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  The Lowest You Should EVER Charge

Key Concept

If you charge too little, you might as well go get a full-time job.

The Hard Rule of the Lowest Tier

Now that you know about the hidden costs of running a business we can talk about rates. And I promise you we'll talk about all the high end rates, and how much you could charge. I'll even tell you what my current rate is. But... first we need to talk about the lowest you should ever charge.

Why? Because this course is designed for college students and recent graduates. It's designed for people who are just starting out. Plus, it's likely that you aren't a high-valued consultant. That is the eventual plan, but let's cover the low end first.

So how low?

I think a good rule of thumb is that for freelancing and consulting services to NEVER charge less than DOUBLE what you were making on a similar on-campus job. For instance, say you used to be a custodian, and now you have a business organizing offices for professors. And say as a custodian you were making $8.00-$10.00 per hour, then, if you were charging hourly for your business then you should charge at least $16.00-$20.00 per hour. Actually, if I were doing this I'd focus on what's called producized consulting, and created fixed-price packages that I could easily sell, and I'd create a package for $50, $100, and $200 and just sell those. But that's besides the point.

Let's do another.

Say you were a junior developer making $14.00 per hour on campus, and if I were charging hourly, I'd bill my time out at $30.00 per hour. It's $28.00 rounded to a nice even number (not that $28.00 isn't nice, it's just that $30.00 is nicer). Granted a developer could likely get away with charging more, but for development, as a total junior, this is the lowest I'd ever charge.

So make this your rule of thumb. Make this your hard and fast rule. Never charge less than double of what you can make on a campus job. Why? because of all the hidden costs you now have as running a business. Also, because you aren't an employee anymore. You are running a business and you have risks. And most of all, you are giving someone a service that has value, and you should be charging an appropriate amount for the value you provide.

And if you want to charge less, then you might as well go work for someone else. You might as well get the security of working for someone else, with the constant hours, the safe job, and having tasks just handed to you. Otherwise, it's just not worth the hassle.

What about discounts?

Never give a discount. It cheapens your value, and it cheapens your brand. Not only that you lose so much money. For instance, say you had a programming project that would take you 100 days to complete (that's 5 months as 20 working days a month). And say you had a day rate of $400 a day (which is one of my older rates), but say you settled and you gave them a discount and only charged them $300 a day. Well instead of making $40,000 you now made $30,000. You would have been better sticking to your rate, and giving them a free starter gift to help sweeten the deal. This way you keep your brand value high, you don't lose massive amounts of money, and you can still keep the project.

And what would that rate be? Well if you did web development you could give them a SSL cert for free. Or setup their hosting for free. If you did marketing you could give them a free review with an actionable report on their site. This is what is called a "loss leader", and it's super handy to help you snag a project. And instead of losing $10,000 you lose an evening that you normally waste watching netflix.

Working for Free

I don't charge my family for my work. I keep my boundaries with them, but I don't charge family. My philosophy is full price for everyone but (very) close friends and family.

Yet if I were starting out I would work for free, but I would have certain terms. I'd say "I normally charge $750 a day for my work, but I'll set up this website for you for free, and I'll give you three free days worth of work. Then once those days are up, I'll interview you, and create a case study that I can use to promote your business. I'll write the whole thing up, but you'll need to sign this form to allow me to post the study on my website, and I'd like a testimonial from you."

So you see, this way you get to help them out, build your portfolio of case studies, AND you keep your value intact. Everybody wins.

Best of all, if they have any more work for you to do then they know your rate, and you can bill them in full. This way you really aren't losing anything, but are simply making an investment in your future.


  • Decide what your minimum rate is.
    • You can use the double your wage method as a rule of thumb
    • Or you can just decide what you are really worth, and then use that.
    • Remember, people will pay what the market will bear. That's why developers and strategy consultants make so much money.
    • But you need to know what your minimum for a job will be.
  • Now commit that you'll never work at any project below that rate. The only exception is that your family is starving, or you borrowed money from an italian loan shark... you get the idea. The principle here is to be confident, and to know your worth. You might as well take a job for free (aka a case study) and use that to snag a high-priced job than to work for cheap.