I have been making website as a hobby since the late 90´s, I have been working as a front-end developer between 2013 to 2014. I have finished a 1 year program at University in the subject of Web Development. I am currently on my first year on a 3 year program at University on the subject of becoming a Full-Stack Developer. I also have some experience from smaller freelancing job in the past.

When I am done with my studies I would like to freelance as a Web Developer. I need to work as freelancer since there is no work as a Web Developer where I live. After my studies I would need to charge at least $50/h (50% goes to taxes as a self-employed person in Sweden).

Since I already have a lot of experience, I only need to spend around 2-3 hours per day on my studies. I also have all the money I need for my living expenses as long as I'm at University.

So I think I have a great opportunity to start my Freelancing Career now, since I both have the money I need for my living and around 8 hours free-time for the next 2.5 years.

I already have one client (rate $50/h) at UpWork who keeps coming back to me every now and then.

So, now I want to start freelancing, but not for the reason to make money, for the reason to build up clients that keeps coming back. Once I finish at University, I will be able to "just start freelancing".

As I see it there is two ways to do this:

  1. Start trying to fill my schedule with 10$/h work, and once it is filled higher the rate with 5$ and keep doing so until I reach 50$/h. So I at the same time build a lot of references and "reviews" at sites like UpWork.


  1. Start trying to fill my schedule with $50/h work from the start, even if it does not fill up my schedule at the beginning.

I really want to invest the time I have in the best way possible, So I don't want to go for the wrong one (1 or 2).

Which way would be best trying to build up clients, and future work? Or is there a better way that I haven't been thinking of?

3 Answers 3

  • Good clients are generally not the clients looking for the cheapest workers they can find. They are customarily more vested in abilities than actual price points.
  • Good clients know that quality workers demand more than a bare minimum rate.
  • Good clients customarily find good workers and continue to return to those workers in order to maintain a level of quality.
  • Good clients respect the worker and understand that a business transaction must be beneficial both ways.
  • Good clients openly discuss issues to solve them rather than focusing on blame.
  • Good clients understand rates may increase over a period of time - they understand inflation, cost of living, and other business principles such as this as a "whole" rather than focusing only on what they must pay.

  • Bad clients will always shop for the cheapest worker they can find.
  • Bad clients will be slow to pay.
  • Bad clients generally have issues with scope creep.
  • Bad clients will only return to hire you again if they feel they got the "better end" of the deal.
  • Bad clients never accept an issue may be on their end and almost always assume if there's a problem it's the worker's fault.
  • Bad clients always want the same price, or a better price - if they happen to return to you. They always argue for discounts, want a "deal", or complain your rates are too high (even if they are remarkably low). They focus on what they are paying, not what they are receiving, your skills, abilities or other things you offer.

These are generalizations. However, in the $10/hr range you are setting yourself to build a stable of bad, demanding, problematic clients. In all my years of experience, I have never run into a single client looking for the "cheapest rates" that was anything other than a problem. Now, that is my experience. perhaps yours is different. And I do not know your region or specific fields. So, things could be different.

In order to build stable, repeat, long-standing, clients you need one thing from them -- loyalty.

So you need to ask yourself who is more likely to value your services and feel more loyal over a period of time - the client paying you $10/hr or the client paying $50/hr?

Or look at it this way... which do you take better care of and value more - the $20 pair of sunglasses you got at the grocery store or the $300 pair of Oakleys sunglasses?

Then ask yourself where you want to be positioned in the market.

Gaining a quality stable of good, return, clients may take some time. However, I have yet to ever see a bad client turn into a good client. Things just do not happen that way.

Anyone bargain shopping and hiring you for $10/hr is going to be a one-off, get it and be done, client. If they happen to return to you it will be out of necessity (or cheapness) on their part, not due to any loyalty towards you. And the moment you raise your rates, they will start looking for someone else at $10/hr rather than pay a higher rate.

You can never start cheap with a client and expect them to be a long-standing, quality, client. They will customarily balk at each and every rate increase and as soon as they find someone cheaper, they'll drop you like a hot potato.

Again, I don't know your region or current rate trends for your specific skill set. But it seems to me, pricing yourself low is never a valid business decision unless you know you just want any work you can get, no matter how bad that work or client may be.

In addition, there's some general thought to the industry you are in. If everyone in your specific field is charging $30-$80/hr and you price yourself at $10/hr, you kind of do a disservice to everyone in the industry by conveying to the word that the work isn't worth much money. Granted this is a minor, secondary, thought. But if you ever want to be making really good money, you should keep the industry as a whole in mind and seek to elevate it, not lower it.

Also be aware.. I don't use online services like "upwork" because that's where a lot of bad clients find workers. There are better ways to find quality clients. How can experienced contractor survive outside Elance/oDesk/Freelancer?

Edit for additional note: I do not know where you are located... but here, the U.S. state minimum wage is currently just above $9/hr -- so at $10/hr your basically saying you essentially have no more skill or experience than any random person off the street. Be aware of the message you send with your pricing.

  • Amen and yahoo.
    – Xavier J
    Dec 10, 2015 at 15:09
  • yup. I'd also add that a client you meet in person or are referred to by somebody you know have a greater chance of being a good client...and longer lasting. there is a lot of value in a client being able to talk with and sometimes meet their contractor. charge what you're worth! (especially if you're ok for money while you're in school) Dec 29, 2015 at 4:38

When there is starting , I would prefer your way A. Start work at basic rate and increase when you confident and have good relation.

How to build up long-term clients

  1. Be honest always with client
  2. Suggest them technical things which save their money and time
  3. Provide work delivery on time, Do not miss deadlines
  4. Never do over bill when you are working on hour base project
  5. Always work with reasonable price
  6. Ask them always about your work. For ex : how you are doing , Any improvement needed?

Hope this will help you.

  • It's great to include general tips, but why specifically would you prefer option A? How is that the correct option? Can you edit to include the extra info? Thanks
    – Canadian Luke
    Dec 8, 2015 at 18:33

There is no reason to involve the customers in your own history. Ask them a rate corresponding to the value of your work today. Not more, not less.

You will attract and retain customers by understanding their needs, delivering the desired quality and being flexible.

  • 1
    good points. be sure to read Harry Cover's first sentence! Dec 29, 2015 at 4:41

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