Freelancer or not, everybody wants to get paid what they’re worth, right? Wrong!
According to my experience of asking all my friends and family what they earn and have earned throughout the years, I can tell you with about 97% certainty that worth is not what most of them are getting paid by.
What your salary actually is
Money makes humans deeply insecure. Most of us don’t like thinking about it, and even less so (gasp) talking about it. And maybe that’s why so many of us don’t think twice when getting an offer or trying to negotiate our salary.
But it’s also a lack of understanding what a salary or rate even is. Because it’s a lot more than the number of sandwiches and shampoos we can buy per month. In fact, it’s our most traded commodity. Effort. And for most of us, it’s the only commodity we have to trade.
But wait. What do I mean by effort? Isn’t it really time we sell? No. At least not for most white-collar workers. Because some people’s time amounts to more than others. Either, because they are faster, more competent, more creative or simply more fun to be around (and yes, I totally think people who are a pleasure to work with should be paid more, don’t come @ me). But also because time actually isn’t real — Einstein knew this.
Effort, which equals output, which equals some kind of energy, actually is though. Your salary is physics, baby!
So why then is it so damn hard for freelancers to set their rates and stick to them and for all you normies out there to negotiate your salaries appropriately?
Your insecurities are losing you money
It’s your god damn inferiority complex. You are so worried that actually evaluating your effort per time will have you end up on the lower end of the human comparison scale, that you rather not risk it. And sadly, women are more afraid of this than men. And that sucks.
If I hear one more friend recapping their last salary/rate negotiation with „so they offered me this and then I figured that’s probably what the market pays so I took it“ I will lose my mind. At least take a day to think about it. Don’t just shrug. This is your sandwich money we are talking about! And everybody prefers a nice, thicc lox bagel over plain cream cheese. So get some extra toppings on that monthly (or hourly) paycheck of yours.
How to find out you may be underpaid
Once upon a time, there was a really skilled princess and she got paid…peanuts.
I’ve worked with some awesomely, skilled and efficient people over the years. What did 4 out of 5 of them have in common? They were underpaid. Not cool.
I’m writing this article to tell you, there’s a pretty high chance you deserve more than you’re making. But the only person that can tell you exactly how much you should be making is you.
Here’s how to find out how much you should get paid — per hour or per month.
Step 1. Ask yourself the following questions and answer honestly.
How much do you contribute with your skills? Do you walk the extra mile? How much effort do you put into tasks, small and big? How well do you listen? How much effort do you put into developing your skills? Do you read (I’m convinced people who read are pretty awesome, so give yourself a 10% raise just for that)? Do people love your output? For those working in backend positions, do you love your output? Do you help others? Do others help you? What’s your favorite color? How often do you bring lunch from home? Do you have a dog?
…ah, might have derailed there a bit. The point I’m trying to make is that you’ll very likely find that you’re quite happy with the effort you’re making. And that means you should be pretty confident about setting your rate.
Everything else, like comparing yourself to others, is unimportant. It’s your cash.
Step 2. Forget everything you know about money.
People will tell you to do a cash flow analysis and look at how much money you need, then aim for that. That’s dumb advice if you ask me. If it were about the money I need, hell, I’d be selling artisan espressos 3 days a week and enjoying my cabin in the woods the other 4. that’s obviously not the answer you’re looking for.
What you really want to be asking yourself is how much you trust your own health to keep you being a workhorse for X more decades and how much you actually enjoy working. And I don’t mean just thinking about that current job of yours that you may be enjoying at the moment. In general. What if a recession hits and you have to do shit work to stay afloat? Wouldn't it be awesome to have some savings then to cushion up your worries at night? Or to, you know, be able to chill a bit and not desperate for a gig. Wouldn’t it be cool to travel more or paint or spend more time with your kids? The chances of any of that being possible increases significantly with the €€€ on your bank account.
So I say cash flow is something for companies, you should go for fuck-you-money — the kind of money that gives you independence and freedom. If you think about your salary and rate like that, you should feel much more motivated to boost it.
Wait, I came here to find out what you charge, Nicole.
Sorry to disappoint. Chances are I charge less than you but smarter. Here’s a way to think about your freelance rate that might help you: setting freelance rates is not about putting a price on your hour, but packaging your value in a way that looks like a really good investment to the client (because friends, it most likely is!)— then putting a price on it. Don’t brush over this, digest it, review it, have an epiphany and get paid.