Boss Responses

#45: Taking the Trauma out of Setting Your Freelance Rates with Liz Heflin

June 28, 2024 Treasa Edmond
#45: Taking the Trauma out of Setting Your Freelance Rates with Liz Heflin
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Boss Responses
#45: Taking the Trauma out of Setting Your Freelance Rates with Liz Heflin
Jun 28, 2024
Treasa Edmond

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In this episode of the Boss Responses podcast, host Treasa Edmond welcomes Liz Heflin for her final episode of the week and  an in-depth discussion on setting freelance rates. Liz shares her journey, starting from her early days of charging minimum wage to her current position of offering high-value content services. The episode covers key strategies for setting rates, dealing with rate-related imposter syndrome, negotiating with clients, and building lasting partnerships. Treasa and Liz provide actionable advice for freelancers to confidently set and adjust their rates, ensuring they get paid what they're worth while maintaining successful client relationships.

About Our Guest
Liz Heflin has been a freelance writer and editor since 2006. She’s also the founder of MACE Writing, her content marketing consultancy. After fifteen years of seeing firsthand the benefits of freelance, she launched a second arm of her business. Designed to help her fellow freelance writers have more success, these services include group and private coaching, resource creation, and the Inkwell community. Liz is excited every day to do her job, and her mission is helping other freelancers capture that in their lives!

Links You Might Want
Check out Liz's Inkwell community 

Connect with Liz on LinkedIn 

Interested in Liz's "Find Your Floor" course? Learn more about it.  

Support the Show.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to listen to Boss Responses. Have a question you'd like answered? Send it to info@bossresponses.com

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

In this episode of the Boss Responses podcast, host Treasa Edmond welcomes Liz Heflin for her final episode of the week and  an in-depth discussion on setting freelance rates. Liz shares her journey, starting from her early days of charging minimum wage to her current position of offering high-value content services. The episode covers key strategies for setting rates, dealing with rate-related imposter syndrome, negotiating with clients, and building lasting partnerships. Treasa and Liz provide actionable advice for freelancers to confidently set and adjust their rates, ensuring they get paid what they're worth while maintaining successful client relationships.

About Our Guest
Liz Heflin has been a freelance writer and editor since 2006. She’s also the founder of MACE Writing, her content marketing consultancy. After fifteen years of seeing firsthand the benefits of freelance, she launched a second arm of her business. Designed to help her fellow freelance writers have more success, these services include group and private coaching, resource creation, and the Inkwell community. Liz is excited every day to do her job, and her mission is helping other freelancers capture that in their lives!

Links You Might Want
Check out Liz's Inkwell community 

Connect with Liz on LinkedIn 

Interested in Liz's "Find Your Floor" course? Learn more about it.  

Support the Show.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to listen to Boss Responses. Have a question you'd like answered? Send it to info@bossresponses.com

Treasa Edmond:

Welcome back to the Boss Responses podcast. It's day five with our guest for the week, the fantastic Liz Heflin. Liz has been a freelance writer and editor since 2006. She's also the founder of Mace Writing, her content marketing consultancy. But that's not all she does. After 15 years of seeing firsthand the benefits freelance work can have on a person's life, she launched a second arm of her business services, specifically created to help her fellow freelance writers become more successful. Liz offers group and private coaching, resource creation, and she opened the doors to the Inkwell community. One of the things I love about Liz is that she's honestly excited every day to do her job Even better. She's made it her mission to help other freelancers capture that same feeling in their lives.

Treasa Edmond:

In today's conversation, liz and I take a deep dive into the tricky topic of rates how to set them, talking to your clients about your rates and even dealing with that rate-related imposter syndrome that grabs us all every once in a while. Are you ready? I know I am. If you're a freelancer, business owner or anyone who deals with clients, you're in the right place. I'm your host, teresa Edmond. I've been dealing with clients and running my business for nearly two decades and in that time I've dealt with my share of doubt, imposter syndrome and not knowing what to say when a client asked a question I wasn't ready for. I created this podcast to empower you with the boss responses you need to grow your business. Each week, my guest co-host and I will bring you five episodes packed with practical insights. My guest co-host and I will bring you five episodes packed with practical insights. Monday through Thursday, we answer your questions, and Fridays we dive deep to explore how our co-hosts embrace their role as the boss of their business.

Treasa Edmond:

Welcome to Boss Responses. Thank you, liz. So much for being here this week. I think it's been a great week. Yeah, again, thank you for having me. It's been fun. All right. So today is a little bit more about you, but we're also diving deep into the topic of rates and I know this is a contentious topic and it's also one that causes people a lot of stress, and one of my goals is to help remove some of that stress with bus responses. So let's see if we can do it. But let's start off. Tell me a little bit about you and what you do and how you got into freelancing for my fellow freelance writers because I love my job.

Liz Heflin:

That's probably one of the marquee in neon lights things to know about me. I really honestly, truly, I'm just. I wake up excited to do my job every day, and I know that not everybody gets to say that and that's a really big privilege. So that's great.

