The Money Talk (Pricing Struggles of a Girlboss)
Girlbosses, we deserve the whole wide world.
What do I mean when I say that? I mean that anything you put your mind to and desire, you can reap and manifest with a little courage and that brilliant, steadfast spirit of yours. We all deserve to feel worthy - and that worth does not depend on our clients telling us we're worthy, how many degrees we have or how many skills we've mastered over the years.
Our worth depends on our heart, and we all know you and I have some serious hearts of gold! :)
I received an email today from a fellow creative regarding setting boundaries with clients who don't want to sign retainer packages and having "the money talk" - you know, the all-so-scary but all-so-important chitchat about pricing! It got me thinking of all the things I wish I had known earlier on in my biz and what boundaries keep me going (and growing) strong today.
I can totally relate to her feeling of uncertainty around "the money talk" - it's my least fave part of running a biz. I used to work in retail and hated the selling + up-selling parts, so it was super hard for me starting out to sell myself for gosh sake! I used to be awful at client lead meetings and would visibly doubt myself in my facial expressions when I would tell leads my pricing, which of course reaaallly helps to land them, am I right!? ;) I think practice is truly the only way to overcome the awkwardness, and also surrounding ourselves with folks who know our worth and can tell us YOU'RE WORTH IT! The pep talks from my fiercest cheerleaders are so sacred to me.
Of course it's always about talking up your services and explaining/showing (not telling) why your client cannot live without them that really helps them understand that they need you. Just yesterday, I was meeting with a lead for ongoing marketing work and I explained my lowest package + rates. She said she was anticipating something around $150 cheaper, but that the $150 extra each month was "no big deal" because she knew the benefits she would get from outsourcing to us.
By the end of the meeting, we landed her for our base retainer package, in addition to our one-time branding package (because you can't advertise something that doesn't have a strong brand story or identity), and also convinced her to hire one of our photographers every quarter (because you can't have a strong brand without a kickass visual)!
Always explain and lead with passion
Making sure that you are explaining the benefits of your services in clear detail and also allowing the passion that you have for what you do to come out when you talk about it is so very key to landing new clients. Regardless of how good you are at this, it just takes time and practice to strengthen that muscle. With time, we lose our inhibitions about it all. It's just like flying with lots of booze in our system or having a surgery with lots of numbing agent. Great examples, huh!? :P
This may sound harsh, but it's all about sticking behind your worth. The gal who emailed me earlier shared that she is working on becoming more comfortable with the money negotiation parts of owning a business, and that she often sends clients proposals for options. As a personal rule to keep my sanity, I don't negotiate dollar amount or submit proposals. Clients come to me if they want to pay my rate and I believe that's what we all deserve in our businesses, but I totally understand that it's not the case for every niche. As a marketing consultant, clients seek me out to help elevate their brand across all of their digital platforms and I'm easily discoverable online and by word of mouth.
I get that some agencies are required to post RFPs (Request for Proposals) and that's their process of fairness, their demographics are simply not my target client all that often, so I don't put myself in that position hardly ever. The times I have, I hated the feeling of needing to "pitch myself" that came with it, and I've spent far too much energy pining after businesses that were never the right fit at the end of the day, so I now let my client roster grow naturally. The ones who find us are the ones worth keeping - I believe they are brought into our lives for a reason.
Yes, it totally sucks to lose income that's nice to have, but getting rid of clients who don't value us enough to sign retainer contracts (or pay us our worth) just leaves more room for the ones who will - that's my "woo woo" manifest mindset pep talk of the day! :) I think the goal for all of us should be to achieve a place of stability through which we can serve clientele who are better aligned with us.
While I don't negotiate my dollar amount*, I do negotiate down to craft custom packages for each client because each client's needs are different. Basically: I don't decrease my value per hour. I think that comes with the reputation that you build over time, the financial stability that you create and also your confidence in knowing your worth.
In addition, I give an overall package discount for people that I'm close to in the networking group that I founded, and for people who choose to hire from my list of collaborating photographers or videographers because I know they can deliver the goods I need and make my job easier.
*The one exception to the rule is that I give a discount to three of my very first clients who have either believed strongly enough in me to sign me for an extended period of time, or have actively referred me to many of their friends in the community as I was getting started building this baby of mine. Two of these three clients are also nonprofits. Remembering where you came from is important.
Side note: I love the book "Permission to Leap" from my hypnotherapist friend Bri Seeley - I highly recommend if you listen to Audible or want a good physical read sometime. Also "You Are a Badass" by Jen Sincero, but you've probably already read that - it seems every girlboss did WAY before me!
Offer only retainers, a la carte extra
I don't offer a la carte digital marketing work (example: only status writing but no management, only email list management but no social, etc.). It doesn't make sense for strategy and isn't effective in my experience. Therefore, I do avoid a lot of one-off projects, however I offer web management (or edits) to past web design clients if they'd rather not learn how to edit their site themselves.
I make sure I let my clients know that I enthusiastically offer one-off web edit projects as time allows in the agency - because we prioritize the work of our retainer clients, I cannot guarantee that I will have time for a project (or at least a swift turn-around time) unless they're paying me a retainer monthly fee. If they have lots of edits each month, it's worth it for them to pay for a minimal monthly retainer, but if not, I tell them I'll help them as I can. Making sure that you have clarity around this and a focus on building financial security with retainer clients is super important.
The web design and branding contracts that we receive are a nice bonus, but not necessary to feed our mouths and pay the bills by any means. We just really love it and it's something that allows us to express our passion for the things that encourage our creative freedom the most.
Cultivate a diverse business
I think having a very diverse business with different packages and services is so necessary and vital in contributing to ultimate success. I've created a variety of service lines to avoid having a stale business - I have something for every budget and every biz structure.
Above all, the only way us powerful girlbosses will change the world is by demanding what we are worthy of: a beautiful, flourishing and meaningful business that connects to a higher power and not only exists to serve those who come into contact with it, but serves us, too. I'm so glad I received that email this AM, it reminds me of how far I've come but how far yet I have to go. We are all works in progress and no matter where you're at in your biz journey, you should feel darn proud :)
Kathryn is the lead contributor + founder at FashionablyFrank.com. Obsessed with leading a life of balance, she started the blog in 2013. Since graduating college in 2016, she is now a digital marketing specialist through her business, Fashionably Frank Marketing. She believes a cup of coffee is the answer to life's problems + that all women should embrace a #girlboss mantra.