OK, so I admit it, the title of my article was designed to grab your attention and provoke you to read on. Charging what you’re worth is an emotive subject, so it seemed appropriate to begin with a bang. And by the way, when I said unbalanced, what I really meant is out of balance. More of that later.
So why is it so emotive?
There are two reasons: firstly because it’s not an exact science and secondly because it’s about people’s feelings and behaviours.
Whenever I speak on the subject of charging what you’re worth, there is always someone in the audience who asks a very defensive question regarding market forces dictating fees which is not really relevant to the subject at all. In fact, this happened just the other day when I was speaking at a seminar for lawyers.
Of course, I understand that market forces, among others, is just one of the factors in deciding how to set your fee structure in the first instance; however, how you apply your fees thereafter is another matter altogether. And it’s the application of your fees that I’m working with.
With such people, I realise that I’ve pressed their buttons and they just don’t want to look at their behaviour, because it feels threatening. As another of my clients, a Senior Partner in a large firm of Solicitors recently said to me: “Lawyers are human beings too!” So they are just as vulnerable as anyone else in under-valuing themselves.
Right at the beginning of the talk, I ask the audience one of two questions:
Are you delivering more value to your clients than you’re charging for?
Would you like to earn more money without having to get more clients, work longer hours or compromise your values?
75% or more say yes
In both instances, I get a high response rate in the affirmative. So why is that? Simply because most lawyers are probably either discounting, doing extra work for free or in the case of sole traders, possibly under-charging.
Like one of my clients, a Senior Partner of a small firm of Lawyers who, before I worked with him, was both routinely discounting invoices for no reason whatsoever and doing extra work on fixed-fee jobs without charging. We estimated conservatively that he alone was probably losing around £16k a year.
Having worked with him for just a couple of months, all this is changing. Not only is he addressing the original challenges which he came to me to resolve, but we’re also addressing other areas of the business which also impact on revenue. As a result, I now believe that it’s likely he’ll achieve additional fees of greater than £16k in the next 12 months.
Why did he behave like that?
Because he was in a habit of doing it as that’s what made him comfortable. Or rather, he would have felt uncomfortable not doing that. It sounds crazy; however, as human beings, we mainly operate on autopilot, from learned behaviour, which comes from our beliefs, most of which are unconscious.
So we literally can’t help ourselves, unless we become aware and consciously choose to do something different. However, for the majority of people, change is not easy alone which is why coaching can be so effective. So what behaviours do you have which are preventing you from earning your true worth? Take a few moments to think about that.
What does out of balance mean?
I promised to return to the statement I made in the first paragraph about being out of balance. This means that you’re not balancing the work you do for clients with looking after the business.
Typically, the clients I work with are excellent at what they do, are often perfectionists, self-critical and have self-doubt, so they frequently err on the side of the client, rather than the business. Of course, I’m not proposing that you do not pay attention to your clients; rather that you pay equal attention to your business.
Personally, I spent many years undercharging and giving away my services for free before I finally got it. At last I understood that I could genuinely help people and charge what I’m really worth.
I was speaking with a Partner of another firm of solicitors the other day who was charming and said that it had taken him 30 years to really value himself and even now there were occasions where he struggled with charging effectively. Which goes to show that no matter what level you’re at, you’re not immune.
In summary, charging what you’re worth is not just about an external job, i.e. setting your fee structure, for example, it’s also about an internal job. You must understand your beliefs, thoughts and feelings around your value and, if they are not what you want, be able to change them so that you are able to achieve the revenues you desire.
My final advice to you would be, when it comes to fees, think before you speak/act.