Crossing the Rio de la Plata after a week-long “holiday” in Uruguay, I realized how much the way I spend my money has changed. Now that I no longer need to steal film from the grocery store or calculate the exact per-grain price of a loaf of bread, I find I’m more willing to spend a little bit more money on things. For example, I’ll no longer buy a pair of shoes that retails for less than $100, although I’m almost insistent on only allowing for new shoe purchases when the aforementioned shoe is on sale. I’d also rather pay a little more for a direct flight, or a faster ferry, or even the convenience of a cab to the airport. While I’m sure this isn’t surprising to most people, I’ve always been perpetually cheap. It took some time before I realized that price and value aren’t always as directly related as I thought.
The first website I ever built, as a graduated professional, cost my client a whopping $300. I wish I could say I was sixteen when I did it, but I was twenty-two, working a full-time job and freelancing on the side. Looking back, it’s no surprise when my first year of business after quitting my job landed me in debt. I’ve always had a policy of keeping my expenses as low as possible, but charging $20 an hour simply didn’t cover such non-tax-deductible necessities as “eating on a daily basis”.
When I first started out, my biggest mistake, bar nothing, was charging too little. My intentions were good—I wanted to save my clients money, and I wanted to provide quality design for a low price. What I failed to realize, of course, was that would become a difficult task when I quit my day job to run my business full-time. Sure, my clients were happy, but I was broke, overworked, and stressed out.