The Cost of Not Charging Enough

I began taking on freelance graphic design projects sophomore year of college, a couple of semesters before I even knew anything useful. It has been almost 4 years since I graduated. I have been fortunate to have a full-time job for almost 3 of those years. Even while working full-time as a graphic designer, I have continued to take on freelance work, ranging from graduation invitations to entire brand identities. I have had some really amazing clients and some really difficult clients. I have created work I am very proud of and work that I am not too fond of. And like many designers, I have often walked away after a project feeling like the monetary value I placed on my work was far less than the amount of effort, time, and talent I poured into it.

The discussion of pricing has always been very uncomfortable for me. My husband and I have spent hours analyzing why I have such a difficult time asking for a fair market price for my work. Even though I have made strides over the years (experience & practice build courage), the tendency to undervalue my work is still there. I have a difficult time asking for a fair price because justifying high prices to clients makes me nervous and uncomfortable. When pricing comes up, I instantly become apologetic. Though I am no expert at negotiations, I am pretty sure starting a conversation with an “I’m sorry but…” is not recommended.

I am still learning, sometimes over and over, but when I have taken the chance to set a firm, fair price I have ended up having the best client relationships and the easiest, most satisfying projects. The worst projects I have ever had were for clients who thought they were doing me a favor by giving me their work. The reason they thought they were doing me a favor is because I was charging them such a low rate they probably thought graphic design was some little hobby I had just picked up and was not very good at it yet.

What I would like to remind myself and share with you today is this: Value Yourself. Value Your Time.  If you don’t, you can’t expect anyone else to. 

Do you struggle with charging clients? What are some of your tips on navigating these akward conversations?

Share your mistakes in a comment. Hopefully you can help teach me and a few others a thing or two.

Download a free chapter “Pricing your Work” from David Airey’s new book, Work for Money, Design for Love.

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