(Warning: strong feelings; strong language. Check your delicate sensibilities.)
Hey, quick question:
What are you worth?
Chances are, that gets your irrational brain going into a tailspin – especially if you’re a freelancer, creative, or some other small business owner who is doing tricky work that involves selling a piece of their heart every day.
Are you overcharging? Are your clients judging you? What about your friends – are you the running joke in your group? “He thinks he can bill clients $100 an hour for that? Give me a break…”
You already know what I’m going to say.
Fuck your feelings.
Decide on a product. Build your craft. Put the hours in, and do the work. Don’t “get comfortable with selling.” START selling.
Decide on your price and hold the line.
If your clients are undervaluing your work, it’s because you let them.
This brings to mind a situation I had with a client (shared with his permission). Because he started as a friend, I had agreed to a series of coaching sessions at a cut rate – half price initially, and then I remained at that price point for him even after I raised my rates. It was fair on both ends, as he wasn’t asking for much. It was a very hands-off situation; just providing him the bare necessities. I would typically go a bit beyond what we’d originally agreed on, but I reminded him that if he wanted the full level of support, he’d need to pay the full fee.
This went on for a number of months, with great results. Then, prior to a session, he asked me to give additional time and energy to another area of his life – something not in our original deal.
Á la Extreme Ownership, this is 100% my fault. I’d built the boundaries, but I didn’t communicate them to him clearly enough. If I had, he wouldn’t have even asked – or he would have come to me to purchase more coaching.
Just before we began our work that day I sat down with him and explained the boundary, taking full responsibility for the error in my communication. He was quick to take responsibility for his actions, but I maintain that the error was my own because I could have prevented it.
My message here is threefold.
First, if you undervalue yourself or leave any space for others to do so, you will get walked all over. This will make you resentful, which will drive away business both due to your attitude and your quality of work.
Second, you are fully responsible for correcting every misstep you make in your pricing and your communication surrounding pricing.
Third, and the best, biggest, most important part…
Don’t use your emotions as a calculator.
When you sit down to determine your rates, use actual math. Your figures will vary – you may include time spent with the client, project time, materials, travel expenses. You will also work in supporting expenses – overhead, equipment, education or supplies necessary for you to do your job, costs of certifications, etc. If half of your garage is taken over by your wood shop, you need to charge enough to cover the space, heat, etc. Figure in at least 25% taxes, the cost of your health insurance, and your savings goals.
Whatever you do, do NOT fall into the trap of charging based on the amount you feel people want to pay.
Your emotions are the worst calculator known to man.
Once you get to a number, set it in stone. If this is the minimum you need to keep your business afloat and provide a decent income for yourself, go ahead and raise it 10% right now. Or just double it. What, you don’t think people will pay?
GET THAT GOOD.
Here, let me say it again: It’s now your job to get that good.
Get that good and people will pay – but they’ll only pay if you keep holding the line. That number you came up with? You might as well tattoo it on your forehead*, because it’s not going down for anyone. You don’t feel like you can charge that much?
Fuck your feelings. They’re not in charge of negotiations here. YOU ARE.
Hell, make “fuck my feelings” your mantra when you’re having a discussion on pricing with a new client. When they see that you respect yourself, they will too. If you apologize, they’ll smell your fear.
People are sharks, and if you apologize for your prices in any way you might as well just stab a fork into your jugular* and jump in the ocean – it’ll be that effective.
Set your price. Get that good. Hold the line.
The clients will come.
*The author does not recommend impulsive tattoos or self-inflicted injury of any kind.