Can you send me YOUR rate?
Turns out I also kinda, mostly, only care about how much a freelancer is going to cost me. 🤦🏽♀️
Remember how a few months ago I complained about potential clients who reach out to me and immediately ask me for my rate?
Turns out that when the tables are turned, I’m not so … different from those price-obsessed clients.
I recently used an online marketplace to find and hire five self-employed contractors to do some stuff in my apartment that I lacked the skills, interest or time to do myself.
I wish I could tell you that I chose all those freelancers purely based on their skillset or their positive references.
Nope. Their respective rates … womp womp … played a big role in my decision to hire them, but not always in the way you might have expected.
On the whole, I would say I never chose a freelancer just because they had the lowest rate. I chose them because they had the lowest rate and they were responsive; they followed up; they answered my questions; they clearly broke down what was included in their rate and what wasn’t; and were generally graceful, respectful and professional in their online interactions with me.
For instance, for the most complicated, risky service; the one where a sloppy performance could result in, you know, just fire or electrocution, I chose the electrician with the highest hourly rate. I also chose him because it was clear from his user reviews that he had done the kind of work I wanted to have done before.
For the simplest task, the one that I could easily have done myself but didn’t want to (i.e. clean an entire, vacant apartment that had been gathering dust for months), I did hire the freelancer with the lowest hourly rate.
I should acknowledge here that her hourly rate – and many of the rates I received through this online marketplace to be honest – shocked me. Of course, I’ve known for a long time that cleaners do very taxing work for very little money; I’ve even written about this as a journalist in the past.
But this time, these cleaners weren’t some anonymous, distant class of underpaid workers. Instead, I was looking at a photo of a cheerful, young woman whose profile stated she was looking to make some extra cash while pursuing a master’s degree in design. She could have been a niece of mine, a niece offering to do back-breaking work for pennies.
This didn’t sit with me well. And so, though I had initially planned to fully outsource the job to her, I decided to help her and messaged her we’ll clean the apartment together, in the hopes that the whole thing will feel less like I’m exploiting a young woman in a weak negotiating position. I also plan to give her a cash tip to bump up her hourly rate without the platform taking a cut.
I also reached out to a handful companies myself (so not through this online marketplace) for quotes. One company gave me a call after I submitted a request for a free, no-obligation quote through their website. Though I’d submitted all the information they needed through the website form, the guy who called me up asked me to recap everything over the phone, which I did. During that call, he pushed back against my assessment of the work needed and pushed for a bigger scope. I insisted that I had carefully estimated the amount of work needed myself, but he wouldn’t hear it.
A few days later, I finally received their quote on a Friday late afternoon. It was the second-most expensive one I got, so I decided to hire another company and told them so. I got a passive-aggressive message back stating that their proposed rate was industry-standard (it was, but on the high end); that they put a lot of time into the price quote (it was 100% a quote generated by a software system); that I had said I wanted to work with them (a lie); and that he was telling me all this not because he really wanted to have the assignment but out of “ethics and the principle of it”.
Though I really wanted to tell him that I was also self-employed and that putting time into quotes is a frustrating but normal part of the job, I chose not to reply to that message. I figured that, based on his behaviour until now, he would disagree with me and didn’t want to be dragged into an argument that would only cost me energy.
What I’ll take away from this experience?
Don’t be that passive-aggressive guy. Or, to borrow a line from Beyoncé, always stay gracious, readers.
It is worth following up when a prospective client reaches out with an assignment, something I often don’t do because there’s so much else to do, and I figure the ball is in their corner after I’ve sent them my offer. It shows you’re organised and that you want the assignment. Also, most freelancers won’t follow up so it’ll make you stand out.
Send detailed price quotes. Having been in the role of a prospective client for a little bit, I’ve seen how a comprehensive quote inspires confidence. It suggests that the freelancer has a good idea of what the job entails; that they’ve taken the time to work out a proposal; and it also clearly sets the boundaries of the service, so that there can be no confusion on either side.
What about you? Have you ever hired freelancers and did you draw any lessons from that? Did you decide to do things differently and if so, what were those changes? As always, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on this post on our website.
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What our readers are saying:
“I've experimented with a few freelance pricing models over the years, and considered value-based pricing, but could never find a way to make it work. I found that clients just didn't want to have that type of conversation - and because I'm not a natural salesman, I never pushed it further.
Instead, I changed the focus of my writing work - and became more skilled in B2B writing. That helped me to up my writing, and my rates - and I'm pretty happy with where I am at right now.” – Response from reader Paul Maplesden to ‘Am I too ethical for value-based pricing?’
I'm a freelancer who offers services, and I've found that the best way to have the rates conversation is to --- not have the rates conversation! I achieve that by publishing all of my rates, openly, on my website (which is my only source of client acquisition). It's the second-most visited page after the home page and details exactly how much it will cost to hire me to do X, Y, or Z.
It's great, because it means my potential clients self-select (or not) to my services, depending on their budgets. My pricing psychologically positions me as a certain type of freelancer (in my case, a specialist B2B content marketer with experience in fairly esoteric niches, and my rates reflect that.) Because clients know how much I will cost before they contact me, they only contact me if I'm within their budget.
This means I haven't had to negotiate on rates for at least three years, and I have a full roster. I fully realize that this approach will not work for everyone (it's a purely inbound channel) - but it can certainly help to avoid some of those awkward conversations!