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Freelance and consulting rates: From A to Z (minus B to Y)

As I observe how freelancers and consultants are pricing their work, I’m seeing two extremes.

At one end of the spectrum, the sky is the limit. Rates are a statement to the world of our self-esteem, and you can’t have too much self-esteem, can you?

Just as most Americans will not disclose their income, proponents of ultra-high pricing don’t reveal their numbers. Anything reduced to a number would enable ready comparison with peers and competitors and possibly reveal that they consider themselves to be lesser in talent . . . or even worthiness . . . than others.

Those who endorse high prices tend to talk with certainty to uncertain audiences. They like to issue instructions such as “double your rates,” even if they are addressing a large, unknown audience via teleseminars or blogs.

You can’t have too much self-esteem. Therefore, your rates can’t be too high.

And they relish speed. As in “do it now.” Right now!

And if a prospect questions or, worse yet, rejects their rates outright? They are insulted. How dare someone challenge their worth?

Negotiation is out of the question unless it drastically involves reducing the scope of the work.

At the other end of the spectrum are those who are exceptionally low-paid. I’ve ranted before on the subject of Fiverr, which is exceptionally chintzy. Only $5 per assignment. Except that Fiverr takes its cut off the top so net income is less than $4, I hear.

Of course, that $5 is not the whole story. Sometimes the proposed activity is just a come-on for further services billed at a higher rate. On the other hand, sometimes the project does not have clearly defined limits so that requests for revisions keep a-comin’.

Then there are other job boards that allow for higher pricing. I was surprised to find out that some limit how far a freelancer can underbid the stated budget range to perhaps 30 percent below the low end. I was amazed because I assumed most people would bid at the high end on the assumption that if you are good enough to get the assignment, you are good enough to be paid at the top of the allowable range.

I propose a middle ground based not on what we are “worth” or how low some would like to pay us. I propose that this middle ground is based on what our work is worth.

It’s impossible to determine our monetary worth as people. In a philosophical sense, our worth is without limit. We were created in the image of God, right?

It is possible to determine the monetary worth of our work itself.

It’s not easy since our competition is global and of highly varying educational and skill levels. Our competition is a vast labor pool (depending on the type of work we do), and industry standards and published pricing guidelines often provide for vast ranges in pricing.

However, it is worthwhile to apply effort to figuring out rates that make sense for us and match us up with our best clients.

Originally posted 3-10-14

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