No, I’m not just going to tell you to switch to fixed-price projects like everybody else seems to do. Don’t get me wrong… they’re right. But, changing your pricing model is only ONE way to start charging more. Let me show you how to figure out what to charge and then some ways to increase your rate — beyond just switching to fixed-price projects.
How Much Should You Charge As a Freelancer?
One approach is to take your income goal and use that to break down what you need to charge to hit that income goal. For example, let’s say you want to earn $100,000 per year. Here’s the math:
$100,000 / 2080 (40 hours per week for 52 weeks) = $48.07 per hour.
This is fine. You should do this, so you know what you’re up against. But, the trick is being ABLE to charge $48.07 per hour and actually get hired. So, this can be a bit of wishful thinking.
For example, according to a survey conducted by Payoneer, the average freelancer in America charges $31/hour. Here’s the math on that:
$100,000 / $31 per hour / 52 weeks in a year = 62 hours per week.
Meaning, you’d have to work 62 hours per week to make $100,000 per year — if you’re charging the average rate for freelancers in the U.S. So, again, doing this math is good. You should know these numbers.
But, you also need to figure out what you can actually charge, how many hours you can/want to work per week and, as a result, what you can realistically expect to make in a year.
I know… I’m a debbie-downer, but I think you’ll get further if you face the reality of what you’re dealing with and make plans that are realistic and will actually work in the real-world.
So, the question is… what CAN you charge? There’s a few things you need to figure out in order to answer this:
- Industry Rate
Here’s the big “secret” (that’s not a secret) with this: What you can charge for your freelance services is determined 100% by the perceived value of that service in your customer’s mind.
Want to know what to charge? What’s the perceived value of your service within your industry? What are your competitors offering and at what price? Is there any way you can differentiate yourself in order to charge more than they are?
If you drop into a market and start charging $75/hour and everybody else is charging $35 — and you’re offering the exact same deliverables and quality of service as they are — people aren’t going to hire you.
No matter how skilled you are.
I really want you to understand that. I’ve now taught over 26,000 freelancers how to charge more, make more and work less and the #1 misconception is that pricing is all about credibility.
What’s in your portfolio. What kind of client reviews you have. How skilled you are… etc. But, credibility is only ONE of nine factors that determine perceived value and what you can charge.
I’ll come back to that, but you need to know what your competition is offering and what they’re charging. So, first thing to do is…
Step 1: Research Your Competition
Do a Google search for “[city near you][your industry]”. Here’s some examples:
- “chicago web developer”
- “new york graphic designer”
- “kansas city writer”
You’re gonna see some Upwork, Freelancer.com and Indeed.com (and other big freelancing/job sites). That’s fine. Take a look at those profiles. It’ll give you a broad range of what others in your industry are charging.
That should get you in the ballpark. But, what you’re really after is something like this:
These are individuals and agencies, in your local area, out there grinding and getting work. You can learn a ton from looking at their websites. Here’s how to break down one of these sites:
- Site Design/Usability
- Pricing (If Available)
- Call To Action
Let’s jump through each of these:
The portfolio tells you how good they are. This will answer the question: “Am I ready?” Can you deliver a similar quality of product as what your competition is? These are the people you’ll be competing against, so you need to be close.
That said, keep in mind, these people have likely been doing this for years and likely charge large fees. You can use your pricing strategy (we’ll cover that in a minute) to make up for any deficiency you might have skill-wise. But, you need to KNOW if that’s the case or not. So, be honest and evaluate where you’re at compared to your direct competition.
The services will give you a shortcut to the kind of services that are selling in your industry. For example, if you’re a web developer, you’ll see a lot of WordPress on these kinds of sites. That should tell you something.
The design/usability of the site may seem odd, but it’s a big factor. Click around their site. Is it annoying to use? Many are. If so, potential clients will click away quick. So, don’t do that kind of stuff when you’re building your own freelancing site. If it annoys YOU, it’ll annoy potential clients.
Most of these sites won’t show their pricing. They’ll ask you to send in a quote request. I recommend you submit a few quote requests to different agencies in your area (under a pseudonym) to get an idea of what they’re charging and how they handle the sales process. Again, you’ll learn a ton about what TO do and what NOT to do from that.
Call To Action
Finally, we referenced the call to action, but many of these sites don’t actually ask you to buy right upfront. They ask you to submit a quote request. This gets the conversation going and it’s usually easier to close someone back-and-forth via email than directly off your website.
As I mentioned, I recommend you visit several of these sites (5-10) and run this analysis on them. Submit quote requests and see what they do. You’ll start to spot trends. Pay attention to those.
And, ultimately, you want to know what your competition is offering (what clients get with their service) and what they’re charging. That’ll tell you what you have to provide and what you can charge.
But, before you can throw up your web page and start offering your own services, you need to figure out your pricing strategy.
