What Not To Do When Putting a Value on Our Work
Putting a Value on Our Work
Starting out in any business, but particularly when we are the business, it’s vital to be clear about the value we bring, and how to match that value to the price we ask the market to pay for our services. We need to understand the basic principle of fair exchange, and how it impacts our ability over an extended period of time, to consistently offer exceptional service. Simply put, if the price we’re asking for does not take into account the cost of running a business, and investing in professional development, very soon we’ll find ourselves run into the ground, with little energy to give to our clients, or put back into our practice.
Learning from my Failure
Changing the story I was telling myself about my work and the value of it directly impacted on my ability to confidently ask for a fair price for my work, and to walk away from potential clients who did not see that value. Yes, you read right – to walk away from clients who, if they don’t value our offer at the beginning, are more likely to end up the kind of clients who take more energy to deal with, are slow to pay and are less likely to recommend us afterwards.
Talking Ourselves Down
When I began my business, I really struggled to ‘own’ my own expertise and experience, in part because of the dreaded trio of factors that were influencing me: I’m Irish, so please don’t ask me to talk about money; I’m a woman so don’t ask me to confidently talk myself up; and I come from a family background where everyone got a wage (and was glad of it!) so don’t ask me about deciding on what fee I should charge. And if that wasn’t enough, in there somewhere was also the belief that because I enjoyed what I was doing so much, it didn’t seem like work, so how could I charge for it?
The result was I often gave away my time for free and shied away from looking at a realistic pricing structure. I wasn’t looking at the ratio of hours running and building the business, versus billable hours, nor was I factoring in all the costs of running a professional practice. And even worse, I failed to take seriously the long hours I’d spent training or take into account my lived experience, both professionally and personally, which plays a very large role in the value I can offer to my clients.
As you can imagine, my business was struggling to get off the ground. I found myself working with clients who asked for a reduced rate, and then did not fully engage with the coaching process. I was struggling to re-invest in myself I had no allocated budget for continuous professional development. I needed to change the story I was telling myself if I ever wanted to make a go of having success. I needed to get comfortable talking about and asking for a fair price for my services. Even more fundamentally, I needed to see the value in the work I did, and to recognise that unless I saw the value I could not confidently communicate that value to prospective clients.
Owning Our Value
My business did not and could not get off the ground until I changed the story I was telling myself and invested in supports to make the necessary changes to my business. I joined a supportive network of like-minded people and learned from those that were ahead of me in my business journey. I linked in with my fellow coaches and asked them about their pricing structures and the rationale behind them. My local enterprise board offered very reasonable business mentoring – I got help from them in creating a realistic business plan and pricing structure. I also spent time, with the help of a money coach, really digging into my beliefs around money and the value I was putting on my time and expertise.
The result has been a balance between what I am putting into my practice, and what I am getting out of it; and there is a healthy flow of money coming into the business, and a healthy flow of money invested in improving and expanding my offer.
When starting out in your practice, be very clear about the story you’re telling yourself (and your prospective clients) about the value you bring. Interrogate the language you use when you’re talking about your services. Make sure it’s communicating confidently and clearly the value you bring, and why the price you’re asking is deserved and fair. When it comes to discussing price (if your prices are not displayed on your website), introduce the subject close to the start of any sales conversation, not in a laboured way, but a simple stating of the facts. Here’s what I offer and here’s what you’re being asked to pay in return.
Either the prospective client will see the value in the exchange, or they won’t. If they do, then the principle of fair exchange will see both parties get what they need from the professional relationship. If they don’t, then they were not the right client for you in the first place.