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Building a Network: Working from Home Doesn’t Mean Working Alone (Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who left her HR career behind to pursue freelance writing and to spend more time with her young daughters at home. This article is based upon her own entrepreneurial journey and balancing family and work.


Building a Network: Working from Home Doesn’t Mean Working Alone

The flexibility of working from home appeals to many people and is a great way to fit your job around your lifestyle. However, it can be isolating and difficult without a group of colleagues immediately on hand. Luckily, it’s easy to get out there and make connections.

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Shared Office Space

You will be able to find office rental space in almost every city, with options to suit every budget. You get a desk, Wi-Fi, coffee; all the essentials – but most importantly, colleagues right on hand to problem-solve, brainstorm, and connect with. Even if they don’t work in your specific industry, they will have transferable experience and broad networks of their own which you can plug into and take advantage of.

Social Media and Networking

If physically sharing office space isn’t for you, then it’s time to get active on social media. Social media is great for building your brand’s image and engaging with customers, but it is equally useful for making vital connections with peers in your own industry. Social media isn’t just for youngsters, it can be useful for all generations who are setting up in business. Create profiles on platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter to find other people in your field, search out possible mentors, and follow businesses and organizations with which you might want to work. Search for groups and forums, but don’t be afraid to also approach people individually. A personal touch can really make the difference!

Conferences and industry events

Keep tabs on what the big events are each year in your industry, and make time to attend them. Research ahead of time what talks, events, or trade stands are offered, and set up some meetings if you can. This will make sure your visit is worthwhile, and that you don’t end up browsing at random with nothing to show for it when you go home. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation and be sure to talk to everyone you can, exchange contact details, and then follow up when you get back home. A little effort goes a long way.

Take every opportunity

It’s important not to limit yourself to your own specific area of business. Other industries will need your skills and expertise, and at some point you’ll find yourself in need of something they can provide, especially with a growing business. For tasks like accountancy and tax returns, it’s easier and more efficient to use specialists rather than struggling yourself. If you have busy periods, you might need to bring in temporary workers to make sure everything is completed on time. Already having a great network means you have every situation covered!

Do you work from home? How do you actively build a network of fellow business owners and vendors? Share your thoughts by commenting below. 

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Dear New Entrepreneur…A Letter to My Younger Self

young entrepreneur

It was July 2011 when I handed HR my two-week notice. I still have this simple letter, modeled after a template I found online when I googled “professional resignation.” I put no more effort into creating this life-changing document than I had put into what was supposed to be my “dream job” for the past 4 months.

Before taking the entrepreneurial leap to start my own Public Relations consulting business, I worked in the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Office of Legislative Affairs. The title and the perception were the only things remotely impressive and glamorous about this job, I assure you.

My tiny cubicle, stable salary and paid time off, while a luxury for most fresh college grads, all contributed to creating a comfortable prison that just might have kept me locked away until I earned my vested retirement, had I not longed for so much more.

Blame it on my entrepreneurial spirit – or foolish confidence, but I was willing to walk away from the guarantee of a stable, but unfulfilling career, for the chance at creating something so much greater.

Nearly five years later, I thank this young entrepreneur who wasted no time pursuing her dreams. Every day I work to make her sacrifices and uncertainties worth something by continuing to grow this business while never slipping back into the monotony of a career I don’t truly love.

Like most entrepreneurs, I wish I could somehow equip my younger self with the wisdom I’ve since gained from years of experience. Though I can’t, I can hopefully inspire other new entrepreneurs to take the leap – and maybe, just maybe – change the world…or at least their own!


Dear New Entrepreneur:

I know you’re busy, and likely skeptical about the advice I want to give you, so I will get straight to the point. You know a lot; a lot more than you might give yourself credit for right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stand to learn a few things from a fellow entrepreneur who is a few years ahead of you on this journey.

I’m not trying to tell you what to do – I know that’s exactly what you’re trying to escape. But I would like to tell you that you’re on the right track, your gut is your best navigation device and the passion you feel today will continue to grow, despite what people may try and tell you. Please read on. I promise it won’t take long and it just might be that reassurance you’re so desperately looking for right now.

