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Freelancing and consulting: How much to charge meets how much to pay

I started freelance writing in 1991, and over the years I’ve set prices on a wide array of projects using several criteria. I developed my first website in 1998, and that was the first of my many experiences in hiring freelancers and consultants to work with me on my businesses.

In the past two decades I’ve read a lot about pricing. Much of it has been from the perspective of the service provider, while some has been from the viewpoint of the client.

I’ve never read anything that reconciles the two in a single piece of writing. I believe that it would be instructive to look at both together, and that’s what I am setting out to do in some of my future articles.

I have two businesses going simultaneously. I am a freelance writer specializing in business, especially the insurance and asset management industries. Plus I write and coach individuals on how to market freelance and consulting services.

The audiences for the two are very different, but I recognize that everything I post online may be read by either and that I must be comfortable being read by anyone who finds me via Google or any other channel. This includes my pricing policies.

In contrast, I read some freelancing gurus who boast about their high rates as proof of their self-esteem. They practice per project and value pricing as a way to earn fees in no way commensurate to the time or effort expended. They chortle with delight that they are putting one over on their clients.

I also read freelancers who use the lowest-priced services they can find. I am still sorting through my feelings on this. I certainly don’t recommend paying more than is necessary for the services I need. However, I am comfortable paying a fair rate for the high level of excellence and timeliness I expect and am suspicious of work that is too cheap. I don’t want to spend time correcting inadequate work—if I wanted to do it myself, I would simply dig in and do it on my own.

The Golden Rule, of course, is to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. As both a provider and a client of various freelance and consulting services, I do not offer my services at rock-bottom prices and do not expect this from others.

Quite the contrary. I am comfortable with prices that are quite high, both in charging these rates and in paying these rates to others when appropriate.

I am also comfortable in charging different rates to different clients because of the nature of the work, the deadlines, the clients’ industries and other factors.

Originally posted 9-10-13

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