friend, please understand me that I say this in love….VALUE YOUR SERVICE AND I MEAN ALL OF IT. You are your own secretary, accountant, CEO, janitor, and more and that work should be *part* of what you charge. Not to mention all of the emailing, phone calls, coffee dates, and other forms of communication you spend time on to find, earn, and complete business. That is part of what you are offering, not just the end result. Not to mention, you have some sort of overhead, whether it’s a software program, repairing camera lenses, or simply website hosting, there are things you spend money on every month to keep the proverbial lights on and to keep improving your craft/services for your clients.
Additionally, please value your stress/sanity. Your mental health is as much as an asset to your work as a computer. If a client insisted on smashing all of your equipment every time they entered your office, you’d charge them to replace everything, wouldn’t you? So why oh why, wouldn’t you do the same for a client that causes you a great deal of stress and smashes your mental health? (Ideally, you wouldn’t work with either of these hypothetical clients, but life is not always ideal)
Further, when deciding on a rate, undersell and overdeliver. You can *always* charge less than the agreed-upon rate later, should the project take less time than expected. And it can definitely save you from having to come back later asking for more should the project hit a snag.
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This letter is to help you when considering what is “fair” to pay a freelancer. Please, understand that there is a lot behind-the-scenes that you don’t see going into your project. If you’ve done your homework (checked their website, looked at reviews, met with them in person/talked over the phone/emailed), then you know the freelancer you’re considering is a professional. He/she is educated, skilled, and talented. That stuff takes *time*, and a lot of it. If you’re hiring a professional because they possess a skill you do not have, consider how long it would take you to acquire the skills you want to hire a freelancer for…because it’s likely they have been developing these skills over years. Would it take you 20 hours to learn to take wedding portraits? At the current federal minimum wage that’s $145. Plus all of the equipment, that’s easily hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Then there’s the time they spend scouting locations, communicating with you, accommodating weather conditions, sifting through photos, editing, and actually taking the images. Doing the math? It’s a lot more than what they’re probably asking.
Granted, they didn’t spend all of that time learning to take on only you as a client, that education is reusable and can be built upon, but that doesn’t lessen the value of the expertise they are providing you. When it comes to freelancers, as with almost everything, you typically get what you pay for. Most freelance industries, like graphic design, photography, event planning, etc are decently regulated, meaning that each person tries to stay competitive price-wise. Obviously, this differs from market to market, but do shop around and *talk* to people, don’t just browse their rates online.
To conclude: communicate, communicate, communicate. Being upfront about expectations and what you think those expectations should cost is a great way for both sides to feel comfortable. And keep communicating! Shying away from the money talk does not make it go away. If you, as a service seeker, trust the freelancer you’ve found, then you can trust they will charge you fairly. After all, a satisfied customer is one that provides positive testimonies and reuses that freelancer. Freelancer, do your utmost to be that trustworthy. If the project was easier than expected, return that buffer money, but know what you are worth.