For many of us when it comes to negotiating fees with clients things can quickly get sticky and very uncomfortable. I’ve learned some hard lessons over the last 20 years as an entrepreneur and small business owner so I thought I would pass along along my own “rules” based on what’s worked and what hasn’t.
One of the things I really enjoy doing is helping people build their businesses, however I am sometimes asked for “quick favors” and “good deals.” Things like:
- Can you fix this file for me?
- Do you mind sending me that file so I can print it on my own printer?
- Can you just make this little change for me, it should only take you a minute?
- You and I are friends…can I get a deal from you on business cards?
- Can I get the “hook-up” because we are family?
- Hey do you mind snapping a quick head shot for me? It should only take you a minute?
- Can you spend a moment helping me with my website? I am stuck on….
- I don’t know how to do a mail merge, can you do it for me…you are so good at stuff like that.
The list really does go on and on and I am sure you have a similar list of your own. I’m all about helping people, especially small business owners, but I must eat too.
I have a very simple policy when it comes to “making exceptions” or “good deals“, etc. and it goes like this…
“If you are going to make money with the services I am providing you, I too deserve to make money giving you those services.” It’s the same for family and the “bestest” of friends. I made this decision a couple of years ago when I kept getting asked for the “hook up.” I found myself working so hard that I wasn’t making enough income to support my own family. I also had to ask myself “why am I paying for someone else’s business cards, postcards or other marketing materials?” It didn’t add up or make good business sense.
Because this is my policy for everyone, I can honestly tell long time clients, friends, and family alike that there are no special prices and they will pay the exact same price as my own mother….so they are all getting a good deal!
“There isn’t exactly a lot of profit in business cards and if I give everything away for free, I won’t be in business to print for you the next time you need something done.”
My other rule of thumb is:
People have absolutely NO APPRECIATION for what they did not pay for. When you give your services away for free, you are saying that your time and energy are not valuable…and THEY ARE! I’m sure that you can think of many times when you have done someone a favor or worked at a reduced fee and that client became your biggest nightmare. I have had it happen to me one too many times and have learned my lessons about giving services away for free. I am a professional who deserves to be paid just like you do when you go to work everyday…right?
As a small business owner and entrepreneur, you’re taking risk and likely working really hard. It’s your chosen profession and everyone expects to get paid when they go to work.
Would you show up at a W-2 type job if you weren’t getting a paycheck? Of course you wouldn’t and your clients wouldn’t either. It is a great analogy to use for people when they ask you to work for free. Ask them to tell you about their work, the grind of they’re day, how they look forward to that paycheck, and simply explain to them that you too are a professional at what you do and just because you don’t “clock in” at a certain time doesn’t mean you aren’t deserving of an income.
The moral of the story is…
Don’t give your services away for free. People have no appreciation for it and will take your time away from other money making activities, which costs YOU money.