Setting rates is incredibly difficult – whether you're just starting out or if you've been at it for a while (you should always be reviewing your rates). I have yet to meet a freelancer who did not struggle with pricing. If you go too low, you cheat yourself – too high, you won't get enough work to keep yourself afloat.
When determining what to charge, begin with the end in mind: how much do you need to earn each month to be comfortable? Build a budget for yourself and your family and commit to it. There are a ton of great budgeting tools included “You Need a Budget” (YNAB – https://www.youneedabudget.com/) and my personal favorite, Mint (https://www.mint.com/). Don’t forget to add in an emergency fund, savings and a vacation, of course. Divide the number of jobs you think you can do per month into this number and make that your baseline. You can’t survive and go below this number without eating into your savings.
Don’t be afraid to ask trusted peers what they charge. If you can build a relationship with other freelancers in your industry via Facebook groups or even reddit, share your estimates with them and ask for feedback. Ideally this person isn’t a competitor and is in a market similar to yours. It’s important to remember rates vary from place to place and an average photographer in a small town can’t pull in the rates of an average photographer working in New York City. I cannot overemphasize the importance of joining a group with other freelancers doing similar work. They’ll help you not only get a feel for rates but can share best practices and tip on how to handle difficult clients and situations. It’s invaluable and I’m sure you also have tips that can contribute the community.
Adjust your prices based on how much work you're getting. Feeling stressed because you’re completely booked? What a great problem to have! It may be time to up the prices and lower the demand. You’ll work less and make the same, if not more. Unable to snag clients with your current rates? Try offering slightly lower prices and see if you can build up a backlog of work. Be sure not to overbook yourself at a low rate, especially not a rate that will put you below what you want to make for the year.
The market, for the most part, dictates what people are willing to pay for your services. That market is constantly in flux and will change depending on the competition in your region. Don’t let your prices get stale and always be sure you’re charging what you’re worth. Never undervalue yourself!
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