Why You Should be Charging (More) for Your Work

Image by Reinis Traidas, available under CC BY 2.0.

Why You Should be Charging (More) for Your Work

Written by Emilie

Topics: Coaching, Work

A while back I began working one-on-one with multipotentialites, showing them how they could become professional multipotentialites by turning their insatiable curiosity into a business.

It started with my “real life” friends. I saw my most creative pals struggling to make ends meet, merely enduring unsatisfying day jobs. I saw such talent being wasted, and I thought, I have knowledge that can help them! I need to help them in any way I can. It became my mission.

It never even occurred to me to charge them. I mean, why would I charge people for something I love doing? This is information I’m totally jazzed about sharing! Also, isn’t offering my services for free to the people who really need me but can’t afford me, the best way to help?

Working for Free was Awesome… At First

During our coaching sessions, my friends lit up with excitement as I explained what was possible. We would go through their many interests, craft an overarching theme and mission statement, and talk about ways in which they could make money and best serve the world by doing all the things they loved.

I gave them direct, actionable steps. I told them precisely what to do to get their businesses off the ground. They left our sessions  enlightened and inspired. They now had knowledge that could make a real difference in their lives!

But Did My Advice Change their Lives?

No. It did not.

And it’s not because it wasn’t killer advice either.

It’s because they didn’t implement any of it.

Not one of my real life friends that I offered free coaching to took action. Not one.

This frustrated me to no end, not only because they had wasted my time, but because I had invested emotional energy in their cause! I believed in them and I knew they had it in them to absolutely crush it!

It was so painful to see my favourite people continue down the same path of discontentment, squandering their greatest gifts. It also made me feel powerless… and that is a really shitty feeling. I felt like I wasn’t making a difference at all.

(Note: if any of said people are reading this now and still want help, take action and prove to me that you’re serious first. Then we’ll talk.)

The Power of Perceived Value

What I realized is that by not charging, I was doing the exact opposite of what I had set out to do: I was not helping them. In fact, I was doing them an incredible disservice.

Lets compare these results to the results of my paying clients. Hell, lets compare these results to the pro bono work I did online with my contest winners!

Almost every single paying client and every one of my contest winners took immediate action. If they already had a website, they began seeing fast results in the way of traffic and growth. If they were just getting started, it was only a matter of weeks before they launched their own digital business.

And you know why? It’s because price communicates value. Also when you invest money into your future, you’re infinitely more likely to follow through.

But even my free coaching winners took action (some even re-hired me), because they knew that nearly 30 people had wanted these slots, but I had chosen them. They wanted to soak up as much information as they could in our 20 minutes. They also wanted to prove to me that I hadn’t made a mistake by choosing them.

How to Get Paid for Doing What You Love and Feel Good About It

1. Provide Incredible Value and Know You’re Providing Incredible Value

Determine what your passions are and find a way to use those passions to help people. What kind of benefit are you providing? Are you inspiring people with your ideas? Are you helping people make changes towards a healthier lifestyle? Are you moving people with your art?

I’ll never forget something Dan Andrews once said in his podcast: Don’t walk around saying “pick me! pick me!” Instead, be so good that you can’t be ignored.”

Work on building confidence. If you don’t believe in the value you provide, why should anyone else?

2. Clearly Communicate the Value You Provide

Be straightforward and honest (not modest, honest). Tell the world exactly what they can expect to gain from working with you. If you’re an artist, don’t just tell, show. Put together a portfolio of your work. Actually freelancers and consultants should be “showing” as well. Back up your talk with testimonials and case studies.

3. Charge Proper Rates!

I know that when you’re doing what you love- when you’re teaching or writing or painting, it feels almost dirty asking for cash. You think, should I really be charging people for something I would happily do anyway?

Yes, you should.

We’ve been conditioned to believe that work needs to feel bad, that it needs to be hard and painful, and that what we’re being compensated for is the pain we endure. This is completely backwards. You should be compensated for the value you provide, and that’s it. If you deliver, you deliver. Only results matter.

Also, once you no longer need to worry about how you’ll pay your bills, it frees you up to create more amazing work. Getting paid is good for everyone.

Learning from My Mistakes

Like so many of my blog posts, the idea for this article came to me when I realized I was doing things wrong. (It occurred to me during #failweek actually, which is appropriate).

I realized 2 things:

  1. I’ve been severely undervaluing my services. I’m charging way WAY below standard industry rates for my coaching, and in doing so I’m doing nobody any favours.
  2. I’ve been doing a terrible job of communicating the specific benefits of my service.

