Setting a price

Fascinating meditation by Matt Webb on the dilemma that faces all freelancers — how much to charge:

There’s a civil engineering company I’ve been told about, which internally audits all its projects for profitability, interestingness, and how easy the client is to deal with. If it’s not marked well on two of those, future projects are turned down.

It’s this second one that interests me. Not using money as a way of explaining how much a project costs, but using money as a way of influencing what kind of work you get, and as fair compensation.

Work must be fun. If I didn’t believe that, I’d have a highly lucrative job in the City. And work must be fair. I don’t want to charge people too much for what I do for them, or too little. There must be a lot of different work, because our expertise comes from using a large variety of ideas and skills. Also, work creates more work: You get what you do. I’m on a trajectory away from programming, for example. I still do it, but I don’t discount my day rate for programming work. The last thing: Money buys freedom. It’s good to take well paid jobs, because that gives you the time to pursue the less obvious ideas, and room to develop your own products.

This means that my freelancing banding system still works: Charge more if there’s a lot of value being extracted, if the work is dull, and if there’s risk involved; charge less if the work takes the company in good directions, if it’s really interesting, and if it’s for people we like.