My advice to you, new entrepreneur is this…

Office space and employees don’t determine your success.

Right now you may be working from home as a sole proprietor just waiting for your first chance to lock into a commercial lease and hire your best friends. Stop looking for ways to tie yourself down and add to your overhead. This is everything you ran away from in Corporate America. Learn to love the freedom and efficiency of working from home with no one to answer to but yourself. Hire fellow contractors only as you need them, get to know the best coffee shops to hold client meetings and enjoy keeping so much more of your salary – and sanity.

It’s okay to walk away from a “bad” client…even if you really need the money.

Go with your gut here. If a client tries to undercut your pricing or negotiate you into a corner, be willing to walk away. There will always be more, I promise. Yeah, you could really use the money…you always will be able to “really use the money.” The drawbacks to taking on a client that is a bad fit for your business will always cost you more in the long run than they’re willing to pay. Set boundaries and respect your values. You will learn to appreciate those “good” clients so much more!

You will always be surprised by those who want to see you succeed…and those who do not.

There will always be “friends” who you think will support you way more than they actually do. It will hurt and may make you question your decision to become an entrepreneur. Your decision is not what you should be second-guessing, rather it’s your friendship with this person. But don’t take it too hard; there will also be people you barely know that will rise up as your greatest cheerleaders. Appreciate these people and do the same for them in return!

Basic skills, like mail merging and stuffing envelopes, will be just as important five years from now.

When I first started out, I thought someday I might hire someone who would send my invoices, set meetings on my calendar and answer my phone calls. Five years later and the most capable person to handle these tasks is still me. These basic skills will always be important for running your business. Stay as hands on as it makes sense. Don’t outsource something just because you think you’re above it. Keep your overhead – and your ego – in check.

Make friends with your competition.

You will meet many other businesses along your journey that appear to do exactly what you do. Before you choose to secretly stalk their social media accounts and compare your client list, sit down and get to know them! Learning more about businesses I once deemed as competition has helped to create some of the best “power partnerships” I have. It’s amazing how once you really get to know about each other and the ideal client you are each hoping to find, you will realize you don’t overlap at all. Rather, you are great referrals for one another that can work together to help you both thrive.

Never make excuses

Mistakes will happen. Hopefully they are small, but they also might be big. No matter the size or scope, take ownership of any mistake and never make excuses. If something was truly a mistake or oversight, you have nothing of which to be ashamed. We are fallible humans, even us entrepreneurs. A reasonable client will understand this simple truth, as they are bound to make a few mistakes too. You will build credibility and trust if you own up to a mistake quickly and openly without blaming it on something, or someone else.

Only you can determine what you are worth

Deciding how you will price your services will be one of the hardest parts of running your business. You will have moments when you feel horribly underpaid and moments when you question whether you’re asking for too much. My best advice is to be strategic and remain consistent. This doesn’t mean you will (or should) charge the same rates for the rest of your life. Your experience will increase and so should your fees. But developing a strategy for how you will price your projects early on will save you from second-guessing, losing clients and losing income in the future.

Work toward creating a lifestyle, not just a business

In an effort to run a business, it’s easy to make the mistake of letting the business run you. Don’t recreate the same hell you fought so hard to leave to start your entrepreneurial journey. Take time off, travel, spend some money on fun things (all within reason, of course…it doesn’t take much)! Always keep in mind your goal of creating a particular lifestyle – one that affords you to be flexible and fulfilled – not just earning a certain income no matter the real costs.

Begin and end every day with affirmations

The entrepreneurial journey can be rough at times, that goes without saying. Amidst your efforts to be self-motivated and fearless, also take it easy on yourself when you need it. Promise to begin and end every day with affirmations as to all the things you’re doing well and that are going right. It’s easy to forget and take for granted life’s little blessings when you’re so focused on ironing out every wrinkle. Appreciate the small gestures, like a green light when you really need it, that are reasons to smile.