Well, enough of that! I provide immense value and both my rates and my message should reflect that. This knowledge  changed my life. It took me from being a lost and confused multipotentialite with a zillion interests and no clue how to harness them, to someone living an awesome life based around variety, doing all the things I love on a regular basis! This stuff is hella useful.

Changes are Afoot

I’ve decided that it’s time to make a few changes around here:

1. I’ve completely revamped my coaching page

I also made you a video to explain precisely what you can expect to get from coaching:

 

Check out the whole shabang here.

2. I will be increasing my rates

If you’ve been thinking about squashing that voice inside that says: “How the hell can I bring my many interests together in a way that keeps me happy and makes money?!” then you should get in touch with me immediately.

I can’t say exactly when the prices will increase (depends how booked up I get), but it will be soon.

***

Your Turn

Are you charging enough for your work? If not, what’s holding you back?

36 Comments

  1. Morgan says:

    Interesting you should mention this. I’ve had a few clients in the past who I offered lower prices to when I was first getting started just to get some clients, but now I’m having to raise prices and I’m beginning to feel weary about it. But in the end, I’ve noticed that clients are more than willing to pay more, especially when they know it’ll produce a higher quality product.

    And on the other side of the spectrum, I know I’m far more serious about my education or what-not, when money is involved. When I get free coaching or free anything, I just don’t take it as seriously and like your friends, tend to blow it off.

    It’s human nature to just blow off something if they’re not invested in it somehow. Whether that investment involves money, emotion or physical activity. It’s a personal investment of some kind that they’re bound to, which means they’ll take it more seriously.

    Great post!

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Morgan,

      Yeah, the pricing issue really is tough for freelancers. I dealt with this big time with my web design clients. Especially when past clients would re-hire me and I’d have to break the news to them that prices had increased since our last time working together.

      Like you said though, usually they’re happy to pay. It’s more the internal turmoil of having that “talk” that’s hard to deal with. Sort of makes you question the value of your services all over again. But with experience comes confidence. It definitely get easier.

      Glad to hear your business is going so well though!

  2. Michelle says:

    This is a timely post for me – I’m starting to actively try and source more writing work, and a lot of the work that I’ve been doing is content marketing/SEO type work, but I’d like to shift towards working one-on-one with creative businesses to craft content or copy that perfectly fits their needs. This would be about a million and a half times more enjoyable for me as a writer, and I have NO IDEA what to charge. I don’t know what the going rates are for that sort of work, and I have this nagging, deep seated fear that I’m not good enough to do work I enjoy, just good enough to do work that merely pays the bills. I imagine that same fear is at the root of a lot of peoples’ pricing woes.

    (I’ll admit that I’m pretty proud of myself because, despite all of these worries, I’ve FINALLY set up a page that describes my writing services and has a placeholder for the two lines of consulting services I’m working on, which is a huge step for me since I’ve been putting that off for literally six months or so. Later this week I’m going to set aside my pricing worries and try to create some service packages. Baby steps, right?)

    • Seth says:

      Hey Michelle,
      I do a little creative content development you describe. Depending on the client, I try and base my rates on those set by the Editorial Freelancers Association. If nothing else, their rate table is a good place to start: http://bit.ly/4qA43h

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Michelle,

      I totally hear you on this! That nagging deep-seeded fear you’re describing? Man.. I know that voice. It’s like one day you’re doing what you love and you’re in the flow and you feel unstoppable, and the next, you wonder what you were ever thinking! I try to just take action anyway, even if I’m feeling like a big phony. Act “as if”. It might not make you feel better, but at least you’ll get stuff done and you’ll be moving forward.

      Congrats on the services page! That’s a big step. It was super scary for me too, and took a few iterations and some feedback from people who knew what they were talking about. But what’s most important is that you move forward, even if it’s at a slow pace.

      If it makes you feel any better, Barbara Sher likes to say that “what you love is what you’re gifted at”, so don’t worry that you’re not “good enough” to do what you enjoy. Check it out:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31AYBZfy7jk

  3. Cara Stein says:

    I ran into the exact same thing when I tried to coach my “real life” people. I think coaching is especially prone to this phenomenon because the problems people go into coaching for are generally difficult and require hard changes, or they wouldn’t be hiring a coach in the first place. Plus, unlike buying a book or whatever, it’s easy to sit back and hope the coach will magic up a solution.

    Meanwhile, if you have a business, you have to charge professional prices for your stuff, especially for something like coaching that can’t just be resold over and over in e-junkie! Charging what you’re worth is what allows you to have a business, and to have the time and energy to be able to do your great work.

