My first large project as an entrepreneur was a pro-bono gig for a not-for-profit whose mission I believed in and was happy to support. I was grateful for the opportunity to showcase my business to a wide and diverse audience. I knocked it out of the park and with the recognition from that project came more business – and a lot more pro-bono requests. Eventually, I set a rule, only one small pro-bono project a year. As a new entrepreneur, I still wanted to get my business out there. And I have a big heart that wants to help everybody. So I moved from free to, well let’s say, almost free.
I came up with every scenario, every level of help I could give without just entering into some backward form of indentured servitude. I had more packages levels than the U.S. has states. Yet, I still wanted to somehow match that six figure salary that I had left behind on my final walk past the Wall Street Bull. I spent more time “re-rating” rates than working. I went back and forth for months until finally narrowing my offerings down to five packages and a host of a la carte service — which is, honestly, still too much. Oh, and let’s not forget discounts. (I know, SMH)
Fast forward to a weekend this past June. I am sitting in a room full of beautiful, strong, intelligent women at 21Ninety’s EmpowerHer17 conference. And I hear this:
“To not price your services appropriately deters commitment from both you & the
What? Come again? Alex Wolf, Founder of Boss Babes, had just blown me away!
It was like the DJ scratched the record and all the music stopped. And like a dramatic flashback in an episode of Scandal, my mind recalled countless moments of frustration with clients. I could hear my voice, see my fingers typing emails — constant requests for access to or delivery of things that would enable me to do the absolute best job that I could for them. Forgotten about meetings. Missed deadlines. Or worse, enlisting the “help” of another to decrease the amount of work turned over to me — which actually makes my job harder. “We’re not paying all that much and I know you have other customers so I figure they could help with…” NOOOOOOOOOO! (can you hear me screaming?) And what about my commitment — not only to my clients but to myself, to my daughter, to the lifestyle that I want to live? Even my commitment to helping others is deterred when I sell myself short.
Now I’ve been a part of many conversations with colleagues about ‘charging what we’re worth’. And Bae, who has run a successful business for years, is always reminding me to get my coins! His motto is “If they can pay your price then they shouldn’t be your client!” But like when you were a kid and your aunt could say the same thing to you that your mother just said 10 minutes ago, yet it made much more sense when Auntie said it – there was something about hearing those words in that moment that made it make sense. Maybe it was all the #blackgirlmagic in the room. Maybe I was open. Maybe, it was because went to Chicago with goals and expectations – I was committed.
So, now that I am empowered, what’s next? Commitment – first to myself and then to my clients. It hasn’t been an easy transition but, let’s say that all new contracts have an appropriate level of commitment built in. (Thanks Alex!)