That’s all I have for you, new entrepreneur. It’s not all the advice I could give, but it’s all I feel you really need right now. Remember…after all, you’ve got this!

What piece of advice speaks to you? Do you have other words of wisdom to offer new entrepreneurs based upon your own experience? Join in the conversation by commenting below!

 
 

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Contractors and Freelancers: Tips for Crafting a Fair and Appealing Proposal

Tips for Crafting a Fair and Appealing Proposal

When you take the entrepreneurial leap and venture out on your own as a contractor or freelancer, one of the biggest challenges is creating a competitive and consistent pricing model you can stick to. It’s a real test of self-confidence to put a rate on your hours and truly believe you are worth this much. But it’s imperative to running a successful and sustainable business!

I have previously written on topics related to pricing services (like how to price for efficiency or tips for being smart and fair). However, even if “the price is right,” a subpar proposal can jeopardize your chances of getting a signed contract. How you package your proposal gives businesses a sense of your professionalism. It’s also an important opportunity to properly scope your work and protect your pricing.

As you might anticipate, I have passionate advice to share on this topic. This has come from my own trial and (sometimes critical) error, so take note! Here are six components that help to make up a fair and appealing proposal.

Account for any task that will require your time

When you create your proposal, you want to be as specific and all-inclusive as you can be with the services you will perform. My rule of thumb is to include any task that will require a reasonable amount of your time.

So often as contractors, we forget about the time and effort we put into things like doing research, attending meetings, answering emails and jumping on phone calls for clients. This doesn’t mean you necessarily need to charge more for these “expected” tasks, but it’s worth showcasing everything that goes into your relationship with your client so they understand the full value of the work you perform.

Quantify your deliverables

Simply saying “…will post to social media accounts” doesn’t put into perspective the tangible work that will be performed. Your client may worry about what they will actually get for the money. Be overly clear – there’s no reason to be vague with your efforts! A better version is, “…will post 6 times per week to Facebook, 3 times per day to Twitter and 4 times per week to Linkedin.”

I also prefer to use language like “up to 3 rounds of edits” because this protects you from getting stuck with a difficult client who requests that you redo your work from scratch 8+ time while still providing you with the flexibility to not have to deliver 3 rounds of edits, if they are not needed.

If you don’t define it, you can’t defend it. Should a project exceed its scope, you want to reserve the right to say that it is outside the terms of the proposal and is subject to an additional cost.

Organize services by goals

Showing your client you are an organized and detail-oriented professional begins with your proposal. Help them quickly grasp the value of what they will receive by organizing your services by the goal they aim to achieve. This will help to paint the bigger picture of how each service is strategically designed to work together and will also make your deliverables clear and direct. For clients who came to you without really knowing their goals, this added feature of your proposal will help them to feel secure under your direction (i.e. you’ll look like you have your stuff together).

Include an hourly rate for miscellaneous services

It’s natural for a project to exceed its scope once you’re signed into a contract and dig into the tasks. For example, your client may want five more web pages designed or would now like to add a weekly blog. These items will require more of your time and you need to get paid for this.

So long as you properly quantified your deliverables (see previous section we just discussed), you should have no problem responding to your client with “That sounds like a great idea! Let me get you a quote for that additional work.”

In an effort to appear both professional and transparent, I often include a line item in my proposals that note that miscellaneous writing and communication services can be completed at the rate of $X per hour. This gives clients a heads up for your normal hourly rate and reminds them that work outside the scope of this proposal is subject to additional cost.

Offer a discount for long-term commitments

For contracts that intend to be on a reoccurring basis (i.e. they have the same repeated deliverables each month with no obvious end date), I structure the pricing of my proposal to encourage clients to sign into a long-term commitment in exchange for a price break. Why? Contractors and freelancers love residual paychecks and clients love to feel like they’re getting a deal!

I suggest having three different price points. The most expensive is month-to-month. The added value here is the client’s complete flexibility to get out of a contract with minimal commitment. The next tier is per quarter. Finally, there is the annual contract pricing which is the best deal. I allow clients to still pay the breakdown each month (for cash flow sake), but they are committed to the length of the contract.

