I've been watching my clients -- and myself -- these past two years around the experience of charging fees, asking for payment, suggesting folks re-enroll in their programs, etc., and here's what I've found ...
Very few people like asking for money, and no one finds it easy -- we universally hate it.
Because asking for money brings up thousands of insecurities and doubts. We're scared to look money in the face, command it, control it, and to put ourselves out there. Asking for fair compensation means putting a formal stake in the ground about where we stand in a value equation. And most are simply too unclear about their own worthiness to do that.
Folks tell me that when they ask for money from clients or customers, questions swim inside their heads about their value, impact, and "appeal." They fear that asking for money is the opposite of being "pleasing" to people, and will be a huge turn off. (For a fascinating discussion around if we should worry about what other people think of us, see Jonathan Fields's recent post "What Other People Think IS Your Business.")
In tough times like these, consultants, coaches, practitioners and entrepreneurs struggle hard to stand up for what they want/deserve in compensation or fees/prices, fearing no one will pay. And in the end, many aren't sure themselves what their services are worth.
At the root of this money challenge are shame, doubt and insecurity: Am I good enough? How can I put a value on what I offer? Will there be enough people to pay this? Will they come back? Did they think my work was a good value? How do I fare against the competition? Did I give them great results?
In exploring the question of money with coaches and consultants who are highly financially successful and charging upwards of $400 an hour with ease, I've observed these five traits:
1) They have tapped into a large pool of potential clients who can easily pay their fees.
2) They've had prior high-level business experience and success that contributes to their sense of worth and value.
3) They're very well-boundaried -- they know where they end and others begin, and are clear about how they stack up against the competition.
4) They focus on business development continually -- they understand the power of networking and building a supportive referral network.
5) Most are men.
I've observed in my research that men in general have greater access to a sense of "entitlement" -- they believe they deserve the fees they've set and don't tend to agonize or apologize about what they are worth.
Women on the other hand have been culturally trained to think less hierarchically and more about connection, equality, and empathy. Midlife women in particular simply have deeper challenges than men in standing up and speaking up about what value they bring and how they excel and stand apart from the competition. That said, for women to be successful entrepreneurs, consultants, practitioners and small business owners, they must find new ways to strengthen their ability to authoritatively command the fees they deserve.
While asking for fair compensation remains challenging for me, I've created greater success this year only after figuring out beyond a reasonable doubt what I feel my services are worth. I didn't make the numbers up -- I conducted diligent, open-hearted research -- with clients, competition, experts, role models, the marketplace, etc. I asked my clients how they assessed the value of our work together, and the impact it made in their lives. And I left my ego at the door when these conversations occurred.
Further, I faced the powerful realization that certain professional endeavors -- such as being well-known in the media -- don't necessarily bring you clients who can pay your fees. I've learned (and teach my clients) that you'll be sorely disappointed in your practice or business if you don't figure out: 1) who your ideal client is, 2) what your optimal method and model of generating income/revenue is, and 3) how you can continually find more clients you love to serve who can pay you what you deserve. In the end, you need to determine new, sure-fire methods to generate more success doing the work you love.
The reality is that for most, asking for money IS hard, but it gets easier when we become crystal clear about what we're worth and how we're exceptional at what we do. Once we know in our hearts and minds what to charge, then it's time to speak up and ask for it without reservation.
Curious about your thoughts -- do you find asking for money in your practice or business hard, and if so, what makes it easier for you?