When Negotiating A Project Fee

There are ways to strong-arm a highly competent Freelance professional who is ready to give a client his/her best work into accepting less than that Freelancer’s proposed project fee.  So many desperadoes are willing to work for pennies and that can make it difficult for those whose work quite simply is more valuable because s/he brings expertise and work ethic that ensure the project work will be flawless and client expectations will be met.  Those qualities should justify almost any project fee.  But sometimes, clients like to low-ball.

What do you do when s/he who would be your client tells you that you charge rather more than others for the same work? Remember that the best defense is a good offense and start justifying your pricing strategy from your initial contact with the prospect. Continuously model professionalism and expertise that separate you from the hoi polloi.

Remember also that Rule Number One in the consultant’s bible is to never cut your price. Not-for-profit organizations can receive a 10%- 25% discounted rate, but under no circumstances do you lower your hourly or project fee for any client.

Instead, add in a modest service upgrade at no charge, to make the price more palatable.  You can also scale back the work and that would be associated with a fee reduction, but one does not do the originally requested work for less money.  If the client becomes adamant about receiving the original project specs at less than your proposed fee, then find the courage to walk away.

I know that billable hours may not be falling out of trees, but you cannot participate in a race to the bottom.  Do not get sucked into competing with online Freelance service mills.  Read on and learn to create your rebuttal.

Exhibit your expertise

Clients get what they pay for and pay for what they get! Let prospective clients know that when you are hired, a task can be completely handed over to you and you will own it. Furthermore, you are willing to use your expertise to make suggestions that might improve the quality of the project deliverables.  You are a first-rate service provider who is dependable, responsive, talented and trustworthy.  Your work is done correctly the first time and there will be no need for either micromanaging or do-overs.  The client’s role in completing the project will be much lighter and that adds up to value.  These practices and competencies are reflected in your project fee and hourly rate.

Reveal your responsiveness

Especially when an important deadline looms, reassure your prospect that you are prepared to work hard and ensure that project milestones and the deadline are met.  You understand that sometimes, late nights, weekends and holidays must be at least partly devoted to work.  Your admirable work ethic is reflected in your project fee and clients who are in a hurry find your fee structure reasonable.  Your project fee includes timely communications, responding to feedback, generating ideas and more.

Demonstrate your dependability

Clients can be confident and relax when you are on the job because they know and trust your work, attention to detail and diligence.  You make life easier and allow the client to attend to other duties while you manage the project.  Project work is reliably completed as requested and within budget.  Your clients look good to their superiors, peers and direct reports.  No one winds up with egg on their face when they hire you.

Trot out your testimonials

In addition to your LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements, you no doubt will be able to supply client testimonials from one or two satisfied customers who will speak on the record with a prospective client.  If you have one or two client success stories on your web site so muh the better, as these are case studies that detail the client journey and spell out the wonderful work you can do.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Mike Tyson (left) by Milo threeoneseven for ESPN (date unknown)

 

 

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Building Your B2B Consulting Practice

Regular visitors to this blog will notice that over the past few weeks, I’ve devoted special emphasis to tactics and strategies that will help Freelancers keep our consulting practices alive and well.  Competition in the field is intensifying and clients are aware that they can be very exacting in their hiring requirements, since there is no shortage of available talent, especially in mid-size and large cities.  According to Statista, the number of management consultants has grown every year since 2012 and as of 2016, there area 637,000 management consultants working (or trying to!) in the U.S.

As we all know, ever since the late 1980s, when the concept of “downsizing” gained popularity in corporate offices and the ways to separate citizens from full-time, long-term employment became numerous, many workers who either found ourselves highly skilled but nevertheless unemployable, or who eventually tired of endless cycles of  hirings and firings (a common occurrence in the IT industry), decided to strike out on our own and exert some measure of control over our professional and economic destiny. What did we have to lose? We were already in trouble.  Manage the risk before the risk manages you.

