Hey, Taylor. I’ve just started doing freelance work because I feel like this is the best way to boost my earning potential and take control of my career. Problem is, I have no idea what to charge clients for my design and copywriting services. Is there a standard for this? —Katie

Hey Katie - Good for you! The first step is usually the hardest, so I feel like you’re on your way to success already. As for what to charge, there are all sorts of different standards, and you need to figure out what works for you. Some things to think about:

What makes sense for you? I know, I know, I’m responding to your question with virtually the exact same question. The thing is, you don’t just get to start at the same level as everyone else. Like with any job, you climb the ladder and earn your raises. However, you need to make sure you’re not underselling yourself right out of the gate. In your haste to get clients, you might find yourself overworked and underpaid, and that’s a very common occurrence. You need to establish a price that isn’t wildly different from what other freelancers are charging, but still feels comfortable to you and helps you get a few clients.

Keep long-term goals. If you get too caught up trying to get lots of clients who don’t pay much, you’ll find yourself hating the work, not making enough money, and constantly behind on deadlines. If you’re just diving into freelance, it’s best to take your time and give each project the attention it deserves as you find your rhythm.

Financially, taking your time doesn’t make a lot of sense, as more work means more money in your pocket. However, if you stay focused on the business you’re building, it will help you stay patient and produce good content. After all, you don’t just want to get by as a freelancer, you want to thrive and avoid going back to a job you don’t love. So, while you establish rates in the early going, remember the better your work is, the more you can make in the future.

Calculate the cost of your needs. You’re going to have a lot of expenses that standard employees don’t have to deal with. From supplies to certification programs and tax payments, a lot of the invoices you collect won’t go directly into your bank account. That means you’ll have to crunch some numbers before setting your rates to ensure you’re getting enough to survive. After you get an idea of what most people are charging, make sure you know what rate will actually be realistic for you.

What you charge will evolve over time, and it may vary between your clients. As long as you value yourself and the work you do, I’m sure you’ll settle on a price that makes sense. Good luck, Katie!

Taylor Kovar is CEO of Kovar Capital in Lufkin.

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