Liz Heflin:

Yeah, I love it, I really, really do. And I was just. I was one of those people that always knew I wanted to be a writer. As soon as I could pick up a pen, I knew that's what I wanted to do. I was sunk so I thought that meant novels and fiction, and I got my bachelor's and my master's degree in creative writing. But there was always a very practical part of my brain that was like that's well and that's great and that's where your heart is, but like bills are also going to come every month, so what are you going to do in the interim? And so, as much as I love fiction and still love fiction and still do it for myself, I started freelancing in college and it was just a way I said I know I'm good at writing, I know that I can do this and probably a little bit of.

Liz Heflin:

I didn't know what I didn't know. I just said, yeah, I can start doing this. I didn't really think it was run. I didn't think of it as running a business, even though it really was what I was doing. So I started very young and I just failed my way forward and made a lot of mistakes along the way and refined processes and I was very lucky to get traction early. I got some really great clients and those really great clients gave me referrals and I learned what earned me referrals and all of that good stuff and I was off to the races. So I've been doing this for a very long time and I still just absolutely love it. I just love it.

Treasa Edmond:

I love hearing that. So now you started as a freelancer just straight out the door, which a lot of us don't do. That One of the things I see a lot of freelancers struggle with, and not even new ones. I see people who have been doing this for 25 years still struggling with setting rates, especially if they pivot. But how did you determine your initial rates? And I know we've already talked about your dad saying maybe you should raise your rates until someone says no. So obviously you didn't do that at first. What was your initial process?

Liz Heflin:

My initial process and I cannot put a big enough caveat on this that I do not recommend doing this in your business. This is probably the biggest mistake I made across my business. I literally said, okay, I don't want to get some crummy campus job, I want to just do these freelance gigs and see if I can get some cash coming in. So I was literally just pricing myself as what I would have earned if I was working at the school library. So that was minimum wage basically. So those first jobs I was taking, I just said, okay, if I can make 10 to 15 bucks an hour, I'm good with that. I do not recommend setting your rates this way.

Liz Heflin:

I was so young, I had no concept, like I said, even though I had never really been an employee, I had a lot of employee mindset principles ingrained in me. I was always comparing what I could make in freelance to what you could make in an office and using that as a point of comparison and that's just not a realistic or a healthy way to set your rates. So my rate setting journey is a lot about making mistakes and then learning from them. And it is so funny because I really didn't jump into the freelancing community. Until about two or three years ago, in all honesty, I was completely in a bubble and so I had my rates and I thought, oh, I'm doing so great. And then, when I jumped onto LinkedIn, I go oh my gosh, like I had no idea how much I was undercharging.

Treasa Edmond:

No idea.

Liz Heflin:

I thought I was perfectly happy with the rates I was making. I thought I was crushing it.

Treasa Edmond:

So, jumping forward to today, you're no longer charging minimum wage. I am not.

Liz Heflin:

I'm happy to say I'm the longest working minimum wage.

Treasa Edmond:

So you've done this for a while and you actually you create some teaching tools for people, you create resources and you coach some other people. So what factors do you think freelancers need to consider when they're setting their rates right now?

Liz Heflin:

Such a good question, such a great question. So my kind of whole thing is it's so helpful to jump into a community to see what other people are doing, to learn what kind of industry standards are, but at the end of the day, rates are a very personal thing and you have to figure out what works for you, your business, your life. So the sort of framework that I've developed that I tell people to do is to find your floor, which is, of course, again the name of that course. The name of that that I've developed that I tell people to do is to find your floor, which is, of course, again the name of that course, the name of that ebook I created around it, and it's just a really simple framework that lets you figure out what your minimum acceptable rate is. You set your goals.

Liz Heflin:

It's step one in the kind of overarching rate setting process. This is finding your absolute floor. You're very, very minimum, because I think a big problem is you get on a call with a client. You give a number. They say, well, what about this number, which is obviously going to be lower, and you have this moment, this knee jerk oh yeah, that's fine, or yeah, I could do that, and it's a very emotion driven negotiation process. Yeah, I could do that. And it's a very emotion driven negotiation process and no good decisions no good financial decisions ever come from the knee jerk. But yeah, we can make that work.

Liz Heflin:

So this is just a. This is a system and a way to figure out line in the sand, hard and fast number in front of you. This is the minimum I can take If I'm doing anything less. I am working full-time, or the full number of billable hours that I can put in my schedule, and I'm making just enough to live. Anything below that you are working full-time and not earning enough to live Anything above it you can consider. And then again, obviously, yes, this is step one in the overarching rate setting process. So it just gives you a little bit of power in the negotiation, takes some of the emotion out and you just know OK, this job is either a maybe or it's just a flat out no.

Treasa Edmond:

So question here and this is just from the feedback that you've gotten how many people have used your tool and come back to you and said, wow, I was charging way less than I actually needed to make my business viable?

