Jessica Wicks

The Stress of Being Paid Too Much


While navigating the waters of freelance communications, I’ve learned a lesson many may say to unlearn. I’m about to say something that is unpopular amongst freelancers, so beware.

As any freelancer knows, pricing your services is one of the most difficult aspects of getting started. After all, what is your time really worth? There are a number of formulas for working out your hourly and project rates. You can decide how much money you want to make in a year and divide by the number of billable hours you plan to put in. You can research your competition’s rates and place your own according to your experience. You can under price to get a ton of work or over price and take on only a couple projects.

Years ago, when I first started working as a freelance designer, I was unconfident in my abilities and unsure of market rates so I severely under priced my services. It led to reasonable expectations from clients to continue my work at unprofitably low rates and caused me to reconsider full-time employment.

More recently, I have completed more formal education and I have experimented with rates ranging from mid-level to high in my market. Here’s what I learned: the more that you charge, the more you and your client expect. The more your client expects, the more difficult it is to really impress them.

If you’re anything like me, this can cause a lot of stress. In response to worrying that my client would be unhappy, I put in extra time, added extra services and generally spent about five times as much time on a¬†project than I normally would. Because when it comes down to it, I’d rather have a happy client (and the referrals and repeat business) than make a few extra bucks right here and now.

In the end, I provided good value to the customer but spent so much of my own time trying to justify that value that I missed out on opportunities to work on other projects.

Obviously, your rates will rise with experience but if you’re looking to get started and don’t know what to charge, I say save yourself the stress of being paid too much and let your confidence build along with your portfolio.