It’s not just about budget, it’s about entirely optimum conditions to do your best work at all times for your clients. Anything less and neither party is happy with it. There are exceptions, when we offer and people want something cheap and cheerful, or quick ‘n dirty, but generally we always want to be able to do our best work.
When I was a singer in choirs in London we would occasionally do gigs where the number of singers was too large for the space available on stage, which would mean we would be crammed in like rows of sardines. This meant I couldn’t sing properly, I couldn’t get room to stand as I wanted, place my arms and score how I wanted, inflate my rib cage or breathe properly. And the end result is a poorer vocal performance and an unhappy singer. Surely both of those are bound to lead to a less happy audience too?
When I was an accountant, if I knew a client was particularly sensitive to fees and averse to paying our bill at all, it might tempt me into cutting corners or reducing our standard of work with the same compromised end result – no one is happy because neither party gets what they want.
Why do we do this?
My conversation with my client was about what she should really be charging now for her 1-2-1 consultations, given the growth of her business and her emerging success. Her reputation is growing, she’s very diligent, she always does her best work but her time is beginning to be stretched close to breaking point given that she also values her own wonderful life. The answer was a lot more than even the price we are proposing to increase her fees to now, because my client has an inkling of what ultimately her time and expertise is really worth.
It can take the world a while to catch on to how great we are and what an investment in our time is worth to our clients’ lives, but for as long as we are under-confident about the value we deliver we will continue to undercharge. And this is a horribly risky strategy because we end up resenting our clients and, without the budget to do a good job for them, we are pretty much bound to disappoint them and exhaust ourselves. How are you going to grow a business by under-charging if that’s where it leads?
Especially in the world of exchanging your time for their money, you must charge enough to do a good job for your client so that they will always be delighted and refer you to others and you’ll be happy working too. Many can afford and do choose to pay for your excellence. Between now and the point in time where you have this perfectly aligned – price and value – all you have to do is inch up your price a bit at a time and all the while client feedback will enable you to fully come to know how good you are. That’s the day you can charge what you are worth.
I don’t think I have any clients who are ****, so why are we self-employed types so reluctant to ask for the budget to do our best work? What will it take for you to up your price by a few percentage points with each new piece of work until you get to the place where you are amply rewarded and your business is thriving?
I know the answers to both these questions as I’ve worked them through in my own businesses and seen my clients do the same. It’s self-esteem which underlies all of this. And what changes it is coming to see how we are regarded by others – feedback, reviews, crits, Michelin Stars, love, thankyou notes, testimonials, bunches of flowers, Oscars, OBEs.
Allow yourself to pay attention to what the world is telling you about how they appreciate you, that’s a really useful first step. And it appreciates. The core feedback repeats over and over and it becomes an accurate reflection of the unique contribution you make in this world. And once you have a handle on that, you can charge whatever you like.