And a simple guide to never undervalue and undercharge ever again!

Freelancers, unite!

You guys! You understand what I’m saying, don’t you?

Almost all of us have been there, right? Working for peanuts so we can pay off rent, or cell phone bills, or maybe just buy food!

Some years ago, I was at a bind. Some poor life choices, monumental mistakes, and screw-ups later, I figured I had to see what was out there. Up until then, I had held jobs, some worse than others, but they were jobs that paid a fixed amount periodically. In many ways, I took that security for granted. So, when that fell apart, I was desperate.

In the spirit of mounting mistakes, I borrowed money from someone I knew to pay off that month’s rent and then went to a Facebook group, hoping to find some freelance work. I made a post about needing a hundred bucks pronto!

Thinking back, it was an embarrassing post. I was practically begging.

But then again, that goes to show exactly how big of a crisis I was in, and how desperate I was. I just needed someone to give me a hundred bucks so I could cover the overdraft on my debit card, and hopefully, still have a few bucks left to buy some Ramen.

Yeah. That bad.

Someone responded to that post and since I asked for a hundred bucks, she offered me exactly that. In exchange for designing some 25 unique social media graphics and a 15 PDFs.

If you’re familiar with the work, you should know, this takes time. The design process based on any particular branding itself can take time on top of actually doing the work. It took me well over 40 hours with all the revisions she had me do on each of the graphics and PDFs I made for her.

For a hundred bucks, that was brutal.

But I needed that money that day, and a few days later I found more work, so somehow, things worked out.

But I made a few observations from that gig.

  • People do not respect you when they pay you peanuts.
  • They do not trust your work either.
  • They imagine they own you.
  • By hiring you, they entertain the idea that they’ve done you a huge favor.

All of the above makes one cringe.

But here’s the irony of it all. For the same quality of work, a higher paying client will treat you in a way that’s exactly opposite to those listed above.

When you charge higher, your clients,

  • Respect you.
  • They trust your work, they believe they paid a professional who must know more than they do (which you do! If you’re indeed a pro and know what you’re doing.)
  • They understand they don’t own you, and that you have your own life, so they value your time.
  • They don’t assume anything dumb like they’re doing you a favor. They understand it’s a proper exchange of quality service for the money.

But here’s the thing. When you’re down in the dumps and you’re wondering where the next meal will come from, or if you’ll be evicted from your apartment because you’re almost ten days late on your rent, the last thing on your mind is whether or not you’re getting paid what you deserve.

When that happens, all you can think of is making some money… in whatever way possible, hopefully without having to let go of your dignity.

During those times, you’ll gladly take a hundred bucks for 40+ hours worth of work.

That’s what desperation does to you.

When you’re down in the dumps, it’d be plain cruel to tell you things like “don’t sell yourself short”, or “say ‘no’ to money that’s on the table”, even when it’s a lot less than what you deserve.

So, my experience that time taught me some valuable things about freelancing and about myself as well. And with that knowledge, I was finally able to charge way more for my services, AND have better clients and better jobs.

The things you see on facebook groups? Where life and business coaches teach you about working less for more money?

I realized that’s actually possible!

But this does take some planning and, well, some hard work before you get to the point where you’re able to relax and work less for more money.

There’s No Shame in Selling Yourself Short… Temporarily

People give you great advice. In general.

Problem is, often it’s hard to put these bits of advice into action when you’re having a real hard time.

Let’s imagine the scenario I described above. You have no money. You have no food. You may soon get evicted.

Perhaps you’re not alone. Perhaps you have mouths to feed other than yours. If that’s the case, then it would be plain cruel to tell you things like “don’t sell yourself short”, or “say ‘no’ to money that’s on the table, albeit much less than what you deserve.”

People’s circumstances are hardly that convenient.

So, when you feel like you’re drowning, or stuck between a hard wall and a rock, it’s OK to sell yourself short. Whatever gets you through the day.

But never forget that it’s a temporary phase.

You must understand, internalize, and remind yourself regularly that you’re selling yourself short, temporarily, only until your circumstances have improved. Because trust me, it’s easier than you think to get into the mindset of just scraping by. Unless and until you realize that you’re worth more, you’ll likely continue to scrape by. If you want to get out of that vicious cycle, you must know, in your heart, that you can and will do better! Just, maybe, not right now because of circumstances, but you’ll find a way!

Do not let yourself get used to scraping by!

Because I was working faster, I realized I still had time before I used up the money I made from the last gig. This gave me options.

Give Yourself Margin

Scarcity mindset hits the hardest when you’re desperate. Remember those 40+ hours in exchange for $100 (minus PayPal fees, I forgot to mention that earlier)? Well, that was because of the circumstances.

Desperate situations like that often give you tunnel vision. You can’t think beyond what’s right in front of you.

Here’s what I figured out when it felt like I was never going to get out of the loop.

I had to change the way things were going. Unless I changed them, nothing was going to change by itself.

So, here’s what I did.

I started working faster.

Yeah, just that. I doubled down and started working way more so I could finish the work I was doing much sooner than I otherwise would.

This changed the whole game! Because I was working faster, I realized I still had time before I used up the money I made from the last gig. This gave me options.

Yes, options!

The option to ask for more money. Because I wasn’t afraid of eviction, I didn’t care even if a potential client didn’t sign with me because of my higher prices. I had more time to look around, so I was less afraid.

The option to say “no” when a client tried to lowball me.

The option to point it out to my clients that they need to respect my time.

Basically, having options and choices gave me an instant boost to my confidence. And here’s the thing. Confidence shows. When you’re confident, no one even dares suggest that they’re doing you a favor by hiring you.

The idea is to get to that point where you have options as soon as possible. And sometimes, powering through the days, giving up on sleep and eating bananas and potatoes for days in the only way to get there.

Hard Work Pays

Not all of us can afford to move back in with the parents. When we’re down in the dumps, we only have ourselves to rely on. And the solution isn’t whining or venting and wasting time feeling sorry for our situations.

The solution is to work as hard as possible. Give up on that sleep if need be.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be smart about it.

Have a plan.

For me, I knew exactly what I was going for. I figured that if I were to get out of the loop of fear of eviction every single month, I needed to have at least one month’s rent well before I hit the 15th of the previous month.

The trouble with freelancing is, especially towards the beginning, finding clients.

So yes, I won’t ask you to turn down a client if you’re able to find one in the first place. Not unless you have enough money to pay next month’s rent and cover bills and buy food. Until then, slave away!

But once you DO hit that point, it’s time to start vetting.

Start saying “no”.

Start being picky about who you work with.

And stop discounting your services.

The idea is to get to that point where you have options as soon as possible. And sometimes, powering through the days, giving up on sleep and eating bananas and potatoes for days in the only way to get there.

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