I got a very funny e-mail inquiry a while back from a VAR right down the street from our office. Not funny “ha-ha,” but instantly funny to me because he wrote: “I have heard quite a bit about you from Harry Brelsford. Your office is actually less than 1 mile from mine. We have called many times and asked about hiring you on an hourly basis to come help us, but your staff keeps rejecting us or not connecting us to you. I would think that a nice paying ‘filler’ gig next to your office would be a great idea, but someone there doesn’t. The Technology Toolkit is a bit more than I need, even at the current price, since we do not have a full-time sales or marketing person.”
I’m not sure who he was talking to and “putting him off,” but after reading his reply, I’m sure they were doing their job in actually screening this guy. At any rate, we immediately sent him a document that explains my consulting fees and terms, which is $1,500 per hour with a two-hour minimum. He then wrote back: “A one-hour consultation is $1,500 per hour with a two-hour minimum?!?! WOW, I wish I could charge rates like that!!!! Please drop us from your mailing list, this isn’t even reasonable—it is arrogant, I don’t care how good she is or purports to be.”
An instructional response
For a brief moment, I thought about writing back and inviting him to my office so he could see the set of brass balls I have on my desk, but I figured that wasn’t a productive use of my time. So instead, I crafted the following, more instructional reply:
Dear Sir, I apologize for ruining your day by my incredible arrogance in believing that my time is actually worth $1,500 per hour; but in return I would request an apology back for your arrogance in thinking that I actually have time for “filler” work and for wasting my staff’s time when they could have invested that with other clients who not only value what I offer but also have the means to pay for it. I, too, wish you could charge $1,500 an hour because then you might actually be able to afford my fees, but the reality is that not everyone can afford to play.
Since I’m clearly over your line of reasonable, I might as well go one step further and suggest that you pay the fee and use that time wisely to pick my brain about how I AM able to charge that, but from your e-mail I gather that the sticker price has so scarred your understandably delicate self-esteem with my immoral and unethical fees, that you most likely wouldn’t consider it. However, I will gift you this one piece of free advice: The fees you are able to command are in direct proportion to the value you create back for the person paying.
Since I have invested a lifetime of study into learning and perfecting strategies that generate revenue, I can easily argue that $1,500 is the biggest bargain going; and the fact that I have people lined up to give me money demonstrates that I am actually that good. If you want to command $1,500 an hour, I would suggest you work harder on improving the value you deliver to your clients. I will also remind you that the last time I checked, we are still operating in a free market system in America, and there are no restrictions on what we can charge.
I suppose you can take comfort in the fact that I was not able to “win” your business and therefore will suffer untold economical repercussions for not being more reasonable. I suppose you can also find some satisfaction in giving me a one-finger salute every time you drive past my office— a luxury that most do not have. And if it makes you feel better, I say go for it.
As for your request to be taken off my mailing list, we will gladly grant your request. Just remember that getting back on the list will cost you $5,000, so staying on will end up saving you in the long run. And finally, I DO want to thank you for your response. I’m always looking for good fodder for my newsletter, and this will certainly make the front page of what not to do. To show my appreciation, I’m going to send you a book by Karen Salmansohn titled, Ballsy: 99 Ways to Grow a Bigger Pair.
Decide what your time is really worth
Okay, I didn’t actually SEND that e-mail. That’s why I have customer service staff to buffer me from the outside world. Can you imagine if I did? If he thought my fees were arrogant, I think this e-mail may have set his hair on fire. But the reason I share this rant with you is to make an extremely important point:
YOU get to decide what your time and service is worth, period; and that figure should be based on what you WANT to earn, not what others think is “fair” or “reasonable.”
To quote Charles Karrass’ slogan, “You don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate.”
One of the biggest wealth mistakes I see entrepreneurs making (myself included sometimes) is working on low-level projects or tasks, or saying “yes” to opportunities, clients, or projects that are low-paying, low-leverage, or NO-leverage activities. Want to know how to give yourself an instant pay raise? Figure out what your time is worth right now, double it, and then only work on projects that are of that value.
I did not come to the $1,500 per hour arbitrarily. My company is currently on track for $6 million this year. If you take the hours I work (50 x 52 weeks), that’s 2,600 hours. Divide that into $6 million and that’s $2,307 per hour; and NOT every hour is productive (meaning I’m working on revenue-generating activities) so there needs to be a multiplier. Therefore, if I make the mistake of working on a project that is worth anything less than $2,307 per hour, I’m actually doing myself and my company a disservice. When I said $1,500 per hour is actually a bargain, IT IS.
Stop undervaluing your services
If you want to get your company to $5 million (or whatever your number is), I suggest you do the same math and realize what your time HAS to be worth in order to achieve that number. Then, as quickly as you possibly can, delegate or stop doing anything that is not worth that hourly rate. This, of course, is easier said than done—but if you DON’T get it right, you’ll never get ahead. I think that a lot of this comes back to habits—we are “in the habit” of doing everything, and there’s a comfort in coming into the office with a desk full of paperwork, getting that done, and feeling a sense of accomplishment. Problem is, that “paperwork” is often work someone else can or should be doing. YOUR job would be much better served to come into the office in the morning with a clean desk and a blank sheet of paper.
Since we own the business, we end up getting sucked into every aspect of running it; but then it’s no small wonder why you don’t have any energy left to work on more strategic plans and revenue generating activities … all the day-to-day “stuff” is draining the life out of you.
I also want to point out another critical point here: If you aren’t regularly getting prospects telling you that your fee is too high, you aren’t charging enough. If you get zero resistance here, I can confidently say your fees are too low. There SHOULD be some price resistance; it’s instant price shopper pest control for your business. Don’t apologize, and don’t discount just because someone can’t pay—your services don’t instantly get devalued because someone can’t afford them. Instead, figure out how you can add more value and do a better job of demonstrating the value you offer.
And finally, never be afraid to charge a premium for your services. Doing so is NOT unfair, unethical, or greedy—it’s smart. There is no written law that you can only charge so much—that’s entirely and utterly up to you. The marketplace doesn’t operate on “fairness,” and thinking that it does will seriously deter your ability to create wealth. Making a lot of money is not evil or bad as the masses would have you think—anyone who believes this is either broke or an unscrupulous politician trying to sell you on why YOU shouldn’t be rich, as they stockpile money and have their hand in every profit scheme they can.
Plus, you don’t make a lot of money simply because you work hard; there is no universal law that says hard work automatically equals wealth. If that were the case then the landscapers working all day in 90+ degree weather and horrible humidity would be the richest people on earth. You get to charge what you deliberately and intentionally set out to charge.
As Gene Simmons says: “Be clear, be truthful. Stand there proudly, unapologetically, unabashedly and say, ‘I love cash. It will get me everything I want in life.’”