This is probably the hardest and most important lesson freelancers can learn. It takes crazy self-confidence to say a high number to a new client but everything you say is true. A few years ago, when I was getting $75/hour and feeling good about it, I was having a drink with a friend. He is a senior manager at one of the largest grocery chains in the country. I described a project I’d been involved in that was very successful (it helped my clients sell their company to their major competitor for well north of $300 million). He asked my rate and I told him. He was incredulous and told me I should be charging at least $250. I work with smaller growth businesses that would blanch at that but I immediately raised my rate to $125, a 60% increase. No one has balked.
Now, I am not a beginner and I have a track record. And I’m fast, as a result. My goal is always to beat my rate by being more efficient. But sometimes the rate serves as a cushion against those unforeseen project issues that take longer than you think.
If you’re uncomfortable putting a number out there, quote by the project, but base your quote on your desired number. I think you might surprise yourself. Finally, I’ve found, without exception, that clients who complain about price are always problem clients. Slow or no payers, want constant revisions and free work, claim its ‘valuable experience for a resume’, etc. Dump them immediately and move on.