Why freelancers should never do freebies

Why should freelancers never do freebies?  Simple answer is because if we don’t associate a monetary value, nobody values us or our service!

Let’s not confuse giving away our services with acts of generosity.  There are times in life when we choose to give to others out of the goodness of our hearts.  I am not saying this should change and when we gift to charity or a food bank that is very different.  More often than not this is done anonymously and we are under no obligation to deliver.

I am talking about at work

When we start to give away our products or services for nothing that is when we will have a problem.  If you have two people selling a service for £3,000 and we come in with our offering at £500, will the client take us seriously?  I doubt it, plus we are going to look very desperate.

I think most people take the middle price when they get a few quotes or perhaps the lower price if there is not too much in it.  If one price is considerably lower than the others this raises suspicion and the value of that product or service goes down in our perception.

Building a portfolio

Don’t get me wrong, there are instances when we can give things away as long as we have a good reason for it.  A freelance web designer starting out might decide to do some pro bono work to build up their portfolio.  This is usually while they are still at college and they are completely open about what they are doing and why they are doing it. If they can give this away as part of a competition offering, even better.  People do seem to associate a value with things they win because they feel they had to do something for it.

Starting in business

When we start in business our prices are going to be a lot lower than they will be 10 years down the line.  After 10 years we have a raft of experience behind us and as a freelancer, hopefully a very nice portfolio.

I am not saying you need to charge a high price, I am saying you need to have a price list or an hourly rate and stick to it.

Increasing your standing and proving your worth

Sometimes I provide web design and social media workshops to local businesses.  I don’t get paid for this but I do get a lot out of it personally, it is great to see people go away and put what they have learned into practice.  The bonus is that they start to see me as an expert in my field.  This builds trust, which can only be good for my business.

Image credit: Factorialist

The value proposition

If someone gives you something for free you don’t generally care if you lose it because it has no value to you.  If you pay £500 for it, you will guard it closely because it has a value and it must be good quality. That is a whole other conversation but suffice it to say that the item will need to be good quality at that price because if it is not, people will very soon stop buying it.  We as freelancers need to make sure that our price is fair and represents true value.

Whatever you do hang onto your value.  If you are forced to offer a cost reduction to meet a client’s budget then it is important to also reduce the service or product offering that you are delivering.  So if you have a price of £2,000 for a website with a blog and the client only wants to pay £1,500 then something has to go, the obvious thing is the blog.  Your hourly rate does not change and this has become a value proposition for both parties.  You will be happy that you are providing a good service for a fair price and the client will value you as a supplier.

Nobody expects to buy a Rolls Royce for the same price as a Ford Focus and that is because these are completely different value propositions.  I cannot imagine many people would walk into the Rolls dealership and ask for a discount but they might in the Ford dealership; in fact they will probably expect one because there is always an offer on budget cars.  So whilst we are not in the high-end luxury car market, as freelance web designers we can position ourselves in such a way that our price is our price and with that comes a value.

Image credit: Rolls Royce


What we all must be is sure of our pricing.  You need to know how long your project will take and then calculate the cost based on your hourly rate.  There are plenty of tracking apps out there for you to be able to calculate the number of hours per project. Have a look around and see what others are charging, there are plenty of places to find the rates for freelance web designers and you probably know where your perfect price point is.  Perhaps write yourself a project process so your whole offering is clear.

Prove your value

Once you have a great portfolio you are half way there.  Ask your clients for feedback and publish that everywhere you can.  This all goes towards enforcing the value of your business.

In conclusion if your price is fair and represents true value you will have no need to give freebies.

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3 thoughts on “Why freelancers should never do freebies

  1. Another one for you – ‘potential’ clients on the phone for an hour, not a word since. Some people call that ‘consulting’ and charge mucho $$$ for it 🙂

  2. The gift is in the giving

    On the specifics of your post, (1), (2), (3) and (4) are all individual people I would probably not bother to help again either…but the very fact that a person ‘puts out’ is one of the things I find most attractive in those people who do. And that fact that it sounds like in (1), (2), (3) and (4) you were helping people who are not that-way inclined doesn’t alter the fact that you did a good thing.

    The lack of a simple ‘thank you’ drives me nuts sometimes too.

    But also, you just never know when consistent acts of kindness randomly come back to ‘thank you’.

    In fact, it was your own consistent help, patience and understanding, along with my belief that you were going out of the way to help someone who just didn’t ‘get it’ very easily that meant that I haven’t considered for a minute asking anyone else to lead on the revamp. (I recall that before I’d spent a penny with you, you gave me quite a lot of unpaid advice, which I found both helpful and which helped me put you in my ‘good person’ box.

    I’ve also just recommended you to a work associate too – you may get a call from ‘Ian Thomas’ of Jobsworth Recruitment at some point.

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