How To Charge Clients If You Have No Clue


Knowing exactly, how to charge clients is the undying debate for years. Newbie freelancers and professionals, find themselves twisted about charging issue because it’s a complicated subject.

Money topic is always a sensitive live-wire which traps freelancers now and then. I say so because most freelancers drop figures blindly wishing somebody will pass by and hook them up with a job.

Others, when asked, “How much, would they charge for a project”? Words disappear into the thin air until you wonder, “Were they really prepared for the job?”

Let me tell you, from experience, if you are afraid to confront pay issue early and when you have time, be guaranteed, someday what you fear will expose you.

Probably, it won’t be a nice encounter you’d wish happen to you.

Understand Your Industry Inside Out

understand how to charge clients

Learning about your industry is very important for you, to avoid looking unprofessional when asked for a quote. If you are a designer, have a figure to work with depending on the amount of work the client is asking.

You can create a system, like a Ms. Excel and split it into sections.

e.g If the client wants a logo, maybe a triangular shape alone, you could say

  1.  $15 contains a logo alone without anything added
  2.  $35 contains a logo and a name in it
  3. : $60 contains a logo, name, and a signature
  4.  $100 contains a logo, name, signature, and a background name displaying the client’s company initials.

I am not a designer, but I am driving you to a thought, in case the client request you, to split them your pricing.

If you are a writer like me, ensure you understand your line of writing depending on the amount of work you are required to cover.

A client may ask you to provide a 500-word article about

“Dangerous Places To Visit In China”

Let’s say you ask for $25 probably after considering the time you will cover, and some small research to take. Writing the same number of words, but this time around, about a different topic

“Chemical Analysis of Nitrogen Peroxide”

There you have two articles, of the same amount of words, but, different subject.

Now, for the first one, you were comfortable asking for $25

The second scenario, you cannot ask for the same amount, simply because the amount of work required to cover the topic is tedious compared to the first one.

So, probably the article may ask for $100

The bottom line is. Know your field very well, and with that, you will be able to charge clients comfortably.

What If I Don’t Know How To Charge Clients?

Unless you are a newbie, and most probably working for content mills available on the web, you are yet to learn how the system works. Mind you, there is another category called “professional newbies”, this group has been around 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 years and still struggling on the best approaches of charging a client.

It’s actually a boggling situation and when you get delivered out of it, your destiny to success is a mile away.

When a client asks you to bid for their job and then poses a question to you

Client: How much for the job?

You: What are you willing to pay?

Seriously, it doesn’t matter your profile shows you shining with a million stars or 5 or whatever. The moment you mention that your value goes down from 80% to zero.

For one, it is a show of unprofessionalism. Second, the client is full of doubt whether you are capable of delivering quality work. Here is the thing, the client is the big boss with the cash, but, on the other hand, you are the CEO with the knowledge on how to provide the given assignment.

If you harbor fear in your career, chances of you making it are minimal. You could as well get back to 9 to 5 system. At least, you will hear less of that question.

Scenario 2:

Client X would like to have their site optimized. You boldly pitch the client, and from your argument/demonstration on how you plan to deliver, the client finally hires you.

Client X: Hi,

You: Hi Client X

Client X: Thank you for accepting my job proposal

You: Welcome…

Client X: How much will you charge me?

You: (After a long pause) $120

Client X: Okay!

The client finally gives you the job and both of you are happy. You give your all to impress the client, and finally deliver the work. You get your pay and part. The client is happy with an optimized site, and your pockets are hot with the dollar smell.

Next time, the same client (X) has the same kind of job. He never gives you the job, instead hires another guy and pays $3000

What happened? You charged very low and the client thought you are not experienced in the field. It matters not whether your work was great last time, their project matters more to them.

Research the market around your skills and find a figure to charge your client. For instance, the second scenario, you could have provided a rough idea you are sure “Optimization” jobs ranges. And the likelihood of Client X hiring you again would have been high. What happens? The freelancer was unable to maximize that opportunity.

What Is The Best Amount To Charge Your Clients?

To tell you the truth, this is a question even experts have no idea how much should freelancer charge clients.

During my early freelancing, I used to charge clients peanuts fearing not to lose that golden opportunity. You know, when your pockets are dry, and there is a client warming at your request, you hardly entertain the idea to say “NO”

That cycle kept taking me around, and I had to review my status again. Until you say enough, it doesn’t matter how much noise the internet makes to stop you from charging low.

Sometimes it boils down to your attitude, towards your job, client, and what you are getting.

The best approach is to compare what other freelancers are charging and don’t use it as a parameter to ask your clients. It is to give you an idea.

I always say, to charge clients the amount you are comfortable with. Bearing in mind your needs, rent, food, upkeep, and much more.

I used to research before I fully got acquainted with my field. After a while, I realized, a good copy asks around $2000. I would raise the pay a little and ask $2500 just in case a negotiation window opens.

