Here’s Why You Should be Charging Agency Rates as a Freelancer

There’s a common trend that I see amongst freelancers working in the SEO space, and that trend is this – they all under price themselves by offering cheap services.


Recently, I published a blog post where I shared my earnings within my own SEO business, having made almost half a million dollars over the last year. I decided to share this post over at Linkedin where I received an interesting comment by a guy by the name of John Curtis.

Here’s what John said…

Interesting read, John. So many freelancers are not willing to charge the big agency rates. The truth is the SEO products we offer is far more customized and delivers a far superior result more often than not.

I thought that comment was spot on, and infact, it was that comment that prompted me to write this post.

Now again for whatever reason, most freelancers believe that they need to go about charging a cheaper rate. Perhaps it’s mindset. Perhaps it’s confidence. I’m not sure what those reasons are, but I was certainly guilty of this when I first got started too.

When I first got started, I knew that there were certain things that I didn’t know, and unlike being in an agency environment, I certainly didn’t have the backing of other teammates and leaders to help guide me on my way. Even though I’d already been applying SEO within my own businesses for a number of years, I didn’t consider myself an expert by any means.

I guess just like a lot of freelancers, I started low with my pricing and adjusted my rates over time as my knowledge and experience grew. This unfortunately meant under quoting quite often and working longer hours. This made me feel frustrated and undervalued – especially since I knew I was doing good work. Now don’t get me wrong, I get it. I’m certainly not knocking freelancers for doing this, but I just want to highlight a few reasons why freelancers probably should take the opposite approach.

If I had my time over again, I certainly would.

Here’s a couple of key notes that I put together about why freelancers shouldn’t be afraid to charge agency rates.

You have a smaller client base

Firstly, you have a smaller client base.

This lends itself to being able to provide a more intimate service offering because you’re not being stretched in all directions by a dozen clients all at once. Having a smaller client base allows you to go a deeper on your campaign. You’re not just skimming from one campaign to the next. You can spend more time with each client because you have that time. This allows you to really know them and their business, how it works, where the money is, and how you can potentially help them improve their bottom line.

Agencies, however, especially if they’re large agencies with hundreds or thousands of clients can’t do this.

I always find it interesting when I see stats published on an agencies website where they’ll say, “We’ve got 35 staff and over 1,500 clients.” Well, it doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that there’s no possible way that they could service each client properly and work comfortably at those figures.

1500 clients divided by 35 staff would mean that each staff member would be servicing 42 clients each month.

There’s just no way that any one person could be servicing that many clients at a time. It’s just not possible, unless of course they’re doing something unethical and let’s face it, in most cases that’s what’s a lot of large agencies are doing.

Having a smaller client base gives you a huge advantage because your resources aren’t stretched. You’re not just jumping quickly between clients, doing five minutes here and five minutes there. And let’s not forget all of the other work that comes with running an SEO business, such as calls, email, meetings, admin, invoicing, and everything else that takes up your time.

Having a smaller client base should allow you to provide a more intimate service offering, and your clients will love you for it – because they feel valued.

Now for myself, I typically have anywhere between a dozen up to say anywhere between 12 to 20 clients on at anyone given time. 20 is when I stop. A really comfortable spot for me is around six to eight clients. At the moment I believe I have 12.

You don’t need a million clients

The benefits of being a freelancer and charging agency rates means that you need fewer clients, and because you have less overheads, means that you’re not living in constant fear of being fucking broke. On the other hand, if you’re pushing low end prices, then you’re going to need more clients just to get by. I’ve seen freelancers working at a couple hundred dollars a month to provide SEO services, and it’s just ridiculous.

You just can’t provide a quality service for $300 a month.

When you do that, you’re going to be constantly scrambling for clients. If you have three or four clients, you might be just getting by each month. But if you have two clients drop out, then you’re going to be absolutely desperate to get more clients.

Now if you’ve got three or four clients and they’re all paying $2,500 a month, then it doesn’t really matter. It’s not going to affect you that much if you lose two or three clients.

Sure it won’t be great, but it won’t mean the end of the world either, but most importantly of all – you’re not going to be under the pump making stupid decisions because you’re desperate for money.

Higher margins, dummy

The next benefit, of course, are higher profit margins.

Again if you’re working at a couple of hundred dollars a month then your margins are going to be shit. You’ll be lucky to make $80 or $100 profit, and let’s face it, that’s fucking pointless. In fact, you’d probably be making more money on unemployment benefits.

Working at agency rates is much more beneficial because the margins are there. Again this revisits my previous point – you’re not going to be scrambling between clients because you’re desperate for money. If you’re going to do this, do it right and make it worthwhile.

Like I always say, you want fewer, higher paying clients.

It’s more fucking enjoyable

When you’re making good money, doing good work, and really helping people, the work immediately becomes more enjoyable – especially since you’re not under the pump financially.

You’ve got time to breath.

You can invest yourself with clients, which they’ll appreciate. You’re not just jumping constantly between campaigns, doing shit work and getting stressed out because you’re low on cash. Working at agency rates as a freelancer is beneficial for all those reasons.

Most clients don’t give a rats

One thing that I’ve certainly learned is that most clients don’t really care if you’re sitting at home in your underpants doing the work.

All they care about are results.

They couldn’t care less if you’re in some big fancy office in the middle of the city or you’re at home working in your pyjamas. In fact, I’ve had a number of clients come from large agencies that have said…

John, finding you was a relief. We’ve been working with Big Wigs SEO Company and it’s been incredibly stressful. Every time we called them we got passed around between different people. There was always a new campaign manager, or some new guy we had to speak with. They never returned our calls and often left us wondering if anything was being done at all.

However, when they start working with me, even though I’m just a small operation working from home, and they’re paying the same rates, they’ll say

“John, this is really refreshing. It’s great to know that you actually care, and we can jump on the phone and have a chat when we need to. It’s nice knowing that we’re working directly with you, and we know the work’s getting done, and it’s being done right.”

So there’s no reason to think that you’re not worth agency rates, just because you’re not running some big fancy office. Good work is good work regardless of where you are. So for those of you who do good quality work – stop dropping your rates.

Have some balls.

Have the confidence and the courage to charge what you’re worth.

Interested in working with me?

If you’re running an SEO business, working as a freelancer or perhaps you’re operating a small agency and you’re sick and tired of dribbling along then get in touch.

I teach people how to start, run and operate highly efficient SEO businesses – just like mine.

I can take you from where you are now to potentially where you want to be and move you right away from chasing $100 a month clients to some of the big end stuff, so you can get to $40,000-$50,000 a month – fast.

If you’re interested, then consider a free consultation call to see if we’re a good fit.


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