The biggest mistake I made starting my freelance business

The biggest mistake I made when starting my freelance business from XOSarah.com

Today I want to tell you a little story about a big mistake I made when I was just starting my freelance design business.

I had the opportunity yesterday to do an interview with the truly super awesome Ashley Wilhite for her new program Cubicle to $10k. As part of this series she asked me to talk about making my first $10k and so I went back through my spreadsheets from 2010 and 2011 to see how much income I made.

People…I was shocked. The prices I was charging when I first started freelancing again were atrociously low. Like cringe-worthy low. Like I’m in middle school making blog headers for my friends-low.

I’ll let you jump over to her site and watch the interview for the exact numbers, but suffice to say, I was massively under charging for my services.

When I decided to start freelancing I had almost 15 years of design and development experience, 6 of those in a corporate setting. I had multiple clients under my belt and expertise in Photoshop and WordPress. But I didn’t have any recently designed sites online or an official-looking business website (I was soliciting clients through a blog post), so I took it upon myself to start from square one.

UGH.

I wasn’t taking myself or my business seriously and therefore I didn’t think I could charge serious rates. Major mistake.

For two years before leaving my full-time job I worked with a ton of clients, I put in a TON of hours, and I didn’t end up making that much money.

After having such a giant slap-in-the-face reminder myself, I thought I would share what I should have done with you . . .

  • If you’re starting a business, really take stock of the amount of experience, knowledge and talent you have. Don’t be like me and base your prices solely on the fact that you’re just starting to offer freelance services. If you are seriously about your work you will attract clients that are serious about theirs.
  • Be realistic about how long a project takes start to finish and what that breaks down to hourly. (If you don’t know then you NEED to start tracking your hours) For some projects that will come out to a pretty big number. Ask yourself—can I do the work and can I do it well? If the answer is yes, then you should be charging that number. (even if it feels a little scary) Don’t start worrying that it’s too expensive or you’re not good enough to charge that amount yet. Trust me, it is downright painful to find yourself in the middle of a project thinking, “I should have charged more…”
  • Consider how many clients you can take on in a year to meet your financial goals. If you want to make $30,000 is that 30 clients or 300. (It’s not 300, please don’t say 300)
  • Lastly, imagine yourself two years in the future—looking back, how would you feel about your current prices?

If you’ve been in business for a while check back over your pricing.

  • When is the last time you increased your prices?
  • What skills or knowledge have you gained over the past year that would warrant a rate hike?
  • How far in advance are you booking clients? More than a few months out and you can probably raise your prices.
  • Is your pricing in line with other similarly talented people in your niche? Remember, under charging doesn’t just hurt you, it hurts everyone in your industry.

I know that pricing is a huge dilemma when starting a freelance business, so my recommendation is to aim high. Don’t lowball yourself just because you want tons of clients immediately or you’re afraid people won’t hire you. Gain some more skills and get hustling!


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