When you’ve worked in the Knowledge Economy and find yourself contemplating whether to launch your own venture, by design or default, a solo consultancy that offers B2B services that you already know seems a simple and obvious choice.

Start-up costs are minimal—there’s nothing much to invest in for the launch, except for business cards and a website.  There’s no need to rent an office and no need to hire employees.  You already own a smart phone and some sort of computer.  At most, you might invite a couple of your unemployed coworker buddies to come in with you.  In no time, you’ll be ready to see clients and charge a pretty penny for the advice that you give. Easy, right?

Well, not exactly.  Unless you’ve worked for a consulting company that provides you with a stable of clients that know you and value your expertise and there’s no non-compete hagreement that prevents you from, ahem, stealing a few clients from your former employer and bringing them to you roster—-a time-honored and usually successful practice, BTW—you may find yourself floundering when it comes to obtaining clients.  If you’ve got a well-placed pal or two who is able and willing to divert a contract to you, you could be twiddling your thumbs for quite some time, despite the furious networking that you do and your growing social media presence.  The truth of consulting is, no one gets a client unless that client knows you and the value of your work.

The “catch 22” is that you can’t get a client without experience and you can’t get experience until you get a client.  A business plan that is in reality an extended marketing plan that encourages you to think strategically, rationally and in detail about the following items should be written. Bear in mind that your services are valuable only insofar as there is client demand.  There may be no market at all for several of your strongest competencies, alas.

  • Services for which there is demand and you have the expertise and credibility to deliver those services and prospective clients who will pay you to do so
  • How to price your services
  • How to make clients perceive that you are worth your asking price
  • Your access to clients with the motive and money to hire you
  • The need for a partner (or two) and how that person can help launch and sustain the venture

Without a pre-existing reputation in the industry, you’ll find the early days of consulting to be quite difficult. Lining up part-time employment will help your cash-flow. Teaching at the college level is always a good option because it enhances your credibility and pays well for a part-time gig.  Whenever possible, find work that not only gives you money, but also demonstrates your expertise to potential clients.

If you can become at least an occasional contributing writer to a noteworthy publication, or get articles included in a local business publication, you will enhance the perception of your expertise, as will college-level teaching of a subject related to your B2B services.  Joining a not-for-profit board that brings you into contact with potential clients and referrers who can watch you take on committee work that demonstrates your bona fides will be helpful. Becoming a mentor at a respected new venture start-up center will likewise enhance your credibility.

If you can participate in a webinar, YouTube video, or podcast, where you can elaborate on the application of your expertise and the results that you deliver, you will be able to post the link on your website and social media accounts, so that prospective clients can see you in action and hear what you know.

Those who do not have a ready stable of potential clients must work very hard and very smart to make up for that deficit, but it will not impossible to build a consulting practice that will support you financially and of which you can be proud. There are many paths that lead to a profitable B2B consulting practice and with a dose of god luck, you will find your path, too.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Price Your Way To Profits

Pricing your products and services is a critical element of a well-conceived marketing plan and appropriate pricing is integral to the development of a successful business venture.  The burgeoning field of behavioral economics reveals why certain pricing tactics work and how you can incorporate some of them into your pricing strategy.

Have an anchor baby

Your “anchor baby” can result in a positive outcome for sales and billable hours.  A cognitive bias called anchoring can cause us to perceive a lower-priced item as reasonable when it is viewed after we first see a higher-priced  version of a similar item. A $2000 item is perceived as a relative bargain after one has seen a similar version priced at $5000.  A prospect could be moved to envision him/herself purchasing that “bargain-priced” item.

Therefore, placing premium-priced products and services in proximity to the similar but lower-priced offerings that you hope to sell can potentially lead prospective clients to perceive the lower-priced items as providing real value, once they know that functionally similar items can be much more costly.

