How Much Should I Charge?


Maybe a friend is asking about a potential project and you’re not sure how to navigate the conversation, especially because you know they don’t have much funding. Or a new project inquiry comes in with a low budget. Navigating any conversation about pricing is difficult, especially when you put emotions before the numbers. There’s no perfect solution to this constant challenge that freelancers, artists, and service providers face. But here are three steps to follow when the budget doesn’t seem to be there:

  1. Always outline your normal rates
    Education is essential. As is making sure you are on the same page. You don’t want to hear, “Last time you did it for $100…” with only you knowing that you gave a secret discount to make the price more affordable. Those unknown discounts quickly become unexpected and almost always come back to bite you.

  2. Consider trades before discounts
    Your friend, family member, and/or potential client likely has something of value to you. You just might have to get creative to determine what it is. It could be as simple as asking them to leave a Google or Facebook review, sharing your work in a specific way on social media, or volunteering a couple hours at an upcoming event you’re hosting. Or it could be more complex, like offering their services in exchange for yours. If you are struggling with coming up with an equivalent trade, consider partial trades and payments or even a payment plan that breaks out payments into more manageable amounts.

  3. It’s okay to say no.
    It can be hard to remember that you don’t owe anyone special discounts or treatment because they have a great cause or because they are related. You can make a conscious personal decision to offer discounts, but you can also say no. Don’t feel guilty if it doesn’t make sense for you to work on/work together at this time. Feeling like you have to say yes to projects where you don’t feel valued ultimately only leads to burnout and devaluing yourself and skillsets. Sometimes saying no to a project that isn’t a great fit, means you might be able to say yes to a much better one.

Still unsure if you can make it work and should move forward with the opportunity? This checklist of questions can help you avoid frustration by acknowledging potential red flags before they actually surface:

• Are you excited about the project?
If you are not being fully and appropriately compensated, there should be extra excitement about the project itself that motivates you beyond money. Is this an amazing opportunity for you? A dream project of yours?

• Do you feel that your services are being valued? Financially or otherwise?
Feeling valued leads to better work and a more positive work environment that allows you to build your skillsets and grow your business. Money isn’t everything and there are lots of ways to make a project worth your time, just be sure you feel valued in what you are doing.

• Are responsibilities clearly outlined?
Things can get messy quickly if you don’t adhere to a formalized process as you make exceptions for friends or low-budget clients. Not to mention you can easily get roped into doing more work if it’s not clearly outlined. All of this can often be avoided by a solid proposal, contract, and invoice which outlines not only your responsibilities, but the clients’ as well.

Lettering Works offers customized brand and business consulting and can help artists and small businesses work through developing a price structure that works for them. If you are interested in learning more about our services, send us a message.