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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How Savvy Coaches & Consultants Find Clients

notebook-womanEver notice how we entrepreneurs talk in code about our real problems?

For example, the most common question I get from other business owners is “how do I find clients?”

If you’ve ever asked that question then you know there’s more lurking between the lines than the words coming out of your mouth.

So let’s unpack . . .

How do I find clients?

What I’ve found from my own experience and from working with my private clients is that this question is often code for one or more of these scenarios:

  • “I need to get my first clients”
  • “I need more clients”
  • “I need better clients”

No matter which of these is true for you, here’s what to do . . .

Instead of bogging down your brain with how do I find clients, get it working on a question that will lighten the brain overload.

What problem do I love to solve and who do I want to help solve this problem?

What you do may solve hundreds of problems but when you focus on the problems you love to solve (e.g., I love to help my clients talk about their business clearly, confidently & compellingly), it’s a lot easier to offer something of value to another person.

So if you teach people how to meditate, for example, maybe what you especially love about meditation is when you help a person who is stressed out, overworked & distracted become focused & productive.

Which brings us to the second half of the question in italics  . . . who is that person?

Because if you can’t answer this, you’re marketing to EVERYONE which gets you NO ONE. Ok, maybe you get SOMEONE but it takes a lot more time and effort because you have to sort through EVERYONE.

Know what I mean?

At the very least, you want to narrow it down to a group of people you’d like to help.

Why?

Because once you know what group of people (aka your audience) you want to work with, it’s a lot easier for you to find out WHERE they are and get your smart, problem-solving self in front of them. (Not to mention you can also tailor your marketing messages specifically to them.)

So, let’s say you love to help professional women improve their focus and productivity through meditation.

Get in front of them at:

  • Business & networking events
  • Social networking groups on LinkedIn & Facebook
  • Your own event that you host specifically for them

For most people, “networking” is about as much fun as a root canal BECAUSE they put so much freakin’ pressure on themselves.

Relax, breathe & do what you would normally do in a SOCIAL situation.

That’s it!

There’s a time and place for your elevator pitch, and REAL conversation isn’t always it. Hey, here’s some rebellious advice (not really), if the idea of passing out your business card to as many people as possible or barfing your elevator pitch all over them like a robot doesn’t work for you, DON’T DO IT!

(Yes, I can hear that sigh of relief from here.)

Just focus on having a conversation that leads to another conversation that will lead to working with that person OR another conversation with them down the line. When someone asks you “what do you do?”, my friend Cami Baker has the best advice . . . Get them to talk about themselves first!

Here’s what that might look like for our imaginary meditation teacher.

When you say “Oh, I’d love to share with you what I do, but how about you go first?” they give youinformation. Information is your secret weapon, so listen carefully to their response.

Maybe she says “I’m a paralegal in a busy law firm working on high profile civil suits.”

Then you can say “Oh, that’s really interesting. I help busy professional women like you improve their focus and productivity. Is it difficult for you to stay focused and productive in that kind of environment?”

She says, “Oh you have no idea. I get interrupted and pulled in a million directions all day every day.”

Then you say, “Have you ever tried meditation?”

She says, “Huh, meditation? No, I don’t even have time to go to the bathroom, never mind meditate.”

You say, “I bet. Many of my clients feel the same way. And once they see how little time it actually takes and how quickly it improves their focus, productivity and mood, they can’t live without it. In fact, one of my clients finally got the big promotion she’d been trying to land for months after I lead her through my meditation program.”

She says, “Really? How can do that?”

You say, “It depends on your situation and the best way for me to assess that is for you to have one of my complimentary Finally Focused Sessions. Would you like to set that up?”

“YES! What do you have available next week?”

Simple right?

And if you already know this, you might be thinking no news here but if you’re in the “need more/better clients” camp it’s time to revisit those questions again.  Because as you work with more people, you get clearer about who you REALLY want to work with and who you REALLY don’t want to work with. But even when you’ve made an upgrade in your mind, that doesn’t mean your messaging, branding and marketing automatically upgrades too.

So whether you’re a marketing newbie or a marketing master, you want to regularly ask the questions

What problem do I love to solve?

Who do I want to help solve this problem?

(Leave a comment below if you have the answers to these questions!)

Then go get them, because I don’t care if you build something that’s straight out of Field of Dreams . . . they won’t come if they don’t know who you are and what you can do for them.

If you’d like to know how you can solve your favorite problems for more of your favorite people (and get paid handsomely for it), take advantage of my free Simplify Your Marketing Session.  

