Freelancers: Repeat after me, “I am a Rolex”.

rolex perceived valueIn a fair world, every freelancer would be paid what they actually deserve. But, of course, it isn’t a fair world. So you have to do something to make sure you get paid at least what you truly deserve, and preferably more.

As an example, I spoke with two different coaching clients a few weeks ago, both of whom had just picked up projects to create a monthly e-newsletter for a client. One was charging $200 per issue, the other was charging $2,000.

Was the second guy ten times better than the first? Not at all.

The difference was that the second freelancer genuinely felt his work was worth $2,000. So that’s what he estimated, and that’s what he got.

The value of your work has less than you think to do with its real value, and more to do with its perceived value. That perception resides both in your own mind and in your client’s mind.

Perception can increase the value of something by many, many times. Walk to your nearest corner store and you can buy a perfectly good watch for about $20. Go downtown and you can buy a Rolex for $20,000.

Is the Rolex that much better? No, it isn’t. In fact, the $20 watch, with its quartz crystal and battery, will keep much better time. If you are looking for a watch that tells the time accurately, you’d be an idiot to buy the Rolex.

So why on earth do people buy Rolex watches? Because of their perception of its value.

Several years ago I sent in an estimate for a project. My price was $15,000. I didn’t get the job. It turned out they had been expecting my price to be closer to $35,000 or $40,000. By pricing myself too low, I had undermined their perception of my value. (Would you buy a Rolex watch for $200? Of course not, because at that price it must be a fake.)

That was an idiotic mistake on my part, because I had spent years working hard to maximize the perception of my value, and then cut myself off at the knees by sending in a low estimate.

Why did I make that mistake? Hard to say. But my best guess is that I was feeling a little down on myself that week. Low self-confidence. And my estimate reflected the low value I placed on myself and my abilities at that moment.

I didn’t make $40,000, and I didn’t even make the $15,000 I thought I deserved. I ended up with a big fat zero.

Am I suggesting that the price for every type of project is infinitely variable, and that you can charge any amount you like? No.

Nor am I suggesting that if you hung out your shingle as a freelancer last week you can immediately charge the same amount as a highly-regarded freelancer who has been in business for ten years.

But I am saying that pricing is a lot more flexible than many people believe.

To charge more than the average freelancer you simply have to take two steps:

1. Work hard on your website, content and any other promotional materials to create a high perception of value. (Appear to be a Rolex, not a corner store watch.)

2. Maintain your own, internal perception of your own value at the Rolex level.

For as long as both you and your prospects buy into your value being at a very high level, you’ll be able to charge a lot more than the average freelancer.

Ultimately, you are paid what you feel you deserve.

Which is why I invite you, once again, to repeat after me, “I am a Rolex”.

NOTE: I no longer do one-on-one coaching, but if you want help in becoming a “Rolex”, learn about my Marketing Confidence program.

About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach.

5 thoughts on “Freelancers: Repeat after me, “I am a Rolex”.”

  1. Thanks Nick. I’m reminded that in what seems another lifetime (!) as a cabinetmaker in a very competitive market, I would consistently let my nerves get the best of me when pricing jobs, relentlessly knocking down my bid.

    The result? Interviews with architects who’s first question was always “are you sure you can complete this project with that kind of budget?”

    I’d get the jobs because of my reputation for quality… and curse myself throughout the process as the meager checks didn’t keep up with my costs, let alone my dreams of managing my workload and developing my business.

    I am a Rolex!!

    Cheers, Kevin McGuire

  2. I totally agree with your arguments and I always enjoy your posts for their sincerity and wisdom.

    However, as you point out, Rolex watches are sometimes criticised for keeping poor time and being somewhat over priced – both weaknesses that any good freelance should avoid!

    Surely, we should be chanting: “I am EVEN BETTER than a Rolex!”

    Happy 2013, Nick!

  3. Thanks Nick for your ever-relevant reminders about how to grow & prosper!

    True Confession:
    When I first glanced at your article in my email I misread the headline to say,

    “Repeat After Me, I Am a ROLODEX.”

    I guess it’s time to upgrade my self image!

    Thanks again & have a great New Year.

  4. If you don’t believe you’re a Rolex, why on earth
    would anyone else feel the same way?

    Never conduct yourself as the business person you are.
    Always carry yourself as the business person you strive
    to be. In other words, focus on your destination – not
    your present state. Doing this lets people see that you’re
    “going places”. And everyone loves to be associated with a
    winner. You should have no problem commanding whatever
    fees you quote. Then you can buy all the Rolexes you want…

    Thanks for the great topic, Nick!


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