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Jun 6, 2020

Why You Shouldn't Cut Yourself Short by Undercharging

i'm gonna be really honest with you right off the bat:  this post is probably more aimed at me than you, friend.

the farther into the world of freelancing (photography + design) i get, the more i'm realizing that what i do is worth what i'm asking for it.  i wrote this post last week on why freelancing is both awesome & awful at the same time, and one of the most difficult things about being your own boss that i've found is figuring out what to charge and how to get people to pay what you're asking.

one of the hardest pills to swallow is when someone tells you "i'm gonna go with someone else because they're giving me a discount" or tells you that their budget is $X when you're charging $X+10.

i love my clients and i always try to work with their budgets, but i'm learning that sometimes, a client will expect way more than what they're paying for.  (for example, if you're shooting a wedding and a bride asks you to cut your prices and add extra things to the package, like a second shooter or an engagement shoot…when that happens, i might end up only charging $1,000 for what should be a $1,600 package.)

yes, it's good to cut deals for clients, especially when your business is just getting rolling.  and of course it's worth it to offer discounts when it will be the incentive a client needs to utilize your services.

but don't sell yourself short by undercharging.  your talents are worth what you think they're worth!  too many freelancers undercharge for their creativity and time just because they're afraid a client won't pay what they're asking.

so here are a few ways to stop undercharging for your services:

1.  compare. // normally, i wouldn't recommend comparing yourself to other photographers/designers, etc.  but in this case, it's good to know what the market runs for similar services.  if you're charging $5,000 to do photography for a wedding, you're not booking clients, and most photographers in your area are only charging in the $2,000-$3,000 range, then you might want to reconsider your pricing.

2.  talk budget. // i always like to get a feel for what a client's budget is when i start a project for them.  (this is really specifically for larger projects that will cost more, like a wedding, vs smaller projects, like a senior photo shoot)  finding out what your client can pay or has budgeted will help you determine what you can actually do for them.

3.  create levels in your pricing. // when aj meets with a client who is interested in his web design services, he gives options.  putting together packages with more/less extensive services (more customization options, more shooting time, etc.) allows your client to feel like they have some control over what they're going to pay and it also allows you to be realistic about what you can offer for what you're charging.

4.  don't be afraid to change your prices. // if it's just not working for you, then remember it's ok to change what you charge!  you need to be honest with yourself about the amount of time you're putting into a project vs how much you're making, but you also need to be making money!  so don't fret about changing your pricing structure from time to time while you figure out what works for your market & client base.

5.  shed the guilt! // there's always a level of guilt for me when giving a client pricing.  (i'm not sure where that comes from, but it's really just annoying!)  stop feeling guilty for asking for a fair payment for your talents and own it!  you're awesome and you deserve what you're asking for.

so what are some ways you determine pricing?  what do you find helpful when deciding how much to charge a client?


  1. right? it always amazes me what people will pay for a service when they can't DIY it…it's just a matter of having fair prices, believing in your work, and asking people to pay what your work is worth!

  2. This is for real.

    I'm not a photographer by any means, but as a former small business owner, I've been in this boat so many times.
    even to the point of feeling guilty after somebody paid full price without question for something i made.

    I think probably anyone who owns their own business, ESPECIALLY when they first start out has issues with this.

    great post, girl!

  3. um, this is a great post, betsy!! i always have a hard time with this one! especially the "shed the guilt" part. i designed some save the dates for a co-worker and was so nervous about the price i asked for (which looking back, i think my prices weren't even high enough) and felt super guilty about it! who knows why!! i spent a lot of time and creativity on it! haha. anyway, love everything you said. we need to quit selling ourselves short!

  4. i totally hear you! i think we so often feel guilty because we don't like charging people that we know for our services. and it's soooo difficult to shed that guilt if you've had people tell you they can't afford your services (especially when your prices are totally fair!) i think i just hate asking for money in general. haha

  5. yes! i totally understand. i'm always like "crap…maybe i shouldn't have charged them that much!?" even after someone has paid me. haha….it's such a dumb mind game we play with ourselves!

  6. it really is.. I remember always waiting for an email about how I ripped them off. (which never came, of course) We're so hard on ourselves!

  7. Having been there ... I understand and agree completely with all of your tips. I had many that always mentioned limited budgets -- offering payment plans (with a signed agreement!) usually was the key to getting that client and their repeat biz. I'd rather work with someone who loves my work than to see them go to someone else whose work made me cringe over just money. I finally stopped looking at what my competitors charged after a couple of years, however, and only looked at my costs (products, gear, etc) and what I put into the average session from start to finsh hours-wise, then figured how much I wanted to walk away from a session clearing before an order was placed. Sure others will always undercut, but at the end of the day, I'd rather have fewer (& far less nit-picky) clients, a full night's sleep & my sanity, and make a living wage than sell myself short for a full calendar of clients begging for discounts and/or extras that get mad when I don't reply within minutes of their 2 am email :)

  8. Amen, amen, and amen! i totally understand…you have to weigh what you value and decide for yourself what work you're willing to take/not take.

  9. so true! haha…it's crazy how many of us have had similar experiences/attitudes

  10. This is such a great post!! I do freelance graphic design and photography and I always try to start by asking what the client's budget it, because you will figure out really fast whether or not you'll be able to work with them for what they can afford. I think the biggest challenge in freelance is not lowering your prices just because you aren't getting business or because you are brand new. It's good to do that for awhile but you don't want to get stuck there.

  11. thanks madison! yeah, i feel like the "what's your budget" question is essential! i've just started working on my own with wedding photography and trying to gain clients while not killing myself by lowering my prices is the hardest thing!


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