Entrepreneurs – especially small business owners and folks who are just getting started – will often ask me how to charge for their services. Great question! I wish there was a simple answer, and it has been a struggle for me over the years. For that reason, let’s pull back the curtain and take a look.
First, if you are uncomfortable about the topic, congratulations! You are like a lot of us. Why is it uncomfortable? Most people I know do their work not just for the money, but because they love it. Haggling over money can feel unseemly for some. Then there is the subjective nature of work. We understand it from OUR perspective, but will others see it that way? For those reasons and others, it can be hard to set a specific number for the effort. But here are some of the factors to weigh when thinking about this question:
Experience: This question can cut both ways. Lots of experience may be helpful but is it the RIGHT KIND of experience? You may have been in technology for 20 years, but do you have the MOST RECENT experience the client is looking for today? To flip that question, can you make a case that the depth of your experience is really what the client is paying for? Your experience means you’ve seen waves pass through the industry and can navigate them knowledgeably in a way others might not.
Connections: Your value may be in both your knowledge and the people you know. There have been times when I have been paid well simply because a person my client needs to reach is someone who will return my call. To take it a step further, it is not just a matter of knowing someone, but of having personal credibility with them. That’s real value.
Market Factors: These days, salaries are going up for many workers because of the impacts of COVID. There also have been long stretches where that has not been the case. Where are you in this mix? Do you know? Do more than just an internet search. Ask your trusted colleagues and, when the topic comes up, be prepared to have a detailed conversation if necessary to get an accurate picture.
Timing: Every career story has its share of good and bad luck twists and turns. Just know that this run of good timing will not last forever. The Great Resignation and inflationary pressure have pushed up salaries and fees most everywhere you look. Since it won’t last and if the conversation is taking place right now just know this window should be recognized and used to your benefit. Don’t be greedy, just know you may be in a better bargaining position today than in a year from now.
Finally, what’s your track record? If you feel you always leave lots of money on the table and shortchange yourself, be prepared for the conversation this time and get the dollars you deserve! If you’re known to be a person who pushes too hard keep that in mind as well. For most of us, a long-term view serves us well. Take it from someone who has been in the work world for more than 40 years.