If the price the client is willing to pay is significantly lower than your perception of the value you provide, you are bound to feel undervalued and underpaid.
There are systems that make sure workers don’t get underpaid. Yes, many of them are obsolete, lagging, insufficient, biased, or misguided but they exist, or at least most people think they should exist and be effective.**
As far as I know, no such system exists for freelancers, solo professionals, and small expertise-based businesses.** We are left to figure it out by competing with or copying others, who may be just as lost. What we do is harder to compare, opaque to many clients, and way harder to standardize because of huge differences in effectiveness between the best and the worst in the field.
Yes, there may be some customary minimums, but they end up meaningless as soon as the next tech innovation brings in massive competition from abroad, or an AI tool, or makes parts of the work obsolete.
There is every pressure to discount, confusion, and basically no outside impulse to raise the price. Is it really a wonder that most experts end up underpaid?
More often than not, we end up as diamonds in the rough, indistinguishable from gravel until we can find a way to make the value shine brightly. Value is contextual, so your ability to charge more depends on providing the context well, and very little else.