Why do you charge so much?

In a word - value. I provide quality. A recent customer said "You provide great service to your detriment."
This question takes lots of different frames. "There are lots of cheaper web designers around. Why shouldn't I hire them?" "You charge much more than most freelancers."
I find myself giving a lot of different answers.I have now been in this business for about eight years, six of them as a freelancer. I still have my first customer. By charging what I do I'm able to stay in business which is important to you. When you want to change something or fix something that is broken - I'm still here.
I have heard the story enough times to know it by heart. "My web designer couldn't fix this." "My web designer went to work for someone else. Can you..." The most infamous story is the ecommerce site that I maintained until recently. Undocumented code, built in an obsolete version of PHP, and a domain name that took three years to get back. A young teenager took the site on as his first job. When he moved into a bigger firm, he tried to continue maintaining it in his free time. It didn't work. Eventually the client came to me and stayed with me for the next four years. He only moved on when his project became bigger than I was able to host. Even then, I held his hand through the move providing troubleshooting and a second set of eyes for resolving the little issues that came up. He still ranks as one of my best sources of referrals.
As a freelancer only about one third to one half my working time is billable. Self education, marketing, billing and administration are all part of my day to day work time.

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