I've just started freelancing full-time. I've done bits here and there before.

I've mostly been drawn to freelancing because of the higher rates I can bill and the ability to be master of my own destiny.

I've found though that I get this sort of guilty feeling when I'm invoicing a client, like I'm doing something wrong, or cheeky or asking for too much even though the client agreed to my rates. They don't say anything or quibble, and as far as I can tell, they're very happy with the work.

I think the crux of it is that I wouldn't be willing to pay £n for what I've supplied. That's not to say I do a poor job, I think I do as good as a job as anyone else they could hire. I think this comes down to the logical fact that I wouldn't pay someone to do what I do, because I can already do it.

It's very, very different to receiving your monthly paycheck from an employer straight into your account because you're normally actively asking 1 person directly for payment and if you're billing hourly, it could be more than they were expecting, this can feel uncomfortable.

Has anybody else had these feelings before when starting out? How do you contend with them?

  • 1
    What about paying for things you can't do? Are you happy to pay £n for those? You get payed for stuff your client can't do (for whatever reason).
    – Oded
    Commented Sep 15, 2013 at 16:56

5 Answers 5


[tl;dr: Clients are paying for more than a task to be done, they're paying for you. Understand that, and make that product unique, valuable, and worth every penny.]

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Your time is limited: When you're working hourly, the client's not just paying for the work to be done, they're paying for you to do it. A subtle distinction maybe, but a good client (the kind you want to work with), understands that each freelancer brings more to the table than just the completion of a task. They readily pay a higher rate because you're easy to work with, communicate well, can grasp the work quickly, etc.

At that point, your rate is not based only on the kind of work you do, it's based on your reputation / availability - and the fact that a client wants you to do the work, not just the work to be done.

Be worth it: If you continue to feel guilty, make sure you really are providing the best service available. Are you billing hours to figure out things that it's reasonable for the client to assume you already knew? The higher your rate, the more careful / sensitive you'll need to be about that.

Figure out why your clients are happy paying your rate. Perhaps it's because you're faster than what they've worked with in the past. Realize that there are (depending on local law) various advantages to paying more hourly instead of hiring someone full time - and that's reflected in hourly rate higher than weekly salary / 40 hours.

Don't do everything: I had a client that needed a web application fixed. He was very happy with my work. It was completed quickly, and (to him) it was obvious that I was more competent than the developers he'd hired in the past. Once the application was fixed, he also needed someone to edit content on his side (change field names, etc). There's no way he should have a senior developer do what anyone with a basic knowledge of HTML and PHP could do. I told him as much, but (see the first point) he wanted me to do it.

And that's fine - if the client can actually afford your rate. But if you feel guilty that someone who can't afford it is paying you (at a senior rate) to do something that could be done by a far junior freelancer - stick to things that require your experience / knowledge, and find them someone else to do the rest. (If you want your relationship with the client to continue, make sure you find them someone competent.)

  • 1
    Great answer! Only thing I would add is at the end, to make sure to refer a competent junior developer to do the rest. You don't need to refer experts, but you do want to refer someone whose careful and who pays attention to detail. :) +1
    – jmort253
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 14:33
  • @jmort253 Yup, that's a great point. It's a problem when you don't know of someone, but it's something that shouldn't be done by yourself.
    – Tim Lytle
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 14:50

I think most of fair freelancers felt the same. I felt the same when I had to charge mother of two, then again when I had to charge a student, and so on.

But in the end, simply tell yourself that you have responsibility to your own family, your children, your parents, and so on. And this is the way to feed them, right?

The best way to overcome the guilt is to do a good job they paid you for and not to cheat on them ever. That way you will soon stop thinking like you're robbing them.

And don't ever say "I would never pay such money to someone else". Yes you would if you were burnt in the past by bad contractor and now you want to pay more for quality. Believe me. I used to hire quality contractors for higher hourly rate then I ever got for myself.

Also keep in mind the ultimate thought "no matter how much you charged your clients, be sure that some company would charge them a couple of times more". For example, I once get hold of information that some company charged the work 10 times more that the costs are. After that I told myself, no matter how much I charge my clients, they always got a better deal then with some company.


Don't feel bad. It's your job. They know that. There's a few ways you can make it less awkward for yourself.

1) Send an e-mail update on the website (if the client is paying in installments) and say "Hi [client]. The website has been updated with the following changes [x,y,z]. Let me know if you see any problems. Also see attached the invoice for the first stallment of service. Have a good day. Thanks, [your name]"

2) When creating a contract for your client, it's worth adding the payment plan in there. Make it something you both are happy with. Maybe you agree 50% upfront and 50% completion. If this is the case you could say in an e-mail "Thanks for your time today. I've attached an invoice for the deposit of service. Once payment is recieved I can begin the work. Thanks", or similarly, "Following our contract the final payment is needed in order to complete the work. Attched is the invoice for final bill of service"

If they know the payment is coming then it's less awkward to ask. But bare in mind it's not cheeky. Everybody knows they have to pay for things in life. You could even drop it in conversation

3) [after having a discussion on what's next to do on the website] "Great. Ok well thank you for your time today. I'll get those changes done and I'll send you an invoice "

That's how I do it. But I don't even feel guilty anymore. I used to, but now it's just business


Turn it around: How do you feel (about the biller) when you get your credit-card and utilities bills, etc.?

I'd guess that, if you're somewhat chagrined that you'd spent more than you'd intended, you still accept that the bill is for goods and services you've already received and at your own request. Your client is likely to look at it the same way. And unless your client is an individual or mom and pop businesses, your bill isn't going to come out of someone's pocket.


Life is a serious of uncomfortable conversations punctuated by lulls. When you realize this, life is easier and you grow up.

When you ask for too little, you get pulled in 100 directions and you will grow very curt and demanding in asking for money naturally. You will then be glad to get free time because you asked for too much.

  • This doesn't answer the question
    – Chillin'
    Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 22:11

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