Last week I wrote about talking about money in your personal life, particularly the places where it is most important to discuss the stuff! This week the discussion continues with the focus being on business money talk. Here we go…
Money Talk: Business
It seems like we talk about money all the time in business, and, to a certain extent, that is true. However there is a distinction between talking about money ‘in your business’ and talking about money with your clients. Two different things. And it is even more likely if you are self-employed in some way (which most of my clients are), that you don’t talk to anyone but yourself about the money ‘in your business’.
When it comes to one-on-one conversations about money we get tangled up between the personal and the business. What I mean by that is the conversation with one other person about YOUR fees or what YOU charge feels pretty darn personal. There you are putting a dollar figure on your time, energy, expertise, experience…all that and more…geez! You feel like you are putting yourself on a plate, and that brings up all sorts of emotion about you and money. Are you over rating yourself? Will they think you are pushy? What will they think of you and your fee?
Or maybe you go too far the other way to being self-effacing and undervaluing yourself and your work? Always discounting your fees? Stating your fee and then backing off, or maybe adding on free stuff?
That’s on you. It’s all your stuff.
Let’s look at it from the perspective of the client. Remarkably, they actually want you to talk about money. They want to know what to expect. How much they are going to pay for your services. And they want it in a clean, clear, matter of fact sort of way. If you don’t give them that, you create confusion and emotion with your client, that just isn’t necessary.
Here’s a prime example. I use this wonderful guy to help me with technical stuff that just confuses and bewilders me. One time we were doing a project and I asked him: “How much will the cost be?” His response was “Don’t worry, it won’t be much”, so I asked again and got the same response. He was assuming that I was worried about the cost. I wasn’t. I just wanted to know. Notice how he was concerned about something I wasn’t? When we say things like that, we can actually create problems that weren’t there to begin with.
There is a difference between being up front and direct with a client about your fees, and talking to your neighbor about them. It’s part of business, and we all want to know what we are going to pay for something before we buy it.
Before you carve this in stone, let me make clear that there are times you don’t talk about your fees with perspective clients. In this case I’m talking about people who are offering a service, and intangible rather than an item they can take home. When you first meet someone, the initial conversation often goes something like: “Hi Jane, nice to meet you. What do you do?” You then answer that you are a provider of a marvelous service (coach, writer, consultant, web designer, etc). The next thing they say is: “Oh, wow, what do you charge?” You do not want to answer that question at that time. It’s not a real question. It’s a signal that tells you that part of them is interested, and part of them just wants an excuse to end the conversation. If you state your fee, at that time, before the person knows anything about what you really do, you are more than likely making sure they won’t hire you. Instead answer that question this way: “I hear that you are interested in knowing what I charge, but before we go there, tell me more about your business (or how I can help you, or what you need, or almost any open-ended question). It’s not only fine but appropriate to talk fees once you have explored what they really want. If you do it before that, you are falling through what I call the Money in the First Position Trap Door. The likelihood of you having the perfect fee (not to high, not to low) for them before they know anything about what you really do is very slim. So don’t put yourself there!
So bottom line. Tell your clients (meaning the people who actually do want to work with you) about your fees and charges in a clear and direct way. Everyone will be happier if there is no guess work in the process. Keep your emotion about money out of the conversation and just give ‘em the facts.