Liz Heflin:

I think people are very surprised by the number that gets spit out at the end, because you have again and I think it ties into a lot of what I was talking about before you have a sense of okay, this is what I would make if I were doing this job in an office. This is what constitutes a good, decent salary. Hey, six figures sounds great when you're in an office, all those things, and then you do the hourly on that. Well, if you're working full-time in an office, hourly is 50 bucks an hour. To get to six figures, 50 bucks an hour as a freelancer is probably not going to pay your bills and I think people are surprised by that.

Liz Heflin:

I think they do the math and they go oh my gosh, I didn't really realize, and part of it is that eight billable client hours day in, day out is probably not a sustainable pace. That's a big piece of it because you have to do other things like promote your business and answer emails and do admin and all of the other things that aren't billable client time. But yeah, I think people are. They get a number and they go oh my gosh, that's my floor. That's the minimum I could charge and make ends meet. So yeah, definitely, I think there's some shock.

Treasa Edmond:

Yeah, and that's the minimum that you can make hourly, or however you figure that. I'm guessing it's hourly because I have a minimum internal hourly rate, but I do not charge hourly because I don't sell my time and I think that, as freelancers, probably 80% of us should never be selling our time because it's not about time, it's about the experience and the expertise and all of those other things. It's not about time, it's about the experience and the expertise and all of those other things. But we also have to look at the industry and project complexity and deadlines and all of those things and setting rates, which makes it even more complicated Because you have your minimum internal hourly rate, but hourly has nothing to do with the actual project rate.

Treasa Edmond:

So let's talk a little bit about some of those different types of project rates, because there are so many ways you can charge your clients. Some types of freelancing lend themselves to hourly, but very few. Some are better as project rates. Some writers and editors charge per word, which I've moved away from that as well. Value-based pricing all have their place, but which do you think is most beneficial and when should freelancers shift to a different pricing model?

Liz Heflin:

Yeah, this is again another great, great question. So when I started I was hourly and I was probably hourly for so much longer than I should have been, and I know that so much of that was tied into my own fear that, oh, if I move to a different pricing system say a flat fee, a project-based fee and I way underestimate what it's going to cost, then I'm out. I always had this idea if I'm hourly, at least I'm getting paid for every minute, every second that I put into that project. But obviously the longer you work, the better you get at your job. The more you know that client, the more the industry, the faster and more efficient you get. You are literally penalizing yourself for being better at your job when you stick to hourly. So I am a big proponent of either project-based pricing or value-based pricing, and there is nuance and difference between those two. Yes, but project-based pricing I have eight factors that I probably won't be able to remember or rattle off the top of my head, but I know there are eight of them. And there are eight factors that I consider that are going to contribute to what goes into that project Writing time, editing time, researching time, meeting time, admin time, all of those things and then I do have a target effective hourly rate that I know internal to my business, and then you can just multiply it out and then a big piece of it too, that a lot of people forget or don't think to do, that a lot of people forget or don't think to do, is that eighth category is just literally a cushion, just a buffer, just for anything unexpected that's going to come up in that project, which it always, always does. Just add on an extra 15 to 20% for all of the incidentals, all of every project is going to happen. Your computer's going to crash and you lose that paragraph and you have to rewrite it. The client comes back with a second round of revisions that you weren't expecting. Some of that can be written into scope of the work and mitigated that way, but there's just always going to be things that you didn't anticipate, didn't expect. So adding that cushion is really important to getting that number, the big, big fan of that. And then value-based pricing is huge. It's really good, like you say, with big projects like ghostwriting, where there can be a really direct line drawn from project to future revenue for that client. They can see the ROI there If they write a book. White papers are another really great example. You can write this book. It launches a really lucrative speaking career, like whatever the line from A to B might be.

Liz Heflin:

But clients are typically, as a rule of thumb, if you're looking for hard and fast numbers, they like to see a 5X return on their investment. So for every dollar invested they want to see $5 earned. So if you're doing a project that has this massive financial upside for the client, maybe you're creating a sales landing sequence for some big ticket offering and the numbers get big, the revenue gets big. Well, guess what? They're comfortable paying more, a much, much higher rate, because it's a number, it's a business on their side, it's a business on your side. They're just looking to see an ROI, a decent ROI, off of their investment. They're not thinking about you personally and them personally. It's a math problem. So if you can have a way to estimate, engage, the value of what you are doing, then you can work it back and say okay, what kind of an ROI would they be happy with? What does that put me rate wise and you can adjust engage from there.

Treasa Edmond:

And I don't estimate engage. I ask and this is one of those questions where that kind of having a conversation with the client comes in. Because if I'm working on a white paper and I ask them okay, if this white paper converts and you get one client out of it, what is that client worth? And they say a hundred thousand dollars for one client. They're not even going to quibble with me charging $20,000 for that white paper and that I know there are people who just cringed and I know there are people. I would never we got all of those reactions going on out there.

Treasa Edmond:

And then there are people like I can charge $20,000 for a white paper. I'm doing the wrong thing. You can't always charge $20,000 for a white paper. There are white papers that are $5,000, period, but if they're going to get a massive return, then they can. And the people who are white paper experts and this is all they do and they can prove their conversions If they're doing a white paper for a million dollar project, it's really easy for them to charge a couple hundred thousand dollars for that paper, because the value of that paper to the client is immense.