    • Emilie says:

      Interesting that this happened to you too, Cara. I bet it’s a pretty common phenomenon for beginning coaches.

      And you’re right, detaching yourself from the price and looking at it like a business is a great way to do it. Businesses need to make a certain amount to sustain themselves. You need to be able to pay the rent after all. There’s your bottom line right there. I like that approach a lot.

      Thanks for the comment Cara. :)

  4. Chase Night says:

    Very timely post for me! I just launched a Letter.ly and I felt guilty all weekend for doing so. This post helped me feel more confident about my decision. Even if not that many people sign up, it lays the groundwork for me saying “Hey, you wanna read, and I wanna eat. Let’s help each other!”

    Great post, Emilie! Best of luck with your coaching services!

    • Emilie says:

      Wow, congrats Chase! Launching a paid product is always terrifying. You’re right, it’s guilt. The first time I booked a real client, I felt horribly guilty. I also felt a lot of pressure! But if anything, I over delivered at our session.

      I think those guilt/fear feelings are normal when we start. It means we care and take it seriously. If we didn’t feel it and could just go around effortlessly asking for money, that’d be a bad sign.

      Good luck on your Letter.ly! Keep me posted on how it’s going.

    • Holli says:

      I am really curious about letter.ly and would love to hear how it’s going for you…I haven’t found myself with something to sell, only a need to fill. “it, this post has me thinking:D

  5. Seth says:

    Emilie, great post. A freelancer who doesn’t charge for their services doesn’t eat. It’s that simple. Or they end up waiting tables or delivering pizza or whatever to support themselves.

    When I was starting out, I did a bit of free work in order to build my portfolio. Here’s what I learned (and you hinted at these points):

    -If you don’t value your services, no one else will either. The exception is when you add something like ‘my normal rate is XX/hour, but I’ll do this for free/cheap because…’
    -People are more likely to use and appreciate something they’ve paid for.
    -When you work for free or cheap you price yourself out of business. Big retailers can compete on price, but you can’t outsource your brain.

    Despite what some people might say, profit isn’t a dirty word, especially when it allows you to create something amazing.

    • Emilie says:

      Nicely put, Seth. This is definitely part of the reason I see so many struggling artist friends of mine waiting tables. They aren’t valuing their work highly enough. It’s such a common problem. Funny how much easier it is to take a paycheck from an employer than a freelance client. No guilt there, huh?

  6. Holli says:

    Great post, and I can honestly say I think you should raise your rates:)
    One question I have floating around in my head is this: is it better to just build a voice and give things for free, or start out with a valuable product?
    For example, I am passionate about real food and create new recipes according to my daughter’s food allergies. I feel like sharing them is helping the world, but would charging for them create more value?
    I think I am just starting to find my balance in baby steps, and the income aspect isn’t where I am at right now (thankfully have food in the cupboards).

    • Emilie says:

      Great question Holli. It’s so funny because Tyler Tervooren published a post on this topic today. I thought it was fantastic:

      http://advancedriskology.com/counterintuitive-guide-to-pricing/

      I 100% agree with his approach:

      Insanely useful + general = free

      Insanely useful + specific = paid

      (and from a commenter:)

      Insanely useful + personalized = top dollar

      I’ve always been of the camp that giving out free content on your blog is the way to go, especially as you build your community. I think you should keep giving out your best stuff on your blog, even once you release paid products. The paid products are for those who want to dig a little deeper and get into specifics.

      I think there’s a huge difference between publishing a blog post that could help thousands of people versus 1-1 coaching, which is very time consuming and only really helps one person at a time.

      But to answer your question, I would definitely provide free recipes on your blog. Definitely. However, what you can do in the future is compile your best recipes that you’ve already posted and package them as an ebook. This is how most ebooks are made actually. Your community could go digging through your archives to find them all, but that’s a huge pain. They will usually happily pay for the convenience of having everything nicely packaged and put together in one document.

      • Holli says:

        Thank you, I appreciate the link and breakdown.
        I have a friend going on a restricted diet and find myself thinking of recipes just for her…might be something worth money that I’d enjoy.
        Love the idea of an ecookbook – your explanation makes it sound so much easier than what I was thinking (creating new recipes).
        Thank you!

        • Emilie says:

          Ou I wonder if it’s the same restricted diet I’m on! (It’s a tough one. Takes a lot of creativity to make yummy food… But maybe we’ll discuss this in a different forum. Heh.)

