How Much Should You Charge?

Posted: 2015-05-25

My very first client was a wealthy non-profit that paid me $50 and a Target gift card. I was so excited to finally have revenue.  I thought getting some money, any money, was all that mattered! Like many entrepreneurs, I didn’t like talking about money or pricing. I’ve even heard and experienced conversations with business professionals do not  like discussing money and end up undervaluing their skills and services. Yeah, that was me. It took me the first year of running my business to understand the value of “charging enough.”

Lexus, BMW and Acura charge a premium for their cars. A Chevy Malibu still transports people from Point A to Point B, but consumers pay extra for the experience and the status of these import vehicles. I had to realize the experience Scientifically Speaking provides is similar. My company trainers have knowledge and understanding that most businesses and people do not. We deliver presentations in an engaging, comprehensive and memorable manner. We deliver the Mercedes of technology training, and I decided to value our services accordingly. Here is how to decide what your products and services are worth:

  • Price for Value – People expect to pay for quality. If a service is free or cheap, it is not valued. Let’s call this the Wal-Mart Syndrome (confession: I made that name up). People shop at Wal-Mart because they don’t see extra value in the products. Sugar is sugar is sugar. Beans are beans are beans. Wal-Mart celebrates the fact they are the price leader. Set your price based on value means you are going to lose some prospective clients. However the ones who agree to pay your price, pay because they find value in you. Rule: Understand your value
  • Price for Everything – I first set my price based on an hourly rate. I completely made it up without considering other aspects of running a business – insurance, my time, retirement, savings, equipment, research, etc. You need enough money to fully run a business, not just get by.  Many people only think about payment. Set up a spreadsheet and list ALL of your costs – fixed and variable. Calculate how much your business needs to make per year including all of these expenses. Rule: Understand the BIG picture
  • Price for Pain – I asked one of my top clients what one of his pain points was and he told me a popular speaker charged $10,000 for two one-hour presentations – in the same day! Great for the speaker; bad for the client. They could only use this speaker’s services once every other year. My client and I agreed on a price they could pay consistently. We built a strong enough relationship that he began to refer me to his counterparts across the country. Rule: Understand their pain point
  • Price for You – I eventually realized that after 20 years of successful work experience, I have value. The skills and knowledge I possess are extremely valuable. When you think about all of the conferences you have attended, books you’ve read and knowledge you’ve acquired, you are valuable. You are not charging your clients for the 4 – 5 hours you are speaking. Your clients are paying for the 20 years of reading, studying, meeting, writing, analyzing and listening you have done…adjusted for inflation. Rule: Understand your worth

I started increasing my price from $50/hour to $100/hour to $200/hour. When companies hire me for the day, it’s the cost of quality service, knowledge and training. When prospective clients ask my price, I tell them and I don’t flinch. My advice? When the price is high enough that the client wants to negotiate, you’re in the right ballpark.

Just Got Fired? Best. Day. Ever.

Posted: 2015-05-04

There are five stages to the grieving process:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

The first four are difficult to go through, but they are necessary in times of loss: death of a loved one, relationships and job loss. Keep living long enough and you may experience all five levels.

I lost a job recently and I had to travel down the path of rejection. My total time in the first four levels: 5 minutes (tops). So how do you realistically minimize the grieving time if you lose a job and still keep your wits about you?

  • This is Common (Denial) – Yes, you were fired, laid off, let go. It happens. You are neither the first or last person to lose a job. Go grab a decent bite to eat and decide what you are going to do next. When I lost my job, I didn’t spend time hoping they would take me back. I accepted the break up and smiled. I knew better things were in store for me.
  • Never Get Angry (Anger) – I rarely get angry (don’t ask my kids that). Even if you feel that you were wrongly let go, accept it (Point No. 1) and move on. Similar to a relationship, the best revenge is to show the person, you don’t need them. Angry Facebook posts and Twitter rants will never accomplish anything other than to show the public your immaturity. Always be professional. My last boss even asked if she could write a letter of recommendation for me. It pays to take the high road.
  • There is no “If only…” (Bargaining) – “If only I had sold more, then…”; “If only Kelley were was my boss, then…” Unless you are Superman, you will not be going back in time. Don’t waste time trying to figure out the different ways your career could have turned out. Be honest with yourself. If there are skills you are lacking, decide how you are going to bridge that gap. If you need to take some classes at a community college or online, sign up. This is not the end; it’s only the beginning.
  • It Was Only a Job (Depression) – I know you loved your job, and you probably had great relationships with the people you worked with. However, it was only a job. Things might (will) suck for a while, but they will get better. When I lost my last job, I immediately remembered I had options: I could start my own business. Conversely, sadness would never change anything.
  • Move On! (Acceptance) – This is the scariest and most exciting part of the job change. When I lost my job, I immediately realized I needed health insurance, life insurance, an income and a way to pay my bills. The next thing I thought: I am free! I can work whatever job I want. I can spend more time teaching my kids. I can study, learn and work in whatever field I want. When my salary was $75,000 per year, I knew I could never spend $76,000 per year because I wouldn’t have it. Now my income is limitless.

