Are you a lawyer and genuinely struggling to get paid what you’re worth? If so, please give this article your full attention as it may be the most valuable one you’ve read in a long time.
So what does that little voice in your head (or not so little) say to you just when you’re about to discuss fees or bill your clients?
Does it go along the lines of?
"Oh I can't possibly charge that, they'll never pay it" or "Gosh that's a lot of money, I wouldn’t want to pay that." “I’ll probably lose the client if I charge that and I can’t afford to lose clients.”
Do you recognise any of these statements?
That’s not surprising because these are not just words I’ve made up, they are quotes from real lawyers just like you!
Now please take a moment to reflect on this and see if this is true for you.
How does that feel? Ouch, it doesn’t feel so great does it?
Fear not, you’re not alone.
Perhaps you have been doing this for a long time and yet didn’t really realise that you were doing it until now. If that’s the case, congratulations, you’ve just taken the first step in being able to transform it. Or maybe you were aware of it but didn’t know how to stop it or even if it was possible.
Let me reassure you, it is possible. In fact, it’s more than possible; you just need to know how and then apply it. The problem is not that the voice says these things to you; the problem is that you believe them and worse still that you take action based on them. Believe me, I know from my own personal experience how compelling that voice can be; it’s fear-based and fear can be an extremely powerful motivator.
That fear creates a very uncomfortable feeling in your body, it’s primeval and is all about self-preservation. In this case, though, it’s an imaginary fear rather than a real one, after all, you’re not going to die. However, your experience of it is identical to a real fear where your life is in danger! This then drives you to take action to make you feel better, whether or not that action is really good for you in the long run, or in this case, your business.
You see as a human being, you’re motivated by pleasure or by pain, so you’re either moving towards pleasure or moving away from pain. In this instance, you move away from the pain by under-charging, discounting your fees or over-servicing your clients. Although it may alleviate the immediate uncomfortable feeling you’re experiencing, in the longer term, it causes you real problems, both financial and emotional.
In the first instance, it causes you a loss of revenue. This could be £10k, £20k or £30k or more a year and that’s right on the bottom line. So what would that be worth to you? In addition, it probably means that you’re spending far too much time working to make up for the shortfall and you’re possibly feeling overworked, stressed, tired and even resentful. Not a great place to be.
You also probably feel devalued when in reality it’s you who has been devaluing yourself. This then leads to your self-confidence taking a tumble and that becomes a vicious circle, so you repeat the same behaviour and of course get the same results.
So in the long-term, you can clearly see that this just doesn’t really work for you. In fact, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.
It reminds me of a sole practitioner I worked with. In the free strategy session I had with him, I asked him how much he thought he was losing in revenue in a year by not charging his true worth. He replied approximately £20,000. I then asked him his age and he said he was 40. My response was so in 10 years’ time, when you’re 50, you will have lost £200,000 – that’s two hundred thousand pounds - if you continue in the same vein.
As you can imagine, there was a long sobering pause as he took that in. It wasn’t actually until that moment that he had realised the full impact of his behaviour on his bottom line.
If you have reached this far, then I know you have recognised this behaviour in yourself and are probably itching to find out what you can do about it right now to get the ball rolling. So here is a simple 3-step process for you to apply immediately:
- Before discussing fees or billing, take a few deep breaths. Sound silly? Well it’s not, because if you’re feeling fear, it probably means your breathing is shallow which is one of the physiological side-effects of fear. Breathing deeply will reduce the fear which will also enable you to think with greater clarity.
- Before discussing fees or billing your clients, find out what the piece of work is worth to the client. What’s the benefit to them? What problem have you solved for them? This gets your mind focused on the value you’re providing rather than being focused on what you’re charging.
- You must get comfortable saying your fees. You must be so comfortable saying them that you could just as easily be saying the time of day, or the day of the week, for example.
Of course, you do have to make the effort to change; it’s not necessarily easy but it’s so worthwhile. I wish you every success.
I’m Vanessa Ugatti, transformational coach, motivational speaker and author of Amazon Best Seller, True Worth and I help accountants lawyers make more money, have more time and create more freedom by charging what they’re worth and getting it!