(Written by Franz Pantaleon; Artwork by Shaira Guevarra)

Freelancing is no easy feat. Sure, the idea of working on your own time and picking out projects you want is enticing, but the lifestyle requires a lot of diligence and a decent amount of humility. You’ve got the skill, you’re just what they need, they want to work with you. But then you hit a ceiling when asked the critical question, “What’s your price?”

The freelancer’s dilemma 

“This is a very tricky and sensitive question. Before anything else, I think you must thoroughly understand your capacity, skills and experience and your client’s objectives. This will be the baseline to what extent you can strategically price your needs for their demands,” says Jorel Lising of Substance, an artist representation agency.

Pricing is a calculus of sorts. “We can keep on repeating the phrase ‘know your worth,’ but there’s more to it. The time you spent, the people you hire to help you, years of experience, and actual output/requirements, as well as the ‘where, what, and when’ your product will be used,” says Kristin Cornejo, a freelancer for two years. Having a good understanding of these things can help you price yourself in a way that’s favorable for both you and your client.

All’s fair in love and war

There comes a saturation point in any community that threatens to upset the balance. “It’s not just ‘I will do this for my passion!’ […] there’s more business and math when you’re freelancing,” says Kristin. For some projects, freelancers partake in biddings where the client gets to select a freelancer based on cost and quality. This leads to freelancers being overworked and underpaid, or clients being unhappy with the quality of seemingly “good deals”. This becomes unfair on many levels and can, at times, be disheartening for the hardworking and honest freelancer.

Difficult as it is, you have to stand firm and be fair. This doesn’t apply solely to projects and clients, but to yourself as well. Know your worth and work around that. Of course, there are some exceptions. For example, if there’s a project you feel very passionate about, you could shave a bit off from your asking and trade it in for fulfilment. On the other hand, if there’s a project you’re generally averse to doing, you could bump up your asking price a bunch so if you get the job, the payoff should still be worth it. “At the end of the day, it’s all about the relationship you have with your client and how much you value that will determine your pricing. It will inevitably boil down to negotiation and compromise,” says Jorel.

Just do it

“It takes time, hard work, and real effort on networking. Treat yourself and everyone around you as equals, and with the utmost kindness,” says Kristin. It isn’t easy, but it’s certainly doable. “Find communities that you can give to that you can help lift up. Give value, and you will be given value back,” says Jorel. Keep asking questions, stay in the know, and when in doubt, remember the famous (or infamous) words of Shia LaBeouf, “Just do it.”