Hesitating to press send on your invoice? Stop feeling guilty!

Why you need to stop feeling guilty about charging for your time.

I did a couple of freelance projects while I was at University, but with no idea how to price my services at the time, none of those projects worked out in my favour. Sure, I had looked at industry benchmarks to see what other people were charging and asked friends in the creative community for their opinion too.

But I always undersold myself, reasoning that I didn’t have enough experience, wasn’t good enough yet and hadn’t really “studied” graphic design.

I’m ashamed to admit a few times I even let my invoice slide altogether. “It’s not worth the hassle of chasing up a good friend” my (sometimes unreasonable!) inner voice told me.

Great way to run a sustainable business right?

Why do we feel guilty for charging for our time?

Maybe you’ve started contract work after having a baby, or you’re a University student wanting to put into practice whatever you’re learning, or you’ve quit your job and are travelling the world as an independent consultant, making small businesses better, one search engine optimised website at a time.

Whatever your situation, if you’re spending precious invoicing time battling the feeling: “Is it weird that I feel bad every time I send the client an invoice for my time? I feel so awkward asking for money!”…I want to help!

There could be any number of reasons why sending out an invoice makes you uncomfortable. Sellers’ guilt is particularly common for those who work in creative or artistic industries, where you might feel that value is subjective or hard to quantify.

Perhaps you:

  • don’t feel worthy or value your skills
  • don’t feel qualified enough or feel like a fraud
  • think that asking for money will make your relationships awkward
  • feel that asking for money is ‘unethical’ because of your own beliefs around money
Well, here’s a swift lesson: guilt doesn’t pay the bills.

Sellers’ guilt has the potential to take you or your business down. So, if sending out your invoices makes you feel anxiety, guilt or shame, then here are a few things to remember to help you get comfortable with unapologetic invoicing:

What you do makes a difference.

Your clients approach you and engage your services because they need your help. You provide them with something that they need, and otherwise may not have been able to do themselves.

Remember that the reason you are selling your services is because you also want to help people and make a difference. Always keep that in perspective.

Understand the value you are generating for your client.

Noah Kagan from AppSumo uses this example: When Mint hired him, they paid him $100,000 for being the director of marketing. He thought they were nuts for giving a 24-year-old that kind of money. The work he did in that role contributed to Mint selling for $170,000,000. So, I’m pretty sure that $100,000 was well worth it.

It’s not personal, it’s business.

You walk into the supermarket because you need milk and bread, you select the product you want and take it to the check out. You pay for the products based on the price that the supermarket decides to charge. There’s no room for negotiation here. Why should it be any different when it comes to your services?

Discuss your rates openly before you start any work.

If your client doesn’t like your rate, they don’t have to use your services. That’s simply the way business works. Don’t feel that you are taking away wealth from someone else when you charge for your services, you are in fact simply contributing to the economy in the same way that the power company, the grocery store or your insurance provider is.

Research market rates.

Glassdoor provides a great way to compare rates in your industry

If you want to feel confident that your rates are fair, keep an eye on competitor pricing and market rates. If you’re below average then you’re likely underselling yourself, if you’re above average, make sure you are sufficiently communicating your value to your clients so they understand that you’re worth what you say you are. Trust that your prices are fair, or if they’re not, re-evaluate.

Discounting only reduces your value.

Don’t offer discounts just to quell those guilty pangs. People value what they pay for. Even partial discounts often backfire. For example, what if you offered a discount for all of your friends — then they brought their friends in and asked you to give them the same deal? You’d be in the sh*t quickly enough. If you continuously reduce your prices, you’re also reducing your worth, and your customers won’t appreciate the real value of your services.

Discuss expenses from the start.

Agree on what you will be including in your invoice other than the time spent. This includes things such as meetings, milage, phone bill, travel time, printing, additions to project scope or any incidental purchases that you may have had to make during the course of your project. It will no longer keep you awake at night wondering if your client is going to Spanish-Inquisition your expenses.

If you don’t think your clients will agree to paying for these things, consider incorporating the cost of them into your overall charge out rate instead.

Provide a breakdown.

Example of an invoice created in WorkflowMax, with a clear cost breakdown

If you are concerned that your client might question your cost, send through an invoice with a clear breakdown of time or services before they even have to ask. If it’s all there in black and white they will have a clear understanding of where their money is going.

Sure we might be a little biased here, but job management software such as WorkflowMax makes this whole process a heck of a lot easier. to help you manage this. You can directly input your costs and time using timesheets. This information is then pulled straight through to your invoice.

You don’t owe them anything.

Maybe your new life as a contractor comes with an arrangement that works perfectly — you can work from home, hours that suit, do something that you genuinely enjoy. But your clients haven’t employed you just to do you a favour. They need you. Demonstrate that you’re grateful for the opportunity to work for the company by delivering great work — but then charge what you’re worth!

You’re worth it.

Chances are that you are in the position to work for yourself and dictate your own earnings because you have earned it. You’ve studied, worked hard, and done the long slog to get to where you are. Remind yourself that you’ve got plenty of experience under your belt, strong industry relationships and an excellent reputation. If you’re doubting yourself, ask clients for feedback or testimonials for validation.If you’ve undercharged for your services, you’re likely to feel resentment, that the job isn’t worth your time, not work to your best standard and compromise a potentially valuable relationship.

You’re likely saving your clients money.

Yes, they might not exactly see it that way, but it’s true. You might be so conscious of keeping client costs down that you’ve never worked so efficiently. If you want to keep your contract, pick up work going forward and establish a great reputation, you know you have to work hard and deliver great results.

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Always remember, people prioritise where they spend their money. If they’ve made a decision to use your services then they recognise the value and understand that it comes at a cost.

So long as you maintain honest practices around time-tracking and invoicing, you should send off your monthly invoices without apology and feel confident that the services you provide are making a difference in the lives or businesses of your clients!

Are you a sufferer of ‘sellers’ guilt’? What other advice do you have for fellow sufferers?

**Originally published on WorkflowMax and modified for Medium. WorkflowMax is a Xero-owned project management software for creatives. Stay on top of your projects, track costs and send invoices easily — so you can get paid faster!

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