Bonus tip: I also include wording in the contract to allow for the client to adjust or increase services at any time, so long as the minimum contract price remains the same. This gives the client flexibility to add and remove services should their goals change over the course of a long-term contract, or should they wish to increase services (always a welcome change).

Set an expiration date

Finally, I have learned to include an “expiration date” on my proposals (usually 30 days from the date issued) to protect my pricing. I’ve experienced some clients go completely radio silent after receiving a proposal and then come back 4+ months later ready to engage. I can’t anticipate what other clients I may take on in the future and how my pricing may need to change to accommodate my bandwidth. The proposal expiration date allows me the right to issue a new proposal after 30 days has passed and change my pricing as I see fit. Every business must be mindful of supply and demand and how this impacts pricing; for contractors and freelancers, this is your hourly rate.

Additionally, an expiration date should give clients a nudge of encouragement to make a decision within 30 days and lock in your pricing and services while they are favorable and available. I’ve preached about how “a no is as good as a yes.” You want to receive a response to your proposal, even if it’s a no, so you can move forward….or move on.

What other questions do you have for crafting a fair and appealing proposal? Ask and I’ll answer!

 
 

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Why It’s Cheaper to Hire a Professional

hiring a professional

It’s our nature to bargain shop. Why pay full price when we can score a discount, right? I don’t disagree with this mentality when it comes to shoes, handbags or grocery bills. However, there are certain instances when choosing the rock bottom price can really cost you.

There will be various times in your life when you will have to choose whether you want to pay a little more to work with a professional or save a few bucks and hire an amateur. This applies to countless services such as wedding planning, web design, copy writing, marketing and social media management – to name a few. In my experience, I have found that so many of my clients have been burned by first working with an amateur before coming to me. The small amount of money they saved with this decision didn’t come close to offsetting the quality of work the amateur produced or the headache it took to manage them.

Rather than judging a job solely based on its price tag, carefully consider everything else this “bargain shopping” stands to cost you. Here are five reasons why, when looking at the big picture, it is actually a better deal to work with a professional from the start.

  1. Get it right the first time

When you work with a professional, you are much more likely to be given a final product that you are happy with the first time around. Working with an amateur may be cheaper, but it will most certainly cost you time as you muddle through draft after draft of mediocre work.

Ultimately you must consider the value of your time. If you are spending business hours vetoing work that doesn’t make the grade, this is time you are not spending running your own business. Using a professional will substantially decrease the time it takes to finalize a product you are thrilled with.

  1. Quality work that will stand the test of time

Additionally, hiring a professional will give you a final product that will maintain its quality over the coming months and years. Think about buying clothes or building a house. Investing in quality materials will give you a much longer lifespan for these products – as will working with a professional for your marketing and content writing needs.

A professional knows how to create content and strategies that are “evergreen” and give you the biggest bang for your buck for the longest amount of time. An amateur often lacks the foresight and expertise to create something that not only functions great now, but will stand the test of time.

  1. Less micromanaging on your part

When you choose to work with a professional, you benefit from not having to constantly look over their shoulder, badger them with follow-up emails or micromanage every project they complete for you. Simply put, you can trust them to do the job and do it right.

A professional is an equal partner, not a direct report. While they defer to you for a final decision, they bring to the table their own skills and area of expertise that complement your own and make up for where you may lack. You don’t need to hover over them to make sure they stay on task – they are self-motivated and function as a one-person department within your business, even when outsourced.

  1. Expert ideas you may not have thought of

One of the most valuable aspects of working with a professional is that they offer up expert ideas that you may never have considered. Professionals are by no means a “Yes-Man” to your requests. They have experience executing countless strategies for industries very much like your own and can offer trade secrets that they know to be effective or steer you away from strategies that have proven ineffective.

While you may think you know what you want, experts know what you actually need. Amateurs are willing to provide you with whatever you ask for, but this doesn’t always deliver the most favorable outcome. Sometimes you need someone to help you see the light and guide you toward a new and even better option.

