One of the tenets of wealthy freelancing is getting more out of the work you do. Getting more out of it in the way of enjoyment, satisfaction - and, of course, income!
And one of the best ways to boost your income is to raise your fees until they're truly aligned with the value you deliver. Once you reach that level of parity, you must continually work to add even greater value, which in turn allows you to raise your fees again and earn a better living.
(You can also boost your income by improving your productivity, but that's another training episode.)
Of course, when your fees are higher than the average freelancer in your field, it won't be long before a prospect balks at your quote. You'll hear comments such as, "Wow! I usually pay 30 percent less with other freelancers."
Or, "Are you kidding? This should only take you a couple of hours to complete. How can you justify charging $600?"
There are several ways to address these pricing objections (some of which I've never used because they involve profane language!). But the best commentary I've ever heard on this issue came from author and blogger Jonathan Fields.
In a recent blog post, Jonathan commented on his recent throat surgery. He ended up going with a top-notch (and ultra-expensive) specialist who didn't take his insurance. But Jonathan was happy to pay several thousand dollars out of pocket because, as he pointed out,
"I wasn't paying for his 'time in the O.R.' I was paying to be as far as possible away from the guy who went first. I was paying for his 25 years perfecting his skills, thousands of patients, tens of thousands of hours and tons of newbie mistakes avoided. I was, quite simply, paying not to be first."
Here's the thing, my fellow freelancers. If you're experienced - and if you're good - smart clients are NOT paying for your time. They're paying to be as far away from your first client (and the mistakes from your first project) as possible.
Smart clients don't want costly mistakes. They don't want the project to bomb. And they certainly don't want to hold your hand.
Instead, they want to be able to award you the project and feel confident that you'll come through and deliver an excellent product. On time and with little to no hassle.
The more experience you gain, the more projects you work on, the more problems you help clients solve, the more value you can add"¦and the more you're worth.
So the question is... Are you charging accordingly?
Now... I'm not going to sit here and just tell you to charge more. Yes, I've found that most of us underprice our services-some by a lot!
But before you do anything, you need to be honest with yourself. You need to determine how much your clients value you and your services.
One of the best ways to illustrate this point is with the Cobb Value Curve, which was developed by William C. Cobb, a consultant based in Houston, TX who works with law firms.
Source: WCCI, Inc. v Cobb Consulting Group (www.Cobb-Consulting.com)
If you look at the diagram above, the horizontal axis represents the volume of work available in the market for the services you provide. On the other side is the relative value those services deliver, as perceived by your clients.
So, at the very top, you have hugely important needs ("nuclear" events) the client needs to take are of right now. For instance, say you're a crisis-communications expert. And one of your clients is Acme Foods, which makes peanut butter. Say that there's been a massive food-safety alert involving Acme's peanut butter products, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a recall of tends of thousands of jars of Acme's product.
Your client is now in crisis mode. They need help communicating to their customers and to their retailers. They need you, and they need you now. They're not shopping around. They want someone who can take care of this problem in the best and most professional manner possible.
Few of us have the luxury of being in that situation all the time. I certainly don't. But it doesn't need to be a catastrophe. If it's massively urgent for your client, it qualifies.
OK, but what about more common occurrences? Well, there's still great opportunity outside of nuclear events. In fact, it's the sweet spot, and it's the place you want to shoot for. It involves situations where you bring your experience and track record to bear... and you're hired mainly because of that experience.
Note that this is a great place to work because you're still in an area where there's less price sensitivity. The client perceives your expertise and track record as very valuable. Which explains why she is not as price sensitive as she would be with other types of services or in other situations.
Yes, I think you should charge more. But before you go there, I urge you to take a hard look at your experience, expertise, skills, work background and track record.
Then, ask yourself: how does all this make you different and better than others you're competing against?
Take your time with that question. Write as many answers or reasons as you can.
Next, if you're not already doing so, how can you communicate that value and expertise throughout your website, your marketing communications, and your conversations with prospects.
And how can you do it in a way that makes sense to them?
For instance, I'm a marketing copywriter. But rather than just saying that, I tell prospects about my software sales background. And how I leverage that experience and track record to write marketing and sales pieces their sales force can use to generate more leads and speed up their sales cycles.
A business development consultant I know positions himself as an expert in Latin American market expansion for telecommunications companies. He ran the Latin American division for a global telecom company, and now works with companies who are trying to expand into these markets. His experience is invaluable for his clients.
A graphic designer I recently met is an expert at designing visual elements for events. Specifically, customer conferences, trade shows, and industry symposiums. Many of her peers are being commoditized, but because of her specialty and her track record with that type of work, she commands higher fees.
So, the lesson here is to not discount anything. Take a hard look at your background and experience. And find as many reasons as you can to start communicating higher value to your prospects. If you do that successfully, you'll soon find yourself consistently working in that sweet spot of the Cobb Value Curve.