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How to Balance Needing Work and Not Underselling Yourself

Updated on March 9th, 2022
Helps you achieve a healthy work-life balance

At some point it has happened to every business owner. You realize things are a bit tight, and an opportunity for some work comes along. The problem is this client wants to pay significantly less than what you normally charge. You don’t want to be working for less than your worth, but you could use the extra money. How do you find the balance?

If you take the work, you might miss out on better paying opportunities later. If you turn it down, you might not be able to find better-paying work. How do you balance taking low paying work and when to turn it down?

Know the Value of What You Provide

You should be pricing your work based on the value it provides. If what you provide will help a company make more sales or gain more clients, you should not be charging the equivalent of minimum wage. Especially since you will be responsible for taxes and benefits.

When setting your rates keep in mind the value you provide and the costs that you have to cover. Know what your minimum rate will be and what you need to earn to pay all your expenses. Then set a reach rate, one you are working towards as you gain more experience and keeping in mind that the budgets of your clients will vary.

Once you have your rates set and you know what work you can easily afford to take on, it will give you a better idea of how far off the offer is and give you a place to start negotiations.

Always Negotiate

Just because a client offers a rate for you to do the work doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Successful negotiation isn’t about one party screwing over the other party. It’s about both parties getting what they need at a cost that both can accept.

If the rate proposed is less than your bare minimum, this is the time to counter. Explain that the proposed rate is lower than you typically charge and ask if they could go up to at least your minimum rate. If you are comfortable, you may even ask for a little bit more than you minimum rate. It depends on how far off their original offer is and how comfortable you feel negotiating.

They will likely respond one of three ways; they could accept your proposed rate, offer a new rate somewhere in the middle, or stick to the rate they proposed. If they accept your proposed rate great, you should be good to go. If they offer something in the middle or are firm in the rate originally proposed, you will have to evaluate if there are any other benefits taking on the work will provide.

Evaluating the Benefits of the Work

If you are new to the type of work that they are asking of you, it might be worth being paid a little less to have this experience and learn another piece of information which will help you later in your business. And it will give you a new example in your portfolio.

For example, you’ve been working at freelance writing and have been trying to get editing work, and what you are looking at is an editing job. If the work is fairly easy and won’t take a lot of time and can lead to syndication or a link to your business to help attract new clients, the lower initial rate may pay off in the long run. If the work is recurring and you’ll have the ability to renegotiate rates later you might decide it’s worth your time.

Whether you decide to take the work or not always be courteous to the potential client. If things didn’t work out this time around, they might reach out to you when they have other work in the future. If you did take the work, do the work, learn the new process and do the work well.

Do not take the work if you are going to be resentful about being paid less than you normally charge. Resentment leads to poor quality work and it will show in your communication as well. The better relationship you have with your clients the easier it is to renegotiate rates or ask for testimonials.

Elizabeth Stapleton

Elizabeth Stapleton

Elizabeth Stapleton graduated with a law degree. She specializes in personal finance, entrepreneurship, and legal issues. Her goal is to help financial bloggers protect their online intellectual property. She shares her own journey to debt freedom and helps graduates dealing with above average student loan debt on her site. She covers legal advice for financial bloggers for Due.

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