Why You Suck at Charging Clients and What To Do About It

You haven’t the slightest idea of your true worth and value to society. You’re underrating yourself and you need to look at the bigger picture.

As children we are told that we are worthless until we are taught properly and then we can be let out into the world. Then after education we, most likely, find ourselves working in an organisation for a very modest wage. At this point we have a value put on our time – and it’s extremely low.


But it’s not the real value. It is only a proportion of the value that the organisation and others place on that work. Your hourly rate at a creative company could be charged tenfold to the client.

So why don’t you charge higher prices to the client?


Fear is single most important factor that is holding us back.

  • We don’t give our ideas an airing from fear of being laughed at
  • We don’t follow our dreams from fear of failure
  • We don’t ask for higher rates from fear of losing work, being laughed at, and failure!

Fear stop us from getting to where we want to be.

Also, there is a self-depreciating devil within most of us – a feeling that “higher rates and a higher levels of success are not for me“. We think that the real triumphs are for other people.

What to do about it

I am a great believer that design companies should diversify their business in order give their clients an all-round service.

But if you are worried that your clients may not require this you could offer them a choice

Service Description Approximate price
Bronze Set up WordPress blog with premium theme ready to start blogging $400
Silver Complete WordPress website design and development $1500
Gold Complete WordPress website design and development. Plus setting up branded social media accounts as well as 1 hour SEO and blogging consultation $2500

These prices don’t include domain name registration, hosting, maintenance or off-site SEO.

The above is a good example of how to give your clients choice when it comes to charging. The descriptions for the various services need to be fleshed out according to the client’s needs. But in each of the three above cases you can be sure that you can provide a valuable service to the client while getting paid your true worth.

Other important points about charging

  • Always have an end in sight: In each of the three examples above there is a specific task which, when delivered according to the client’s expectations, will be the conclusion of the job.
  • Charging: If it is a new client, I would usually charge 50% before and 50% after the task has been completed. Clients should pay within a week of invoicing.
  • Over deliver: I usually give my clients a free complimentary copy of my premium e-book which will help them with blogging, SEO, social media and driving traffic and interest to their new website.
  • Contracts: Try to keep the contract light but make sure it covers the basics (remember to include that you have the the right to bill pro rata for work completed in the unusual case of early termination).
  • Do everything by email: Other than the contract, be sure to keep everything on email so you can refer to it later. Some jobs can grow from the original brief and, when this happens, it’s essential you can refer to something written down in order to ensure you will get paid fairly.
  • Set a fixed price: Set the fixed price according to a “nightmare scenario” of how the job could progress. Make sure all the deliverables are agreed and written down. If the job proceeds swimmingly you could always offer your client money back.

Recently I surveyed over 35 online business owners about charging and billing and these were my findings: how graphic designers get paid.

What you can do

Do you perform a service that can be charged out to multiple clients? If so, write down details of service packages that can be provided, similar to the “bronze”, “silver” and “gold” packages in the table above. And then think of the price it would be considering the “nightmare scenario” of how the job could progress. The benefit of writing down these packages is that they can easily be copied and pasted to potential clients when you get enquiries.

More info about how graphic designers charge clients and make their money in my e-book.

Did this help you? If so, please share!

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  1. says

    Hi Rob,

    Very well put article I like the way you put your services into gold, silver and bronze it makes it very uncomplicated to the potential client.

    Plus nice touch with the eBook!

  2. says

    This is top dollar Rob! Cheers. A future piece on legals/contracts would be very useful, I realise you are not a lawyer :) All the best, Martin

  3. says

    Thanks Rob! This sounds like a great technique. I think it would help the client become less focused on the single cost and more focused on which package will be the better option for them.

  4. says

    Rob, you couldn’t be more spot on buddy.

    For the longest time, I had been undercharging for my freelance writing. I knew my writing was good – my clients told me they loved my work. But I never had the balls to charge what I should be getting paid.

    Finally, a few months ago, I decided that I wanted to give it a shot because hey, after all, if I didn’t get the client than it’s no skin off my teeth. I shot from $10 for some base article to $60 and $80 (sometimes $100+) for an article.

    From there, referrals started coming in. I took that and went even further; I started charging for my time (research on the topic) + writing. Clients love what they’re getting because it’s not just rehashed stuff. We all win/win.

    In all, there really is this loom of fear over freelancers heads about “if I charge too much, I won’t get clients” – the people that underpay aren’t really the good clients to begin with – go for the ones that know your worth and make it work for both parties.

    • says

      Thanks, Murray, great to see you back here. It’s funny how by charging higher prices you get better clients that respect you more and get better work, whereas by charging lower prices you get clients who quibble and try to take advantage.

      Totally agree that the fear puts you in a vicious circle of bad clients and bad experiences.

  5. says

    Love your input, Rob. It’s relevant and useful not just for graphic designers of course,but for coaches, mentors and consultants in all areas of expertise. As a professional speaker and trainer, I learned to discuss outcomes in dollar terms (improve staff morale, decrease staff turnover, increase sales etc.) before discussing price or fees, so clients have a sense of comparative $ value. It’s about having them understand that we charge for impact based on our expertise, rather than time for labour. I like your specific tabular schedule, it’s very clear. Thanks!

    • says

      Hello Catherine, yes, although I’m originally a graphic designer, I appreciate this can apply to other businesses. Great idea of yours to point out the beneficial outcome of the project before discussing prices.

  6. says

    the amount specified were very costly.. Im sure that Clients wont reach us in the above case.
    Bcoz nowadays clients are very much knowledge about web design and the costs. Lots of advertisements in the internet make them to learn every things..

    • says

      Thanks, Sunil. If you provide a premium service that does everything for the client, they’ll be prepared to pay a premium rate.