What to do if you’re wildly overqualified for the projects you’re working on?
I technically have three years of experience in marketing, but with a background of 4+ years of professional writing experience.
But the last two months have made it clear that I am undercharging and taking on too small of projects. Because of the care and work I’ve put in, every account I’ve worked on has experienced exponential growth in traffic, sign-ups, and leads. The budgets for these projects are becoming silly compared to the quality of work I’ve delivered.
What do I do?
How do I leverage my actual skills, expertise, and now a small (but proven) track record of delivering results?
Dear Exasperated Expert,
As someone who spent way (way, way, way) too long undercharging for my services, I feel you.
Let’s start with that: freelancing rates are opaque AF, which makes determining fair rates more difficult than formatting an image in a Google Doc. Our benchmarks are a good starting point; but, I’ll be honest, plenty of freelancers should be able to command more than $399 per article.
Ask 10 freelancers if they’ve ever struggled with figuring out their rates and you’ll get a room full of emphatically nodding heads.
But knowing that (nearly) everyone else has gone or is going through the same thing doesn’t exactly help you.
So, Exasperated, let’s go back to the drawing board for all of our readers—then I’ll speak to your situation, specifically.
If everyone is saying ‘yes’ to your rates, it’s time to increase your rates.
Maybe you’re not sure you can. Maybe you think you already have one-too-many times. Or maybe it scares you (more than) a little bit.
I see that. I hear it. I’ve been there.
So let me share a story. It’s not unique, exactly, but maybe you haven’t heard this one before.
Six years ago, about two years after I started freelancing, I was charging between $0.05 and $0.08 per word. That’s $100 for a 1,500 word article.
Now I’m charging 15x that. I’m a marginally better writer than I was, but not 15x better.
At first, I didn’t pursue the higher price tag for my services. I was looking for more interesting work:
- work with clients I admire
- work that gave me creative freedom
- work that challenged me
- work that didn’t feel draining by the end of the day
Then, over time, I realized that the work I was pursuing had another benefit: it paid better.
What about your situation, Exasperated?
It sounds like you’re on a similar path. If you think your expertise means you can command better rates, start pursuing the kinds of clients and projects that deserve those higher rates. My question back to you is: how are you finding clients right now? Should you explore other options to find the kind of client you want to work with and are willing to pay the rates you deserve?
With the level of research you describe, I think you’re past churning out SEO articles or product descriptions.
Start positioning yourself as the content expert who can help your clients with research, topic ideation, interviews, and so on. Content has started to become commoditized. Editorial strategy and project management haven’t, yet.
Get specific about what you do, how you do it, and who you work with. Over time, it makes you the expert. It makes you exclusive. And, best yet, it makes your work better.
Here’s my advice, Exasperated: after landing on the above, double your rates for new clients.
You’ll get fewer yeses, but you’ll get more of the right yeses.
You don’t want everyone saying ‘yes’ to your rates. You only want the right clients saying ‘yes’ to your rates.
Focus on finding one new client at the rates that you think you deserve. Your results are stellar and, clearly, your writing is good; ask for a testimonial from all your clients, then use those three things to land new business.
Instead of worrying about how to make more with your current clients, you’re connecting with companies that can actually afford you. It takes you from thinking to knowing you can ask for those rates—a pretty critical psychological shift. And you avoid getting overwhelmed by the feeling that you need to replace all of your clients at once.
Once you have that validation, you can start to increase your rates with current clients, too.