Zeros kill sales

In a previous post I discussed why, especially in retail sales, it is standard practice for merchants to list prices that end in .99 (or .98 and .95) and never .oo, because prices that end in zeros are often perceived by customers as being expensive, according to a study that appeared in the journal Quantitative Marketing and Economics in 2003  The Less Than Zero Pricing Tactic.  Yes, we really do think that $5.99 is cheaper than $6.00 and there’s still more downside to zeros— when pricing your services you should not only avoid listing, say, $3000.00, because you’re presenting too may off-putting digits, but you are also recommended to avoid listing your price on a proposal as $2995.00.  Prospective clients will feel better about your price when it’s expressed as $2995, according to the findings of a 2011 study conducted by the Society for Consumer Psychology.

Be a Lexus and more than just a Toyota

A Vanderbilt University study demonstrated that customers are willing to pay more for a Budweiser beer in a fancy hotel bar than they would for that same Budweiser in a dive bar. Why? The economist Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago explains that the power of perceived prestige allows the luxury set to get away with charging higher prices. Freelance consultants (so much more classy and deserving than a mere Freelancer, no?) are advised to in various ways present cues that make the case for charging premium prices.

Let the value you bring be known to those who matter. Teaching at the college level and speaking at respected business associations showcases you as a thought leader and an authority.  Producing long-form content that appears in a respected print or online publication, monthly newsletters sent to your email marketing list, or weekly blog posts that draw your followers also adds to the perception of your expertise and as well brings your writing skills to the forefront. The design and content that appear on your website should present you and your entity in a way that communicates competence and good taste, as should your business card and client invoice template.

The organizations of which you are a member, the quality of your clothing, where you vacation, the books you read, how you socialize and the boards on which you serve (along with the related committee activity) also enhance your reputation and reflect on your brand.

How to raise your prices

Weber’s Law (1834) indicates that your clients will probably accept a 10% price increase of the products or services purchased from you and some may not even notice the change.  You already know that other factors can impact your ability to raise prices, including supply and demand, the urgency of the need for your product or service, the presence of competitors and the perception of the value of your brand.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

 

Pricing Primer for Freelance Service Providers

“The business world is driven by the desire to increase three elements: market shares, sales revenues and of course, profitability. Pricing is the key player in any strategy concerning the growth of these three goals.”   Mohammed Nosseir, Senior Marketing Adviser, Simon-Kucher & Partners, Middle East

Determining the pricing structure for intangible services provided is a real challenge for Freelance consultants. What is the value of our time and expertise in the open market? What if we promote our services, set the price and no one hires us? Should we lower our project fees? Can we ever raise prices?

Clients are motivated to spend as little as possible for the products and services that they require. However, they are known to pay premium prices when they “feel” that a particular product or service delivers exceptional value. That value can mean an expert solution to a business challenge; a long-lasting product that performs very well with little maintenance; the ability to meet a deadline; or other factors that have meaning to the decision-makers.

Often as not, different clients will have different priorities that define what is valued. It is the Freelancer’s job in the initial face-to-face client meeting to figure out what the client feels is important. That knowledge will achieve two objectives:

  • You will know the expectations that must be met (or preferably, exceeded) to justify a premium price.
  • You will know how to price, based on the time or other resources that will be devoted to meeting and exceeding client expectations and you will grasp the urgency of client needs, which impact your price.

Most likely, there are standard benchmarks and signifiers of high-value service in your industry and they should be incorporated into your marketing and operations, along with other value-addeds layered on as necessary. Knowledge of what competitors do would be most helpful as well, but it is very difficult to learn how competitors deliver their services or price them. Nevertheless, it is advisable to choose three or four to research. Visit websites to learn what services your competitors offer and how those services are described and packaged. Then, you can better identify potential competitive advantages for what you have and find a way to describe your goods.

It may sound like an obvious no-brainer, but part of your premium value-added that will be reflected in your pricing strategy should be your positive attitude and willingness to help prospective clients find the best solution to their business needs. Friendliness and the aim to genuinely want to offer good service go a long way in life and in business. Showing a good work ethic is likewise important.