Treasa Edmond:

So it all comes down, and this is why working with your ideal clients is great. If you work with a client who doesn't value your work, you're not going to get paid for it or not paid. Well, if you work with a client who sees the value of what you do, if they see it on paper and if they see it in returns, then they're never going to question it.

Liz Heflin:

Yeah, and that's huge.

Liz Heflin:

And there are so many factors that go into that ICP, that ideal client profile, and some of them are kind of high level, touchy feely. Do we get along, do we align on values in that way? But some of them are very practical Is their business, is what they're doing, is it going to warrant paying me the rates that I would need to charge to work with them? And if the answer is no, maybe they love what you do, they really value what you do. They pay your rates for a couple of months. But if it doesn't make business sense, that's going to be a short-lived relationship. So if you're looking to charge more, sometimes, as painful as change, as comfortable as it can be, sometimes that ideal client profile has to shift and change over time to continue to accommodate what you're looking to accomplish.

Treasa Edmond:

Your ideal client from 10 years ago should not still be your ideal client today? Yes, yes exactly. I mean at all.

Liz Heflin:

And I think that's something people have to get comfortable with within freelance in general is that the only constant is change, and your business, from month to month, year to year, decade to decade, is going to be different, and you are going to be constantly pivoting and changing. And if you're not, if you've plateaued, maybe you've plateaued at a place that you're happy with. I doubt it, though. So, getting comfortable with that constant change, because it's a part of it, it's part and parcel of it, and that's looking at your goals and looking at your finances and looking at your ideal clients and all of it.

Treasa Edmond:

Now I want to point out something that I don't see a lot of people talking about this and I really think that we should. And it goes back to that leaving money on the table thing, because we can spend and we do spend a lot of time stressing about our rates and when we're doing a proposal for a big project, we spend all of this time. Is this rate something that's going to work with the client? None of that works if you don't pre-qualify your clients and I know a lot of people still don't pre-qualify their clients, and you should, people you should and there are a lot of ways to do that are not invasive, if that's what bothers you. But you really should never go into a project and give a rate until you know what your client's budget is, because it doesn't matter if they're the person you've waited to work with for years, if they want to pay $500 for something that you charge $5,000 for, there is no alignment there and you need to know that. Also, if it's the person you've waited on for years and you want to charge $500 for something that they want to pay $5,000 for, you need to know that too.

Treasa Edmond:

So it's one of the questions on my qualifying questionnaire when they book a call with me for a discovery call Questions what type of project is it? What deadlines are you looking for? What's your budget for the project? Simple, straightforward. It lets me know whether or not I even need to get on the call because it wastes their time and yours if it doesn't work. But it makes me so much more sure when I am sending them the proposal for the project with the rate attached, because if I know that their rate is somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000 for something, I can send them a $12,000 rate and have no doubt that they're going to accept that if we really meshed on that call and I think that's huge. So all of that say we need to know what our rates should be. We still need to go through all of this stuff, but if your client has a budget that's significantly larger than what you would normally charge the budget, yes, and part of that is just the confidence piece.

Liz Heflin:

It really is. Yes, like you said, you have to go through the exercise and know what your target rates are and all of those parameters and guidelines. But if somebody comes in and says I'm going to pay you 10,000 for something that you're typically charging a thousand for, it can make people kind of freeze up. It can make them say, oh, I'm never going to be able to deliver $10,000 worth of value on this project. And chances are you probably can and you probably already are, and you probably exactly yes, if the words I'm talking about exactly right.

Liz Heflin:

You have been providing that value to your clients all this time. You just haven't been charging for it. And that's not to say that every client would then immediately bump to 10,000 and all of that. It's a nuanced thing at every angle. But I think, especially with writing, for some reason I feel like it's really easy for people to minimize it, to dismiss it, to forget how much value, how hard it is, and how much value they're really providing, because I think it's something a lot of us are just good at, always been good at, it's always been our strength, so it's easy to forget that. For most people. This is difficult. It's hard and there's so much buyer psychology that goes into it and just on it, so much nuance that goes into anything written on the page for a business, and it's easy to forget all of that knowledge that you have accrued and gained over the years and how valuable that is to companies.

Treasa Edmond:

I can't even tell you how many projects I've sent to clients and I'm like man, I wish I'd had another five days to work on that. I could have made it better. And they will respond back immediately and say this is wonderful, We've tried to have five in-house people do it. No one could hit this mark. Five in-house people do it no one could hit this mark. Just because you hold yourself to a specific level doesn't mean your clients are, because they're usually about five steps behind you. Yes, 100%.

Treasa Edmond:

So you have existing clients, you've reached that mark, you're charging what you think is a pretty fair rate and then it's time to raise rates, which how many people do you talk to that are like I haven't raised my rates in 10 years, yeah, yeah. So how do you recommend or how do you approach raising rates with existing clients? Are there any specific strategies or timings that you think work out best for that conversation and people? That should be a conversation. It shouldn't be just a simple email saying my rates are going up as of this day to this amount be just a simple email saying my rates are going up as of this day to this amount.

