A Case for Publicly Sharing Your Freelance Rates

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on February 26, 2010 in Freelance Writing Business
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Today I asked another freelance writer who designed her logo, because every time I see it I think about how much I love it. Not too far down the road, I'll need some logo work done, so I figured I'd take a look at the designer's site to see if they'd be a good match. One problem though -- they don't list their rates.

As a buyer, I hate that. No, I don't want to take time out of my day to request a custom quote. No, I don't want you emailing me to pitch your services. And no, I definitely do not want to give you my phone number so you can call me to do the same thing! When I visit a freelancer's site because I'm interested in hiring them, I expect to find some very specific things:

  • A list of the services they provide
  • At least a general range of what they charge
  • Some examples of past work in a portfolio

If you don't give me those three things, I generally won't waste my time. I'll leave your site and go find someone else who does give me the information I need.

Rates are the biggest issue with me. I don't like it when potential clients contact me about my writing services when they can't afford me anyway (it wastes time for both of us), so I post my rates. They know immediately whether or not my work fits within their budget, and that knocks out one possible battle. I want the same as a buyer. If you're way out of my range, I simply won't contact you. I'll keep looking. If you give me a range that suits my needs (or a specific price depending on the type of work), then I'll contact you ready to fork over some dough to get the work done.

There really isn't a good excuse not to publish rates. Could you imagine going to a retailer's store and having to ask for every price? Wouldn't it piss you off if prices weren't available on a store's website when you want to order? That would drive me crazy. It's no different with services.

I don't care if your rates "vary based on the project." You have some kind of range, or at least a minimum rate you charge. So publish something! Give me "most projects fall between $xxx and $yyyy" or "prices start at $xx." I don't even care if the range is somewhat broad. It still gives me an idea of what it might cost me, how you value your work, and how you fare in prices against the competition (who I'm probably also researching at the same time).


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I really don't get it. Why are some freelancers so against publishing rates? I've heard the argument that they can't be flexible if they do, but that's not true. I've already given two examples of how you can have it both ways. So seriously, what it is? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.

26 Comments

  1. Jessie Haynes / JHaynesWriter February 26, 2010 Reply

    Jenn, You hit it with this one. I get, really, really annoyed when I’m trying to buy junk food at 7eleven and it doesn’t have a price on it. I don’t buy it. When I’m looking to work with someone and they don’t have rates posted, I skip them. Like you, I don’t want to be hounded because someone wants to cling onto me as if I’m some warm lead. Prospecting to that point makes me never want to work with someone. I feel like a lot of freelancers that don’t include rates are posturing–as a client, I feel like they are waiting to just how much they can get me to pay.

  2. Lucy Smith February 26, 2010 Reply

    Interesting post. I don’t have rates on my site. I don’t actually know why, I don’t have some sort of rationale for it, I just don’t. I think it was probably to do with having no idea about what to charge when I set it up, so I just didn’t include rates.

    Maybe when I next review I’ll think about adding a page for rates; I get pissy when I have to go to some effort to find out what something costs, so it stands to reason that other people would.

  3. Lillie Ammann February 26, 2010 Reply

    I agree with you, Jennifer.

    I quote my hourly rate and say I will be happy to give quote for a specific project. Clients looking for the cheapest rates and clients expecting to pay top dollar both will move on and not waste my time or theirs.

  4. Lillie Ammann February 26, 2010 Reply

    Not sure what happened … or if it’s just on my screen that it looks this way. My avatar and link appear on a comment that isn’t mine, and my previous comment appears with no attribution.

    My comment starts with “I agree …”

  5. Wolfster February 27, 2010 Reply

    This is an interesting question that I have wondered about recently, too. My rates are on my webpage, but several times I have wondered if they belong there.

    Why? This was my first year and a couple times this year, if I had too many clients, I would go increase rates. My fear, though, is that if someone visits my website a few times (and a few months apart) they may wonder what is wrong with me…as in, why is $10 or 20/hour or so higher a few months later?

    Also, recently, I have finally had some client that are from larger companies find me. They contacted me through my website. I know my rate is much lower than what they normally work with. So now I either have to increase the rate in an estimate and hope they didn’t look closely, or just suck it up and get a lower rate for this project. If it wasn’t listed though I would have had more options.

  6. Wolfster February 27, 2010 Reply

    @Little Amman -

    (Looking weird – moving the icon and words around on the screen) I have the same problem when I use internet explorer, all the comments appear like that.

    Hasn’t happened to me with Mozilla Firefox, though.

  7. Jenn Mattern February 27, 2010 Reply

    Wolfster – It’s Lillie (not “Little”) ;)

    On the rate front, you sound like a perfect candidate for posting ranges rather than specifics. That means no one sees constant changes and wonders what’s going on, but you’re still left free to charge differently for different types of projects.

    Lillie – It’s displaying correctly for me in Firefox. Can you tell me what version you’re using?

  8. Star February 27, 2010 Reply

    I don’t list my rates. I hope prospects can see from my national credits and the big corps for which I have written that I am not a five-bucker. I talk money when they are serious. Every job is a custom job in this business–cost varies based on what is involved. Are you providing the sources for my story? Did I provide the idea and the sources to you? How many revisions are involved? What rights are you buying?