For example when on an assignment, pay attention to emails. While I don’t recommend that one should be obligated to answer emails that a client dashes off at 3:00 AM (unless this is an urgent and high-revenue project), check emails through 10:00 PM and resume at 7:00 AM. If you can anticipate client needs, so much the better, They’ll think you’re a hero and will be happy to pay for the pleasure of doing business with you.

Step by step, client by client, focus on exceeding expectations on every project, building the trust and confidence that lead to a respected brand (reputation) as you do. You will receive referrals from satisfied clients (and you can also make referrals to your clients, enhancing your brand each time you do). Good brands create good word of mouth and that supports and justifies premium pricing.

As Mohammed Nosseir concludes, “Pricing has been, and will continue to be, the most complicated element in the marketing mix family…A proactive pricing structure will help companies…to maximize their profitability.”

Thanks for reading,

Kim

The Break-Even Analysis: Find the Pricing Sweet Spot

To continue the topic of pricing,  in this case pricing a new product or service,  it is a must to know when fixed costs will be covered by unit sales at a given price and determine when in time the item or service breaks into profitability.  Performing a break-even analysis will reveal how many units must be sold,  or how many times the workshop must be delivered,  at a given price,  before production costs are behind you.  Integral to that question is unit selling price.  Costs are recouped faster when selling at $100.00 rather than $50.00.  Also related to pricing is what customers expect and agree to pay.  Appropriate pricing can increase profits faster than increasing sales volume.  One can sell fewer items and make more money per item.  Conducting a break-even analysis is Step 1 in locating your ideal price range.  Here’s the Break Even Volume (BEV) formula:

Fixed costs                                                      Fixed costs

BEV     = ______________________________        =         __________

Revenue per unit – Variable cost per unit                         Unit margin

Let’s add some numbers to the formula and assume that the fixed costs associated with delivery of your service is $5, 500.00: $1,700.00 went to the graphic artist for Power Point slides; $1,300.00 paid to the wordsmithing wizard for marketing collaterals used for promoting the service; and $2,500.00 for the wholesale value of your labor,  the time you spent crafting the intangible service.  These costs are fixed because they will not change,  no matter how many times the service will be delivered.  Variable costs associated with service delivery would be printing hand-outs for participants ($50.00) and the advertisement placed in an industry newsletter read by the target audience ($400.00),  meaning that the unit variable cost =$450.00.  If the service is priced at $750.00,  the profit,  or unit margin,  is $300.00 each time the service is delivered at that price.

$5,500.00

BEV     =        _________     =   18.33

$300.00/unit

At a per unit price of $750.00,  the service must be delivered 18+ times before a profit will be made.  From there,  a series of  “what if”  scenarios can be floated.  Chiefly,  what are competitors charging or is there a spike in demand that makes the product more valuable and can you increase the price?  Also,  can you lower fixed costs and obtain graphics services for a couple of hundred dollars less?  What if the marketing collaterals text was produced in-house by you and not outsourced?  How much will that increase the price of the time you spent developing the service,  another fixed cost?

Let’s say that you find graphics services for $1,500.00 and ask a marketing communications wizard to edit text that you write yourself for $800.00 (your personal labor increases: 6 hours writing at $50.00/hour = $300.00 + $2,500.00 = $2, 800.00).  Now,  the fixed cost is $5,100.00 and you think that $950.00 is a price that clients just might accept.  The variable costs will remain unchanged at $450.00,  because your printer is good,  his price is right and you’ll definitely need to advertise since you may want to charge more for the service.  At a unit price of $950.00,  the unit margin would be $500.00.   As shown,  by raising the price of the service by $200.00,  fixed costs are covered by delivering the goods 10+ times,  rather than 18+ times.

