It May Be Your Fault If Your Client Doesn’t Appreciate All That You Do

A common barrier to a freelancer getting paid as much as they would like to be paid is that clients often don’t understand everything that goes into completing a project.

As freelancers, we naturally tend to think that this lack of understanding is the client’s fault. But, what if the client rarely hires freelancers? There have been a few times when a client who hired me told me that I was the first freelance writer they ever hired. Would it be fair of me to expect them to fully understand everything that goes into freelance writing?

As freelancers, it’s up to us to educate our clients about the work that we do. In this post, I’ll discuss some ways that you can educate your clients about the true amount of effort that goes into a project. It’s a little bit of extra effort, but by doing so you’ll not only help your own future relations with the client, you’ll be helping them deal fairly with any future freelancers down the road.


What Some Folks Think About What Freelancers Do

Actually, this heading probably should have been titled “What Some Folks Don’t Think About What Freelancers Do,” because a lot of folks (prospective clients and others) simply don’t think about the actual work that freelancers do. All they think about is the end result.

I’ve even had folks tell me that they type 60 words per minute (a fairly average speed for a good typist), and therefore they believe that I should be able to write 3600 words in an hour (60 x 60). It is as though they think that writing is nothing more than typing, when in reality there is a lot of work that goes into my writing even BEFORE I type my first word. Of course, I can’t produce a finished document of that length at that speed and there are very few (if any) writers who can. If they had really thought about and did a little research about what freelance writers actually do, I doubt they would have made such a statement.

Project Elements That Clients Frequently Forget

There are some common elements that go into most types of freelancing projects (regardless of your specialty) that most clients tend to forget. Those elements include:

  • Brainstorming. If your freelancing specialty falls into the creative area, you likely spend a significant portion of your work on the project brainstorming to get the best ideas for your client.
  • Research. Many projects require the freelancer to do additional research. For some types of freelance writers (and other freelancers), research can consume most of the project’s time.
  • Organization. Once the freelancer has thought of an idea and researched it, it is time to organize the material for the final presentation to the client.
  • Revision/Testing. Whether it be a design, programming, writing, or something else, the freelancer needs to carefully check his or her work before it is ready for the client.
  • Meetings. If a client requests a meeting or meetings with you, you should include that time in your estimate (even if the meeting is virtual or by phone).
  • Correspondence Time. If a client requires you to send lots of email updates, or is constantly sending email requests for project updates you should factor that time in also.

Forgetting to include any of these elements in your project quote can lower your effective hourly rate.

Not too long ago a client hired me to do some relatively simple writing tasks. However, I didn’t realize when I quoted the project that they also wanted to have regular weekly meetings with me (each lasting about an hour). My failure to include the meeting time in my project estimate meant that my effectively hourly rate for this project was far below what it should have been.

How to Educate Your Client

Of course, there are varying methods you can use to educate your client, but two of the most effective are the project quote and the invoice.

  • Project quote. It is very important to be specific when you are quoting a project to a prospective client. While quoting lump sum amounts is usually the best pricing strategy, it’s important to make sure that your client understands exactly what is included in that lump sum. For example, it’s perfectly acceptable to state something like this in your quote: “This quote includes one hour long telephone conference or virtual meeting. Additional meetings will be billed at the rate of $X.XX per hour.” Likewise, you should limit the name of revisions by stating something like: “This quote includes two revision requests, which must be submitted within the first month after the draft is received.” If you are specific, you lower the possibility that the project scope will creep out of control AND you make the client aware of the various tasks that you must complete to do the project.
  • Invoice. I have found it helpful to make my invoices somewhat detailed by listing many of the actual tasks that I performed during the course of the project. Seeing this level of detail helps the client to realize the full value of what they are paying for. Plus, in many cases, the client really hasn’t thought about what goes into actually doing the work. In contrast, when I just list the finished product on an invoice (1 article, 1 study guide, etc.), the client may underestimate the effort involved and think that they are being overcharged.

Some other great ways to educate your client include:

  • Writing blog posts that detail how you perform your work.
  • Having meetings or discussions with clients.
  • Sharing information about your field with clients on social media.

Your Turn

So, as we have discussed, if you’re not educating your clients about what it takes to get a job done it may be your fault if your client doesn’t appreciate all that you do for them.

Do your clients really understand what goes into the work that you do for them? How have you gone about educating your clients?

Share your answers in the comments.

Image by Libertinus