Liz Heflin:

Yeah, sure, yeah, the raising your rates on an existing client can be one of the most uncomfortable conversations you have as a freelancer because things are going well.

Liz Heflin:

You don't want to rock the boat. You're not sure what they're going to say. You don't want to lose that client. So, as you say, it has to be a conversation. And I think a pillar of client trust is that open communication, just the ability. If you have a client who you can confidently open a conversation with and you know that it's going to be a respectful back and forth, that's a client you don't want to let go because you'll be able to work through a lot of hiccups and problems together because you're seeing eye to eye on things.

Liz Heflin:

So it is always if you've had a really big win with a client that's particularly happy with you in the moment, that can be a nice time to broach the subject. It doesn't have to be, but if they're already inclined to go yeah, we just landed that $400,000 project the client came in through a Google search and found this article and then contacted us. Yeah, maybe that's a good time to approach the subject I do. Also, as part of the conversation, I like to let them know that there will be a bit of a timeframe before that rate kicks into place, so that gives them time to get their ducks in a row. They can do some budgeting, shuffling around if need be, so not just saying bam, rates are going to change. As of this. Email is important because it's again, it's a business and they might need to do some shuffling and some adjusting to make it all work.

Liz Heflin:

Moving forward, and some of my clients I have had for 10, 12 years now, and I and I started at a very low rate with them and over the years I have gradually increased to my rates today and they've been able to come with me at every step, partially because they've been gaining clients and work off of the content foundation that we've built together and just the trust is there.

Liz Heflin:

They can't I don't want to put words in their mouth but they can't imagine working with anybody else because we've been working together forever. I know them inside and out. I know their tone of voice, I know their audience, I know all of these nuances and ins and outs that make their content work for them. So I think there's also an inclination to want to go for the jugular and go for the big numbers right out of the gates. But there's also something to be said for starting at rates that are quote, unquote reasonable and building with a client over time, because that's been one of my strong, wonderful, rewarding, fun anchor clients for years and they've been a big part of my freelancing journey and a big part of what's made it sustainable. I'm all for charging your value, but also don't expect to get pro rates the first day that you're out there freelancing Right, and it is a value and your value grows as you learn.

Treasa Edmond:

So you are significantly more value to that client now than you were then because you bring so much more to the table and that level of expertise and that ease and the fact that they can probably send you a project and you just send it back.

Liz Heflin:

There's no back and forth. There's no. Let's hammer this out.

Treasa Edmond:

That is valuable to a client in so many more ways than we can realize, because it solves pain points for them that we don't even know exist, and that's a big thing.

Liz Heflin:

Absolutely. There is real dollars and cents attached to every minute that they have to spend dealing with the back and forth of a piece of content. If it's easy and seamless and just takes it off their plate, there's real practical value in that.

Treasa Edmond:

And I want to point out here and I'm pretty sure Liz is going to agree with this there's a big difference between charging your value where you are now even if you're starting out new and then working your way up and starting at content mill prices and expecting your client to work up, because those I'm sorry, those clients are never going to work their way up. They're always going to be able to find a thousand people that they can pay for $25 for an article. Just don't Recognize that you have a minimum viable value, which is where it comes in setting your bottom rate. You need to do that. So don't backtrack and sell yourself short to get a client, because if you do one, you're going to completely never respect that client and you are going to get massive resentment built up because you're going to be like you're paying me $25 less an hour than I need to pay my bills and you're still just picking at everything I do. That's not a client you want, you just don't. So you have your rate set. You've done all of this hard mental work. You're comfortable with where you are. This is difficult. This is an area that I struggle with even now, and I've been doing this for 20 years.

Treasa Edmond:

Now You're talking to a client about their project and let's say you've qualified them even so, you know that they have budget for this. You send them your rate for that project and they push back. They want to bargain you down, or they are like we said our budget was $10,000, but we really only want to pay $5,000. Whatever that is, how do you recommend handling those? And I say rate negotiations I negotiate scope. I never negotiate rate. I will negotiate scope. I never negotiate rate. But I hear a lot of people talking about rate negotiations and you've said it, so I want to clarify that. So how do you negotiate whatever you negotiate with clients who push back on your pricing?

Liz Heflin:

That's a perfect point and exactly what I wanted to say. Yes, scope negotiation versus rate negotiation is huge, because the second you start chipping away at that rate is when you start to feel devalued. And even if you're ostensibly happy at the rate you end up at because you got chipped away down, it just feels different. Yes, if they say our budget is this, then I let them know how many deliverables will fit into that at the rate that I'm comfortable charging. They say they want eight blogs for X amount of dollars and I'm not happy with that per article rate. Well then, maybe four works based on whatever my projected rate would be. So yes, I absolutely will negotiate on scope. That's the perfect way to put it Scope negotiation versus rate negotiation, absolutely.

