I often encounter a question from someone who wants to start a Virtual Assistant career asking, “How much should a freelancer charge without skills and experience?” and “Should a freelancer without skills and experience accept a low offer by a client, offering a training?” By the way, skills mentioned here means skills in a job offered or applied, not that the contractor totally doesn’t have skills.
I already answered this on some forums and Facebook groups but I hope this post would give more light to my opinion. My comments in this matter are just based on my experience.
When I was just starting on this career, I set a very low rate on my profile on oDesk. Although I already have some experience in WordPress and some writing experience, I still don’t have experience with this kind of work. And I haven’t applied those skills yet professionally so I’m also not sure if my skills and experience are enough to serve my clients.
As a newbie, without approval ratings and hours of work to show, I can’t compete with other contractors in terms of hourly rates. If I want to get hired, I know I have to work for a lower rate.
Why would somebody hire me if he can hire someone skilled and experienced for the same price I charge? I just put myself on the client’s shoe. For me, it’s no difference from being hired in a corporate office where you’ll get a starting salary first. Then you’ll get a raise (and promotion) as years pass by because you are more experienced and much better employee than you were just starting out. It is also the same as freelancer. If you don’t have any portfolios yet, do you think you could compete with other freelancers with logos of Coca Cola, Apple, Microsoft, GE, on their portfolio? Not if you’ll charge the same rate as them. You’ll start with lower rates. The more (and better) projects you put on your portfolio, the higher you can charge the next time.
Another reason why I would accept a lower rate if I’m just starting out is the training offered by the client. This one I could say is a very personal opinion. I value knowledge a lot and I really love learning. And if I can get it for free, I will take it. Think about the resources that the client will give you in order for you to learn no matter if it’s free or premium. It’s still knowledge. If it’s free, the client already saved your time by doing the research and choosing the right training to give you. Now, I could say that you could trust the client in this part by getting the best materials to learn. After all, it is his business you’ll be working on. On the other hand, if it is a premium training, you’ll get access to a special training paid by the client. Having a free access to a premium training is a treasure. I know it because I already done it. Several times. You can’t get the same materials they provide on premium trainings for free or on Google. That’s why they’re selling it. And sometimes, premium training comes with materials you could use like software and other very useful resources.
And the best of it all: you could apply those knowledge to your future clients. You can also add or mention these trainings to your application letter and resume. And this means only one thing for you: higher rate.
And here’s the next scenario: you’ve been working for this client for months or years and you have not given a raise. Whether it is promised by the client or not, it is still up to you if you’ll stay or quit on the project. My opinion?
If I haven’t gotten new projects yet with higher rates, I will stay. As a sign of gratitude for the client for giving me training and experience, and also for being patient. And the longer you work for a client the better your resume and cover letter gets. Clients are impressed when they see freelancers have years of working relationship with one client. It’s just means that you are trusted, no attitude and professional problem and can get along well easily.
But of course, while working on the current project, I will already be sending applications to other projects for higher rates. And if I’ll be hired, that’s the time I recommend you to resign for the job position.
By the way, let me clear that working for lower rate and working for free are totally different things. I didn’t worked for free, not even with training provided. And the lower-rate we’re discussing right now is a reasonable rates for unexperienced freelancer. Not a slave-kind of low price for your service.