Sick of Being Underpaid for Your Consulting Services? How to Fix It

consultant on her laptopPart 1 of a two-part series

Ever feel this way?

The estimate I give doesn’t reflect the work I do.

There’s nothing quite like getting paid $500 for $5000 worth of work to strip you of your confidence, make you resent the human race and drive you to do the unthinkable — looking for a JOB.

I’ve been there too, and so have some of my clients who have years of professional experience and top-notch expertise as business, marketing and creative consultants.

When you start a business, you just want clients. Most consultants and business owners are hungry for work and will take almost anything.

But then this thing happens.

You’re flooded with deliverables, projects, demanding clients. You’re working crazy hours and yet you’re still struggling to cover the nut.

What gives?

You, actually.

You give. And give. And give. Away. Too. Much.

Giving is good of course. Accept when you give so much that you’re screwing yourself over in return.

This drives me crazy when it happens to me.

It drives me crazier when I see it happen to business owners who have mad skills, deliver excellent work and get valuable results for their clients.

Newsflash: Most of those clients you’re delighting are not going to volunteer more money. They know they’re getting a killer deal. They’d pay more for your services, but most (none maybe) won’t tell you that.

It’s up to you. It’s up to you to command what your worth. It’s up to you to set client expectations and spell out the boundaries.

You are the boss. So lay it down LIKE A BOSS.

This has been one of the trickiest lessons I’ve had to learn over the last few years.
We’re not only service providers, we are business owners.

So make, set, bend (sometimes) and enforce the rules.

Also, implement some or all of these strategies to prune away the crazy hours and penny pinchers.

Rethink your pricing model

If you have to work a mikillion hours to cover your bills then it’s time to take a close look at the ways you get paid for your work. There are myriad ways to charge for your services . . . and you don’t have to pick just one. You’ll hear all kinds of advice on this, but it’s up to you to figure out how to handle it. I mostly have package pricing, which has worked well for me most of the time, and has seriously hurt me others. Because of that, I now know when hourly pricing makes sense (though I still tend to stay away from it). There’s nothing inherently wrong or bad with hourly, flat fee, value pricing, commission, barter, monthly or retainer pricing. What can be bad or go wrong is how you apply these, how often and at what rate. You can make a living off of continually bartering. At the same token, you don’t have to take barter off the table. I recently made a $7500 investment in my business and struck a barter deal. I’ll give you $2000 in marketing consulting. This worked for both us because we both feel it’s a fair exchange.Bartering as a main pricing strategy will put you out of business fast. It’s really more a “bend the rules” option.

Give yourself a raise

When was the last time you gave yourself a raise? Three months ago? A year ago? Never? When I work with creative consultants, I see the doubt and fear wash across their face when I tell them to raise their rates. And I wrestle with that doubt and fear too everytime I raise my rates. They ask me Will people pay for this? And the answer is yes, the right person will pay for it. I only work with professionals. My clients are sometimes newer in their business but many of them have 15 or more years of career under their belt. They absolutely deliver value. The right people pay for excellent work. The answer is to find better clients, not stoop to everyday low prices (you ARE NOT Walmart). Yes, it can be a little scary because raising your rate is a split second decision that does take some time to fully implement and get results from. Yes, you will lose some clients. You will also need a smaller number of clients to make the same amount of money or more. You will not make less money by raising your rates, as long as you also get clear about who will pay your rates.

Stand for your value

So, this takes guts but you’ve got to be willing to say no and walk away. Over the summer I had a client who asked me to provide a lower rate for work that I did. At first I was anxious and then I got mad. I’d already done a different project where I went above and beyond and felt like this client had gotten way more than what she paid. That’s when it hit me. I hadn’t taken a stand and I had been yielding to her on several other things. Little things, but things that were counter to how I typically do business. Whether she was consciously doing it or not, she was taking advantage of my flexibility . . . and I had to put a stop to it. This is part of being a business owner. Setting expectations. Educating clients. Reminding them of your value. Drawing a line in the sand. Do this firmly and respectfully . . but do it! This is the email I sent back to my client:

I can understand requesting suppliers to reduce rates, and while I never like to say no, my rate will stay the same.

What we can do is adjust blog post length. This was a lengthy post at ### words. If we keep the posts around ### words then the price would be $$$.

I enjoy working with you and the ____ family so just let me know how you would like to proceed.

Be clear, direct and willing to walk away. My client agreed to adjust what she was getting rather the price and we’re still working together today.

Get paid to do proposals

OMG, can I just tell you about this brilliant idea that I wish was mine?! I originally heard about this from Perry Marshall and instantly began recommending this to all my clients (and applying it to my business). In my years as a marketer and PR director proposals were the lifeline of new business. And yet, it always seemed ridiculous to spend 60 hours to pull something together for a 5-25% chance of getting the work. I always felt like there had to be a better way.

There is. The process is called discovery (you can name it whatever you want though). Instead of running off to write a proposal after a 30- or 60- minute conversation with a prospect, explain to them that you you need to get under the hood of their business to better understand the problem and provide a solution that’s actually going to work for them. How can you truly know what their problem is from one conversation? Without discovery, proposals are a waste of your time and their time, so charge them for your efforts to really figure out what’s going on. Chances are they’ll want you to implement the solution but even if they hire someone else, you still get paid. Way better than spending 60 (or any) hours on free work right?