$5,100.00

BEV=             ________      =   10.2

$500.00/unit

As you can see,  the impact of other values such as increased advertising or higher quality materials or labor,  can also be assessed for impact on the pricing sweet spot and timeline for reaching BEV.  When bringing a new product or service to market,  take steps to identify the ideal pricing structure.

It is also useful to calculate the profit margin,  that is the percentage of sales revenues retained after all expenses are paid,  for each product and for the total line.  From the P & L Statement,  divide net profits by total sales revenues  (bottom line divided by top line).

 

Thanks for reading,

Kim

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The Less Than Zero Pricing Tactic

Psychology counts when pricing a product or service.  Take note that in every store,  the price of items always ends in .99,  .98,  or .95 and never .00.  Number psychology research has persuasively shown that buyers do not like zeros.  Stores do not sell items for $100.00,  they sell them for $99.95,  because customers associate zeros with premium prices that they’d rather not pay.

Furthermore,  the phenomenon called the left digit effect causes our brains to misinterpret that $99.95 as having a value closer to $99.00,  instead of $100.00.  Lindsay van Thoen,  columnist for The Freelancer’s Union,  says that our clients are like any other consumer and Freelance consultants should bear that in mind when pricing contract proposals.

When we are invited to submit a proposal,  we are all excited.  Here comes money!  The last thing we want to do is to wind up in a wrestling match with a client who wants to nickel and dime.  We take pains to itemize the major components of the project and provide the rationale for the total project fee.  Nevertheless,  haggling may ensue.  According to van Thoen,  Freelancers are wise to follow the lead of retailers,  cut the zeros from our proposals and make it easier for clients to agree to our price.  Resist the temptation to price your project at $5,000.00.  Instead,  price the project at $4825.00 or $5175.00.

Unfortunately,  clients sometimes feel that Freelance consultants pad price quotes,  even when an itemized accounting is provided.  A figure that does not appear to be rounded-off,  but appears to be specifically customized to the service requested and contains few zeros that may imply that we’ve  “rounded-up”  the fee,  can be more trust-inspiring and believable to certain clients.

Other ways to make it more palatable for clients to accept our proposals are to  1.) Ask the client for the project budget and work with them to provide services that you can afford to provide within that valuation and  2.) Provide three levels of service: good,  better and best,  so that clients can choose services according to needs and budget.

Pricing pundit Rafi Mohammed,  founder and CEO of the consulting firm Pricing for Profit in Cambridge, MA,  offers two valuable pieces of advice to keep in mind about pricing.  First,  prices must reflect the value that clients place on the service.  Second,  different clients place different value on a given service.  Offering  “good, better,  best”  options allows the client’s need for the service to be met in a way that is in line with the value placed.  A good pricing strategy is an important part of your marketing plan.  It sets the stage for building a profitable enterprise.  It is imperative to set prices that reflect the client’s value of what we sell and,  equally important,  to help the client perceive that listed prices are trustworthy.

Happy 4th of July!

Thanks for reading,

Kim

The Price Is Right

Pricing is an art and a science and pricing intangible services is especially challenging.  Setting the right price for a product or service is a critical step in building a profitable business.  Quite simply,  you must charge enough money to not only cover your production or procurement costs,  but also reflect the value of the product or service provided and the value of your brand,  i.e.,  what clients will pay for the confidence derived from doing business with you.

But pricing a service is tricky and unless you are for some reason privy to what others may charge for similar services,  you are in the dark.  You probably do not know what competitors are charging,  so benchmarking is impossible.  The price that clients will pay you hinges on what they feel the job is worth and what they feel that you are worth.  Your mission is to avoid being perceived as a commodity,  vulnerable to the cynical bargaining down of your price points.  There are guidelines to follow when creating a pricing strategy.

Step One is understanding how clients perceive the value of your services and of your brand (reputation).  A “cost-plus” pricing strategy,  which is tied to what it costs to produce or purchase at wholesale the product or service to be sold is inadvisable,  according to pricing experts.  If customers are willing to pay $100.00 for a product or service that costs $10.00 to provide,  then charge what the market allows.