At least, I can go down and say $2400, $2300, $2200, until the client finally accepts my figure. Sometimes, you may be lucky to see clients giving you a nod immediately without a bargain.

Be bold enough to hold some ground, and negotiate when the client asks you to consider going down. Trash this thought of losing “golden opportunity” it is a slave thought from hell.

You cannot make it in freelancing, without some bold stand. It is your career, and to scale-up, you need a serious evaluation.

Refuse The Donkey Spirit

New freelancers are the most-plagued with this sickness. And it is sad; they get exposed to donkey minded clients. Sorry to say this, but, to be realistic. You are exempted from this category if you have a humane approach towards freelancers.

I wonder what is in the name “freelancer|” it should be dropped or what? And the most affected field is writing. The (donkey) category will pay you the last penny that you cannot afford a decent cup of coffee in a small cafe.

To add insult to the injury, they instead of giving you proper instructions to a job, you see messages full of threats.

Seriously, if you are in that kind of mess? Run for your life. You are better off without this group, stingy dollar.

The 2nd type of freelancer has been in the industry for the past 4 years and still working for $5. What are you planning to become?

We need to change, even times are changing, technology changing and everything else should change as well. Perform self-evaluation, have some goals, project what you want to become/earn.

Drop clients who do not value your work. You are exchanging value for money; so, view yourself important in that exchange.

Picture this below:

This is you in 2013=$5, 2014=$25, 2015=$35, 2016=$50, 2017=$100, 2018= Sky is the limit from $100, to a maximum amount you may think of.

This just a fraction, it should be a wider margin, but for the non-believers of such a transformation. At least, they can add a leap of faith to re-evaluate what clients are paying you.

Not all the time clients are to blame, but freelancers.

Be Professional And Set Your Rate

Professionals will always act professionally, and you can spot them from a distance. When a job is posted and a freelancer bids low, it means three things:

  • The freelancer is under-qualified
  • Fear competition and therefore seeking client’s mercy by bidding low
  • The freelancer is not serious (unsteady freelancers are not considered as focused)

Expert freelancer will not budge even an inch whether you give them your job or not.

Unless, during the negotiation process, some grip may be loosened, to lower their charges.

Though, it may happen when the client’s requests for some consultations, such instance hardly goes through.

Professional freelancers are established. They have a website with a neat plan, talking about their charging rates.

So, it’s not a competition to them, but a career they respect. You give them your job and get an exchange with a quality delivery.

For one, they know how much it has cost them, and therefore no negotiation about their worth.

What sets them apart?

  • Seriousness about their work
  • They rarely change
  • Their set rate is not determined by the client’s preference
  • Focused
  • Minimal search for clients

The freelancing industry will grow when freelancers will firmly set their rates.

During that time, the topic about how much one should charge clients will disappear.

The other group is for newbies, who are testing the water. It should be noted, being new does not translate to low pay rates. On the other hand, long experience does not equate to high pay rates.

So, what is it then? Pure professionalism in your area of expertise, determine how much you are worth, and your pay rate.

Keep this in mind though. The amount you charge should be enough to make you comfortable, period. Let that be your minimum charge or your set rate.

Hourly Rate VS Project Rate

The question as to whether you should charge hourly/ per project rate is another unclear spot. For me, I prefer charging per project rate.

Working hourly rate, I see it as one way of exploiting freelancers. For one, you are not selling your time, but value.

When working on a project, you have the freedom to work on a package you are comfortable with, without necessarily using some app to count minutes for you.

I cannot firmly stress, how much you are supposed to charge clients hourly, but the bottom line is to have a “Comfortable figure, ” boldly ask for it.

You can do your math monthly, if you prefer hourly, and see whether raising your hourly rate to a spot you feel totally comfortable.

Whether you are for hourly or project-based, it doesn’t matter to the client. All they want is value, and they are willing to pay for it. Mention your figure, promise to deliver, and you will get it.

How To Charge Big Brands

Once you get a chance to work for big companies, it is wise to do some background checkup. Just the way 9 to 5 world perform a company research, you can apply the same methodology.

I am saying this to make sure you charge the right amount or a near figure. You are a writer and Company B, approached you to provide web-copy.

Do the quick math, and say, your normal charge is $100 per page. You can then multiply that figure 10 times and get paid $1000.

Of course, big brands have a comfortable budget you can negotiate your pay beyond your set rate.

The rate may vary, depending on the company size, budget, and understanding of the market. Be wise to gauge how high/low they are willing to go. For as long as, you understand the drawing line, you cannot cross.

Final Word

There is no right standard is set, about the amount one is to charge clients. The right approach is to keep scaling in your area of expertise, while you adjust your pay rate. At the end of the day, it is the happiness between clients and freelancers that keeps the industry standing.

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6 years ago

Thanx for that post. 🙂

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