Reconnect to the Emotion In Your Story

😀 😢 😠 😟

If you saw my last post about how to tell a better story, you know that the first step is to go deeper emotionally (if not, check it out here).

Why?

Because people love to be moved by story. We all like to imagine ourselves in situations that challenge us and provide us an opportunity to rise to the occasion.

So if you want to tell a better story that will move people, you have to rediscover your emotion. When I started my business, I would gloss over the emotion in my story. I’d lean on similar career experiences because I simply “didn’t want to go there.”

I was doing what I love and what I was good at, but I wasn’t making much money.

And that didn’t turn around until I made friends with the deeper emotional themes in my story.

If you’re asking yourself “How do I rediscover my emotion?” these questions (taken directly from my Tell to Sell Story Creation Home Learning Program) will help you reconnect.

Have fun with it, and stay tuned for more ways you can tell a better story.

How to Tell a Better Story for Emerging Coaches & Consultants

connect to the emotion in your story

photo by Vinoth Chandar

If you’ve been in business a few years, you may be asking yourself . . .

How do I tell a better story?

The kind of story that leads you to the next level in your business and your life.

One thing I noticed as I worked intimately with several women entrepreneurs over the summer on their stories is that they already were telling a story, yet they weren’t happy with the results they were getting.

If you’ve noticed this too, take heed because that’s a sign that you may not be telling the best story.

You’ll know when you’re telling a better story when you:
  • Get an “in the bones” knowing and feeling about your story – you’ll actually feel the connection somewhere in your body
  • People hone in and comment on very specific things you said in your story – this means they didn’t just listen to the story, they connected to and got meaning from some part of it
  • You start generating leads and new business like never before – I didn’t share my story in sales conversations for the first seven months after I first came out with my story. Fascinating that my two best months that year were the month I came out with my story and the month I started telling it in every single sales conversation. I actually had a 100% close rate that month – and I don’t consider sales one of my strengths!
  • People start coming to you with opportunities because they heard about you from someone else – when people you don’t even know start asking you to speak to their audience or collaborate on a big project or do something that gets you one step closer to your dream, that’s your story at work.
So how do you go about telling that kind of story?

I’ve been in the business of helping others tell their stories for 20 years. When it comes to linking better results with a better story there’s a constant that I’ve noticed.

You know what it is?

It’s going deeper EMOTIONALLY.

You have to go deeper emotionally so you can connect with people on an emotional level.

I see this with my coaching and consulting clients today.

I saw it with the PR campaigns I ran for national brands and government agencies (and trust me, emotion and energy efficiency weren’t as hip or passionately adopted then as it is now).

I saw it in the newsroom when I wrote a feature about how local schools were dealing with a very heated conflict between pro-life and pro-choice campaigns targeting school kids in the ’90s.

Emotion. High stakes. Conflict. Resolution.

If these fundamental elements are NOT in your story, it’s time to upgrade.

Stay tuned because I’m going to break this down for you even more in upcoming blog posts. I’ll also share more about a new way I’m working with entrepreneurs like you to upgrade their stories.

In the meantime, what’s holding you back from diving into the emotional deep end? Let me know in the comments below.

How to Conquer 6 Crippling Fears That Keep You From Telling Your Story & Making More Money

Why aren’t you telling your story?

Fear #1 – Maybe it’s because you think it doesn’t matter (it does).

Fear #2 – Maybe it’s because you’re worried it will offend someone (it will sometimes & that’s OK).

Fear #3 – Maybe it’s because you’ve got a story that you know you MUST tell but the thought of telling it makes you feel like throwing up (you’ll come close, but you won’t).

Fear #4 – Maybe your story is the kind of story that you worry your audience can’t handle (they can).

It’s deep.

It’s heavy.

Fear #5 – And it reminds you of shit you don’t really want to remember, never mind share with a ton of people. You don’t want to tell THAT story because you don’t want to burden your audience.

Fear #6 – You don’t want people to (horror of all horrors) feel bad for you.

As a coach and speaker, you want to tell a story with power, hope and impact.

Good news?

You have a powerful story that shows your audience what could be possible for them and makes them feel good.

Bad news?

It may be the EXACT same flippin’ story you don’t want to tell.

Before I get into how you can share a tough personal story in a way that feels good for you and great for your audience, let’s look at what hiding your story may be doing to your business and your life.

Why Hiding Your Story Hurts

I don’t know what’s going on in your business, but I can tell you what happened in mine while I was keeping my heaviest story under wraps.

I’d burned through more than $28K+ in savings and racked up nearly $14K in debt.

