How to Start Charging Your Dream Rates

Carl asks: Loved the show. So glad you guys are returning with more podcasts and content. Keep up the great work. I’ve been struggling to find that happy medium where rates are rates and clients are willing to pay my rates…but it’s not that easy. What would you suggest?

Answer:  First a quick note: If you’re struggling to make ends meet, I’d suggest building a stable financial base before attempting to charge your dream rates.

With that said, when you receive an expression of interest from a new potential client, try proposing your dream rates.

For a client to accept, three factors need to align:

1. They need to believe you’re worth it
2. They must be able to afford it
3. They need to believe that you wouldn’t do it any cheaper

Here’s how you can secure each of these factors:

Convincing clients that you’re worth it

Think of your credentials and portfolio like a film trailer. The aim of a film trailer is to show only the portions of the film which make it look as attractive as possible to potential cinema-goers. Too many freelancers fall into the trap of covering everything, rather than just the best bits.

Explain what you can do for clients  they re not interested in your editing skills, your writing ability or what kind of tripod you have. They’re interested based on what they believe your skills will do for them. A video is only a means to a more money, an impressive web presence or something that will lead to more traffic and links for them.

You might have an communications degree, but clients interested in your video production work are mainly concerned with the money the video you produce will bring them. You can sell your work more effectively than most freelancers by focusing on the results your clients really want to hear about.

Less can be more if you have three pieces of work that you and your clients were incredibly proud of   work that you believe is a level above anything else you’ve done  showcase only those outstanding jobs to potential clients.

List other jobs under  experience, but there s no need to showcase them in detail. If all your clients know of you is outstanding work that they like, they will see that as the kind of work you’re going to bring them.

Once you start admitting anything but your absolute best work into your portfolio or demo reel, you’re doing nothing but increasing the chance that clients will see something they don’t like.

Carry yourself like you’re worth it. If you’ve worked for high profile or well-respected clients, make sure your potential client knows about it. Freelancers are often judged by the quality of the people they work for. If you’ve done three jobs for high profile, impressive clients and a hundred jobs for Average Joes and Janes, mention in detail only those three high profile jobs.

Everyone else does it  saying things like For the same price, previous clients have received  reminds the potential clients that other people have paid the price you re asking. This can help make the price seem more reasonable to them.

One important, overarching tip is to think of the things you show clients, and the way you communicate, as a flashlight you can use to highlight certain aspects of your freelancing business and leave others in shadow.

If you focus on what makes you outstanding and don’t introduce your clients to anything else, to them, you will seem outstanding in everything you do (because outstanding is all they know about you).

Can the client even afford your dream rates?

If you’ve failed to convince clients that you re worth it, your work and payment proposition may be ignored in disbelief. If this is a common experience for you, you might need to work on better convincing clients that you re worth it, or explore some new strategies for finding work (and in doing so, start to attract different types of clients).

If you’ve succeeded in convincing a potential client that you’re worth your dream rates, another obstacle remains: whether or not your client can actually afford them. If you try to charge your dream rates to a client who can t afford them, you re not going to be successful even if the client agrees that you re worth what you’ve proposed.

It can be difficult to determine in advance whether a client can afford your dream rates, but these general rules can help:

Established businesses, companies and brands can generally afford to pay top dollar, because the money that you ll be paid usually doesn’t belong to the person contacting you.

Small businesses are slightly less likely to accept your dream rates, as the payment you’ve proposed will often come from the pocket of the person who contacted you for work. That being said, it’s still worth trying for your dream rates.

Individuals are the least likely party to be able to afford your dream rates, unless they are wealthy, or if your freelancing work has the potential to help them earn more money than they’ve spent on you. If you re being commissioned for work that doesn’t have the potential to earn the client much money (for example, a hobby or personal project), you can expect your dream rates to be out of their reach.

Another point to remember is that if you find yourself wondering how a client can afford to pay you, they probably can’t. Charging your dream rates to clients without a lot of funds may increase the likelihood that they ll disappear when it s time to pay you!

Make them believe you wouldn’t do it any cheaper

Does the client think you’re bluffing?

Unless a client has a lot of respect for you and what you do, they re probably going to propose a rate lower than the one you’ve suggested if they have reason to think you ll accept it anyway.

If the way you communicate portrays a lack of confidence in your ability to charge the rates you want, clients will pick up on it. Phrases like:  Let me know if these rates suit you ,  But I m open to negotiation,  and  Let me know if this is more than you can afford  all say one thing and one thing only to clients:  I hope you ll pay me what I’ve asked, but I ll easily work for less .

One common mistake freelancers make is to assume that if a client doesn’t want to pay the price you’ve proposed, they ll never contact you again. In fact, if you’ve convinced the client that you re worth it, and they can afford your dream price, clients will generally be willing to pay it. In some circumstances, they might try to negotiate you down first, in order to save some money.

Be firm when proposing your dream price  firm statements like  This will cost  .  and  I charge   , or  My standard fee for all clients is  .  indicate confidence in your dream price. Your wording will decrease the number of clients who believe you ll work for less. To be even firmer, you can list your dream price as  the minimum rate I do this kind of work for,  which will discourage potential from trying to negotiate you down.

Don t succumb to bluffing. If your client tries to negotiate a lower price without explicitly stating that they can t afford your dream price, you can bet you re being bluffed. By not stating unequivocally that they can t afford what you re proposing, they re not burning any bridges when it comes to accepting your initial price (if it turns out that you won’t budge).

In a friendly but firm way, let the client know that your dream rate is the only rate you believe to be fair to both you and them.

A final note

You’ll have a much easier time convincing clients that you re worth it if your work is outstanding, or if you increase your potential to do outstanding work by building your skill-set and capabilities.

Part of charging your dream rates is a personal transformation into the kind of video freelancer you’ve always dreamed of being.

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