  9. Kimberly February 27, 2010 Reply

    I added rates back to my site after posting about this very topic on my blog. I noticed that I got more work when my rates were posted. I did what Jenn suggested to Wolfster and posted a range for each service(e.g. rates starting at $XX.00).

  10. Lillie Ammann February 27, 2010 Reply

    I’m using Internet Explorer so guess that’s the problem.

  11. Carson Brackney February 28, 2010 Reply

    My doctor doesn’t post list his rates.

    My dentist doesn’t advertise hers.
    My lawyer’s site doesn’t mention how much he charges per billable hour. My accountant doesn’t have a menu with prices.

    That’s one way of looking at it. Here’s another:

    Many writers want to charge what they’re worth but they’re also willing to slum when things are thin.

    They don’t want to scare anyone off by listing a larger rate when they’ll settle for less if push comes to shove.

    I’ve worked with many writers who are publicly Extremely Vocal about securing higher rates who will quietly work in the shallow end of the rate pool on the down-low, sometimes.

    Another reason (mentioned above): Every project is wildly different. I’ve billed jobs anywhere from $15 to $12,500 in the last two months. I’m not even going to bother listing a range, you know?

  12. Mitch February 28, 2010 Reply

    Actually, I get why people don’t post their rates, and why I’m not posting most of my rates either.

    If you’re working locally, like I do for some of the things I do, you’re worried about being undercut by someone else offering to do the same thing as you. If people just look at your rates without ever talking to you, they might not give you the opportunity to see if there’s a symbiosis after they look at your rates.

    Now, if you’re always busy that works fine. But in an economy like last year, I found that even in my main consulting industry hospitals were taking advantage of the economy and offering drastically lower rates than they did in the past, and most people were jumping at it because at least it was money. I didn’t, and I suffered dramatically from it. Had my consulting rates been posted, I wouldn’t have even had the opportunity to talk to someone. As it was, without rates posted, at least I made people think twice before deciding to go with someone less expensive.

    I do understand your side of things, but overall I think one has to gauge what they do against those they might be competing against before making those kinds of decisions.

  13. Jenn Mattern February 28, 2010 Reply

    @Star – National credits are fine and dandy for you as a writer, but not all clients are going to equate a certain credit with a certain rate level. Some have no idea what a “normal” rate is with certain types of publications. If someone isn’t telling them, it’s still a potential waste of time for everyone involved.

    As a buyer, I’d also consider it a bit presumptive of a freelancer to just assume I should know what they charge, even in a ballpark. And again, even though I might very well have the budget for that freelancer, I wouldn’t hire them. I’d go to one of those competitors I was always looking at, who made my life easier and gave me the information I needed to make a solid decision up front. I’m not a mind reader. Neither are a lot of folks out there with budgets who are ready to hire writers. It sounds like a good way to rule out a nice segment of the potential client base.

    If you already have enough work coming in, it won’t matter. I could pull my rates off my site and it wouldn’t affect anything, b/c I’m rarely accepting new clients as it is. I know quite a few colleagues in similar situations. But for anyone who wants their site to actually work for them to attract gigs (anyone new, anyone trying to expand, etc), it just doesn’t make sense to leave all rate info off.

    No matter how much flexibility there might be based on the project, there is ALWAYS a minimum, an average, or a range. As a buyer, I expect to see at least one, if not set project rates. What a buyer expects to see would certainly vary based on the type of freelancer they’re hiring. Just my $.02.

    @Carson – The comparison doesn’t work. Here’s why. You’re talking about industries where that’s the norm. Potential clients know up front that they’ll have to call or get a consultation. Freelance writing is NOT the same. Many competitors do in fact publish their rates. It’s not a case of a buyer knowing they’ll call X freelance writers to compare rates. If they can get half of those rates immediately, why waste their time calling the rest? If they’re at the point where they’re considering them on that front, they’ve clearly already decided the freelancer could be a good fit. Why should someone put themselves at a potential disadvantage and start off the client / contractor relationship by making more work for the potential client? Again, logically it just doesn’t make sense.

    And frankly, what’s worse? Being afraid of scaring off potential buyers (who aren’t really in your primary target market if they can’t afford you anyway) while you “slum it”, or driving potential buyers away who would pay your regular rates just because you’re making their life more difficult by not giving them the info they need? In the end, the latter could be precisely why those writers have to “slum it” in the first place.

    @Mitch – Let me basically put the same question to you. Is it really worse for them to make a decision based on honest information about you and how you value your work than for them to never consider you in the first place because someone else is making things easier and more convenient for them? Let me also say this — if you’re not conveying the value of your work effectively on your site in relation to any rate range you happen to charge, then you’re really not doing your job when it comes to marketing your services.

    Rate info is a supplement to your portfolio, giving potential buyers an idea of what they’re going to get for their money. In my experience, serious buyers rarely look at rates alone when making their hiring decisions, and it’s up to you as the freelancer to make a well-rounded case on your site for why they should hire you over the competition.

