How to Prove You’re Worth Your Rate

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A few months ago, one of my clients told me he wanted to start outsourcing some of my work to cheaper freelance writers overseas.

“Adam, don’t get me wrong.” he started. “I love the quality of your work and the results you get for me. But I watched a webinar last week…” Yuh-oh. 

Don’t get me wrong, I can certainly understand the allure of cheap work from a client’s perspective. Who wouldn’t want to save hundreds of dollars using cheap labor?

Have a look at Craigslist or visit a platform like Upwork, and you’ll see countless listings offering $5 or $6 per post. You’d be forgiven for thinking you could never compete with those prices. But let me share a little secret: you can compete and you don’t have to drop your rate to do it.

Don’t Even TRY to Compete on Price

First, understand this simple principle: you are not selling the same product as your foreign counterpart.

Does Nordstrom or Saks try to compete with Walmart on price? Nope. Never gonna happen. Why? Because Nordstrom sells a totally different product to a totally different customer.

The same marketing lesson applies across countless brands and industries. Porsche doesn’t compete with Ford, just as McDonalds doesn’t compete with Michelin-starred eateries.

The rate you charge your clients should reflect the value you offer. The moment you say, “Hmm. I could probably churn out a post for $10” is the moment your value drops. Realistically, you can’t write thoughtful, well-researched content in 15 minutes.

Establish Some Authority, Pronto

Make no mistake, building a successful freelance business takes time. You’re probably not going to earn $200+ per article right out of the gate. But as your influence grows and you establish a proven work history, it becomes easier to highlight why a client should work with you.

Just like the age-old “chicken and the egg” conundrum, this dilemma stumps many freelance newbies. “I don’t have the experience yet but I don’t want to work for $5.” What’s a writer to do?

For one, don’t start ghostwriting blog posts for pennies; follow this approach and you’ll stay broke AND have no new clips for your portfolio. Lose-lose.

Building your portfolio can be as simple as guest blogging, pitching smaller publications, or starting your own blog. Make an effort to push yourself further every day. Make new connections on Twitter. Attend a local blogging event. Pitch a guest blog. Make an effort to push yourself further every day. The snowball effect is a very real phenomenon.

As your experience grows, you can use this to compete with the cheapo workers. “Well, yes, you could hire someone for $3. But you could also work with me, and I’ve worked with this long list of impressive companies…”

Try Out Reverse Psychology

I mentioned a client above who wanted to cut my rate significantly or start working with cheaper freelancers. I tried a somewhat novel approach to change his perspective.

“Well, I can’t offer $5 for a blog post. But perhaps I could look at lowering my rate to say $30, if we can agree on a few concessions.”

I then outlined my stipulations: blog posts would only be 250 words, I wouldn’t proofread the content, no research would be involved, and the content wouldn’t be promoted. Barebone prices equal barebone products.

Whoa, that client backpedaled quickly. It turns out, he’s pretty happy with meaty content that keeps his audience paying attention. And it’s really pretty simple, you just cannot offer that at a cut-throat price.

If you’re really bold, you could even push your client to try out a sample piece from a content mill. If you’re worth your salt, the differences will quickly become apparent. Misspellings galore, shallow content that offers nothing of true value to readers…the list of potential problems is endless.

This is when it really pays to understand content on a deeper level. Make a habit of reading blogs from publishers like HubSpot, ConversionXL, and Outbrain. Immerse yourself in the specific data points that will both help you fine tune your craft and allow you to definitively demonstrate your value for your customers.

 Know When to Give Up

Everybody loves a happy ending, but sometimes it’s simply not meant to be. Editorial shifts, budget cuts, business closures…all of these things can impact your content relationships.

The equation starts by choosing the right kind of clients, business partners who already understand why it’s worth paying for premium content. But even those relationships can sour due to unforeseen circumstances.

If an existing customer or a lead starts to show some hesitancy, do your best to outline why you’re worth your rate. If you ultimately get nothing but pushback, cut your losses and use these tips the next time you need to prove yourself.

How do you compete with cheaper writers? Have you ever convinced a client to pay you more or lost a customer because of your rate?