Articles by Lynn Swayze

Articles by Lynn SwayzePricing

Why I Don't Ever Recommend Hourly Billing

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331

Table of Contents:
I. Why do we engage in hourly billing?
II. Why don’t big names engage in hourly billing?
III. What’s the risk of hourly billing?
IV. Price Anchoring
V. How to Sell Using Price Anchoring (Quick 3 Steps)
VI. Conclusion & Resources


Why do we engage in hourly billing?

Tell me: What do all the “gurus” say you should focus on when you go about pricing your services? They talk about pricing per hour.
It’s not your fault. You believe it because when you started working, you were paid per hour.
A “job” = exchange of hours for money.
So then when we go out and start software consulting companies, marketing consulting companies, freelance businesses, etc.,…. we think about hours. Even when many bill “projects”, they still compute the price based on the # of hours it’d take and charge that.
Example: 3 x $100 an hour = $300 for a logo
Nooooooo…….. 

Why don’t the big names engage in hourly billing?

Look… there are consultants charging $50-100 an hour and there are consultants charging tens of thousands per day. Don’t believe me? According to my copy of Dan Kennedy’s Magnetic Marketing*, Dan charges something like $19,000+ per day to fix their marketing and build a direct mail funnel.
Why don’t they engage in hourly billing? They don’t because they would never get as affluent as they are charging hourly rates. I mean, some of these guys charge tens of thousands just to speak at an event. How do you think it would sound if they actually talked to people about what they made per hour?

What’s the Risk of Hourly Billing?

There are three risks associated with hourly billing: Commoditization, Profit Loss, and Inefficiency
Commoditization
The thing is, when you charge by the hour, you’ve essentially made yourself a commodity. A commodity is something that’s just like everything else. So when you say, “I’m a consultant who does X and charges Y!” Well, your client is only thinking about the rate. They’re not thinking about why you’re different or the results you’re going to bring compared to what anyone else can bring them. They’re only thinking about the rate. So they’re going to compare you to the next person who does X but charges Z, and they’re going to pick the cheapest one. Or, they’ll go with you until they decide they don’t want to pay your fee anymore.
Profit Loss
And then there’s the profitability ceiling…
Here’s an example where hourly billing goes wrong as applied to profitability:
Let’s say that you are one of the tens of thousands of IT consulting firms who charges between $100-$150 an hour to do IT stuff. (Software development, network infrastructure, whatever.) Now, when it was just you there was a lot of money to be made. You were bringing in 200K a year and had negligible business overhead (let’s say $12K a year for office space and training and such.) Great.
But you wanted to make more money. How did you do that? Well, you got more contracts at $100-$150 an hour, but you outsourced some of the work for $50 an hour. So now you have people underneath you making $100K a year and you pocketed the remainder.
The problem? As you hire people, you expenses go up and your profits go down. Now you have to hire people to do all of the business stuff, like accounting and sales and HR.
And the only way to make more money? Take on more contracts and hire more people. You can’t charge more, because that $100-$150K is the market rate for what you do. Your clients know that what you do is a commodity and can and will go elsewhere if your rate is too unjustifiable. So you just keep taking on more clients, hoping that eventually your costs will stabilize. Or maybe you pay people less, taking on more junior employees. Or maybe you make your employees work more while pocketing the rest.
Either way, it’s a quick train to burnout land.

In short: your profitability has reached its ceiling. Congratulations.

via GIPHY
Instead, what this company (and I swear there are tens of thousands out there like that fictional one I described) should do is focus on the end result they’re creating and point pricing to that. Instead of making only $200K for a year’s worth of work, they could anchor at $250K… $350K… $450K… and actually make a profit that doesn’t revolve around billing employees at 4x what they’re actually getting paid.
Efficiency
When you know that you have 10 hours to do a job and you’ll only get paid if you sit there for 10 hours to do it, do you think there’s any incentive to work faster or get better at what you do? No. It puts you at a moral dilemma. If you weren’t paid by the hour, you could buy tools or do things in such a way that you get your client’s work done faster and better. Instead, you are tied to hours because otherwise you can’t pay the bills. So will you buy a tool that will do the job better, or get the job done quickly so the client can reap the rewards quickly?
The answer is no, you don’t. Instead use up the hours you’re allotted because that’s the only way you make money.
There are only three ways to make money at that point:

  1. Charge only what time you spent, but over time be forced to take on more and more clients once you’ve reached the per-hour ceiling. (You become more efficient so your per-hour becomes less profitable.)
  2. Charge what was quoted, whether you actually used all that time or not. (Cheating and lying to your client – that’s bad mojo.)
  3. Take all the time allotted to do the job, and never break away from the working-all-the-time wheelhouse you wanted to get away from in the first place. (At this point, you might as well go back to your j-o-b.)

