What’s your perception of value? Pt 2

A few years back, I had an eye-opening experience around money. I had an interview to be hired by a small social-profit corporation to to marketing and PR for them for a summer. I got the interview via my network, so these people didn’t know me at all. I did some research around what I should charge, and when they asked me what my rate was, I said, without hesitation, and with some confidence, “$30 to $50 an hour,” which seemed like a huge sum of money to me at the time. And you know what, they didn’t even blink. I got the job, and it paid for a trip to Europe that fall.

A week ago, I put up a post about how people perceive our value, and more importantly, about how we perceive our own value. I was starting to feel out of my depth, but handily, I have a money coach in my network, so I turned to her.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Shell Tain:

RC: If I’m just getting started, how do I know how much to charge for my work?

ST: Well, if I’m just starting out, how much to charge is partially a math question, but it’s never solely a math question. There is some research to be done about what other people charge who are doing what I want to do, and what is the range of charges for this in my geographic community. That’s the math part. Even more important, whether new to the game or an old hand, is creating enough commitment with the charge that someone really shows up. What is the amount that has the client have something at stake, but not freaked out? I once had a couple of very wealthy clients. My normal fee just wasn’t even the cost of lunch for them. They didn’t show up. Where is that tipping point? You always have to experiment to find it, but it’s worth finding.

On the emotional side, money isn’t just about money, it’s about self worth. Yep, self worth. So, somehow I get tangled in that the client is buying me, and putting a value on me, and gosh what does that bring up? So there we are, tangled up when we are asked how much we charge. Here’s an alternative perspective: they actually aren’t buying you, or even what you do, they are buying the results. They are buying how something will be different, better, or complete once you have done what you do. So that’s worth something to them. And it’s something they can’t easily do themselves, or they would have.

So, here’s the technique.

Once you have figured out what the charge is, get your brain firmly around it so it’s easy to say. Then, when the potential customer asks for the fee, state it, clearly, without back tracking and then, (this is the most important part) SHUT UP! Stop talking. Let the silence be there, awkward as it may be. See what they say. Don’t anticipate; don’t make up objections for them. See what they say. They might actually say something like “fine”. They might say “Gee that’s expensive” to which you could say “yes, and it’s worth it”. They might say “I can’t afford that” to which you say “I understand, and what would it be like for you to have the work done?” What you do not do is discount your fees, collude with them about finding the money to pay for it, or add things on. You want them to understand the value. Pushing back on the fee can mean they don’t see the value. It can also mean they just like to bargain.

RC: But what if I loose the customer entirely, because I wasn’t willing to negotiate the fees?

ST: Let me answer an even more important question than “what if you lose the potential customer”, that is “what if I get the customer by lowering my fees?” What’s the cost of that? Well that hard teacher, Experience, has shown me and many of my clients that the costs of discounting fees are many. One really challenging one is that it diminishes your credibility with the customer. That shows up by them criticizing your choices and micro managing you. Another cost is that by dealing with this customer for less money, you aren’t available to the customer who would pay your full fee. And yet another is that if other potential customers find out you discounted they will either want a discount too, of feel foolish for having paid your full fee. What a tangled web this can be. If the idea of standing firm on your price still just drives you crazy I suggest that you create a “one time” special package for some multiple units of whatever you sell. You can offer this to everyone, and limit how long it goes on.

RC: Last words of advice?

ST: You deserve to be paid well, and if you are underpaid, or worse yet, give away your time and expertise, you will resent it. And if you resent it, you are likely to not do as good a job. All that just creates a never ending cycle. Remember, you do well what they can’t, don’t want to, or find harder to do than you. What a gift you bring.

Shell will be answering all your money-related questions in a teleclass we’ve cooked up together. That is, I will ask the questions, and she will answer them. You should feel free to listen, and join in and ask questions, if you like.

Here’s the details:
Tuesday, May 4, 2010, 10:15 am Pacific Time

Can Artists be Friends with Money?

As creatives, we just want to be creative! We are passionate about our art, and want to spend all of our time doing that, not thinking about how to pay the rent, how to market ourselves, and how to create more income. If you want to survive, thrive, and even prosper as an artist, you need to get clear about your relationship with money.

  • Does it feel like money is some mysterious thing that no one ever really explained to you?
  • Do you sometimes wish that you never had to think about money again?
  • Does crunching numbers sound about as fun as a root canal?