  1. A strategic partner to steer you in the right direction

Most importantly, when you hire a professional, you gain a strategic partner. As a business owner or entrepreneur, you can feel alone and isolated in your work. Sometimes what you really need – more than someone to simply take tasks off your plate – is someone to steer you in the right direction. I have personally found with many of my clients, that once we build a level of trust within our relationship, I become a sounding board for various business ideas that may not even relate to the services I provide.

Business owners (myself included) need a strategic partner, a right-hand-person, or just someone who understands the complexity of the decisions we must make on a regular basis and offer us some stability and reassurance when the ship really gets to rocking. An amateur cannot offer this same level of expertise when it comes to business consulting. They aren’t seasoned or experienced in the same way a professional is. To pay for business consulting services alone is a sizeable investment; when you work with the right professional, this comes as part of the whole package!

Have you found it to be cheaper or more expensive to work with a professional in the long-run? Share your personal experiences by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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Moving Beyond the Time Sheet: Making Efficiency Part of Your Pricing

mowing lawnSeveral months ago I wrote about how to be smart and fair when pricing your services. This is a critical area for any business and also one which can be the most challenging. It’s hard to put a price on passion. We risk either under valuing our services or becoming too-consumed with our work and pricing ourselves too high. Even after we have developed a consistent method for setting an hourly rate and accurately predicting the hours involved for any given project, we’re still faced with the double-edge sword of efficiency. To better illustrate my points, let me offer this analogy:

Say you want to pay someone to mow your grass. Your yard provides a well-defined scope and size for a project, yet several mowing companies provide you with very different pricing. Why? The difference between each company’s tools, experience and efficiency all play a role in the variables of their rate. One mowing company may only have access to a push mower and so they have to account for an employee taking 4-6 hours to complete the work. Another company may have equipment with all the bells and whistles requiring just 20 minutes to complete the project, but they must recoup the cost of the capital for this equipment. The second mowing company may spend far less time on your yard, but they can’t (and likely won’t) charge you just for 20 minutes of work. There’s the factor of efficiency which also has a price.

As business owners we should strive to become efficient with our work, but we shouldn’t then penalize ourselves for this skill. Although our ability to complete a project in less time means technically less billing hours, we need to keep in mind that there’s much more to pricing services than just our time. Take a look at the following three pillars of pricing that move beyond the time sheet and are worth considering when pricing your services. These may also help you understand why other companies price their services the way they do:

Scope of project

The size (or scope) of a project plays a large role in pricing, but not the only role. Businesses shouldn’t price a project based upon time alone. There should always be built-in motivation to be efficient with both time and resources and to not take advantage of a time sheet. I’ve moved as far from time sheets as I can because it penalizes my efficiency while leaving clients with an unknown variable of cost for my work. I prefer to quote a project in full based upon its scope and then I stick to this price, regardless of hours spent on the project, unless the scope should substantially change. Whether this works out to be my client’s benefit or my own, it ensures I work efficiently which most often results in completing projects well before deadline.

Cost of capital

A business invests a great deal of capital into their tools, resources and talent that allow them to provide optimum service. While a particular project may take an efficient business less time to complete because of these tools, there’s a cost to that investment that also must be taken into account when pricing services. Most commonly I see this in printing services. The cost of professional printing equipment is expensive! So while it may take mere minutes to print off a 5,000 piece mailer, when before it would take hours, the bigger and better copier required an initial investment from the company. I wouldn’t expect this printing company to charge for just 20 minutes of work when resources, much more than time, were the real expense.

Paying for professionalism

Finally, there is the cost of professionalism. If you want a service done right the first time, it’s worth paying a higher price to work with a business with a great reputation and track record for producing results. Sure, it can be tempting to go for the lowest price possible, but most of us have also experienced the repercussions of such temptation. In the long-term it’s often worth investing a little more to get exactly what you want the first time. Your time is also valuable and so the less time you spend fixing errors, or micro-managing projects the more time you can invest back into growing your business. When pricing your services, the point is very similar – don’t compete on price alone. Offer clients value, professionalism and high-quality service along with a price you feel is fair.