Step Two is understanding how the client wants to purchase your service.  Much will depend upon the type of services you provide and whether this is a one-off project,  or an ongoing retainer arrangement.  Whenever possible,  avoid charging an hourly rate and instead  “bundle” products and services into a project fee.  Do not give clients who are so inclined the ammunition to nickel and dime you by scrutinizing duties that you invoice and arguing over how long it should have taken to perform them.

Step Three is establishing different levels of service available: basic,  upgraded and premium.  Jean-Manuel Izaret,  a partner at the management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group,  insists that it is always best to give clients a choice,  whenever possible.

Step Four is targeting clients who value your brand and your services and are willing to pay a premium to do business with you.  The size of your available market will shrink, but each client will be worth more money to you.  It will also be easier to make the sale,  because this group of prospective clients values you and what you can do.  Access this group through networking and self-promotional activities: those who have heard your webinar,  read your blog or newsletter,   have received a recommendation from a trusted referral source,  have read a favorable article about you in the press—here is where your PR and relationship building activities can pay off.  This group of clients will have faith in your expertise and will agree to pay premium (but fair) prices at contract signing time.

Step Five is knowing your competitors.  It may be impossible to learn what they charge,   but you can learn the value of their brand.  Are you swimming with powerful fish,  or those about your size and strength?  That could impact your pricing strategy,  but only if clients are familiar with what the big fish charges.  It is unwise to price your services low in the presence of a competitor with a strong and well-regarded reputation.

Step Six is to benchmark against competitors in different parts of the country by checking the MOBIS contract prices offered to the federal government.  This is a useful way to get a credible ballpark number for setting prices.  Further,  you will see what types of services are being offered and how they are bundled.  http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/245439

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Plan Now to Make More Money

At last,  Summer is officially here.  Bright sunshine and abundant flowers do wonders for my mood,  yet the season does my wallet no favors.  Clients wrap up projects by June 30 and teaching opportunities grow scarce.  When it comes to paying bills, well…..But rather than grind my teeth,  I’ve learned that it is far more productive to make use of the down time.  Two activities headline my Summer to-do list:

1.  Professional development:  Sign up for a course or webinar,  attend a symposium,  read a business book or two

2.  Position myself to make more money:  Examine my client list,  marketing strategies and pricing structure and figure out which of those factors needs tweaking.  Meet with a prospect I’ve had my eye on over the past few months.

If you’ve been trying to meet up with a certain prospect,  Summer is usually the time to try to get to him/her,  because so many of us are less busy at this time of year.  Do what you can to make contact with that person.  If you have identified this person as a good prospect but you haven’t met,  you may know or surmise where he/she goes for business networking.  Get on the list and get your body in the door.  If possible,  recruit someone who commands respect to make an introduction,  so you will have a good endorsement and look more trustworthy.  If you’ve already made contact,  ring up your prospect and schedule lunch or coffee.  People are often more relaxed in Summer,  so you’re likely to have your best opportunity to build a relationship that leads to doing business.

While you’re thinking about prospective clients,  revisit your marketing strategy and confirm that you are reaching those who have both motive and money to hire you.  The essence of your marketing strategy is to know how to portray yourself favorably to the clients on your wish list.  That sounds so obvious it’s ridiculous,  but many Freelancers do not know who has the greatest potential to become their best clients or how to make themselves known to those in that group.  According to the 2012 Freelance Industry Report,  only 28%  of Freelancers who spend less than 2 hours/week on marketing bill at $70.00 + per hour,  while 41%  of Freelancers who spend 20+ hours/week on marketing bill at $70.00 + per hour.