          Glad I could help Holli. :)

          • Holli says:

            It’s great to think of a restricted diet as a forum for creativity:) Feel free to email me and if it’s the same, I can point you to or provide some recipes.

  7. Business, money and selling are not dirty. It’s how shit gets done. Do you feel guilty for buying stuff you need? Nope. Do the people who make the stuff you need feel guilty for selling it to you? Nope.

    Would you buy from someone who cringed before you and felt guilty about selling you something you want? Nope. You would suddenly decide you don’t want it anymore. Not from that person.

    If you can’t sell with confidence you don’t really have anything to offer people.

    • Emilie says:

      The no-bullshit blogger weighs in! Well said, Michael. :)

    • Abe says:

      I agree with you Michael. It’s all about confidence and how YOU value your services and time. Pricing is relative. I always think about service “experts” like mechanics, plumbers, electricians, etc. and how most of us don’t bat a lash when they ask for their rates. It’s because we have a specific problem that we need solved immediately and we don’t know how to solve it ourselves. Same goes for the problems we solve for other people by being a consultant, coach, or anything else. Pick a price, test, iterate, adjust.

      Emilie, you’re doing just that! Rock.

      • Abe, thanks man! Not to bash plumbers & mechanics but what we do is at least as valuable as that if not more to those who seek us out.

        I can find a hundred mechanics in my small town alone, but how many blog consultants are there? How many multipotentialite coaches are there? I think that’s worth more than an oil change.

        In the past I’ve been in favor of having prices out in the open and letting people pre-buy, but you’ll make even more money by selling over the phone during an initial consultation call and tailoring your fees to your gut feeling and to individual situations. You can charge anyone anything that way and raise your fees all you want if your fees aren’t public to begin with.

        Your job is then lead generation: getting inquiries.

        • Abe says:

          I should’ve left the snarky quotes out haha. I’m sure there are a ton of remarkable (in the Linchpin sense) plumbers and mechanics out there that are worth every cent and then some. I’m just using those professions as comparison because I see so many creatives undervaluing their gifts. Valuable work is valuable work. Thanks for sharing the out-in-the-open prices thing Michael. I can never have enough good case studies on pricing :)

  8. Tina Su says:

    You’re a great writer Emilie!

    Was just browsing by and wanted to let you know that. :)

    Love your authenticity and energy (in the video).

    Fellow Canadian,
    Tina

  9. Angela says:

    Excellent idea raising those rates! Some of my family members look at me disbelievingly when I tell them how much I charge for web development (they think I’m joking it seems so high to them), but when I tell prospective clients what I charge I get the feeling they think it’s low (if true they’d never admit it because they’re getting a deal). Work hard, prove that you’re totally worth the money (which you are!), and all will go well. You’re awesome!

    • Emilie says:

      Aw thanks Angela. You were a great student. :)

      Yeah, the standard is totally different from industry to industry. When I tell my barista/waiter friends what I make from web design, they’re usually shocked. But my clients usually react the way yours do. They’re usually pleasantly surprised.

      p.s. you’re an awesome coder. :)

  10. 8 Months ago I wanted more cash. I jacked the prices on my core web business by ~20% and said I’d let it run for a month. I made about 20% extra that month and now do so every month…

    Should I jack it again!? ;)

  11. Abe says:

    …and here’s a fantastic take on raising rates from web designer Sarah J. Bray. I love the cross-discipline coach/design/plumber learning action we have going on in these comments. Slashers UNITE!

    http://sarahjbray.com/2011/04/qa-how-do-you-know-if-youre-charging-enoughtoo-much/

    (p.s. looks like you already found this one Cara!)

  12. Emilie,
    You are SO worth every penny. I am looking forward to working with you again soon- you totally gave me manageable tools to use on my blog and I sincerely feel that I’m going to need your guidance again soon.

    As soon as my grad school classes are over in two weeks, I’m going to be doing a “crash course,” in building MY life and business…this means books, podcasts, journaling…and a COACH! (That’s you!)

    Though times are tight- I’ve cut out restaurants/any form of dining out for 30 days to put towards my long term goals..I think it’s an excellent trade off and a sacrifice I’m willing to make! I think if I’m willing to make it happen (even on a grad student budget) others will be too- it’s an investment that’s well worth it.

    Thank you for working with me Emilie, I look forward to doing so again soon!

    • Emilie says:

      You’re amazing Shannyn! This comment is going in my “woo!” file. :) Thank you!!!

      I really look forward to working with you again too. I think you’re doing amazing work at FruBu, providing really empowering information for personal and financial freedom. We’re going to make sure that people know it! :)

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