Instead of all of that drama, you could just price according to the project’s value, do the job in the time it takes, and deliver value quickly so your client can reap the rewards. No killing yourself, cheating yourself or your client, or being inefficient. Just work you want to do at a rate that pays your bills.
Sounds good, right? Then let’s look at price anchoring and how it affects your billing.

FREE course -> “Charge What You’re Worth” by Brennan Dunn

Price Anchoring

Price anchoring is the idea that the first piece of information you receive about something will create a bias that colors the rest of your experience. This is why it’s so hard to change your prices with existing clients, and why you have to anchor it to something else (e.g., your posted rates are now significantly higher than they’re paying, and you don’t want them to feel like they’re getting second-rate work from you because they’re paying less. Etc). 

How to Sell Using Price Anchoring:

Look at my previous post on pricing for more details, but here’s the shortcut version:

  1. Find out what their most painful problem is
  2. Discover and discuss what that most painful problem costs them or is worth
  3. Talk about your pricing in relation to solving that problem

The best way to achieve this is to price per project. What value are you giving in exchange for your fees?

Conclusion

Summary:

  1. Hourly billing reduces your total income and makes you a commodity
  2. Price according to value, not to yourself or market rates
  3. Use Price Anchoring to your advantage

I want to add something here: Something magical happens in your head when you stop thinking about hours. The first is that you become more efficient. The second is that you stop working so darn  much and you stop sweating it. If you’re bringing the value and end result you promised your consultants, then you’re doing your job. Who cares if it only takes you 20 hours? That’s your business. And if it takes you a ridiculous amount of time to do a job? Well, that’s your business (/problem) also.
The results are what you’re promising and what your clients pay for. Anything else is just a golden handcuff and a focus on the wrong thing (e.g., labor instead of the end result).
You want both you and the client to be on the same page and focused on getting a very specific end result. 
Got it?
Now go thee forth and make more money!

via GIPHY

If you found this post helpful, you should get on my mailing list. And please… share this with someone who needs kick in their pricing booty.
Useful Resources:


* this is an affiliate link. Just do some Google searching for the title if you’d rather those pennies stay in Amazon’s/whoever’s pockets instead.

How to Figure Out What You Should Charge

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235

Table of Contents:
I. Why is Pricing So Hard?
II. Pricing is all Mindset
III. It’s Not Your Fault
IV. Price Anchoring
V. How to Sell Using Price Anchoring (Quick 3 Steps)
VI. Conclusion & Resources


 

Why is Pricing so Hard?

One of the most burning questions I had when I first got started in consulting was, “How much do I charge?!” I would go into cold sweats every time I thought about raising my rates to even close to what I knew I could charge.
Maybe you’re like I was. If you keep asking the same thing, you’re not alone. So many copywriters, consultants, and even service providers I meet ask the same thing. It’s a difficult thing to price correctly, and the reason is because you’re thinking about it all wrong.

Pricing is All Mindset

Pricing really is more art than science. There really aren’t any magic numbers that work for every person, market, or problem. Let’s look at the consulting realm:
There are consultants charging $50-100 an hour and there are consultants charging tens of thousands per day. Don’t believe me? According to my copy of Dan Kennedy’s Magnetic Marketing*, Dan charges something like $19,000+ per day to fix their marketing and build a direct mail funnel. Why such variability in what is essentially the same service?
The truth is, making more money as a consultant is entirely a combination of mindset + price anchoring + confidence. And the confidence in your rates is probably the most important of all of them.

