“Look. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”
I had taken a deep breath before slamming out the words, doing my best to come off sounding boldly confident within the limited abilities of a text world.
I stared at the chat box on my screen, nervously awaiting a response.
…is typing… The greyed-out phrase popped up, nearly making me break out in a cold sweat.
What would she say? Decline politely? Laugh and move the conversation on? Hand me excuses? I prepared my response to all three potential outcomes. ‘No problem,’ I’d type, in a semblance of uncaring smoothness.
Bah. Silliness. Since when did I ever show fear? My fingers hit the keyboard again as I plunged into decisive action. I’d go first, and to hell with the consequences.
“Here. I’ll do it.” I was crazy. “Oka-…”
She beat me to it.
The chat box lit up. There it was in plain sight, intimate details for my viewing pleasure.
It was like candy for starving kids. We both began typing back and forth as fast as we could, sharing all sorts of secrets now that we’d gotten over that first nervous hurdle.
We still both gave each other a warning. “Don’t you dare tell people,” I typed, and she was just as quick with her response. “Right back at you!”
You’d think discussing money would be easier, wouldn’t you?
It’s not. Writers often keep their rates as highly guarded secrets in some secret file well hidden from view. Some writers do post their rates for all to see, but more often than not, standard rates are something we writers prefer not to reveal.
The woman I spoke with confirmed exactly what I already knew: “I appreciate the insight,” she wrote. “Rates are so cloistered, it’s hard to get a handle on what’s realistic.”
She’s right. There are no standard rates for writing, even though a few associations try to offer suggestions. People charge what they want, and many individual factors come into play as well. Economy, location, cost of living, etc.
Even worse, writers who try to find answers go from blog to blog, reading motivational “charge what you’re worth” posts. They find articles that push writers to demand better rates and read websites about how to make a decent living through freelancing… and these blogs don’t offer up much transparency about those rates we should all be aiming for.
(Yes, I include our blog in that group. We’re not perfect.)
Why, though? Anyone could email us and ask about our rates, and we’d be perfectly willing to share the information. That’s business. So why not post rates in plain view?
There are benefits to doing so. Posting rates eliminates unnecessary steps and saves time. It helps weed out tire-kickers and window shoppers. It helps potential clients make decisions. It improves customer service and profitability.
In fact, posting rates is one of the timesaving tips I discuss in the Unlimited Freelancer – and yet I don’t practice what I preach.
I’m not alone by any means. Plenty of writers have the same usual reasons for not posting rates: “I like to give personalized pricing for each project.” “No project is the same.” “It’s hard to standardize rates.” “I want to be flexible.” “Different projects incur different costs.”
Those are all excuses. They really are. The true reason writers don’t like to post their rates comes down to five simple points:
- Fear of embarrassment
- Fear of losing clients
- Fear of being overpriced
- Fear of being underpriced
- Fear of the competition
There are other fears involved with posting rates, but I’d say that those five sum it all up nicely – and only one has to do with clients. The other four all have to do with the perception of our peer group.
Peers can be nasty. (Remember elementary school?) No one likes whispers behind backs and hearing condescending remarks. No one enjoys being shown up or listening to acid comments fromsnotty people and arTEESTes. No one likes to drop pants in public. No one enjoys justifying personal decisions.
Rates are personal, when you really think about it. We wrap up a ton of self-worth in the prices we charge. We shouldn’t, of course, but we do. Posting rates makes us feel vulnerable and exposed to the people best placed to point fingers, judge and critique.
My views on the subject didn’t sway my decision to post our rates – not yet, anyways. I wanted to see what other writers (and any freelancer) felt about the matter. Am I out there? Think I’m wrong? Nodding your head the whole way through? Drop a comment and let me know how you feel about posting rates, whether you did or not and how you felt about it.
And if you’re feeling really brave (braver than me, that is)… drop your pants. Let’s see what you charge. Who knows? Maybe we’ll all end up going naked with our rates.