Considering that a 2010 survey by the Freelancers Union revealed that 29%  of Freelance consultants earned less than $25,000.00 a year and 58%  earned less than $50.000.00 a year,  one can assume that not many are billing at $70.00 + per hour and if they are,  they’re receiving rather few hours.  Therefore,  consistently spending even two hours/week on marketing can reap tangible benefits,  since it has been demonstrated to have a direct correlation to your billable hourly rate,  if not the number of hours one is able to bill out.  (I wonder who has 20 hours/week to spend on marketing? )

Furthermore the busier you become,  the less attractive it is to keep low-paying and/or difficult clients on your roster,  because you will be unable to afford to keep them there.  Scarce time will also make you feel confident enough to ask current clients for a price increase as well.  Make time to do more marketing by dropping any difficult or low-rent clients and use that space to perfect and execute your marketing strategy.

To give yourself some inspiration check out free webinars,  if you’re unable to afford a course or a conference.  Those of you with teaching or speaking experience might even be invited to become a presenter.  I presented the webinar  “A Business Plan for Your Nonprofit”  on April 24 through Nonprofit Webinars  http://nonprofitwebinars.com/past_webinars/a-business-plan-for-your-nonprofit  .  Marketing strategies will be different for every category of service,  but robust marketing must be on the calendar of every Freelancer if we expect to connect with clients who are willing to pay us what we are worth.

Thanks for reading.  Have a happy 4th of July holiday.

Kim

 

Business Finance Resolutions for 2012

Happy New Year!  Thank you for coming back in 2012.  The New Year is here and the time is ripe to take a fresh look at how you can bring more revenue and profit to your Freelance business.  The purpose of this blog is to inform and inspire readers to create the conditions that will generate a successful and rewarding Freelance consulting career.  Let’s get the ball rolling and look at how effective financial management promotes that goal.

Resolve to skillfully manage cash flow

Cash is king and cash flow is the life blood of every business.  Nothing flows unless the cash does.  Cash flow management means knowing how much money is expected to enter your coffers and when those checks are expected to arrive,  along with knowing how much money must be paid to creditors and when those checks must be sent. 

Even if you show a profit on your P & L,  it’s possible to have insufficient cash in hand to pay monthly bills and other accounts payable.  We all know that working as a Freelancer can be a cash flow nightmare,  so it’s vital to get arms around the accounts receivable,  or else sleepless nights will haunt.

Cash flow management actually begins in client meetings.  Once your project fee has been addressed and agreed upon,  diplomatically state that 15% – 20%  is paid at contract signing and that invoices are payable upon receipt.  Payment schedule for the balance will depend upon the length,  type and cost structure of the job. 

Whatever you do,  don’t allow more than 35%  of your fee to be payable at project conclusion  (unless it’s a small job).  Take steps to discourage the client from preserving his/her organization’s cash flow at your expense.  Write payment terms into the contract,  right along with the scope of your work,  deliverables and start date.

Resolve to get paid what you are worth

Establishing value and getting paid for same is the goal in every service business,  whether it’s teaching piano or being a nanny.  Your pricing strategy should reflect the value that your services bring to the client.  Needless to say,  pricing supports  cash flow and revenue.  To identify an appropriate fee range,  pricing experts recommend that you focus on four factors:

  • The perceived value of the services your provide
  • The demand for your services  (and your reputation as a purveyor)
  • What’s involved in the delivery of your service  (time = production cost = the Freelancer’s cost of goods sold)
  • Your mark-up / profit margin

Resolve to create and analyze the basic financial statements every quarter

Freelancers have a good idea as to how we’re faring financially,  because we either have the desired amount of money in the bank or we don’t.  We either have jobs in-house or we don’t.  We have either big jobs in or small jobs.  Like a balance sheet,  your bank statement provides the snapshot of your financial picture at a given moment.

There’s nothing like creating and then actually contemplating and analyzing one’s cash flow and income  (profit & loss)  statements to truly grasp your true financial picture and most importantly,  receive clues as to what would be advantageous for you to do about the business model,  sales and/or marketing segments of your consultancy.  Smart business decisions are invariably data-driven.

