do you get stressed out when someone asks "how much do you charge?"

A lot of people I work with have a side hustle: a skill or hobby that makes them extra cash in addition to their main job.

Side hustles are a good place to start if you want to get paid to do what you love, full time. If they get enough momentum, you can feel less dependent on your job.

You may even grow them big enough to start working for yourself.

Here are some good side hustles:

freelance writing
freelance coding
freelance designing
freelance social media marketing
paid feedback for something you’re an expert in
wedding photography
wedding performance
(anything with weddings!)
pet sitting / house sitting
dog walking
private / personal chef
one-on-one coaching in your field

Side hustles are great. They're a solid way to supplement your income--whether you plan on growing them into businesses or not.

But they don’t always take off.

A lot of people get stuck in the occasional or experimental phase.

They might get a little money on the side here and there, but the thought of being more systematic is scary for a lot of reasons.

Here’s a big one:

It’s hard to ask for money.

When you’re in the early phases of selling a service, it can be totally debilitating to be asked: how much do you charge?

There are a lot of things that can go wrong, and I have definitely messed this up in every way you can imagine.

Eventually, I got better at it, but not without many awkward moments.

Here’s what used to happen to me:

I’d put in some work.
I’d figure out a side hustle: something I’m good at that someone else needs.
I’d even say out loud to a few people: this is what I want to do for money on the side.
Some people responded! They said:
Whoa that’s awesome. If I know anyone who needs that, I’ll send them your way!
Sweet, I thought, I’m gonna get clients.
Some time passes.
A potential client emails me!
They say,
Hey you! I heard you’re doing this thing now! How much do you charge?

And then, the inevitable spiral begins.

I completely freak out:

I don’t know! How much IS this thing? Everyone else charges $50… so maybe I should charge $50? But WHAT IF I’M NOT AS GOOD AS EVERYONE ELSE? I’ll charge $40 just to be sure. They will definitely want it because it’s cheap! Okay. Let’s write the reply. Oh god. What am I supposed to say? I’m not even a real business! Am I allowed to talk as if I’m a real business? OK. I’ve got it. I’ll charge $25! Then they’ll definitely say yes! That feels right. Gonna write the reply now…

...But what if they only have $10 dollars to their name? What if they’re at the end of their rope? I’m not some kind of Wall Street Executive who just steals from people! I am a good person. I would never exploit anyone! I’ll charge them ONE DOLLAR! YEAH. THAT’S IT!

Oh crap.

One dollar isn’t going to work.

I know.

I’ll tell them my entire life story.

I’ll tell them every single thing that is going on with me.

THEN they’ll understand why I need to charge them $10 dollars.


Dear Susan,

Thank you for asking how much I charge for freelance work.

Before we get to the price, I think it’s important that you know that this question makes me deeply uncomfortable. I want to tell you the origins of my discomfort, so that you may be better prepared to accept that I, too, am a human being, who needs, on occasion, to acquire money to live a modestly pleasurable life in our unfortunately greed-driven society.

I was born in 1987. My parents didn’t have it easy. In fact, because we didn’t have money growing up, they put me in a box and shipped me off to ...




(And also, don’t feel bad if you already have.)

I’ve done it plenty of times.

Not all that long ago, when someone would ask me how much I charge, I would flip out. I’d draft 45 emails, and, if I did get back to people, it would be weeeeeks later. I couldn’t handle charging someone any amount of money, let alone what I was worth.

Here’s how to answer this question in any situation, no matter what your price is:

Last week, someone I’m coaching was asked for her price. We had just decided she should double her rate for private swimming lessons-- and now she needed help giving her new price to a potential customer.

Here’s the email she wanted help responding to:

Forwarded message:
On Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 4:56 PM - wrote:


What type of payment do you take? If cash preferred, just let me know how much.

Here’s how I coached her through it:


The general rule here is to keep it short and sweet when discussing prices. Don't caveat or go on explaining right away. You can always give them more info if they ask.

Pretend you're an official financial institution, like a bank.

If someone walked into a bank and asked “how much is it to open an account,” it would be a little strange if the bank caveated or wavered or felt unsure in their answer.

So. You can say something straightforward like:

“Cash is fine, but I also take credit card or Venmo if that's easier for you.
In-home private lessons are $90 for a 1-hour session.

Looking forward to it!”

Guess what happened?
Her new customer was happy to pay exactly what she asked for.
She even bought 6 lessons in advance.

Whenever someone asks you what you charge, be clear and concise--no matter how you feel.

Pretend you’re a bank.

If a bank teller gave you their entire life story and then said they weren’t really sure what to charge you for a fee, YOU WOULD SPRINT OUT OF THERE. You certainly wouldn’t give them your money.

I’m not saying you need to be cold. Cultivate a friendly relationships, for sure!

Just remember: when it’s time to talk money, don’t waver, don’t caveat, and don’t go on explaining why your price is justified.

If you’re calm, they’ll be calm.

(Even if they can’t afford you right now.)

Short and sweet. Keep it cool. They will too.