How to position yourself in the market and set your rates can be one of the biggest challenges as a freelancer. If you can't describe your services, process and value in a way that resonates with clients, you'll struggle to charge the rates you'd like.
Maybe you know you're undercharging, or you want to move away from using an hourly rate that you KNOW isn't working for you, but you just aren’t sure how to sell your new pricing to your clients.
In this episode, I chat to Samantha Anderl and Andrea Wildt, who are the founders of Harlow. Harlow is an all-in-one freelancing tool to provide the resources, templates and workflows that you need to run a thriving freelance business.
In our conversation, we cover:
Resources on pricing:
Say hi to Samantha and Andrea:
Say hi to Louise:
Louise Shanahan is a freelance health and medical copywriter and a big fan of finding your freelance niche. She's on a mission to help others build a freelance business that feels easy and works for them – in weekly snack-sized bites.
Support the podcast! If you find this episode helpful and you'd like to show your appreciation, consider leaving a tip over at ko-fi.com/15minutefreelancer. Donations help cover the cost of running the podcast and are very much appreciated.
Just a quick note to say that there is a special guest appearance from a furry friend early on in this episode, it happens, this is real life, we're not in a studio. It doesn't last long though. I think he found the toy he was looking for. So with that pre-warning, please enjoy this conversation and super helpful insights on pricing shared by Samantha and Andrea from Harlow.
Welcome to 15 Minute Freelancer, your snack-sized guide to being your own boss and building a business and life you love. I'm your host Louise Shanahan. My LinkedIn bio says I'm a freelance health copywriter. But for the next 15 minutes, I'll be tickling your ears with practical strategies, behind-the-scenes stories, and nuggets of wisdom so you can create a freelance business that works for you. Whether you're just starting out or you've been self-employed for a while, I'll be right here with you to help you navigate the ups and downs of freelancing life. So grab a coffee relax and join me for 15 minutes of freelancing fun. Don't forget to hit subscribe.
Louise: Hello everyone, Louise Shanahan here and today I'm very excited to be speaking to Samantha Anderl and Andrea Wildt, who are the founders of Harlow. Harlow is an all-in-one freelancing tool to provide the resources, templates and workflows that you need to run a thriving freelance business. Hello, ladies, thank you for joining me.
Samantha: Thank you for having us.
L: Do you want to each say hello so that listeners know whose voice is whose?
Andrea: Yes, I'm Andrea.
S: And I'm Samantha.
L: Lovely, thank you. The topic that I would love to dig into with you today is about positioning our pricing. You've both been freelancers in the marketing world in the past and now you work with and support a huge community of freelancers through Harlow. So I'm sure pricing is a very familiar question that comes up for you, Samantha, perhaps you can kick off by sharing some of the pricing pitfalls that you see freelancers falling into, or perhaps have come across yourself in the past.
S: Yeah, absolutely. You know, honestly, one of the first and biggest pitfalls that we see is just undercharging. We see a lot of freelancers, especially up front, start out by wildly underpricing their services. I think sometimes it's due to a lack of thinking through, you know, the entire journey. So thinking through your long term goals, your operational costs, and everything that goes into managing a freelance business, because, as we all know, once you start freelancing, you have to do things like pay for your own insurance, take into account the time you need for admin work and marketing, you have to pay taxes, you have to plan financially for vacations and time off, right. And so, if you don't think through all of this, what might sound like a perfectly fine hourly rate up front can get stretched pretty thin.
L: It is such a thorny topic, isn't it? Just before we came on this call, I saw a tweet from someone saying that even after many years of freelancing, figuring out their rates and avoiding falling into that undercharging pitfall was still really challenging. Andrea, why is the way that we've positioned our prices important, as opposed to just simply stating this is the price for this service.
A: I think it just allows you to charge more frankly, your customers want to feel seen and they want to feel as if you deeply understand their pains, their product, just the situation that they're in. I think that’s where positioning comes in, it's really about positioning not only the value of your service and the output but the value that you're bringing to that company. And by doing so it allows you to actually increase your prices and charge more.
