Charging and Paying What You’re Worth

Please Pay Here 3-14-09 19One of the big questions when you start your own business is how much should you charge for your products or services. We tweeted about this at Blog Brunch last month and it reminded me of what many of the articles I’ve read had to say about why you shouldn’t cut your rates just to land a client.

1. You won’t make a profit.
2. You’ll be working more hours than you should be.
3. It hurts your industry.

When you sell your work or provide services below market value it cheapens what you do across the board. 
4. If you give a special deal to a client, it’s harder to ask for the real price next time.
5. You’ll feel horrible.

Undervaluing your professional background and expertise can seep into other areas of your life and self-esteem, or vice versa. 

But here’s something I haven’t seen a lot written about –  paying what you’re worth.

While lots of entrepreneurs or small business owners have no problem charging what they’re worth, some of them don’t want to pay others well for their services. 
Next time you hire a graphic designer, social media consultant, videographer, photographer, branding superstar, life coach, or web designer think about what you expect to get for your own work. Then think about the person you’re considering hiring, and all of the expertise that they bring to the table. Remember, you’re thinking about hiring this person. That must mean that they are doing something for you that you can’t or don’t want to do for yourself.

If you’re shocked by the price of their product or service or feel like you’re being overcharged, ask yourself these questions.

Is it because you legitimately can’t afford it?
We can’t always afford everything we want, and that’s okay. We have to be realistic. I think the problem arises when we throw this truth back onto the service provider.

“Seriously? They charge THAT much? Who do they think I am, Bergdorf Goodman?”

When you make your financial constraints their fault, it can build resentment and negative feelings that can impact what you think about your own business and success.

Is it because you don’t thoroughly understand the service that they provide?
“Really? $500? I just want (a few buttons for my blog, someone that can do Facebook, a painting for my bathroom, someone to help me with scheduling my time,…). How hard can that be?”

The answer to that question might be, “hard or involved enough that you’re not willing to take it on yourself.”

Think about your own business for a second. Do you provide any services or products that take much more time and effort than your typical customer or client might think? I’m pretty sure the answer is yes. Bloggers are working hard on building their audience and writing their content. Artists are working hard on those pieces that they’re charging $500 for. Social media managers and consultants are doing much more than tweeting out a few links. Some things that appear simple to you may actually involve details that are much more complex.

Is it because you aren’t charging what you’re worth?
When you have a negative reaction to a price point think about what you’re charging for your own work. Maybe you completely understand the service or product that you’re buying, but this arist or small business owner is charging more than you would charge for the same thing. Sure, they could be overcharging for their services, but it’s possible (even more so if you’re a woman) that you’re not charging enough for your own work.

When you hire someone else to help you bring your vision to life or create your dream job, remember that you’re making an investment in yourself and your future. 

This guest post written by Melanie Biehle, creator of Inward Facing Girl, where she blogs about contemporary art, design, photography, and life in Seattle. She offers social media and branding consultations, graphic design services, and coaching at genuineMIX. Melanie has a Master’s degree in psychology and 15 years of marketing, project management, and research experience. She’s worked with major motion picture studios including Paramount and Warner Bros., and technology leaders like Microsoft.
Photo courtesy stevendepolo

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  1. It just happened to me yesterday…”WOW, that much? That’s CRAZY!” My response…”that’s what it costs”. Period, no apologies, no feeling bad. I do not apologize for my 30+ years of expertise. Clearly, people contact me because they need help. I make it look easy, that’s called professionalism. Think you can do this yourself? Fine, you analyze the problem, you go develop the plan, you go source out the solutions, and you go get the artisans to create it. Oh yeah, you also follow the progress of the goods and make the phone calls to ask why the UPS guy delivered your stuff to the wrong address and left it out in the rain. (true story).

  2. Thanks for your comments! It’s nice to be able to talk about this here. I remember feeling shocked by how much services cost before I was a service provider. It really makes you look at things differently once you think about how you value your own work.

  3. This happens every now and then to me. It’s always a red flag when the first question a potential client asks is the price. There’s so many factors built into that price, and people don’t really see that unless they know you.

    If you believe in your pricing, it’s much easier to say “that’s what it costs”, like Beverly said above. Don’t apologize, don’t haggle. Explain why the price is what it is, and let the client decide if it’s a good fit or not.

    Thanks for this article. Very timely.
    Lisa recently posted..A New Way to Share Video: Twitter Introduces VineMy Profile

  4. I think I figured this out a long time ago because I now catch myself wondering why people are charging so little.

    For example, I bought a painting for my partner as a Christmas gift. I knew he would love it. It was by a local artist. And I could totally afford the price. But I noticed myself hesitating because I thought the price was too low. I wanted to contact the artist (I was buying it in the coffee shop where she was showing her work.) and tell her to raise her prices!!! I got over myself. (And the display started to look really sparse so she did sell a lot of work.)
    JoVE recently posted..All or Nothing thinkingMy Profile

  5. Yes it should cut both ways. You should have enough self-worth to charge what you are worth and recognize the skills of others and being willing to pay for it. Thinking about it in this way makes everyone feel good. Mutual respect is a good thing and who knows it may land you a new client down the road.

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