Why Freelancer Fee Surveys Aren’t Worth Jack

I think fee surveys (the ones that tell you what everyone else in your industry is charging for their services) are a waste of time.

Surely the creators of such surveys have the best of intentions. But in my opinion, if you use a “fee survey” to set your fees, you are shooting yourself in the foot… in BOTH feet actually.

I understand that when you’re starting out, you just want to see what other people are charging so you know where to “fit in.”

Or maybe, you think your fees are too low and you need a fee survey to rationalize to yourself that you’re worth more.

Fee surveys let you know what everyone else is charging. They give you a good ballpark figure to help figure out what the low end, high end and average fees are.

But if you want to be average, you’re in the wrong business. Average people struggle in the service business.

The biggest problem with fee surveys is that they leave out any mention of the only thing your client really cares about:


Think about this:


You design websites.

Your client wants a website cause they have pre-orders for 40,000 units of their product at $38 EACH.

You are going to build the website they need to finalize their orders and process those transactions.


You design websites.

Your client is tired of his corporate job and has decided to start a business selling guinea pig pens at $9.99 each.

He hires you to build the website.


As it turns out, both clients want the EXACT same type of website.

So what do you charge?

Do you charge the same?

After all, one website won’t take longer than the other.

Think about it…

You build website one to help your client generate $1.52 million dollars…

You build website two to help your client start a business with zero customers and zero immediate income.

Where is more value being delivered to the client? In which scenario can you quantify that value in black and white?

If you say the value is the same, then you’re going to struggle as a freelancer.

Value is NOT objective. There is no magic golden ruler you use to measure it.

Value exists only in people’s heads. It is totally subjective.

And that’s why fee surveys suck.

They try to make fees objective when fees are really based on something subjective (value delivered).

Why do so many freelancers and professional service providers struggle to raise their fees?

It’s because everyone is reading the fee surveys and actually basing their fees, in part, on that information.

They put their fees where they feel “comfortable.” Not too high… not too low.

The service business is about service. You keep value delivered to your clients at the forefront of your discussions.

You don’t matter.

Here are the results of my fee survey:

Charge as much as you can get, based on the value you deliver.

If too many clients say “no,” then you know you have a value problem.

They do not perceive the value is there to warrant the fee.

You don’t lower your fee, you increase your value.

Now you have a business problem:

How can you deliver more value?

Fees are not the problem… value, and communicating that value are the challenge.