Here’s a bit of truth for people who are independent workers: When you offer your work for free or low cost, you’re hurting everyone, including yourself. And I don’t mean just on that one sale, I mean you’re hurting the market and lowering it for everyone involved. When you sell or create for cheap, you’re helping to create an anchor and that anchor is holding down the market.
Last time I talked about the clients/consumers of creative work and called on them to stop devaluing it. This time I’m talking to the creators and calling on all of us to charge what we’re worth.
“Anchoring” is a psychological bias that basically says people will use one key point of information to make our decisions. In this case, that piece of information is “how much is THIS worth?” The “THIS” can be anything. A custom piece of art, a website design, a sweater, 200 words of text. It doesn’t matter what it is, if you happen to the first person that the buyer talks to than your price is the anchor point. Congrats! But you aren’t the only person they talk to. Your rate isn’t the only one they’re exposed to.
They have access to the sea of people who are charging below market value for work. Sometimes this is because they happen to be somewhere where the cost of living is less so they don’t have to charge as much for the same product but most of the time it’s just the desire to make a sale and undercut the competition. At least that’s how it starts. But with the market flooded with free or near free options, it’s unlikely that a perfectly reasonable price will be seen as such. Reasonable becomes expensive when the norm becomes cheap.
And because the vast majority of clients are focused on cost as their main anchor (mostly, getting the most bang for their buck) they likely won’t consider other factors that go into your price.
So if you are a creator and you charge low to “get your name” out there or because you just really need money, I understand. The hustle is real. But also understand that those choices cause negative outward ripples that will affect you long after you gain the confidence/experience/get over the broke hump.
You’ve helped to set the market rate low and it’s an upward battle to correct that. Charge what you’re worth from the door. You’ll never regret getting paid what you asked for.