I've been a full-time freelancer for nearly three years now, so I've gotten pretty used to the ins and outs involved with this career field.

But, still, it never fails -- whenever a prospective client poses that, "So, what's your rate?" question, my stomach leaps into my throat and my heart starts racing.

It's human nature, really -- talking about money can be awkward. Quote too high and you're at risk of losing the project (while seeming a little full of yourself in the process). Quote too low and you're leaving money on the table.

Chances are, whether you were sharing a price with a potential new customer or client, explaining costs to an advertiser, or even stating your desired salary in a job interview, you've found yourself in this same boat a time or two.

Fortunately, I've identified a few tips that will help you state your worth when the time comes -- and actually mean it.

1. Do Your Research

This is an important disclaimer for you to remember: No matter how calm, cool, and collected you are, quoting an absolutely ridiculous rate will never go over well. Even with all of the confidence in the world, an unbelievably astronomical price will likely end the conversation pretty quickly.

This is why it's important that you do some market research to see what other prices are out there for a similar product or service.

Do you need to use that as your only criteria for establishing your own price? Absolutely not. But, knowing that your rate likely won't make that other person's eyes pop out of her head will help you feel that much more confident when the moment comes.

2. Work Backwards

I've seen so many people fall into this very same trap: They quote a price based on what sounds fair, as opposed to what they actually need to earn.

For this reason, I always make an effort to work backwards. For example, if you had an income goal of earning $4,000 as a freelancer in May and you know that you typically aim to work around 100 hours per month, you'd know that you'd need to charge around $40 per hour for your work.

That's a very basic example, but it illustrates the point. Rather than throwing a price out there at random and seeing how it's received, get a good handle on what sort of rate actually pushes you in the direction you need to go.

Again, this tip isn't meant as a black and white, surefire system for identifying a reasonable rate (if you end up realizing you need to charge $1,000 per hour, for example, it's time to reevaluate).

But, this is still a helpful reminder to put the legwork in to identify the right price for you. That alone will have you feeling much more self-assured.

3. Emphasize Value

Here's one you likely (hopefully!) already know: Spitting out a price without any talk of what that amount of money actually achieves won't get you far.

Before sharing a price, talk about how your product will improve that person's life. Or, discuss how your service will earn your client more money before you quote your rate.

Emphasizing the value that you provide upfront will not only prevent any sticker shock from the other party, but will also give you a much-needed boost of confidence that you are, indeed, worth what you charge.

4. Don't Waffle

As awkward as quoting a price can be, it's still important. People want (and need!) to know the bottom line.

So, don't give an uncertain answer that's full of stipulations and negotiations. Clearly state the rate or cost and then ask if that person has any questions.

Sure, it might feel a little uncomfortable. But, standing firm and being explicit is always better than confusing the other party with a bunch of vague language and generalities.

Even for the most confident and experienced among us, talking about how much you charge for a product or service can inspire some feelings of uneasiness. Use these tips, and you'll be able to quote your rate -- without all of the sweating and mumbling.

Published on: May 10, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.