Step 2: Pricing Strategy
I’ll cover three main pricing strategies:
- The Lowball
- Same But Better
There are others, but these are the main ones you’ll want to know. So, let’s jump through each one:
This pricing strategy is simple: you charge less than your competitors. You do this when you’re new and don’t have a portfolio that can compete — or, if you did your competition analysis and found that you have to make up some ground skill-wise. You can STILL get work. You’re just going to have to charge less until you can compete skill-wise.
That said, you want to move off of this pricing strategy as quick as you can. As you up your skills, build out your portfolio and refine your deliver process for projects, you should methodically raise your rates to match these improvements. Delivering the same quality of work for a lower price will drive you nuts if you do it long-term.
Same But Better
With this pricing strategy, you charge the same as your competitors but you offer a little more in your package. So, same rate but better offer. Again, you need to know your competition to do this. If you’re doing logo design and they offer three revisions, you offer four. If they offer a 48-hour turnaround time, you offer 36 hours. You’re just offering slightly better terms for the exact same price.
This works when you can compete credibility-wise with others in your industry. So, you have a similar-looking portfolio. You have client reviews that rival your competitors. You’re as good as they are skill-wise.
If a client looked at you and your competitors, side-by-side, they’d have a hard time telling who is better. That is when this strategy works. The little bit extra you offer in your “package” will pus them over the edge to hire you.
This is high-end pricing. Know this: 20-30% of every market in every industry does NOT hire based on price. These are premium clients that will pay much higher fees for your services IF you can give them solid reasons for doing so. These are what I call “10K Clients” and, again, I have another free training, the 10K Client Blueprint, that’ll show you how to find these big money clients in your industry. You can find it here.
You can charge premium prices and land premium clients when you surpass your competitors in skill, quality of service and the package you’re able to offer. This is your ultimate goal. This is where you get the work/life balance, free time and freedom you were after when you started freelancing. You can definitely get there. But, you’ll need to be patient.
Now, with all this, you can finally…
Step 3: Craft Your Service Offer
I want stress this: it’s an OFFER. It’s not just about your service, it’s about the terms of your entire offer. Let me give you an example:
Let’s say you’re buying a car. Of course, the car itself is important. But, it’s not the only consideration. What’s the price of the car? What kind of rebates is the dealership offering? What kind of interest rate am I getting on the loan? What are they giving me for my trade-in?
There are all these other factors, besides the car itself, that go into your decision to buy the car or not, whether to buy it from this dealership or that dealership and so on.
THAT is the offer.
It’s the total package. Let me show you an example:
Notice how this graphic design agency isn’t just offering a logo — they’re offering several different “offers”. In fact, these are just three of the 10 total packages they offer on their site. Each one has different “features”: logo concepts, revisions, file formats, turnaround time, support, etc.
This is how you put an offer together. Here’s a look at their top-of-the-line package for logos:
Notice how it includes social media banners, stationery, brochures and a website on top of the increases in logo concepts, revisions and so forth. When you package your services like this, it gives potential clients reasons WHY your services are priced the way they are. The prices “make sense” because you’ve laid out the logic of it in your packages.
And, here’s a pro tip… when you do this, it shortcuts people’s focus on credibility. If you don’t have packages like this, the ONLY thing a potential client has to assess you on is your portfolio.
But, when you add packages… now, they’re go into “shopping mode”:
“Ooh, what package do I want? Oh, a 3-page website WITH my logo? That’s as pretty sweet deal! Maybe, I should do that.” We all do this. When we see a good deal, we tend to lose our minds. We get focused on the deal and what we’re getting and we kinda forget about evaluating the company as a whole.
There’s a reason why Fiverr chose this model for how it presents its services to clients. And, why Upwork has added pre-packaged products to its freelancer profiles. This works.
And, again… research your competition. That will give you the answers to what and how much. There’s hundreds of websites out there like the ones I’ve shown you. Spot trends. What are they charging? Can I compete? How can I be better? THIS is how you arrive a real answer to the question “how much can I charge?”
How to Charge $10,000 and Up For Your Services
As I mentioned previously, there are ways to increase the perceived value of what you offer, and therefore what you can charge, that have nothing to do with credibility. I’m finishing up my 15th year as a freelancer, and I’ve also taught 26,000 other freelancers how to start and grow their freelance business — and through all that, I discovered and refined a simple method for significantly increasing what you can charge for your services.
I call it the 5-Figure Formula, because it shows you how to charge $10,000 and up for your top-tier package — the 5 elements you must include to charge that kind of price. I’ve put together a video that explains what I figured out and shows you two examples of clients of mine — one where I earned $18,445 for a single website and another where I earned $90,113 from a single client for a single project. Here’s one example:
If you’d like to maximize what you can charge for your services, so you can reduce the hours you have to work, this video will show you how I did it. You can watch the video here: https://5figureformula.com
So, there you go. How to figure out what you should charge for your freelance services and a ton of different examples, strategies and techniques to increase what you can charge.