Should you post your rates online?
If you offer freelance web design services, then you’ve probably participated in the merry-go-round that is your rates. From knowing how to price your services to working up the nerve to say them out loud, the price tag question is one that doesn’t always go away very easily. It’s one thing to know what your minimum hourly rate needs to be – and that’s a good place to start. It’s another thing entirely to feel comfortable commanding those rates — especially if you’re new at the table.
One facet of the rate debate is whether or not you should post your rates on your website. There are staunch advocates on either side of the argument, so ultimately it comes down to what makes the most sense for you.
Why our rates matter so much
Our rates tap into something much deeper for many of us: our value. And because stating our rates puts an actual price tag on our value, doing so can tap into some uncomfortable wells of vulnerability, inferiority, and all kinds of fun stuff.
Don’t let it get to your head.
The longer you’re in the business, the more comfortable you’ll be enforcing the rates you’ve set — and the less inclined you should be to offer a discount because you feel “guilty for charging so much.” (Seriously, don’t do that.) If you’ve figured out what your rates should be, then charge those rates fearlessly. It’s up to you to decide how fearlessly, though, because the next step is to put your rates on your website – if that’s how you roll.
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Why you should publish your rates
There are some serious benefits to publishing your rates online. One benefit is to attract your ideal client — one who will expect to pay a certain amount for their project and who will know you’re the designer for them when you fall within that budget. On the flip side, publishing your rates will also go a long way in weeding out lowball clients or those whose budgets can’t accommodate you.
Another thing I’ve experienced myself and heard from clients, prospects, and fellow freelancers is that people value transparency. We’ll often pick someone who lists all the necessary information up front, rather than keeping it hidden. If I see two designers I like with comparable portfolios, and one designer has rates within my range and the other doesn’t have any published rates, I’m much more likely to go with the one whose rates I can see up front.
One tip I’ve long employed is to publish rates that are just a click higher than the rates I’m currently charging. This is a strategic move on my part — it presents my services at a high level, but it allows me to “wiggle down” if I really want the gig, without going below my actual minimum rate. This means I can still get my bills paid without sacrificing myself, and the client gets a one-time “good deal” on the project. It also gives me motivation for moving up the rate scale — the more clients I can get at the higher rates, the better off I’ll be.
The key to publishing your rates online is to offer a “minimum” for any given task or project with the caveat phrase, “starting at.” This gives a ballpark idea of the overall fee, but it allows you to negotiate higher if the project is bigger, more complex, or otherwise requires more time and effort than the average base project. It’s also a psychological boost when I look at these “stretch” rates every few months and realize that I’m actually getting them.
Why you shouldn’t publish your rates
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Two significant arguments against publishing your rates should be considered while you make this decision. Essentially, they boil down to the idea that every project is different. Prospective clients come to you with different needs and different ideas, and it can be tricky to nail down a one-size-fits-all rate when no two projects are the same. Many freelancers feel it’s better to get to know the actual project being quoted before assigning any monetary value to it.
The other school of thought is that listing your rates can limit you. If you’re negotiating with a prospective client with a $6,000 budget but your website says your rate for that type of project starts at $2,500, the client may have the upper hand in the negotiation and could be left leaving a lot of cash on the table. Some freelancers even recommend not telling your rates, and instead asking the client what the budget is and then putting together a proposal tailored to that amount.
There are some markets in which it makes sense not to publish your rates. If your clients are people who buy services like yours all the time and know what they should be paying, the reminder may be off-putting or work to your disadvantage. But if many of your clients are first-timers, one-timers, or people who infrequently hire services like yours, offering some rate transparency may be what it takes to land them.
Basically, there’s a lot of debate on the merits of publishing rates and negotiating rates, but don’t get lost in this vortex of “learning the business” – pick an approach and make adjustments down the road if something isn’t working for you.