S: Yeah, I will say, and I know this isn't the right move for everybody, but I really do love to push packaged services and project-based pricing when possible. To kind of piggyback off of what Andrea said, I think for many freelancers packaged services and project-based pricing is a way to distance yourself from explaining what every hour is spent on. And it's really an opportunity to sell the overall value you're providing, versus the number of hours it takes to get something done. As freelancers we have a deliverable, but then there's all this other work that goes into that, there's research and strategy and execution, the revisions. If you're able to package that all up into one piece of value to sell to the client, I think it can be a lot easier. In our experience, Andrea and I, when we were freelancing, we found that it was way easier for clients to understand the value of a project and it was much harder for them to understand how long certain work takes to accomplish and to be able to actually stomach that. If you tell somebody that something takes 30 hours, they're like, well, what are you spending all those 30 hours on? But if you tell someone that something costs, $15,000 and this is the outcome that they're gonna get, that can be much easier to stomach.
L: Do you have any suggestions for how freelancers can approach that conversation with clients? Because sometimes the clients come to these discussions, maybe expecting it to be priced in hours, or maybe as a day rate. So how can freelancers kind of get into that conversation if it's not something that the client's expecting?
S: I think that's interesting when clients come to a freelancer with an expectation. Because as freelancers we manage our own business, we should have full control over what we are charging, and what we are offering. I think, as a freelancer the more that you can set those expectations up front and one way to actually do that is to, once you define the value, how you're charging, how you're going to package your services, make sure that your potential clients can find that information. If it's on your website, on social media, when you get referrals from other freelancers, or from other clients you've worked with, make sure that they know and understand how you package your services. I think if you can get that information to people up front, it helps to set the expectation that, hey, I'm not a freelancer who charges hourly, here's why, here's the value that I bring, if that works for you, you might be a great client for me, that doesn't work for you, maybe we're just not the right fit for one another.
A: A way that I've seen this positioned that I thought was very smart was, look, I don't want you to feel like every time you need to reach out to me you're gonna have to pay for that interaction. My goal as a freelancer is to provide you with the highest quality product or output, whatever it is that they’re purchasing. This is the cost of the project and I want you to feel like you're going to get what you need from that, not that every single interaction that you're going to have with me, every question that you have, you're going to have to pay for that 15 minutes, 30 minutes, etc. Positioning it more as, I want to be here for you, I'm committed to this project, not I'm committed to only X number of hours.
L: Yeah, I love that. It's just nice and clear, isn't it, because then you know what to expect, they know what to expect, and you're not having to fiddle around tracking your hours. Like you say, they're not having to worry about, oh, I need this little extra thing, I wonder what that's going to be, is that going to open up new negotiations, you can just kind of get on with the work. Sometimes it can feel like there are so many freelancers doing similar work, but at the same time we're being hired as individuals and we have to think of ourselves as the brand. Do you think freelancers should be trying to price competitively, or just ignore what everyone else is doing and focus on our own rates?
S: I think the term competitively is a really subjective term, because like you said, every freelancer is different. If you're a content writer, you might be a writer who has 10 plus years of experience, maybe you've managed a full content team, maybe you've been featured in a handful of major publications, and somebody else may be a content writer as well but maybe they don't have the same background as you. Comparing what you're charging with somebody else who has a completely different background and a completely different experience I don't think is helpful. Because the value that you're selling is different, even though the services that you're selling is the same. I would personally be careful and not focus too much on what others are charging, and really think through the value that you're adding to an organisation. But on the flip side of that, I will also say that getting a gut check on pricing can be a good idea. I totally support freelancers, and anyone for that matter, being honest and open with one another on what they're charging. I think oftentimes, this has helped people realise that they're drastically undercharging for what they're offering. So using other freelancers as a sounding board to make sure that you're all charging fair wages, and that you are charging an appropriate amount for your services is good, but I don't think you should necessarily base your wage off of somebody else's.
A: I think it's an interesting data point, and especially helpful when you're just getting started. I know a lot of freelancers, when they first come into it, they just have no idea where to start. I think when you are getting started, it makes sense to just as Samantha said, get that gut check on what people are charging and where to start. But then as your freelance career starts to mature, as Sam said, I don't think that comparing services or offerings is really helpful.