How do you currently price your services? Do you reward yourself for efficiency or penalize yourself? This is a critical question worth giving some thought – especially because it could save you hours of work and a lot of profit in the long-term. Weigh in on this topic by leaving your comments below!

 
 

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The Best Work Comes From Complete Creative Freedom

tied handsEntrepreneurs, freelancers and contractors need to maintain some sense of creative freedom to do their job well. In fact, I feel confident enough to expand this statement to apply to every career field out there. Creativity is the lifeblood for employees at all levels. It’s what allows us to enjoy our job, maintain a feeling of control and build a vested interest in our work – but it’s not always granted freely. Whether it’s a controlling boss, a particular client or a company culture that demands you color inside the lines, sometimes our hands are unfortunately tied and creative freedom is stifled.

As a client or customer, coming to a business with your own non-negotiable plan in mind is the same as taking the pen out of an artist’s hand. Take for example an architect versus a drafter. An architect is more often hired for his artistic eye and ability to bring new and innovative ideas to the table. This is who you want to work with when you want someone else to direct the vision for a project. A drafter on the other hand is most often hired to outline the logistics of a pre-existing plan. This is who you want to work with when you already have a firm idea in mind and simply want someone else to bring it to fruition. Reasonably, less creative work is needed or expected from the drafter. You pay more for the architect, and understandably so.

The important point I want to communicate is that if you’re paying the extra money for the “architect,” don’t treat them like a drafter. Allow them the creative freedom they need to provide you with their full scope of expertise. And to fully do so you’ll want to closely consider following these next three steps:

 First, agree on your most important objective.

A client and a contractor foremost need to communicate the objectives of a project clearly. If they don’t first start on the same page, they have no chance of ending on the same page and a lot of time and talent will be wasted as a result. I advocate for using something like a “creative template” that can be a simple one-page sheet designed to capture a client’s most important thoughts on a project. Whether it’s creating a company training video, billboard ad or blueprint for a house, both the client and contractor should be able to clearly tell you what it is they’re trying to achieve. They must have a firm grasp on the objective.

Second, provide no more than three “must-haves.”

We will all be clients at one point or another, so it’s important that we learn how to be good ones! Such skills will also help us to get exactly what we want, while allowing the contractors and freelancers we hire to do their job with complete creative freedom. I’ve found that having no more than three “must-haves” as part of your expectations allows you to still feel in control without overhauling the project. Along with an identified objective, your short list of “must-haves” allows you to specify colors, content or style that’s important to you. Contractors have expertise and vision, but they don’t have the ability to read minds. Knowing what’s most important to you provides just enough direction. Think of your “must-haves” as the non-negotiables you want out of a significant other. So long as these criteria are met, everything else should be at least open for discussion.

Third, relinquish control!

Now that you’ve established an overarching objective and a short list of “must-haves” for a project, the only other limitations should be the sky. From a freelancer/contractor’s perspective, having to meet just 4 specifications is a huge difference from having a laundry list of needs and wants spelled out for you. As the final step, the most important thing a client can do is to relinquish control. And the most important thing a contractor can do is to satisfy the objective and must-haves and then strategically choose all other projects details with that particular client in mind. Knock their socks off by giving them everything they never knew they wanted!

 One final thought…

At the end of the day, all business owners must sign their names to whatever finished product they produce. If you take away creative freedom, this no longer remains an accurate representation of a business’s quality of work. If you’re a business owner, you’ll likely agree that protecting your reputation and the type of work you put out there is just as important as giving a client the finished product they want. It’s a touchy balance to maintain – but a critical one nonetheless.

How do you seek creative freedom in your job or career field? Or maybe you can recall a specific time in which your creativity was stifled and a project suffered as a result. Share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below!