Sure, I was getting clients. I was also spending embarrassing amounts of time and energy on far too many tire-kickers. I was making money, but certainly not enough to cover the money I was bleeding on all the products, trainings and coaching promising to fix my problem.

Sound familiar?

By the way, 80% of that stuff was worth the investment, but only half (or less) of it was effective for me because I wasn’t ready ON THE INSIDE to execute on it.

The BIG reason I wasn’t ready to execute on it was because I had NOT come to grips with telling my story.

As a life-long saver and the mother of two young children living in one of the most expensive places to live on the East coast, I can tell you that the money fear got REAL. Fast.

And thank God it did.

Because it forced me to stare that mother of a story right in the eye and deal with it.

I knew when I started my business that I would one day tell the story I never wanted to tell, even though I did everything in my power not to tell it for the first two years of my business.

And I paid for not telling it.

Oh did I pay.

Here’s the thing.

I didn’t just pay for it in my business.

If you know my story then you know the hurt goes much deeper than that.

(If you don’t, you can hear it in my webinar The Connect & Convert Strategy — How to Turn Your Audience Into Paying Clients with Your Powerful Personal Story.)

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Look, I’m not saying that hiding your story will actually kill you or your business.

What I am saying is that Maya An
gelou wasn’t kidding.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”

And if that untold story is the very reason why you do what you do, your business will continue to struggle until you find a way to tell it.

How to Feel Good About Sharing Something That FELT Bad

I’m not going to bullshit you.

Facing the ugly stuff in your life isn’t easy.

Sharing what you might consider the broken parts of your story with A LOT of people is downright terrifying.

At first.

But if you truly care about connecting with your community, your clients, your loved ones – then this is the straight up truth . . .

Your real story, the messy one with all its pain, shame and secrets IS your BEST story.

It’s the one that forges the deepest bond with your audience.

As long as:

  1. You’re not still living it
  2. You’ve made sense of it for yourself
  3. You’ve made sense of it for your audience

Let’s begin with #1.

If you’re still waist deep IN your story, hear this loud and clear. That is NOT the story you share with your audience and potential clients. Maybe it becomes a story someday (or maybe not), but until it’s resolved it’s not a story your audience wants or needs to hear.

[Note: DO share what you’re experiencing with someone who can help you get through it!]

That being said, you’re story doesn’t need to be over in order to tell it. In fact, if it’s your personal journey that fuels your purpose and your work, no doubt your story is still unfolding.

Let’s look at #2. Even though hiding my story for the first two years of my business caused lots of tears, fear and anxiety, the truth is I wasn’t ready to tell it. I thought I’d made sense of it years before but as a result of starting my business, a harsh truth emerged. I had more work to do.

If you haven’t worked out what you think, feel and believe because of what you’ve experienced, you have to figure that out first precisely so you won’t burden your audience with your story.

And finally, #3.

Once you clear any of the last hangers-on of emotional and energetic pain surrounding your story, you may still struggle with the more obvious challenge that all storytellers face:

Does this matter to my audience, and if so, why?

This is the most important piece of the puzzle friends.

If you can’t find the intersection between your audience and your story, then it’s just a story.

Yes, it could be emotional, powerful, shocking, inspirational, but if it lacks RELEVANCE, you leave your audience wondering what it all means for them.

Fortunately for coaches, it’s often your personal journey and growth that drives you to do the work you do.

That’s why telling your story – no matter how much it makes you want to puke – is so important for connecting deeply with the people who can benefit most from it.

And when you finally tell that damn story you don’t want to tell, you’ll see that your audience doesn’t feel bad for you at all.

Because your pain helps them heal.

Because sharing your darkest truths is surprisingly liberating.

Because your story sets people free in the most meaningful way.

And isn’t that the point?

The Connect & Convert Strategy

How to Captivate Your Audience & Turn Them Into Paying Clients with Your Powerful Personal Story

Want to learn how to turn that painful story into profits?

Watch this free webinar and learn:

  • What the world’s most successful coaches & consultants are doing right now to grow their empire & change thousands (sometimes millions) of people’s lives
  • The essential elements for creating a powerful & profitable story that your audience actually cares about
  • How to use your story to cut the amount of time it takes you to get a client in half
  • Right & wrong approaches to telling your story — And ONE HUGE pointer that will increase your sales!
  • An easy-t0-follow system that will help you connect with the right people from this point on so you can do your best work with clients you love & watch your profits soar! 

Click here to get instant access (no opt in required!)

What’s something painful you’ve been avoiding in your story? How is it holding you back? Share in the comments.

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