Treasa Edmond:

And you know I've had a lot of clients who have come back to me and said we'd really like to reduce it to this amount so that we have more cushion in our budget. And when I respond back with sure I can work with that rate, but I'm going to have to reduce the scope, so we're going to have to take out either this or this. It's amazing how often they find that they actually have room in their budget because they don't want to give anything up. And this is not. Once again, it's not personal. They're not devaluing you or your work. It's their job to save their company money. And if they can ballpark you a figure and you just take it, then you're helping them save their company money. You're not making money for your company, so think about that.

Treasa Edmond:

But here's one, liz. So say I'm a client and I'm wanting you to write a blog post that you have said is going to be $1,000, which is a very fair rate for that project, and I get a little bit nasty and I'm like I just don't get it. I could get that for $100 on Upwork. How do you respond to a situation like that? Because that is personal.

Liz Heflin:

That does feel very personal and I will say I've been very lucky in my business. I really haven't encountered that kind of an attitude very much and I put that down to working with the right kind of clients. That's a big piece of it. But yeah, that's the point where I would just say that's a massive flag for me. That would be a disqualifying comment for me. I would just say you know what?

Liz Heflin:

This probably isn't going to be a good fit because a client who has that attitude, that attitude is going to show up in other ways and it is going to affect how long the project takes and how happy they are with it, which is probably going to be not very, even if you're delivering super high quality work. And that kind of a statement is just indicative of a much bigger problem. And I know, again, in this landscape it's hard to even fathom turning work away because this idea that something is better than nothing, sometimes nothing is better than something, If that something is going to just be a total drain on your time, your mental energy, going to just be a total drain on your time, your mental energy, how good you feel about the work that gets done, all of these things that have a real practical impact. So, yeah, you have to know what your deal breakers are, but a comment like that for me would be a deal breaker.

Treasa Edmond:

We talk about red flags a lot and I know that there've been several red flag conversations in the past where how many red flags are too many? There are red walls for me and those are deal breakers and if they do this thing, I will not work with them, and this is one of those for me. If they get snarky or nasty about my rate which I've worked very hard to set and I know my value I immediately send off a very professional, very nice email. In any other situation I would offer to refer them on. If they hit that one, I don't. I just say it looks like this project isn't a good fit for my business right now, but I wish you all the best. Thank you for your consideration, teresa. That's it. There's no room for more conversation and yeah, it's, and sometimes it is it.

Liz Heflin:

Everything is dependent on the situation. Sometimes it is just a client who doesn't really understand the landscape and it's just is just needs some kind of education about how freelancers charge and you can feel that in your bones, the way that something is said. If, whether it's a difference between this is just going to be a nasty, unpleasant person to work with versus somebody who's like, well, why is it that expensive? I saw this other person charging a lot less. I don't understand the discrepancy. Those are two very different sentences.

Liz Heflin:

One's a very legitimate question, the other one is a personal hit and people like to say this but no is also a complete sentence. You don't have to justify yourself to that person. Doesn't have to be a whole big thing. If you get a vibe like this, person is going to be a toxic client for you. That's going to cause problems for you. It is. It is more than okay to just say I'm so sorry. This isn't a good fit at this time.

Treasa Edmond:

I believe and this is part of the rates conversation because there are times you do not want to engage in a conversation because it's not going to go anywhere, and it's okay to build that boundary and say, no, this is not a conversation I'm going to participate in, thank you for your interest, end, that's it, you don't have to do anything else. And that that can cause anxiety. And then we also have internal rate anxiety. So let's talk about imposter syndrome, because this is the topic everyone loves to hate, right? So what advice do you have for freelancers who struggle with confidence and charging their desired rates? So, are there any mindset shifts or practices you recommend?

Liz Heflin:

Yeah, a couple, and this is a hard one because, just like freelancing, is specific to each person. How they operate, how you get over mental hurdles, is very personal to you. There. I wish there were a confidence wand that I could just bop people on the head and magically now they're okay with their rates forever. But obviously that doesn't exist. So it's a very in a lot of ways it's a very personal question. You have to figure out what works for you.

Liz Heflin:

But I think a big piece of it can honestly be throwing yourself into community. And I say this again, this kind of my fallback answer, because I've seen the benefits in so many different ways. When you immerse yourself with other people who do what you do, who understand what you're going through, you can commiserate with. Having that support can be really transformative. It's really powerful. It's not something to be dismissed or taken lightly.

Liz Heflin:

When you're running a business of one, you don't always have somebody to turn to. There isn't always a coworker to ask an opinion of. So when you build that community and support system for yourself, it can help alleviate some of those mental demons that we all battle, no matter how long you've been doing this, no matter how skilled you are how confident you are. I guarantee those content creators that you look up to they are dealing with this on some end of the spectrum as well. So I think that's important too is talking about it, knowing everybody's dealing with it to varying degrees and having that support network. Again, you kind of forget how good you are at things because you do it all the time. It's just part of what you do. When you get out there and you start talking to people, you remember okay, I am a part of this community, I do have a voice, I do have a place here. So that can help alleviate some of it.