 

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A Price For Passion: Being smart and fair when pricing your services

price tag pricelessAs a business owner and entrepreneur, one of the hardest challenges is figuring out a consistent pricing system for your services. Even with almost two years now under my belt, this is one area of my own business which can still be overwhelming and stressful at times – mainly because it also carries so much weight. How you price your products or services has a direct impact on the money you make or the clients you turn away. There are many reasons to want to undercut competitors and to offer the cheapest bargain around, but then there is the challenge of putting a price on passion. As entrepreneurs, we are much like artists and inventors.  It’s hard to keep an unbiased perspective on something we quite often view as priceless.

A quote by Henry David Thoreau that I truly love is, “The Price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” Though I appreciate the underlying message of valuing our time, this mindset would make it impossible to ever set a price for my writing and creativity that was fair to both me and my clients. But luckily, just as much as I am an artist with the pen, I am also a businesswoman. This balance has allowed me to build a smart and strategic method for pricing my services without undervaluing my time or talent. Here are just a few of the guidelines that I’ve come to rely upon when placing a price tag on my passion:

Determine your hourly rate

The first hourly rate I set for myself when I was still freelancing my services in college is a mere fraction of what I now charge. However, it was a price that was fair for both me and my clients at that time. It was a nice increase over the minimum wage I was making at my other side job and to my clients, although they were working with a college undergrad, the price was a steal for the quality of work they received. After graduation, I was able to increase this price because of the formal degrees I had earned. I was sure to communicate this with existing clients and positioned it as a “value added” to my work and professionalism. Because it still remained well under the industry’s going rate, I received no negative kick-back from this increase. With the start of every New Year, new contract or new client, I have the ability to adjust my pricing. For clients who remain with me over the months and years, I offer them the loyalty benefit of “grandfathering” them into their starting prices so long as the scope of work remains the same and it’s not a significant opportunity cost.

Your years of experience and education/degrees will have an impact on how you price your services. I’ve found that remaining even just $5 under the hourly rate of the “industry norm” gives you a sizable advantage. While I don’t dismiss that this small difference in hourly rate can certainly add up over a large project, a small discount still earns you far more money than not being selected to complete the project at all. The best way to get a feel for the pricing of your competition is to talk with clients and people within your network who have worked with other similar contractors – they can also give you their honest opinion of what price range they are most likely to hire within.

Bundle your services

It’s standard – and smart – to have a set hourly rate because this is a common question clients potentially seeking your services will want answered. While I do have an hourly rate, I rarely charge by the hour on my proposals. Most often, I use this hourly rate to estimate the maximum cost for a project, but aim to lower this significantly for a client by offering service bundling. With bundling, I discount my rate in exchange for a client who chooses to hire me for more than one service. For example, I may offer a proposal with several communications strategies including writing web site copy, newsletter content and updating their social media profiles. When contracted separately, these services would be higher than if a client should choose to do them all together. The benefit to the client is of course the cost savings and the benefit to me is the security in work. Often clients will just want to know your hourly rate before you discuss much else, but I am sure to include that my hourly rate is discounted when combining multiple projects. This also helps me to create a more cohesive and effective communications strategy than just one project alone. The service bundling is an incentive to do more for the best price possible.

Reward efficiency

When providing my clients with a proposal for my services, I emphasize that the price I quote them for is the guaranteed maximum that will not increase so long as the scope or size of the project remains as we discussed. This is important because all too often we’re hit with unexpected price increases from every angle in the form of electric bills, cable and internet and the list goes on. It’s nice to offer clients something that’s a bit more stable which allows them to better budget. Also, once I provide my clients with the best possible price (bundling services, maximum price guaranteed, etc) it’s now to my advantage to work efficiently. If I estimate a project taking me 8 hours, I certainly don’t want to procrastinate and stretch this project into 14 hours. That’s a waste of my own time and earning potential! Instead, the way I price my services encourages efficient work which means my clients often receive their project days if not weeks before our agreed upon deadline. When pricing your own services, I suggest structuring this in such a way that you reward your efficiency while offering your clients stability. This is a great way to earn respect and trust while earning the most money for your time.

What are your thoughts on pricing your services? Where do you most struggle or what are some ways to make this less of an overwhelming task? Share your comments or questions and let’s get this important discussion going!

 

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