L: Yeah, I think that's a good point. I think, for some industries, there are lots of surveys where you can see what the average price is, what average day rates are and things like that. That can be really useful when you're just getting started or to maybe show if you're drastically under charging, or you're a bit of an outlier, but it definitely seems like once you kind of get your feet under the table a bit more and a bit more confident and you have your own processes, you know the value of the work that you're selling, it's not always that helpful to compare it to what other people are doing.
S: Exactly, and most people are packaging and positioning their pricing differently to, and their overall services. Just because you're a designer doesn't mean that you're providing the same design services. It becomes really nuanced with what we're providing as freelancers, and to which industries we're providing that service, because that also makes a difference.
L: Yeah, it does, different kinds of services, different freelancers, different countries, as well, all of that factors in. We often hear the advice to make it better and charge more, but that means marketing in a slightly different way. We’ve talked about positioning a bit, I wonder if there are any other ways that freelancers should think about positioning their pricing in order to charge more?
S: I think this goes back to how you position your services and your pricing overall. When Andrea and I actually first started freelancing, we went through a pretty in-depth exercise where we actually defined who we were and why we're qualified to offer these services, what we do, and how do we bundle our services to best help companies, and then what our overall value was. Sometimes that was from customer quotes and testimonials from other companies that we've helped, that really helped us showcase the full picture of who we are, what we do, what our overall value is. Once we were able to define that, it gave us a lot more confidence in our pricing, and being able to charge more, because we were able to tell a story about what we were offering. So once we had that defined, we then plastered that message across social media, on our website, we put it in our proposals, we worked really hard to make sure that new and existing clients understood upfront what that value was, and what we offered. And that came first, and then pricing came second. It starts by selling the value that you're offering, and then putting a price to that value.
A: For me, it also just comes back to what we were talking about earlier, you know, focusing on the outcomes, rather than the output of your work. So, what are the outcomes that your client will achieve by working with you, and that's like the positioning of the value. That way, when potential clients come to your website, they see you on social, etc., your message is always consistent, and they can see yes, this is actually going to solve my specific problem, these people are speaking to me. I think it really comes down to making sure that you can clearly define who you are, what you're offering, what you bring to the table, and then making sure that that message is consistent everywhere, and tie that into your pricing.
L: I love that, so it's like telling a compelling story, telling it consistently, and making sure that your ideal client feels really taken care of through that.
S: Absolutely, and it's interesting because when we're talking about freelancer pricing and positioning, it's the same positioning and pricing exercise that you would go through if you were a larger company. If you were selling a product or a service, you always start by selling the benefit and the value and then following up with pricing.
L: I think that's all been so helpful for people. It's such a tricky issue for freelancers, so I think that definitely the more open discussions that we can have about this, the better. You have more pricing advice on the Harlow website, don't you? If listeners want to find out more about that, where should they go?
S: Yeah, absolutely, if you want to just look into Harlow, we have a great resources section that, as you mentioned, has a lot of information on pricing, as well as a number of other hot topics for freelancers. You can go to meetharlow.com, our resources centre is right there in the nav. We also talk about pricing and a lot of other common issues and hot topics for freelancers across social. You can find us on Twitter, on LinkedIn, Instagram, we're kind of new to TikTok, you can find us everywhere at meet Harlow.
L: That's brilliant, we'll put that in the show notes, and I saw that you have a freelance pricing 101 guide which is so helpful, so whether people are just starting out or maybe they just want to refresh their pricing, that would be a really good thing to look at. I'll add that link in as well.
L: Thank you both for joining me, it's been great to chat to you both, and thank you to everyone for listening. Please do let me know if you've put these tips into practice. You can find me at @LouiseShanahan_ on Twitter or on LinkedIn, and I'm sure Samantha and Andrea would love to know how you get on with that too. Until next time, happy freelancing.
You've been listening to 15 Minute Freelancer with me Louise Shanahan, freelance health copywriter and content marketer at thecopyprescription.com. If you enjoyed this, please hit subscribe, leave a review or share it with a freelance friend. And if you've got a freelancing question you want to be answered on the podcast, find me and say hi on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Thanks, and until next time, happy freelancing.