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Freelance and consulting: When potential clients don’t value themselves highly enough


A frequent claim among freelancers, consultants and other solopros is that we service providers should value our work more highly and set our fees accordingly.

It’s a valid point. Our services have high value but clients won’t pay us more than the rates we quote to them.

However, I see another problem, that clients often don’t value themselves highly enough to hire the high level of solopro performance that would make their lives easier.

In the past two decades I have made thousands of phone calls to marketing communications and marketing research managers and executives offering my freelance assistance. From time to time I have been challenged to reveal my hourly rate on the spot.

Although I prefer to give a single price for the entire project, I am not awkward in naming an hourly rate when requested. Sometimes the other party will then quickly dismiss me, saying that he has others on call who work much more cheaply.

When this happens, I could argue and present the advantages of working with me. But unless the individual is somewhat pleasant and seems interested in talking, I prefer to thank him for his time and conclude the conversation quickly. When we’re obviously so far apart on price, it isn’t worth the effort or time to prolong the call. They won’t be convinced and I’ll become more frustrated and feel insulted.

I question the quality of the work provided at such a low fee. Since I tend to get off the phone quickly when I know that a sale is not in the offing, I don’t have enough data, or even anecdotes, to conclude beyond a doubt that work provided cheap isn’t so good. However, while I’m sure that some people available from online job boards are performing way above their pay, I have always found when there is further conversation that the writing product required a lot of reworking by the client.

It appears to me that many purchasers of low-cost services don’t value their own time and prefer to spend hours revising cheap input rather than pay more for better work that is perfected—through multiple iterations if necessary—until it really meets customer expectations.

I understand why this happens sometimes with small businesses, especially one-person practices. They simply don’t have the money to hire the level of service they require.

But more puzzling are the managers who work for large businesses. They haughtily claim that they can hire someone more inexpensive than I. Why is their time so undervalued by their company that has the funds for top-notch furniture, snacks and other perks? Can’t these people see that their department is under budgeted—or that although they claim to be so so busy, they mistakenly sacrifice their own time to save a few bucks?

The problem is not that I charge too much for my time. It is that they don’t recognize that their own time is worth more than how they value it.

Originally posted 4-15-13

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