How to avoid underpricing yourself

You know what? I think you’ve all been getting me too cheap.

One of the most difficult things to do when you’re starting in business is to accurately price your work. I still find myself in those situations, when a piece of writing I thought would take 3 hours, and priced accordingly, has actually taken me all day. I’ve surrendered half a day of work, and money, because of this. I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this. How does this happen?

Lack of knowledge

Pricing your services accurately takes knowledge of yourself and your industry. When you first start out in business, it’s difficult to predict how long a job will take. Unfortunately, it’s likely you’ll underestimate rather than overestimate. In my business, Copywriting for Startups, I often have to research my client and their business extensively. When you’re preparing a quote for a project, it’s easy to not factor this in. For other startups and small business, you may forget to factor in travel time, materials, all things that reduce profit margin.

The solution to this problem comes with experience. You get to know the way you work, and you get to know how long it will take. You learn to err on the side of caution when quoting, and charge for extra hours to cover ‘unforeseen circumstances’.

Lack of confidence

If you’re not careful, when you’re making your way in business, impostor syndrome can worm its way into everything you do. Quoting for a project is one of those times. You work out what you’d like to charge, but then think, ‘they’ll never pay that’ or even worse, ‘I’m not worth that.’ You lower your price, underpricing, leaving money on the table.

You need to believe that you’re worth the rates you want to charge. As you build a list of happy clients, delighted with your work, this belief will come. Banish those demons.

Desperation leads to underpricing

When you’re pitching for a project, your desire to win the business sometimes overshadows remembering to quote a decent rate. You work out what you would like to charge, but then lower it, because you believe it’ll give you more chance of getting the job. ‘Something is always better than nothing.’ You think.

This is an attitude that buyers prey on, using your unwillingness to lose the deal as leverage to get a lower rate. In the copywriting industry, content mills have taken this to its logical conclusion by allowing clients to offer writers less than minimum wage, because ‘a job’s a job.’

The solution to this is to remember that if you get the job, you’ll be working for a lower rate than you want or need, which you’ll probably end up resenting. You’ll land a reputation as ‘the cheap guy (or girl)’. You’ll find it’s difficult to raise your price if you work with this client again. Finally, you’ll lose the time when you could be working for the right price. Time is something you can never get back.

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Don’t wait any longer

Learning to control your pricing in this way comes with experience and success. If you’re stuck in a pricing rut, my advice is to take the risk. Simply raise your price and stick to it. You might lose some clients in the short-term, but in the long-term, you’ll be surprised at what people are happy to pay for good work. Be confident. Quit the race to the bottom. Stop underpricing. Be happy and fulfilled in your business.

I still find myself getting caught in these underpricing traps sometimes, but as I approach a year in business, it’s happening less and less often. If you would like to talk about how great copywriting can power your business, contact me today, before I fully figure it out!