When I started out in freelancing on the web, the conversation was all about price — price per word, price per hour, price per article. That kind of conversation really hurts writers (and other freelancers) because it places the focus on the wrong aspect of writing (the word count or time count) rather than the right aspect: the value of your work for clients and for you.
Price vs Value — Hard Lessons
Of course, I learned this the hard way. Some of my early freelancing gigs were for a copywriting agency which paid a set fee per word. At the time, I was happy to have the work, because it meant I was actually making money from writing, but I soon realized that not all word counts were alike. There were some articles where I knew the subject so well that I needed no research to turn out something good. There were others where I had to do lots of research before writing, and still others where picky clients made the process a nightmare. All paid the same per word rate, but they all took a different toll in terms of time, effort and emotional energy.
Changing the Conversation with Clients
And then there’s the fact that the work you do has value for your clients, otherwise they wouldn’t ask you to do it. A while back, one of my editors emailed me to say that one of my articles had achieved an unprecedentedly high click through rate when it went out in their weekly marketing email. For her, that article has value beyond the word count because it brings people to the site to see what the company has to offer. Design has similar benefits. That’s what good content does, and that’s the conversation that freelancers need to have with clients. Let’s face it; there is always someone who can write or design cheaper than you, but can they do it better?
While of course I have a rate in mind for my services, when I talk to potential clients, it’s all about the value that I bring, and I make this clear on my professional website too. Even if I don’t call them that, I outline features and benefits (and by the way, if you want to know how to nail this, you should really talk to Tea Silvestre).
Showing Value to Clients
The features include an interest in everything, sound research skills and more than 20 years of writing experience covering everything from academic writing to journalism to blogging in a conversational style. There’s also clear and regular communication and adherence to deadlines. The benefits are still a work in progress, but I show how the characteristics I have as a writer can enable them to create content that will attract and appeal to their customers and will help position them as experts in their niche. I also cite statistics which show the importance of business blogging for generating leads and sales. So the benefits to my clients are more authority and more money — two things which all of them want.
Don’t Forget the Intangibles
Clients don’t just buy the actual time you spend working on a job, they also buy your years of experience, your skill in researching and crafting, your ability to identify the points that will resonate with their customers and many other intangibles that help the content you write or the designs you create shine. When I market to customers, beyond writing related skills and abilities, I also bring proven shareable content, responsiveness to comments, and my own online social circle. All of those add to the value I bring by potentially introducing the company to new people.
There’s one final story to share with you — and it’s a short one. At least three times this year, I’ve had an email that started: “I saw your work on Crazy Egg.” That’s immediately changed the conversation, because I know those potential clients have already seen the quality of the work, the social shares and the comments — and they realize that doesn’t come cheap. It puts me in a better position when it’s time to talk money.
5 Steps to Marketing Your Value as a Freelancer
So how can you market your value as a freelancer and shift the conversation from price? Try this:
- Document what you do with every piece of work. If it’s writing, include everything from idea generation and research to responding to comments and sharing socially. See how long it actually takes (longer than you think, right?)
- Use this to work out a baseline earnings figure, then add a premium for every year of experience you have. If you start to feel faint discomfort mixed with excitement then you’re probably getting to the right sort of figure.
- Update your marketing material to reflect the value you bring, then quote this higher figure for every new gig. Someone will say yes and you will feel more valued.
- Communicate regularly with clients (admittedly a case of do as I say not as I do because I could do this more often) to underline your value by sharing information on issues that might affect your business.
- Put a link to your best or most recent piece of work in your email signature. That markets you every time you send an email.
How do you showcase your value to clients when marketing? Share your best tip in the comments.