Walt Disney was once fired by the Kansas City Star because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Oprah Winfrey lost her job as an evening news reporter when the producer told her she was “unfit for television news.” Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks, Shark Tank) was fired by a small computer company. Even if you don’t start your own company, know that getting fired is never the end. It is only the beginning.

The $3,968.42 MBA

Posted: 2015-04-02

I started my company with no experience at running a business. I have always worked for someone else. It was easier that way (i.e. – health insurance, salary, 401k, etc.). I studied engineering in college, so I worked in engineering. However, I longed to go into business for myself – with no experience and no training. 

To learn the skills necessary for starting and running a company, I needed more than formulas and theories. I needed skills I could apply every day. I needed to learn marketing, sales, business development, critical thinking, capital management and personnel management. Going back to school for an MBA would cost approximately $50,000 / year, and I would lose any momentum my company had gained. I chose a simpler and cheaper route: the $3,968.42 MBA.

Although not a formal degree or certificate, I worked to learn many of the same marketing and management skills taught in a degree granting program. Here is how I did it.

  • Drink Coffee – Full Disclosure: I don’t actually like coffee (Monster Energy drinks are my source of caffeine), but coffee meetings are a great way to meet people and learn. I meet with professionals who own their own businesses to learn how they do it. I go in with a list of prepared questions: How did they start their business? How did they get funding? How did they market their products or services? If you are respectful of people’s time, they will share this kind of information with you. This is also a great way to meet with prospective clients and qualify them as potential leads. If they don’t buy from you, they may be able to recommend you to a counterpart in their company. I normally attend 2 – 3 meetings / week at $7 / meeting. Cost: $1000 / year
  • Read Everything – If there is anything you want to learn, you can find it in a book. When you read, you can teach yourself anything: math, physics, venture capital, digital marketing, sales, etc. The more I read, the more I realized what I didn’t know, so I read some more. I started reading blog posts and articles in the Wall Street Journal. The benefit to reading online is the recency of the information. I learned what A/B testing and conversion rates are by reading articles. When I didn’t understand something, I looked it up for additional understanding. I read at least 1 book and 3 magazines every month to keep myself current and make myself an expert in certain fields. Cost: $420 / year (books and magazine subscriptions)
  • Listen Carefully – One of the best ways to learn is to close your mouth and listen to what people say. Three times per month I go to networking and social events to meet new people and listen to panel discussions. As these experts speak, I take notes and write down what they say. I know that a networking event is successful if my “listen to speak” ratio is about 3:1 (e.g. – I listen 3 times as much as I speak). My goal is not to impress them with my knowledge and business prowess. A successful entrepreneur once told me how he decided it was time to hire his first employee. Had I been talking instead of listening, I would have missed his suggestion. Cost to Listen: $0
  • Educate Yourself – I used to attend conferences to get out of doing real work. Now, I attend 2 – 3 conferences per year on social media and mobile technology. They give me a chance to listen to thought leaders describe their insights and predictions. However, the best reason to attend is networking. I meet people from across the country (or world) who have written their own books. After 4 years of running my own company, I have gained a knowledge base and experience worthy of being a presenter at national conferences. Networking at these events is not a  numbers game to grab as many business cards as possible. I focus my efforts on the people, companies and organizations who interest me the most and might provide future work. Cost: $2,500 / year (depends on conference and cost).

Adjusting for gas, tax and miscellaneous expenses, my total annual spend is approximately $3,968.42 per year on my “real world MBA.” The best part: most of the charges are tax deductible. The only letters after my name are MS (Masters of Science in Engineering), but through my company’s growth and development I gain expertise equivalent to a business degree earned at a 4-year institution.  Furthermore I will never graduate because like most professions with advanced certifications  I am always reading, expanding my skills, innovating my product and improving my knowledge base. This continuous training makes me more valuable to my clients and directly impacts my bottom line.

Scientifically Speaking, of course. 

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