Money coach, Shell Tain will be with us to point out the money related road blocks that keep us stuck in the mindset of being starving artists. Shell has a no-number-crunching approach to money that helps us see it in new ways. You’ll leave the call with some new perspectives and ideas about you and money.

To register, go to Shell’s website. Or send her an email.

Shell Tain, PCC, CPCC, is the founder of $ensible Coaching. Shell helps people find a way out of their money knots; the beliefs and thinking that ties us up and gets us stuck. A background in accounting and ten years as a successful money coach make Shell extremely well qualified.  She coaches, speaks, does teleseminars, workshops and presentations all about how we relate to money.  Check out her website at www.sensiblecoaching.com

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

Comments 2

  1. Great advice from Shell Tain!

    I share my experience as President and CEO of Mobile Productions, GmbH, Zurich, Switzerland.

    Graphic designer, Max Davis – (http://www.maxdavisco.com) for my Mobile Joe Green’s Greatest Hits!™ identity presented to me his “set fees” to create an “identity”. (On his web page on his BLOG, you can see this MJJGH identity).

    Max also saw, (long before I did), the long term potential implications of my “identity” and suggested many design options for the use of my identity as I progress with my “Brand” over the next five years.

    I appreciated his straightforward approach. And, I did not accept his first price.

    Not because of “value”, but, because I had a budget that I could not exceed for creating an identity. I told him politely, upfront what my budget was. This was the best thing for me to do, because, I believe in the old adage, “you get what you pay for”. (This was “burned” into my consciousness by my wise “Russian” grandmother).

    Max is forever tied to my “identity” for Mobile Joe Green’s Greatest Hits!™. We have moved onto “biz” cards and the next stage is the “swag design” for the “brand”.

    We “professionally” agreed upon a price that fit my budget, his “value” and I am so happy with his work I also recommend him and his work – he has gained clients in Mexico from my recommendations.

    We are also now friends, and, he, my husband and I, (also so from Santa Cruz, CA area), have a lot of fun together in San Miguel de Allende as Max is discovering Mexico and the “joys/challenges” of building his home in SMA. (It is still a work in progress, but then, so is Mexico!).

    Thanks Rebecca, and Shell for sharing!



  2. “You deserve to be paid well, and if you are underpaid, or worse yet, give away your time and expertise, you will resent it”

    I would agree that there are situations where this is the case. If you go into a relationship to a customer/recipient of service initially as a full free market price negotiation and then wind up doing work for free you will most likely be resentful and quite possibly not even do a good job, further endangering your reputation. This is particularly true if the client makes profit off of your time and expertise and doesn’t share it with you.

    However, as one who does work for big money, small money, and as a gift within two of my professional spheres I would like to expand on this.

    In one of my careers I am a social worker. One of my “customers” is the the local health board. I am paid a good wage for my services and expertise in this setting. I also provide my services and expertise to a local children’s camp. For this I receive no financial remuneration. I am not in the slightest resentful about my work there. My skills are a gift freely given. Many others in my field work for sliding scales dependent on client’s abilities to pay, and they decide how many people they need to see at what price point to make it work for them financially.

    In the end we each have to decide how we are going to do our billing, what we are going to charge and who we are going to charge it to. I do know people who believe that they should do nothing without being paid “their due”. Some are very wealthy, some are happy, and some are resentful, miserable people too.

    Particularly in the arts I am afraid I would have to make a plea for some leniency with regard not “giving away your time and expertise”. As it stands at present if no one gave away or discounted their time or expertise the arts would essentially collapse. The actual fee that the ticket buying public is willing to pay is somewhere in the neighbourhood of half the cost of putting up theatre shows of any size at all. For the rest we are largely dependent on two things: 1) the government valuing our work sufficiently to purchase a substantial proportion of our services on behalf of the community at large (in the form of grants etc) and we all know how well that’s going in BC, and 2) people who are willing to give away their time and expertise… God help us if all of us who are willing to work on co-ops that pay $2 an hour or worse yet cost us money, or are willing to offer our services as a gift to all of the companies and festivals that depend on them decide that we will do nothing without being paid our “worth”.

    I could go on (and on and on, just ask my friends) about things like non-monetary value in work settings, social profit, motivations and intentions in waged and non-waged work, etc etc. but I will go now… I have some time and expertise I am going to give away to a local theatre tonight.

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