American Freelancers Are Madder than Hell...

A Great Opportunity for Competitors Worldwide

U.S. and Canadian freelancers have a chip on their shoulders that’s bigger than a 2×4.

The rest of us don’t recognize their value. We are trying to take advantage of them by impinging on their freedom and underpaying them to boot.


For the rest of us, this is a massive competitive opportunity to grow our practices with the very best clients.

Let me explain.

I’ve been a freelance writer since about 1990, sometimes full-time and sometimes on the side.

(Full disclosure: I am an American living in the Chicago suburbs and I’ve made as much as $250 an hour for my business writing.)

Now back to the story . . .

Almost every solopro person—freelancers, consultants, coaches, etc.–is not truly solo.

We all hire others to provide services we cannot or do not want to do for ourselves.

Regardless of the work I am doing, I am always fascinated by the business of freelancing, especially how people are marketing, how much they charge and how much they earn annually.

So as I gather my thoughts and set out in new writing and coaching directions, I consider the tech assistance I need and where to get it.

I’m older than I used to be (who isn’t?) and my business model embraces the work I enjoy rather than the most lucrative ideas. So I willingly pay for services needed, even to the point of paying more than originally agreed upon in case of project creep where work expands beyond original projections.

Still, the sky is not the limit. This puts me out of sync with many freelance service providers, but I have no way of knowing who is a match before making contact.

Things were different just a few years ago

Perhaps five years ago, an acquaintance wrote a book on the theme: businesses should provide customer service that delights. He wanted me to write a reader’s review on Amazon and sent me the book.

The point he made in the intro was that executives will be furious with him for suggesting such a radical idea.

I, however, could see nothing radical about the idea. Every business was holding off-site meetings with easels where consultants recorded mission statements, including customer service that delights, before lunch and golf.

I believed the author was disingenuous, creating a publicity hook by pretending to be outrageously combative with an idea everyone already accepted.

So I lost the book under my bed.

Turns out I overestimated the marketplace

Because American freelancers today aren’t in business to delight clients. They are in business to assure that their “boundaries” are honored and they are paid in line with their arbitrarily self-determined “value.”

Their value is probably double what they have been charging, at least that’s what the online experts say.

In practice, freelancers are convinced that everyone is trying to screw them over and that they must be the screwer, not the screwee.

Their solution is to set up service limitations and rules galore.

Here’s the deal:

Surveys and blogs and coaching sales pages tell us what freelancers want. They want freedom. The M-A-N will not oppress me, they announce.

And they want more money.

How much? They want pay commensurate with their “value.”

Six figures sounds about right to them. That’s at least $100,000 for those of us who don’t think in terms of numbers of digits.

(The average U.S. freelancer makes $67,169 per year, reported Ziprecruiter in April 2021.Not shabby IMHO.)

On the other hand, most clients want dependability, competence and collaboration from service providers.

The mismatch between the two parties is obvious.

The madder-than-hell freelancer

You are on the phone with a freelancer to discuss the assignment and see what it costs.

You are impressed with their website or LinkedIn profile, but you have no idea how they charge so you ask about their rates.

Oops. How dare you.

First you have to listen to their “value proposition.” That’s what used to be called a sales presentation.

Their fee is not an expenditure, it’s an “investment.”

If pricing clues, such as “fees start at $500,” had been posted, you would have had some idea as to whether or not to call.

Instead, you’re characterized as an insulting and disrespectful bum if you can’t afford it or even question it.

If the project is a go, they’ll tell you the rules. For instance, you are limited to one round of revisions, even for complex or highly creative projects. This would be OK if they were clear about how to extend the project and charge accordingly if needed, but often there’s nary a hint that this is possible.

One round of revisions and then you should disappear.

The opportunity for freelancers

American freelancers like to claim that you get what you pay for.

Clients want dependability and excellence (as defined within the project). Some projects also benefit from collaboration and relationship. That’s a freelancer’s “value.”

Provide those qualities and bill accordingly. Clients who can afford you will pay gladly.

American freelancers can get top dollar if we give clients what they want.

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