I catch myself doing this from time to time. And I always want to slap myself.

It’s what Mike Monteiro of Mule Design calls ‘negotiating on behalf of the client.’

Which means, when wrestling with an estimate or a quote or a proposal, we end up finding all sorts of reasons to lower the fee. I was a master at this.

“Don’t get too greedy here, champ. Might be plenty of work behind this . . . These little companies never have any money . . . I could really, really use an assignment for next week . . . I don’t have a ton of experience with this yet . . . I bet they are talking to three other freelancers who are really cheap . . . I bet they are talking to freelancers who are really expensive . . . This is my one chance at this client . . . Once I do a few of these, I can really crank them out fast . . .”

All this is before a client actually bitches about the price, mind you.

These are just voices in our heads.

We need to quit that. We need to quit bargaining against ourselves. It’s not our job.

Why do we do this?

I know, I know, the obvious reason is that we’re afraid we won’t get the assignment. Because of ‘the economy’ and ‘rampant competition’ and nobody has any money. We need to be competitive and realistic and reasonable.

And there’s the magical belief that the lower your fee, the better your chance of getting the job. Low price, lower resistance, more chance of work.

Phooey. If that were true, the cheaper freelancers would be the busiest. They would be scooping up the all the assignments. Which ain’t remotely so.

The real reason for bargaining ourselves down is a little more embarrassing.

We’re chicken.

Sometimes, it feels safer being cheaper. It’s easier to hide down there in the small digits.

Charging a lot feels scary. “What will the client want for all that?” “How good will I have to be?” “I don’t want all that hassle.”

(This is all before the client says a word, mind you.)

With a higher fee, your brain thinks you’re really sticking yourself out there. Which is mostly imaginary, of course.

Me, I lost thousands one year just because one client, one rude client said, “Holy cow, kid. You have one hugely inflated opinion of yourself. You ain’t nearly that good.”

I was so gun shy after that, I went in low for months, even before the client said a thing. I bargained myself down just fine. The clients never had to say a word. It cost me maybe the price of a car.

But it sure felt safer. More comfortable.

It wasn’t of course. It was just me being chicken.

If the client beefs and tries to beat down the fee, that’s one thing. From there, you get to decide yes or no. That’s your call.

But don’t beat yourself up first. Even if it feels the safer way out.