“Freelancers who undercharge are ruining the business!” “Freelancers who work for free are undermining my prices!”
Creative freelancing is a market, and only you can establish the value you bring to it. I don’t view the low end of the freelance rate scale as my competition. I can’t possibly know someone’s motivation for charging below-market rates or nothing at all, but that’s their right—and clearly there’s a market for such services on bidding sites, job boards, and elsewhere. Perhaps they don’t know better. Maybe they don’t care, or are independently wealthy. Some are just getting started and trying to build a portfolio. Some love writing, editing, designing (or whatever) so darn much that it’s more valuable to them than a profitable long-term business. If that makes them happy, who am I to judge?
Similarly, a champagne-taste-beer-budget client isn’t my target audience. I’m confident that they’ll get what they pay for. Whether they ultimately seek out better, higher-paid talent isn’t my problem—it’s theirs.
Obviously, there are a lot of unknowns. But what I do know is that I have zero-zilch-nada control over freelancers who undercharge or prospective clients who want cheap work, and any time spent worrying about either of them would be wasted. It seems to me that they make a good match.
Reedsy and the Rate Sheet Effect on Freelancers
There’s a related effect when an article or rate study comes out that posts prices that are below the rates an experienced professional would charge. Most recently, two articles from Reedsy, “Uncovered: How much do freelance book editors and designers make?” and “How Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Book? – Data from the Reedsy Marketplace,” made the rounds. Here, the rallying cry is “Woe is us! Clients are going to see this and demand Ridiculous Rate X!”
No one can force you to accept a project at Ridiculous Rate X. It just might take a little more negotiation, education, and persuasion to help them understand that your rates are worth paying, and why. For example, I had a prospective client who’d done some research on CreateSpace and the rates they charge for various levels of book editing. It was obvious he wasn’t doing it out of malice or trying to chisel me down on my price. He’s a financial guy, and simply wanted to understand the numbers. We had a good conversation, I explained my publishing services and process, and we came to an agreement.
If you believe a potential client has been misinformed by a rate sheet or prices they’ve gotten from other freelancers, don’t take it personally. I imagine Reedsy was honest about its research findings. (I know some freelancers do well working with them, often at higher-than-average rates.) I’m equally sure that Amazon is profitable charging what it does for CreateSpace editing packages, though I don’t know anyone who’s worked with them as a freelance editor. It’s worth understanding what competitive rates are for services comparable to your own—and anything else doesn’t matter. The more confident and comfortable you can be about discussing your rates with a prospect, and why you’re superior to their other options, the more successful your freelance business will be.
UPDATE 8-24: I’ve added the original Reedsy link, which the company has updated and republished.
In the comments: Do you agree or disagree? Are low-rate freelancers doing damage to our industry?