  14. Jenn Mattern February 28, 2010 Reply

    @Kimberly – Sorry, I forgot you in the last comment, but I wanted to say I’ve experienced the same. In the brief period when I was struggling early on and wondering where I’d find my next client, I didn’t have rates published. I also received a lot of inquiries from people who couldn’t afford my rates. That wasted their time in contacting me and my time in having to respond to someone who wasn’t a serious lead. Rates were added to the site. More work came in, and far fewer inquiries came in from people who were outside of my target market. Win-win.

  15. Mitch February 28, 2010 Reply

    I come at this from a different perspective than you. When I first created my main business site, I had to think long whether or not I was going to put my picture on it. That’s because there are few, and I mean VERY few, black health care consultants. My dad convinced me, but I often wonder how many potential clients look at my site, see my picture, and don’t give me a chance because of it.

    I’d rather not have to deal with that sort of thing twice. I see my traffic figures, and wonder why it rarely translates into an equivalent number of phone calls. I may be paranoid, but I’m not giving myself another reason to worry about that particular “why”.

  16. Jenn Mattern February 28, 2010 Reply

    Mitch,

    I can understand your concerns, but I wouldn’t say race and rates work in the same way here. No one should consider race when deciding which freelance writer to hire. I have no doubt that it does happen, and I feel terrible that you and any other freelancers have had to deal with that kind of disgusting discriminatory behavior.

    However, rates are a decision-making tool when choosing contractors, even if not the other factor considered. As a buyer I wouldn’t let a lack of a photo turn me away from a provider (even though it is nice to get a more personal feel for who I’m working with). Alone, it isn’t really relevant to the decision. Rates, on the other hand, are.

  17. Jenn Mattern February 28, 2010 Reply

    Being a woman is similar on some levels. There is no doubt that some clients gravitate towards men. That said, I’ve always believed that if you know what you’re doing, you demonstrate confidence, and you convey real value to the buyer, you can be a very successful female freelance writer. Some of the most successful writers I’ve had the privilege to know are women, and they never had to hide that fact. In the end, people hire freelancers because it’s good for their business. If you can convince them that you’re good for their business (the right experience, the right rates for their budget, the right style, etc.), you make it that much easier for the potential buyer to overlook those irrelevant biases they might not even realize they have up front. It’s just a thought.

  18. Jennifer Mattern February 28, 2010 Reply

    @Lillie – I’m going to look into the comment issue in IE tomorrow. If I can’t get it sorted, I’ll have one of my coders work on it asap. I see the problem on IE8. Are you using the same version?

  19. Mitch February 28, 2010 Reply

    I just point out another reason, though, because it’s something on my mind often. I checked and found out that only 2% of the Writer’s Guild of America is black; that percentage in AAHAM, a medical organization I belong to, is even less.

    As for writing itself, well, it’s hard to change one’s mindset from one venue to others, and I understand your point of view on this one. On my SEO site, where I advertise my writing services (I do blog writing and the like as well), I have given rates for some services, but not for others. So, at least I’m sort of going along with it, but not fully. I think that’s somewhat of a step forward. :-)

  20. Lillie Ammann February 28, 2010 Reply

    Yes, I’m using IE8.

  21. Rebecca February 28, 2010 Reply

    I post my rates in ranges usually and that works well for me. I also go one step further and bundle some services to make special packages. These are rather popular with clients because they are getting a slightly reduced rate with the bundled package and it helps them frame out what they need from me in our initial discussion. The bundled packages help me as well since they are easy, convenient and tend to repeat again and again and again…LOL

  22. Yo Prinzel
    Yo Prinzel March 1, 2010 Reply

    Mitch, I’ve had the same problem as you re: pictures. Initially, I had my picture on my website but because I look like I’m in my early twenties, some clients called and actually expressed initial doubt over my experience in the financial industry. When I explained that I’m actually in my mid-thirties, it changed everything–but I couldn’t help but wonder how many clients never called and I “lost” because I look so young.

  23. Anne Wayman March 1, 2010 Reply

    Carson… I always ask what the charges will be for medical, dental and legal stuff… of course, I have yet to arrive at the hospital in an ambulance so maybe your notion works.

    Mitch, I’m so sorry we haven’t let go of more racism or even all racism in this country.

    Jenn, I use the rates on my website to screen clients… I’d just rather not start a conversation with someone who thinks I’ll write their book for a percentage or for dirt cheap. Publishing rates are for me a screening technique.

  24. Jennifer Mattern March 2, 2010 Reply

    Quick note: One of the coders was able to track down the IE8 comment display problem (my fault of course!), and it should be all purdy again now. If you’re still seeing a jumbled mess, just clear your cache / temporary Internet files and reload, and it should be fine. And then get a real browser. ;) Seriously, if you come across other issues, just let me know so one of us can look into it.

  25. Lillie Ammann March 2, 2010 Reply

    Thanks, Jenn. The comment page is definitely purdy again!

  26. Jennifer Mattern March 2, 2010 Reply

    Glad to hear it! The worst part is that I should have known what it was, since it was the only change I attempted with the comments here recently. I forgot to remove something from the stylesheet when I decided against the change. *sigh* Thank goodness for fresh eyes on someone else. :)

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