Treasa Edmond:

And there's a great deal of encouragement that comes from encouraging other people. And Liz is talking about networking and building your community and I know that freaks out a lot of introverts and when she's talking about that she's not saying you have to join a community of 20,000 people and talk to all of them. You can find two or three people that you really mesh well with. Start a baby mastermind it's still a mastermind. Meet regularly, talk to them, talk about your concerns and the issues that you have. Run your rates by them Say I have this project coming up and I'm going to do this thing. If there's an area that you're struggling with and you bond with those people and form a relationship, they become really valuable feedback in your life. And then that feedback loop because it's reciprocated, you don't ever want to go into a community or build a community and just take yes 100%.

Liz Heflin:

That's kind of the foundational principle that if you go in with a transactional mindset, if you're just thinking what can I get, what can I get, what can I get, you are going to get nothing out of it. That's just kind of the way it is. If you go in with a genuine desire to offer what you can and to provide the support that you can provide, provide the insight you can provide, all of those things that is going to come back on you tenfold. It's just the way it works.

Treasa Edmond:

Intent matters too. So you can't go into a community determined to foist your opinions on everyone else. You need to intend to offer value and not ram things down people's throats. Offer value by all means, answer the question. But if you answer a question different from the other 50 people that answer the question and you are in one of those larger communities, it's not your job to go through and respond to every one of those other responses and refute them. That's not the purpose. The purpose is offer your opinion and then, when you ask a question, people are going to offer you a variety of opinions too. Yeah, absolutely, absolutely yes.

Treasa Edmond:

Can't talk up community in general, whatever it means to you, whatever it looks like to you enough where you're undercharging, unless other people are transparent about their rates.

Treasa Edmond:

And I'm not talking humble bragging, and I'm not talking outright bragging and I'm not talking setting unreasonable expectations. And this comes back to something that we talked about earlier that I said I was going to bring up when you're setting your rates and I know Liz's tool goes into this, and I want everyone to be so, so clear on this. When someone says that they're making $600 an hour doing writing, they might actually be making $600 an hour for their client work, but I can guarantee that does not translate to $600 an hour, to the time they're spending on and in their business. So share your rates, but share them transparently and put qualifiers in there. So say, yeah, I make $300 an hour minimum writing. I do, that's absolutely. But I don't make $300 a minimum when I amortize that out because I'm spending a lot of hours marketing my business and that brings my rate down. I'm just very careful to not let that drop below that minimum, that threshold.

Liz Heflin:

Yeah, I think if you look at the broader context of the people who are saying the things about their rates, you can get a lot of insight into sort of the legitimacy of what they're doing, Cause if they're trying to sell you something and they're trying to sell you on the idea that you can make $600 an hour and buy this Lamborghini and live in this mansion, whatever, some red flags, some alarm bells are probably going off. But if somebody is a trusted member of the community, somebody you know, somebody likes, somebody you trust, somebody whose opinion you value, and you're having a really honest, frank, nuanced discussion about rates, again it's a very different conversation.

Treasa Edmond:

So having the full context is always helpful.

Liz Heflin:

The reason, one of the big reasons that I say jumping into LinkedIn, jumping into community, was the biggest game changer in my business, is because I didn't even realize what was possible with freelance. It changed so many of my mindsets about money, about how to charge, how to earn, how to structure contracts, how to continuously earn off the same piece of collateral, how one piece of work can continuously earn you money. These were just things that I wasn't thinking about in my business until I immersed myself in it. Until I immersed myself in it and when I joined I wasn't making those kinds of figures, but it opened my eyes to what was possible. And before long I was kind of surprised to open my eyes and go oh my God, like I'm part of the people who are making those rates now, and it sneaks up on you sometimes.

Treasa Edmond:

And I think it's. I think part of it too is people are it takes up on you sometimes and I think it's, I think part of it too is people are.

Liz Heflin:

They don't want to be seen as braggadocious or whatever, so it's hard for them to just go out there and post their wins, tent matters, but it's important to do. It's just as we. Every conversation should be nuanced negative and positive, and I and you need to see both sides to get the full picture, cause I think right now, especially for people who are starting out, it's really easy to look at the overarching conversation and just say, oh, freelance isn't sustainable right now and they quit on it. Yeah, and seeing that it is possible to succeed, and in really exciting ways, is an important piece of that conversation that shouldn't be stifled or self-censored.

Treasa Edmond:

And realize that these people didn't get there overnight. They worked hard, they built their networks, they've built their referrals, they've done all of those things. It tells you what's possible and it gives you an idea of what to work toward. It's not. This is a milestone you need to meet right now, because that's just that's not feasible and maybe it's not a milestone you ever need to meet.

Liz Heflin:

I mean, there are lots of people who get into freelance because they have, you know, children or aging parents or any kind of other multiple responsibilities, and what they want, what success looks like for them, is something where they can make X amount that covers these bills and they only have to work two, three hours a day. Whatever the numbers of the situation might be Part of hearing what's possible too, is the mental fortitude hearing it without going, oh I need to go after that shiny object, that shiny benchmark, or, on the other side, not getting so discouraged because you're not there yet. So it's a big mental game, but if you can learn what's out there and then put on blinders and run your own race, that's where the gold happens. That's where the good stuff.