As you analyze your financials over the years,  you may identify regularly occurring busy periods and decide to hire temporary help or bring in a Freelance sub-contractor,  to give you another pair of hands at those times and allow yourself to make more money. 

Slow periods will likewise be identified.  You’ll be encouraged to find a way to either stimulate business during those times by incentivizing clients to hire you,  find temporary work,  find classes to teach (if that’s one of your competencies),  or engage in prospecting,  networking and professional development activities.

Next week,  I’ll return with more business-themed New Year’s Resolutions for 2012.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

No More Self-Sabotage

You’ve got the expertise and the enthusiasm.  You may have a few key relationships.  But for some annoying and worrisome reason,  your Freelance consulting practice is not realizing its financial potential.  No doubt a sluggish economy is a factor,  but might there be another factor as well? Could a fear of failure —or success— be keeping you from laying claim to your just rewards and causing you to subtly and persistently sabotage your business?  Take a look at these items and see if you recognize your behavior:

I.     Fear of selling

Many people fear and loathe selling.  Selling oneself can be overwhelming and may even seem impolite,  like bragging.  I spent many years in sales and yet confess I get sick of it myself.  But the fact is that if one is in business,  then one is in sales,  so you’d better get used to it.  Sales takes self-confidence and the right message.

Realize that friends and family want to know what you do so they can refer you to prospects.  Prospective clients want to know if you have the expertise to help them to achieve their organization’s objectives.  You must create a clear and simple message to facilitate that process.

Make a list of 2-3 competencies for which you are typically hired,  or would like to be known for.  Attach a compelling benefit to each one,  to emphasize the reason that you should be hired to perform that service.  Next,  describe 2-3 clients who typically hire you,  or for whom you feel your services are especially well-suited.  Your task is to create a 1 minute maximum elevator pitch that communicates what you do,  for whom you do it and the benefits derived.

Write it up and express your sales message in language that is comfortable for you and will be understood by those who can hire you.  Learn also to ask for the business:  “Do you have use for this type of service”?  “Do you have a project in mind? Would you like to set up a time to talk specifics”?  “Is there a budget for this project? Are you ready to move forward”?  “I would like to work with you.  Do you feel ready to  talk about how we can get started?”

II.    Fear of charging fees that reflect your value

Particularly in this economy,  many Freelancers feel too intimidated by the fear of rejection to ask for the money they deserve.  Many clients are,  unfortunately,  prone to minimize the price they will pay for your services,  even if they have the budget.  It is a buyer’s market.  Admittedly,  compromises may need to be made when it comes to setting your fee.  Nevertheless,  you must not undermine your sense of the value that your expertise brings and do what is necessary to obtain your just financial reward.  See my October 11 post for more tips on pricing.

III.   Performing too much pro bono work

Especially when starting out as a Freelance consultant,  the temptation is to throw oneself into either deeply discounted or pro bono projects as a way to gain experience,  create referrals and build a client list.  Judicious use of those methods may apply at any time in a Freelance career,  but be sure that you’re getting something of value in return.  Promises of future paid work are mostly empty,  I’m sorry to say.  Once such  “clients”  have learned that they can get your talents for free,  they will be reluctant to pay you for work.  They’ll just look for another hungry Freelancer to sucker.

IV.    Failure to get press

Are you speaking on a panel,  teaching a course or presenting a workshop? Are you taking a leadership role in a local business association,  chamber of commerce or charity event?  If so,  you must write up a press release and send it to the business editors of local newspapers and blogs.  Follow up by telephone to make sure that the notice was received and answer any questions.

Offer to take the reporter to lunch or coffee,  to start building relationships with the press.  If an article is written,  first thank the reporter and then post the link on your website,  Facebook page,  LinkedIn page and/or Twitter feed.  Good publicity enhances your bona fides and often translates into increased business and additional requests to speak or teach.  Publicity enhances your reputation and helps you to obtain the fees that you know you deserve.

Thanks for reading,

Kim