A few months back I did some legal work for a client and everything went fine. A few days ago he called back and wanted to make some changes, which I happily did for him. When I billed him for it, he was upset—after all, he was only making some changes and he had “already” paid me for the work. He wanted me to spend the time and do the work for free. I refused, he got angry and then I made a choice: I fired him as a client.
Early in my career I probably would have caved in, gave him what he wanted, and thereby devalue my services, my self–worth, and set myself up to make this a pattern. He succeeded once, why shouldn’t he try again?
I don’t do that now. It can be uncomfortable to lose a potential customer over price, and distasteful to even talk about for many, but we have to be willing to let that happen. If you’re confident in your value the people that want your services will understand that, the good customers will stay and the bad ones—the ones you don’t want anyway—will go away. Let them. But the responsibility of conveying our worth falls squarely on our own shoulders. Here’s how to do it.
Know your worth.
If you’re just starting out and are still learning your trade, it may be okay to price yourself below a competitor who has mastered the trade. But once you are confident that you are providing value, that your product or service is worth it, be confident. Take the time to learn and excel at your skill, your art, your gifts, and then don’t ever devalue them.
Set clear expectations.
If you don’t explain the value of what you provide, how will the customer know? Explain how the product or service benefits them and why it costs the amount it does. Make sure they know the costs upfront.
Don’t discount yourself.
Once you start discounting it’s hard to stop. People will come to expect it, and soon your full price doesn’t exist any more, you’re attracting all the wrong customers who are looking for ‘cheap’ and you’ll start believing your services weren’t worth your original price in the first place. One client told me that when she tried giving away or discounting her services, her clients miss appointments, they showed up late, they became erratic. When she raised her rates, people fell back in line. “It’s about the perception of value,” she said. Discounting shows a lack of belief in the value of what you can do, that you doubt the importance of your profession and what you can offer. If you don’t believe in it, why should your clients? Have faith in your products and services and believe in your pricing. Five good customers are better than ten that don’t value you and want to take advantage of you. Let others have the ‘cheap’ customers.
Get over your distaste for money.
Your skill may a spiritual gift that God or the universe has bestowed upon you, but you still need to get paid if you want that skill to support you. Marketing is not bragging. Advertising doesn’t mean you are greedy. Poverty is something we want to rise above—it’s not a virtue. View money as a tool. It’s a form of energy, an exchange between two people. View yourself as a channel for that tool. Yes, it’s a gift to have a talent, and this gift should be shared, but it’s your financial resource, also. To say that you don’t need to be paid for what you do is to deny part of the gift.
Know when it’s time to give back and do it on your own terms.
I don’t discount my fees, but I do pro bono projects on a regular basis. I find causes or clients that I believe in and do the work for free. The difference is that I’m in control: it’s a proactive choice instead of a defensive caving in. If you give something away, make the choice based on compassion and choice, not from guilt or fear caused by someone undermining your value.
Now go do good work and get yourself paid.