Freelancing and the Dreaded Talk About Money

freelance prospect money talk header

Freelancing is not for everyone. Many people function way better when told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it in exchange for consistent pay and little responsibility outside their job description. Freelancing is especially hard for anyone who dreads the money talk of prospecting.

If you cringe when someone talks about their credit card balance or clam up when people want to compare what they pay for something (you pay over $300 for your cell phone plan ?!?), discussing money might be outside your comfort zone. That can make it tricky to navigate customer acquisition where you’re going to have to set pricing and convince strangers you’re worth it confidently.

Freelancers contributed nearly $1 trillion to the US economy in 2019. –Upwork

30% of freelance writers make under $10 per hour during their first year. Small Business Trends

31% of freelancers make $75,000 or more. –Forbes

Freelancing and the Dreaded Talk About Money

Depending on your experience, project requirements, and your ability to negotiate – a skilled freelancer can make anywhere between $10 and $300 or more per hour. The crazy part is there is a small gap between the $10 per hour and $300 per hour freelancer in regards to experience but a huge disparity in pay. Somewhere between $10 and $300, you need to get more than comfortable talking about money and requiring fair (if not fabulous) payment for your services.

25% of freelancers say they can find work within 24 hours.  –The Balance of Careers

63% of freelancers agree that having multiple clients is more secure than sticking with just one. –Upwork

70% of freelancers work on 2–4 projects at a time. –and Co

The freelance statistics show us that freelancing is rapidly becoming the future of the business world. They also convince us that freelancing might just be a better way to do business, but you need to be able to talk money confidently and comfortably with prospects.

This is no time to re-enact your middle school book presentation where you stuttered and through in fifty “ums” and kept checking your notes. Clumsy and awkward money conversations are in opposition to dispelling doubt and letting prospects know you’ve got this and know what you’re doing.

You’re Wasting Time if You DON’T Have the Money Talk

No prospect conversation is complete if you don’t talk about your pricing range. Don’t promise a rate when you don’t have all the information you need on the project. But don’t end your initial prospect conversation without giving them your ballpark pricing.  The money is something both you and the prospect need to agree on before you proceed any further or invest any more of your time.

There should be no consulting, no planning, no strategy, no proposal, no client discovery forms filled out, no welcome packets sent… zero extra time or resources spent on prospects who do not see the value in your pricing or simply can not pay your prices.

Preparation Makes for Confident Money Conversations

Prepare a price range for different types of projects and clients before you start prospecting. Then when it comes time to have money conversations, you already have memorized the ways to define your value in terms of business outcomes.

No more “uuuuuuuhhhhm… let me get back to you” happening when you’ve got your side of the money conversation figured out. Prospecting is faster, easier, and more effective because the ability and willingness (or eagerness) to pay for your services is an indisputable qualifier.

There’s no wiggle room in this area, so you either wish them the best and move on to the next prospect or put in the effort to win a client who will pay for the work.

Tips on Preparing for the Money Conversation:

  1. Know what you want to say, so you guide the conversation and give the prospect enough information to make informed money decisions. In our freelancing prospecting post, we talked about setting expectations for prospects, and money was part of that conversation.

When our clients give us access to their website and GMB accounts (client responsibilities), we’ve consistently seen them reach the top three of Google search results for keywords (results) as fast as four months in (timing) with the $600 monthly recurring SEO package (pricing).

  1. Get comfortable making your money statements and letting prospects know that it’s a price range, and there are factors you’d learn later that affect final pricing. Practice, practice, and then practice again, so it’s second nature to speak it to prospects.
  2. Be confident in your pricing and the belief that you are providing value. Your confidence inspires prospects to trust you and want to work with you.

Preparation will help you exude confidence. And because you’ve thought things through and practiced, you’ll naturally feel more confident as you speak. With confidence and preparation, you can control the money conversations and ensure you work on projects that pay what you're worth with clients who value your services.

Giving Pricing vs. Asking About Budget

If you’re just starting out and will take any work at any rate, then another option is putting them on the hot seat and asking about their budget instead of giving them your price range. This can postpone your side of the money conversation, but it could make it more painful when you finally get to it.

Especially for recurring services, you don’t want to put yourself in a position of defending your pricing against their idea of what something should costs. You’re the expert, so prospects shouldn’t set your fees.

If you’re in a situation where you really want to help a business that cannot afford your services, then you can use their budget to find a smaller package or mini-service that gets them some results within their budget. But know that other than referrals to similar businesses with similar budget constraints, that relationship will probably NOT transfer into more significant business or more money.

If you’re still just not confident putting your price range out there and want to talk budgets with prospects here are some ways you can do both:

“Typically, these projects run between $800 to $1000, depending on a few factors. Is that around what you were expecting?” 

“Based on similar projects we’ve done, I think this might come in around $2000. Does that fit in your budget, or did you have a different number?” 

“Do you have a budget you need to stay in for this project because sometimes people are surprised at paying $500 to $700 a month for this?”

With these examples, you’ll see that you can find out their budget, but more importantly, immediately discern how their budget plays against your pricing structure.

Talked About Money… Now What?

You’ve got the yucky part out of the way, so now what?

This is the awesome part! Either they have disqualified themselves in regards to pricing, or you get to CHOOSE to convert the prospect into a paying client.

If their pricing ideas and budgets don’t match, you shouldn’t waste any more time. You can refer them to someone else, or wish them well in future endeavors and politely end the conversation.

Part of the money conversation with prospects is sometimes, “Sorry, that won’t work for me.”

How many times in life have you gotten stuck doing something because you wouldn’t say “no” even though you knew wouldn’t benefit you. Don’t do that with your business. There are a lot of $10 an hour freelancers who haven’t just fallen into this trap; they permanently reside in it.

You can bet that $300 per hour freelancers have a better handle on the saying no side of prospecting. And you should too.

Come up with a few different ways to let prospects know you can’t work with them that you’re comfortable with. Practice it and know that even if you feel bad about it, it’s okay and in everyone’s best interest if you let the prospect know you can’t provide what they want or need at this time.

Have the Money Talk with Prospects and Then You Get to Choose

As you get better at having prospecting conversations, your confidence will grow. When your confidence grows, your income will as well. So be confident. Don’t fake it, or fingers-crossed hope you set the right prices.

You obviously have to be competitive in your market, but you need to set the prices that are right for you as a freelancer and not low-ball to win every prospect as a client.

Confidence is really the key to all your money talks. You’ve set your pricing for a reason. You don’t need to explain your pricing algorithms to prospects or clients, but you have to believe that you set fair pricing in exchange for the results you deliver. Let your confidence come from knowing the value you provide.

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Nick Ponte

Nick Ponte

Born and raised on Maui, Nick was employed as an automobile mechanic before founding his own local marketing agency. Nick naturally wrestled with the change from tradesman to marketer (not an easy transition) but, like Tom, he wouldn't give up. Through years of commitment, Nick has grown to be a highly skilled web developer and marketing expert with a specialized skill-sets in a variety of fields. He has developed many high-traffic, high-quality websites that incorporate the best practices for today's digital marketing. Today, Nick eagerly shares his experience and knowledge by helping others in cultivating their business.

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