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When I Paid Myself Less

One time I was on a call with a potential client. The night before the call, I decided I was going to raise my freelance rates. This client was going to be the first (hopefully) to pay the new rate.

The call went along normally. We talked about the problems they were having, how I could solve them, tossed initial concepts around, set expectations and design approval flows.

Finally the big moment came at the end of the call (like it always does). The senior project manager’s voice came on and asked, “So what are you expecting in terms of compensation?”

I had the exact number in my head. I even rehearsed saying it the night before.

But at the last second, I blurted out a number that was smaller than what I promised myself I’d ask for.

It was still more than my previous rate, but it wasn’t what I wanted — what I knew I deserved. The market was in my favor at that time. I was nearing my max-capacity for new clients.

So I was clearly doing something right as a freelancer. But I still backed down at the crucial moment. I paid myself less.

This is when I knew I had screwed myself:

Without hesitation, push-back, or even an awkward throat-clearing, the client responded with “Okay, great!”

I don’t freelance anymore.

Not because of that particular situation. That client/project ended up being one of my more enjoyable ones. I stopped because I recently found an employer I’d like to stick with for a while.

But I still get annoyed when I think about how I couldn’t just ask for what I wanted. Doing so could have meant an extra bit of money every month.

My household really tries to treat money like a tool–nothing more. That extra bit could have been the tool we needed to chip away at student loan debt or build our savings!

Oh well. Can’t go back now.

To all my freelancer friends: Charge what you’re worth. Ask for that number you see in your head.