Early in your freelancing career, your time is likely valued close to $0. At this stage, you’re focused on finding clients and making a name for yourself. When no one knows who you are, you can’t possibly think your time is worth much. So don’t expect to have much of a value for your time starting out. Patience is necessary.

When you’re just getting started as a freelancer, your time goes from being a worthless asset (in the eyes of others) to a precious asset. This post will share how you can value your time as a freelancer. Enjoy and may this post help bring you a big bump in income.

I was working with a client once who kept asking me question after question. Constantly emailing. I think he was just try to suck all of the industry knowledge out of my head for free. You must know when enough is enough. Question after question is not cool when no money is being exchanged. You must value your time.

When a new client approaches me, I’m more than happy to chat about the industry, their content strategy, my past work, their kids, whatever. We’re building a relationship. Relationships are important. And, not to get too philosophical, but they are what make life worth living.

But there comes a time when enough is enough. It’s usually obvious. You feel drained having to respond to them. You realize that you’ve spent 3 hours interacting with them yet they haven’t mentioned specifics on getting you paid. In the meantime, you could have made perhaps hundreds working with someone else. When a client values your time, they value you. You want to work with someone who values you. Know when enough is enough and it’s time to talk numbers.

Know how many hours you work. Early in my freelance career, I thought I was making great money. Until… I realized I was working way more than at my old job. That meant my dollars per hour were actually lower than at my job. Terrible! You need to always be aware of how much you’re working. If you’re a freelancer, you’re obviously self-motivated. If you’re self-motivated, then you must be interested in your work. And when interested in one’s work, it’s easy to become time blind. Don’t become time blind.

Have income goals. Having income goals (daily, weekly, monthly, etc) will keep you from wasting time. You will quickly realize time is money and you’ll get back to work.

Remember also that you are providing a valuable service. Let’s say you’re a freelance writer with great knowledge of the personal finance space. You may be able to write a $100 article in an hour. $100 per hour is great! You may even feel guilty about working so quickly. But remember that you probably spent four years in college honing your writing skills. You’ve already put A LOT of time in being able to create that article. It took much longer than an hour.

I want to share a quick story.

A woman heard a pipe rattling loudly in the basement of her home. Distressed, she called a plumber. He came over. Looked at her furnace. Took out a hammer. And banged a pipe. The noise was gone. The problem was solved. “That’ll be $100.” he said. The woman looked surprised. She said it only took a second. He replied, “It’s $5 for me hitting the pipe, it’s $95 for knowing where to hit it.”

So how exactly should you value your time?

I like to look at the most I’ve been able to earn per hour and make that my goal. If I can make $100 per hour, then obviously someone is willing to pay that. If one person is willing, more are probably willing as well. If you’re making less than $100 per hour, you need to spend that time finding more $100 per hour clients. Searching for clients always means a dip in income for that day or week. But your income will climb the weeks thereafter.

Good luck pricing yourself!


William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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