How Do You Get Over the Self-Imposed Sticker Shock?

I've been working on building up my professional site, thinking up some killer blog post ideas for it, gathering some (embarrassingly) flattering testimonials from my best clients, and am almost ready to launch it -- all I need is a good head shot for the front page and a "rates" page.

And that's where I'm getting cold feet.

I'm looking at the Writer's Market rates...and several articles throughout the Web...and all of them seem to pretty much agree on standard prices (it seems the average always pretty much falls between $50-100/hr or around $1/word).  Yet despite obvious evidence that this is a standard rate...and presumably, plenty of people are making this much money (and PAYING this much money)....I can't quite get over the feeling of "naaaah...there's no way anybody would pay me that much!"

My experience is primarily Textbroker and similar content mills and some Craigslist clients.  When I land a 20 cpw "expert team" article on TB, that already feels like manna from heaven.  I just can't wrap my mind around being able to "get away" with charging what the work is actually worth. (And I know my writing must be fine...I've ghostwritten articles that ended up on Forbes! I have an article in my own name being published at Writer's Digest! Clearly I must be pretty decent at this!)

How in the world do I get over this so I can confidently talk rates with future clients?

4 thoughts on “How Do You Get Over the Self-Imposed Sticker Shock?”

  1. The only way to get over it is to land your first few clients at the higher rates. Once you see that they’re not only willing to pay those rates, but quite happy with what they get for their money, you should feel much better about it. Until then, just push based the uneasiness. You’ll get there.

    Also be careful about who you’re targeting. I’d avoid all mentions of any content mill types of clients you’ve worked with for example. That will just set price expectations lower, and that’s when you’ll run into sticker shock on the client side. And if you start attracting those kind of clients, you’ll likely have a few who try to tear you down. It can be demoralizing when they tell you you’re bordering on worthless and crazy for thinking anyone should pay you that much. It happens. You learn to ignore it. And eventually most of those prospects dry up (posting your rates publicly can help a lot because you’ll drive them away before they bother reaching out for a quote). But if you do happen get a few of these, don’t let them get you down. The fact that they can’t afford you says something about their business, but it says nothing about you.

  2. The thought that you “can’t” charge that is something internal. It’s going to take one tax year to reveal just how little those fees you make stretch.

    Truth is I don’t put my rates on my site. I’m not sure you should, either, given that you’re new to freelancing. Better to have someone offer you three times what you charge than be overlooked because your rate isn’t serious, right?

    Jenn’s right — if you mention content mill clients, you’re going to succeed in repelling a few clients. Not all, but the ones that pay $1/word might not take you seriously. And what she said about rejection — it’s not your price, but their budget. Even years later, I still run into one or two clients who can’t afford me. A few of them get bitchy about it, but I don’t respond back. Keep that in mind — wear that professional demeanor even when they’re being insulting.

  3. Tiana, I agree with Jenn and Lori. Don’t mention the content mills.

    That rate that’s making you slightly uncomfortable is a good starting point. When 2 or 3 people pay that without quibbling, that’s your new minimum and you can raise them again. I know this works, because I’ve done it.

    Unlike Lori, I DO put rates on my site – it eliminates some of the time wasters. But I didn’t when I got started; I only made that change a year ago and it hasn’t hurt my business (as far as I know).

  4. I put my rates on my website too. And it’s been nothing but helpful. It cuts down on negotiation time because people know what to expect. If there’s a range, or a rate is simply a starting point, that’s clear to them up front. And it weeds out people who can’t afford you.


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