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How much should I charge? Some tips

Worth-your-weight-in-gold

Probably the most common question for people starting out as freelance writers, editors, designers or consultants is "how much should I charge?"

It's understandable because many people - myself included - have been led to think we're charging for something intangible. But the same could be said about other professions, including lawyers and even doctors. How many people measure being cured of an illness purely in financial terms, or quibble a legal bill after winning an important case?

Designers, writers, editors and the like, however, frequently find themselves having to justify their fees. And it's worth taking a step back to understand why, because it helps us get a better picture of how much we should charge.

It's not just a little swoosh

As abstract things, a little swoosh, a picture of an apple with a chunk bitten out of it, a four-note jingle for a computer chip, three stripes on a pair of shoes, or a golden "M" aren't worth anything by themselves. What they stand for, on the other hand, is worth a fortune, and I'm guessing you could immediately identify the companies I was referencing.

Which brings me to one of the best pieces of advice I've received since I've been self-employed:

Don't think about how much a project is worth to you. Think about how much it's worth to the client.

As creative professionals, we're aware of the value of our work, but all too often we struggle to translate that into fees because we're doing the same thing as our clients: thinking about how much it's worth to us.

Flip this around and things become much clearer. How is your work going to benefit the client? Can you clearly and confidently articulate that value? Can you show how the project will have additional benefits far beyond the scope of the project?

In short, can you show how much it's worth to them. Because when you do, pricing becomes much clearer.

This shift in thinking allowed me to triple my hourly rates and, since doing so, nobody has questioned my prices. In fact, a number of my long-term clients no longer ask me how much a project will cost. Instead they offer a price - often in excess of what I might ask - because they already understand how much the work is worth to them.

So if you don't already do so, why not try setting your fees on the value your work represents to your client rather than how much you think you should earn? You might be surprised by the results.