The quote “The customer is always right.”, is one whose origins can be traced back as far as the turn of the previous century. Its an ideology that encourages, if not outright demands, that the members of any service industry strive to place a premium on customer satisfaction for the sake of their business. The problem with this line of thinking is that, if pushed too far, it requires a sacrifice of some degree of authority on the part of the service provider.
For an individual to become a customer of a mechanic, hair dresser, handyman, or even a web designer or other digital creative, they must first admit to themselves, if even subconsciously, that they need or want something done that they themselves cannot do as easily in the first place, if at all. Because many service industries can be entered into by individuals who simply need to educate themselves on the service to be provided, there can be a lot of competition which makes it easy for individuals to shop around and get a general sense of what it would take for them to be assisted, which is very much their right.
However, what is not in the right of these prospective customers, and what you as a freelancer (of any type) should NEVER really tolerate, is having someone attempt to dictate your own particular rates or workflow TO you.
I’ve only been in the web business for a couple of years now, but I’ve done a solid ten years as a break/fix computer repair tech. I did work for companies, government agencies and privately on my own. Ive ran into more than a fair share of individuals seeking to have “this part replaced” or “that system cleaned” who at some point during their initial showing say something to the effect of:
“This should only take you so much time”
“You should only be charging this much for this job”
My stock response to either of these statements is usually something along the lines of…
“If you know enough about what needs to be done to dictate to me what the cost or timeline should be, then you know enough to do it yourself and keep your money to yourself”
Its one thing for a potential client or customer to take the time educate themselves, price check, and get a general sense of what things should cost and how long it would take. In this respect, they could be saying…
“I need (such and such) done in this time frame”
“This is my budget for the work I’m looking for”
…at which point a dialogue can be opened between you and them to see about potentially reaching some middle ground. Its something entirely different for someone to steadfastly insist on how much of your time they should be entitled to and for how much.
What we as freelancers sometimes forget, and this is something I struggle with myself, is that someone acting as our “Client” does not, and should not, have the same agency and authority over us as someone who would be acting as our “Employer”. If we wanted “Employers” to deal with, we wouldn’t be freelancers with our own studios and agencies.
Regardless of whatever direct service it is that you choose to provide to the masses: If you have a specific price point for it, and your confident enough in your experience and expertise to seek out that price point, then nobody should have the right to take that away from you. Anyone who tries, “Customer is always right” be damned, should be very much called out, put in their ‘place’, and sent in any other direction away from your own.
To put it in other words, as succinctly as Sara Horowitz did in her book “The Freelancer’s Bible”:
“You let them find their price. You find your value.”
If you haven’t checked out that book, you really should.