Treasa Edmond:

Yeah, five years ago, when people started really talking about the six-figure freelancer, I'm like, yeah, I don't need to do that and it didn't bother me. But then I started looking at the bottom line, my foundational rates, and I'm like, no, I actually do need to do that, because by the time I pay taxes and all of my expenses and I've got all of these other things and this is what I want to do and I want to go on a trip a year. That actually is kind of my minimum income. Take what works for you and leave the rest. Okay, so you've talked a little bit as we've gone along this week about a couple of the resources you have, and I know you have a lot of great ones out there. Are there any specific ones you want to share with the Boss Responses community?

Liz Heflin:

Yeah, absolutely. Back in February I did launch a community. I've talked a lot about community on this episode, but yeah, I launched a subscription community exclusively for freelance writers. It's called the Inkwell and it is a repository of resources and coaching and then just the built-in support and motivation and educational piece that you get in kind of this smaller safe space. If LinkedIn feels a little overwhelming because it's too many people and you don't feel like you can openly ask questions, this is a small safe space of people who really get you, get your industry, get all the nuance around it. So always plug in the inkwell.

Liz Heflin:

That's really near and dear to my heart. And then I do have I mentioned it briefly the find your floor course which will help you determine that minimum rate for you. There's a video course. It walks you through why it's even important, what some of the factors are that go into it. And then there's a pricing tool so you just basically put in your numbers. There's some technical mumbo jumbo that happens in the background and magically a number spits out and you get your minimum hourly rate. And then there's a whole section about how to convert hourly to other pricing models if you're doing other pricing models. But yeah, that's available too. And it's step one in the rate setting process in my mind is getting to that minimum rate, so that's available too. And it's step one in the rate setting process in my mind is getting to that minimum rate, so that's out there as well.

Treasa Edmond:

Yep, that's the foundation of a successful business, I think. So I'll have links to your social and to these resources in the show notes, but if someone wants to find you online, where would they go?

Liz Heflin:

I'm always on LinkedIn probably too much. You can find me there always. So yeah, just Liz Heflin, you'll find me on LinkedIn. And then if you want to send me an email, you can just do Liz L-I-Z at Liz Heflin dot com.

Treasa Edmond:

Simple and easy to get there, all right. One last question, liz what advice would you give to service providers looking to create lasting, successful partnerships with their clients?

Liz Heflin:

Yeah, this is another great question. These are gold questions. I have really built my business on the back of sustained, successful partnerships with my clients and I feel like I got there by clearing a couple of hurdles that seem really basic, but somehow a lot of people fall down on them. Not over-promising and under-delivering, making sure expectations are always very realistic, especially around results and revenue. Especially in something like content. It can be a bit of a build. You have to invest before the SEO starts to pay off.

Liz Heflin:

Providing that education piece, making sure they understand very realistically what to expect is huge. And then just meeting deadlines every time, treating them as like ironclad agreements. And obviously life happens. Nobody is perfect. Things come up, but if you proactively communicate with them throughout the process, you can. You're not going to spring anything on them. If you see a roadblock down down the road, go, I don't know, this thing might come up and then I don't know if I can meet my deadline. It's so much better to reach out and just say, hey, this potential thing is going to get in the way of this deadline and then, if it doesn't happen, great. If it does happen, they have a heads up.

Liz Heflin:

So that open communication is really key and knowing what clients want, which is just a drama-free, easy, pleasant experience that also yields results. If you can tick all of those boxes, if you can be pleasant to work with, then the work is high quality. Consistently, you're meeting your deadlines and then also, as a practical bonus, it's working, the process is working and bringing in the revenue it should. That client will never, ever want to let you go, because why would they? And I think we tend to underestimate how hard it is to find and implement and put into place a good freelancer. There's so many people out there who are doing it, but it is hard to find somebody who's a good fit in all of those ways. Yeah, that's my formula for keeping clients happy and it hasn't let me fall down yet.

Treasa Edmond:

So that was just over a minute. I think, folks, if you want to rewind that and listen to that again, maybe take some notes, because you should. So, liz, I think this is probably going to go down as one of my favorite weeks of the Boss Responses podcast ever. I loved every day of the conversation. It's been absolutely amazing. So thank you so much for all of your time and energy and for just being here and for feeding back into the community.

Liz Heflin:

Of course, no, I'm so glad you asked. This was great. I love doing these kinds of things and I had a blast All right, that was the week with Liz.

Treasa Edmond:

I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Come back next week for an entirely new guest host.

Setting Rates for Freelancers
Establishing Freelancer Pricing Strategies
Determining Value-Based Freelancer Pricing
Navigating Rate Increases With Clients
Managing Client Rate Negotiations and Boundaries
Building Confidence and Setting Rates
Finding Success in Freelance Partnerships

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