It’s Not Your Fault

Look, it’s not your fault. What do all the “gurus” say when they talk about pricing your services? They say something like this:

“Price what you’re worth!”

But “Price What You’re Worth” leads to a line of thinking that goes like this:

  1. Last time I worked for a client/had a job, I made $X per Hour
  2. In order to pay my bills, I need $Y per Hour.
  3. The other guys I’m competing with charge $Z per hour, therefore I have to charge Z.
  4. I can’t get work quickly despite advertising my rates, so I must be too high. I’m going to charge closer to $X.

Yiiiiiiiikes people. This is bad. This is why we get that race to the bottom that every freelancer warns about. It’s bad mojo and it’s killing your business.
The truth is, there’s a better mantra you have to use when you price. Are you ready?

It’s simple: “IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.” 

Seriously, stop thinking about youyour worth, your skills, your experience. Your prospects don’t actually care about that beyond the value of a story, which is what it takes to get them interested in you in the first place. Otherwise, it’s meaningless to most prospects, who by the way don’t know you from Scott down the street.
Instead, focus on themTheir problems, their goals, their pain pointstheir awareness level. Heck, even their budget, which is likely a h-e-double hockeysticks level above your own  meager need-per-month.
Have you ever read the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People?”* It’s a great book, by the way, and one you should grab immediately. The gist of it is pretty simple, and it goes like this: In order to be interesting, you have to be interested.
That is, people enjoy talking about themselves. They enjoy it so much that they’ll think you’re the greatest person since sliced bread if you’ll let them ramble. People are craving to be heard and understood. You taking a few minutes out of your day to do it will mean the world to someone else. And that’s how you create relationships.
So when you’re marketing, you had better be talking about them. Don’t talk about yourself. Talk about the problem that you solve. Which brings me to the next point: price anchoring.

Price Anchoring

Price anchoring is the idea that the first piece of information you receive about something will create a bias that colors the rest of your experience. This is why it’s so hard to change your prices with existing clients, and why you have to anchor it to something else (e.g., your posted rates are now significantly higher than they’re paying, and you don’t want them to feel like they’re getting second-rate work from you because they’re paying less. Etc). 
P.S. Eric Yu talks about the three benefits of price anchoring. I highly recommend you hop on over there when you finish with this post.

How to Sell Using Price Anchoring:

  1. Find out what their most painful problem is
  2. Discover and discuss what that most painful problem costs them or is worth
  3. Talk about your pricing in relation to solving that problem

For example: as of July 2016, I charge $5000 per month for my consulting and copywriting. It’s a terribly low number for the results I bring, but we all have to start somewhere, right? When I sell my services, I always anchor it on the goal revenue I’m going to bring them as a result of working with me. I point to what I’ve done for other clients (usually 3-4X my retainer) as proof of the ROI.
Then I point to what else they could spend their money on, which wouldn’t get them the same ROI. E.g., hiring an expensive “graphic-designer-slash-marketer” at $60K, who doesn’t know direct response like I do. Or a six figure CMO who doesn’t guarantee her work like I do. When I’m telling a customer (and looking them square in the eye) and guaranteeing that I’ll bring them from $100,000 annually to $250,000+ annually or I’ll work for free until I do
well… that $60K in exchange for “guaranteed” $150K+ they didn’t know how to get starts looking pretty cheap, doesn’t it?
This is why your landing pages, sales letters, etc have to have benefits. This is why any copywriter you hire will rip out your “features” and “years of experience” wording right away. This is why the big time consultants barely talk about themselves.

Here’s a free Freelance Rate Calculator from Brennan Dunn

Example: Look at Ramit Sethi’s about page – everything he talks about  relates back to solving your financial problems. He only shares enough to prove that he’s just like you and that he understands what you’re going through.

Conclusion

Summary:

  1. Pricing is hard because you’ve been misled by everyone
  2. Price according to value, not to yourself or market rates
  3. Use Price Anchoring to your advantage

Now go thee forth and make more money!

via GIPHY

If you found this post helpful, you should get on my mailing list. And please… share this with someone who needs kick in their pricing booty.
Useful Resources:


* this is an affiliate link. Just do some Google searching for the title if you’d rather those pennies stay in Amazon’s/whoever’s pockets instead.

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