One thing I see a lot of on Twitter is freelancers, small business owners and entrepreneurs complaining about being taken for granted. The biggest complaint in that area is the request for free stuff or family and friend discounts from potential customers who don’t even fall into either category.
This reminds me of when I used to be an active freelancer. Potential clients would set an amount they were willing to pay for a project but instead of asking what they could reasonably have for say, £100, they would proceed to reel off a list of requirements that realistically costs nine or ten times that amount.
When I was just starting out as a freelancer, I would build whole bells and whistles websites for £100-£150. This included adding 20-30 pages of content, designing a template and creating logos. I kept telling myself that it was a good way to build my portfolio and that I would charge more in the future.
But the truth is the web design and development market is flooded and there will always be someone who is willing to do backbreaking work for less than £100 and customers willing to exploit that. Especially customers who have an image in their head of freelancers kicking back at home doing work that only takes a few hours. The number of times I’ve seen a buyer say: “you’re the expert so this should only take you a couple of hours”. Seriously?
Visit the popular freelance websites like Freelancer.com or Upwork (formerly Elance) and you will see clients reeling off a wish list and stating what they are willing to pay and freelancers complying happily. It’s heartbreaking and for freelancers who know their own worth, it’s extremely annoying.
Of course, the downside to paying peanuts is that sometimes you get shoddy workmanship. You know what they say about paying peanuts. Countless times I’ve seen buyers posting projects asking a freelancer to fix a mess another freelancer made.
This is what’s happening online and yet big design agencies still manage to thrive offline and command big paydays for the work they do. I say big paydays but in the offline world £5k+ for a bells and whistles website really isn’t that much.
I get it, people have bills to pay and are willing to burn the candle at both ends to pull in £50-£100 per project but it doesn’t have to be that way. The happy medium between online and offline would be for freelance websites to have some sort of industry standard. Yes, these sites are about bidding and undercutting other freelancers but there should be a minimum agreed amount for all works, a line that cannot be crossed.
In the meantime freelancers, entrepreneurs and small businesses need to know that line themselves. You should already know how much your work is worth and even after factoring in mates rates and customer discounts, you should never undervalue yourself. Apart from being soul destroying, it undervalues the work of everyone else in your industry and sends potential customers the wrong message.
Respect yourselves, you’re worth it!