ASH AMBIRGE

Author, CEO & Founder

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YOU AREN’T CHARGING ENOUGH. Here Are Twenty Big, Fat Reasons Why.

In: Money Talk

Andddd (drum roll!) we continue our discussion about money with the biggest, hairiest, most existential question in all of entrepreneurship: “How much should I charge?” While other people are worried about how much they’re spending, YOU have the ass-clenching task of worrying about how much you’re earning. (Let’s be honest, your ass did clench up a little when you read the words, “How much should I charge,” didn’t it? I KNOW.)

As we’ve discussed about 493 times since we’ve met (HI, I LOVE YOU), we women have one d.o.o.z.y of a dysfunctional relationship with money. But think about it: it makes sense. Women have a hard time even so much as taking a compliment from someone else, let alone their actual financial resources. That’s the money they buy their kids food with! And pay their car payment with! And buy one-click purchases from Amazon with! And yet, here they are, giving it to US. Which we feel massively guilty over. Because in our minds, in order for us to gain value, someone else must lose it.

And that’s because we take ourselves SO DEEPLY FOR GRANTED.

None of us recognize how unfuckwithably awesome we are. Instead, we fixate on the negative. “I sounded like such an idiot on that call!” or “Why couldn’t I think of that word?!” or “I can’t believe I saidddd thatttt,” or “I’m so irresponsible.” With every dig at ourselves, we feel less and less deserving—and believe me, it shows up in the way you walk through the world. And it definitely shows up in the way you charge.

So I thought I’d compile a fun-filled check list of twenty points to consider when it comes time to quoting a number for a client—because, da-hling, you need to recognize when you’re undermining yourself. And you need to recognize what your time and energy and effort and knowledge and wisdom and experience is actually worth. I hope this list helps you gauge when it’s appropriate for you to charge more and better money—without the guilt. Who you are, what you know, and the way you’ve brought an experience to life is far more valuable than you give yourself credit for. But somebody’s gotta give you credit where credit is due, am I right? HI, I AM THAT GIRL.

So let’s say, at the bare bones minimum, you begin by charging $20 an hour. Which, for the record freelancers, is only $14.40 an hour once you factor in automatic payment processor fees of 2.5% + .30 and then deduct 25% for taxes—and that’s not even taking any overhead or expenses into account. Which is why I like to advise cutting your hourly rate in half to get a more accurate estimate of how much you’re actually making. Different than how much you’re earning. So let’s say you charge $20 an hour, and you’re bringing home $10 an hour. For every statement that’s true for you, you should be adding to your hourly rate. For the sake of argument, try adding an additional $20 to your hourly rate for every statement that’s true. See where you land! Then adjust according to industry, reality, client, and any other factors you think are relevant.

Ready? Let’s go!

  1. I would consider myself experienced and seasoned, like a steak…yum
  2. I am capable and confident in my work and its impact, AKA “I know my shit”
  3. The nature of my work is creative and not easily duplicated
  4. I have more inquiries than I can accommodate
  5. I’m better at this than most (go ahead, OWN IT)
  6. My work involves a high cognitive load / mental cost and is intellectual in nature
  7. My work involves a high emotional IQ  and requires empathy and strong interpersonal skills
  8. Working with a new client requires a new learning curve (for example, learning about a new industry)
  9. My work is highly specialized, i.e. heart doctor vs general MD, as it applies to your field
  10. I have undergone professional training to get to this level
  11. Clients often need it done yesterday, and time is of the essence
  12. The nature of the project is challenging, cumbersome or bound by an extenuating circumstance, i.e. a special case requiring more work than usual
  13. My work is worth more to the client than it costs, i.e. it will make them money
  14. I can prove it and have case studies demonstrating my value, or some other form of proof
  15. I have gotten press/publicity or been interviewed or featured in the media, raising my profile
  16. I have glowing client testimonials
  17. I’ve invested in my online brand and my website and trust-factor is legit
  18. In order to offer this service, I incur more expenses than my time (i.e. visiting clients on-site, renting hotels, hiring subcontractors)
  19. It’s difficult to find somebody who does what I do, the way I do it
  20. I often go above and beyond and give far more than is required—which, of course, translates into a ton of value in and of itself

I didn’t include considerations such as, “This project makes me want to off myself,” or “This client is an effing nightmare,” or even “the opportunity cost is high because I could be making more money doing something else,” because those are voluntary elections. If you’re doing work you hate, working with clients you hate, or spending your time unwisely, that doesn’t make your work more valuable in the marketplace: it means you need to rethink a few things. 🙂

So if all of these statements were true, this would put you in the $400/hour range. Which isn’t actually absurd, when you consider this is actually what real experts in their field make. (Even an attorney charges this much right out of law school.) If only half of the statements were true, that puts you in the $200/hour range. If only a quarter of the statements were true, that puts you in the $100/hour range. And if none of the statements were true, that means you’re just beginning AND THAT’S OKAY! Now you have something to shoot for.

I’ll make the disclaimer that of course this isn’t a scientific method that’s written in stone, but I hope it helps you guide your thinking in the right direction, and begin to value your own expertise and work ethic. Like I said before, you may have to adjust for industry or reality, here, but hopefully this is a useful exercise in and of itself, independent of what number you attach. More is the point. You are made of fucking stars, my friend, and that IS worth something. If you aren’t a freelancer who stepped off the street with no experience or knowledge under your belt, then you shouldn’t be competing with freelancers who stepped off the street with no experience or knowledge under their belt. Don’t buy into the race to the bottom. Clients don’t hire you because you’re cheap: they hire you because you’re good. A client will always find a way if they want something bad enough.

Your job is to make them want it bad enough.

In some circles that’s called marketing. But in this one? It’s much more simple: this is about being so good they can’t ignore you. This is about becoming the best version of yourself that you can be. And when you do that?

You won’t have to charge good money, because people will practically throw it at you.

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I'm a Bad Influence on Women

Hey, I’m Ash! Twenty years ago I was a small town girl growing up in a trailer park in rural Pennsylvania. Fifteen years ago, I lost my family and everything I knew right as I became the first to graduate college. Fourteen years ago, I found myself leaving everything behind for a new life in the city where I could be “normal.” Ten years ago I realized normal was the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me. Nine years ago I quit my job in advertising and pursued my dreams as a creative writer. Eight years ago, I built a 6-figure business doing what I love using nothing more than the Internet and my voice. And now, today, I’m the founder of The Middle Finger Project, an irreverent media co. that helps other women find their voice and teaches them to use it to build whatever the f*ck they want to. With a book coming out with Penguin Random House in February 2020 (YASSS, WE’RE A PRODUCT IN TARGET!) I’m proud to be a bad influence on women and guide them into doing something disobediently brave with their life and their career.

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