I have a love/hate relationship with money, and it has plagued me all my adult life. It's taken me 20 years to extricate myself from a slew of bad money habits and operate around it with less emotion. In business, emotions and money just don't mix.
Ever since starting my own company in 1995, I've struggled with how much to charge for my services. Along with the emotional aspects of managing money, I battled low self-esteem, so putting a dollar value on my work was painful. As I've learned to separate myself from the companies I've owned and run, I can now look at charging for services as a consequence of doing business and not a rating of my personal worthiness.
Professionally, I'm actually worth a lot. There are few people in social media today who can say they've been doing internet and social media in their various incarnations since 1992. But I still cringe when pricing my services or announcing my rates.
Julie Murphy Casserly, author of The Emotion Behind Money: Building Wealth From the Inside Out, says it all starts "in our own heads, what you think and feel." Your inner thoughts create your belief system, which in turn can become your reality.
"I think it's important for women entrepreneurs to look at what their competition is charging," Casserly says. "People won't hire you if your fees are too low because the perception is that you must not be as good as your competition."
Casserly, who is also a certified financial planner, says her competition charges at least $1,500 for financial planning, but she had difficulty charging $250 when she started out.
Another tip from Casserly about charging for your services is that "you can't be all things to all people. Your target market will pay what the marketplace has proved it will pay."
Casserly says women often undercharge because they feel they aren't good enough or work from inherited beliefs passed down by their parents.
"The key is that over time, [you should] create systems that slightly increase your fees enough to keep the business rolling but also satisfy your emotions behind it all," Casserly recommends. Another suggestion she has is to use a tiered system, in which you charge different fees for different kinds of clients to leverage what the market will bear.
Heather Dominick, creator of the EnergyRICH Success System for Entrepreneurs, distills her advice into three rules:
- Manage your money story. "When it comes to your money beliefs, it's important to understand specifically as an entrepreneur what you're bringing to the table when connecting with a potential client in the area of money," Dominick says. "Whatever you believe you know about someone else and their money story, you don't know."
Often we're convinced we understand what this person does or does not have, can or cannot pay, creating thoughts, judgments and beliefs that can literally create an "energetic barrier" between us and our potential customer.
Says Dominick, "You need to have your money energy running clean and clear, and able to take a powerful stand for the full value and worth of your service."
- Shift from "dollars for hours" to "packaged value." Dominick calls her approach the "Papa, Mama, Baby Approach" because Goldilocks is the perfect example of a client trying to find the right fit, she says. A potential client is attracted to your business, so you should try to find the best way to serve her through package options.
"Basically, people like to have options," Dominick says. "If you've attracted them to you, and then all you have is one option and that [option] doesn't work for them, then what? There's a high percentage chance that they'll walk."
By providing programs and packages, you give potential customers choices, so they can focus on the value you offer rather than the amount of time you spent. Your rates can then reflect this value, and you don't have to live from appointment to appointment, wondering when a client will return.
- Offer A Guarantee. Be bold and guarantee your service, Dominick says. "The key to offering a guarantee is to speak to what you have control over. You can guarantee what folks will receive from you. You can't guarantee what they will do with it," she says.
The power of a guarantee gives your business strength. With that strength, you demonstrate increased value. That, in turn, can translate into higher rates.
In my case, I brought on a trusted business partner whose strengths include corporate finance. She's not only putting our services into packaged offerings but is helping me rethink my own money story. I've always been good with numbers, but I've put myself down so much that I've come to believe my own naysaying. Having a supportive business partner complimenting me on some good decisions I'm making about company money has been a big boost to my money confidence. And that's going to be a huge boost to business.