“You should have the confidence to charge what you’re worth.”

When I see advice like that, I wince. I have been there, been stung.

“You should know your worth as a designer.”

“Your fees should reflect your worth to the project.”

Oh boy. That’s the wrong way to think about it. Get that word ‘worth’ out of there.

Tying your fees to your ‘worth’ is just asking for misery. It’s too easy to take it personally.

The last thing we need is to make every quote or proposal or estimate a verdict on our ‘worth.’ As freelancers, our egos take it on the chin enough as it is.

Me, I can only think of it like this:

We don’t get to decide what our stuff is worth.

Sorry, but we don’t.

The client decides that.

What we get to decide is our price.

There’s a huge difference.

Reread that.

When you think of it, the only thing we can control directly is our fee.

We can base it on anything we want. “Years of experience. Nine semesters of school. I’m freaking smart. This is really hard to do. I want a new car. My wife is ashamed of me. There’s a no-talent moron out there charging way more than me.” (All overheard, by the way, at the renegade’s roundtable.)

The ‘worth’ part, that’s in the client’s head. They decide to buy, or not.

(We can affect that a little. By acting like someone they’d like to work with. By showing that we’re on their side. By not being a jerk. By sharing some cool ideas. By putting something on the desk they like.)

But mostly, the ‘worth’ thing is more about their internal dramas, their own politics, prejudices, and priorities. “$1250 for these documents? My boss will kill me . . . I don’t have enough budget for that . . . For the website? Nah. . . I like the other designs better.”

It is almost never about you, and your ‘worth’.

“This Kania guy. On the worthiness scale, he’s only a four, four-point-five, tops.”

Forget all that.

What we get to decide is the price.

That’s our sovereignty right there.

We get to say how much.

That way, it’s just arithmetic.

Easier on my head that way.