Stay tuned for three more changes you can make to get paid what you’re worth. In the meantime, which of these strategies will you use to command the fees that reflect the value of your work? Why?

 

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Successful Women Are Unlikable? Really?!

WARNING: Cuss words inside

It’s high time we put the “bitch in the boardroom” stereotype to bed.

According to many high-profile voices (Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Sheryl Sandberg & Hillary Clinton to name a few), if you’re a successful woman, people don’t like you.

But if you’re a man, well, it’s game on.

Look, I’m not stupid. Not only do I know women have been oppressed, mistreated, held down and treated less than, I’ve experienced it.

We’ve got a long journey before us to heal the wounds and horror stories of generations past.

Here’s the thing.

I am really flipping tired of powerful people – who are supposedly on the side of women – beating us down with this tripe.

It’s reckless, irresponsible and not useful at all to advancing women.

While this may not have been true 40 years ago, I believe that today it IS possible to be a woman with a commanding presence, confidence and humanity that both sexes respect.

Hang with me here as I break down this message . . .

The more successful and ambitious a woman is, the less likable you become.

Has the fear of people not liking you held you back from succeeding? Sure has for me – more than I care to admit.

Read that sentence again. Out loud.

The more successful and ambitious a woman is, the less likable you become.

Now . . .

Are you ready to do whatever it takes to be successful?

Or do you feel like you want to “chuck it in the fuck it bucket” (to borrow a favorite phrase from my client Sherry).

Well hell, if a high-powered woman is telling you success means no friends, no fun, no respect  . . . then why bother right?

Say it again.

The more successful and ambitious a woman is, the less likable you become.

Is it 100% true? Or can you identify times when success, ambition and likability came together for you like peanut butter and jelly?

Hmmm. What’s going on here?

What’s going on is that the belief is WRONG, not your ambition. Not your success. And if there’s no one in your life who respects you for being an achiever, may I suggest that it’s time to find new people?

I’m not buying into the idea that success and likeability are mutually exclusive — especially when it comes to powerful women. You can achieve both when you get shit done, get results, add value and treat others with respect. You deserve it because you earn it, not because of your body parts, name or status.

Leaders – women and men – need to up their message game.

Speak the truth, yes. Shine a light on injustice, yes.

Massively overhaul our discourse and mindset? Yes! Yes! For goodness sake YES!

In a recent interview with Lewis Howes, Tony Robbins said (about 55 minutes in) . . .

We’ve all experienced injustice. If you hang onto injustice, you’re there. What we need to do is breakthrough and you will always breakthrough when you add value.

How about we start demanding that our leaders add value with their messages too?

And until that happens, consider this . . .

Limits live in your beliefs & behaviors. Hear the words of powerful people, then listen to your own voice to decide what’s true for you. [Tweet This]

Also, if you’re a powerful, successful woman (or you aspire to be) just remember this: the media loves telling you what to think and do. If you have vision and drive, if you can listen and communicate well . . . if people can TRUST you, you’ll have little trouble finding people who like you no matter how meteoric your rise to the top.

I’m grateful to meet and know many successful and likable women and men like you. Do you have a powerful, uplifting message that adds value to others . . . if only you could share it with more people? Schedule a complimentary consultation with me & learn how you can package & position your message for greater impact, influence & income.

 

Enough With “Playing Small”

If you’re a coach you’ve most likely encouraged clients to play a bigger game, & you’ve likely received the same piece of advice.

I’m all for pushing your boundaries & comfort zones, but I’m fed up with “playing small” being treated like a red-headed step-child.

So does “playing small” has a place & a purpose in your life & business?

(I say yes! Watch the video to see why.)

WARNING: If you don’t want anyone else hearing my f-bombs, use headphones!

When you don’t want to tell your story (& what to do about it)

I didn’t want to tell it.

There I was in front of 50 woman, standing on a dark stage because the lights had eerily gone out moments before. As I began to tell my story . . . alone, in the dark, completely exposed, I felt just like the child and young woman I was speaking about. Small. Scared. Wanting to be anywhere but there.

Then, poof, the lights flashed back on . . . and I froze.

Alone, lights blaring, completely exposed.

I forgot what I wanted to say next so I didn’t say a word for what seemed like two cycles at a stop light (think very dramatic pause).

Life is going to throw curve balls at you. You will feel resistance around telling your story. First, know that this is NORMAL! Then check out the video for some powerful insights to help you tell it anyway.

What pieces of your story sometimes feel like a burden to you or (worse) your audience? Let us know in the comments so we can breakthrough that resistance once and for all. 

Are you running your business in Hush Puppies?

It’s easy to get discouraged when we fail to perform the way we want. It’s tempting to say “I’ll never do that again.”

Here’s the thing though. There’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to running a successful business. Before you scrap your plans, make sure you’re not suffering from The Hush Puppy Problem.

Here’s a story to explain what I mean . . .

Are you wearing Hush Puppies when you should be wearing sneakers? Tell us your hush puppy moment and how you worked through it in the comments below.

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