The key to pitching for work is equanimity. Calmness and composure especially in a difficult situation. That’s what the dictionary says. But who says pitching is a difficult situation?
Well, my clients do tend to find it fraught with potential pitfalls. Their initial inclination is to go in far too cheap to get the work. Their erroneous assumption is that everyone wants everything for cheap. This isn’t so, and that’s a lesson I learned when I owned a travel agency in my late thirties and my assistant was in her twenties because we wanted our travel for the best possible bargain prices always, to match our budget at that stage of our lives. But it became abundantly clear very quickly that wasn’t the case with our somewhat more affluent clients, even those who looked very much like us.
Some people like a little bit or even quite a lot of luxury on their holidays and they’ve saved up for it, or they don’t have to.
So, firstly… never assume.
Secondly, don’t pitch in your reality. Pitch in the reality of your client.
I always like to know how much my clients are earning so I know their financial reality. If they are earning £200 an hour in their work, why would I accept (or they pay me) anything less? There are many people who don’t penny-pinch whatever their financial reality, and many others who always ask for a discount because.
But the key to pitching is twofold.
1. Pitch your work at a price you would be absolutely delighted to do the work for, even if you charge other clients more. It’s harder to charge the same client more next time as you set a precedent with your first job, which is just one of the reasons not to undercharge them because assumptions can be made. Of course, if you decide to do that just to get the work, then you must make abundantly clear (and ensure your client understands and retains this point particularly, don’t gloss over it because you are embarrassed to talk about money) your reason for doing that.
For instance, you always do the first one at a discounted rate of X but your usual charges are Y and the concrete mutual understanding and acknowledgment is that it will definitely be Y next time, no questions asked. The awful thing when you do it for X and that’s cheap and you are consequently phenomenally good value for money is that your delighted client will make referrals to people, all of whom will want your heavily discounted price. Don’t do it. BUT, if you do, for any reason, never quote a price that would make you miserable while doing the work.
There is nothing like being overworked and underpaid. Remember how that felt in a JOB? Yep, that’s why we left. We are not going to replicate that exact same broken dynamic out here on the outside. So pitch, get the work at a price that delights you even if slightly less than you want to be charging, explain your reasons for doing that THIS TIME, and thoroughly love doing the work with a high vibe that leaks from every pore. Even if lessons are learned, about pricing or anything, your client doesn’t need to know that. Stay in abundance always.
2. If they do not accept your quote for any reason, be absolutely delighted about that too. Great if they do, great if they don’t. How is not winning the pitch good, Judith? Well, it keeps you free for the right client, and they weren’t the right client, they were the wrong one. No skin off your nose. Plenty more fish in the Sea of Clients. Keep on with the keeping on, the right one’s just around the next bend (rock?) and is going to be so much more delightful to work with, in every way.
- Charge a fee you are going to be delighted to do the work for.
- Be equally happy whether or not you get the work.
There’s no room for scarcity in this pricing game. I think I can teach you that, and if you follow these principles you can teach yourself that too.
When I was an accountant and I felt my business at times to be either full up or faced with a client I didn’t want to work with, I would double or even treble my prices and they would still buy! It is almost never about the price however much we think it is, however skint and scarce our own financial reality right now. So here’s my best advice for you. Double the price and half the number of clients, that’s where we’re headed with this sort of thinking. Try that one on and let me know how it feels.
One of my clients, the brilliant Sam, always asks: “What’s the brief and what’s your budget?” Then hold your breath and say nothing until they answer those questions. Then you say that you will get back to them with what you can do within their budget by close of business Friday, or whatever timescale you both agree. Buy yourself time to think about it and, if you need, get onto a call with me pronto. Or Ask Judith in the Facebook group and we’ll help you stand your ground.
One of my colleagues taught me what they say in the film industry, which is “Do you want it good, or do you want it Thursday?”, meaning good or fast? You can’t always have both. Your equivalent question might be “Do you want it good, or cheap?” although I wouldn’t be putting that idea in their minds, frankly. You might even turn away those who want it cheap, unless your business specialises in cheap. I hope your business doesn’t specialise in cheap. That doesn’t lead to a lovely business unless you are piling it high, and in that instance then turnover is the name of your game and you really need to be Tesco to make money at that and even then, it’s a very risky and complex strategy which is out of our league.