A business counselor offered another helpful point. Once you have stated your rate to a client, you need to stop talking. You need to get a response before you say another word. People who are self-employed often feel insecure when talking about their rates, so they try to make the other person feel comfortable. They state their rate, and then without allowing the customer to respond, quickly gloss over it by saying, “Oh, I charge $65 an hour, but it varies. It depends on the job. It depends what you have in your budget. I’m willing to negotiate. I work in different ways . . .”
Tell the client your rate, and then stop talking. The client will let you know if he or she thinks the amount is too high. He or she might ask you how you developed it, or allude to another business that charges less. If so, tell that person why you provide more value than that other business. However, more times than not, the client will just accept your rate without discussion.
I know a self-employed art director who, when asked to place a bid on a job, estimates the cost of the project and comes up with a figure. He tells the client, “I ran the numbers on this project, and based on the work you want done, I came to an overall project cost of $10,000, including expenses.” Then he shuts up.
He waits for a response. Sometimes, it’s an immediate yes. Other times, he is questioned for more details of his estimate. He then shares the exact number of hours he has estimated for research, design, meetings, and materials, and tells the client his hourly rate. “When I put it all together,” he says, “it comes up to $10,332. I rounded it down to $10,000 as a package price.” Once again, he shuts up.
Again, he gets a response. If the client cannot afford what he is proposing, he or she tells him. If so, he then asks the client, “What did you have in mind, then? What is in your budget?” Based on this response, he can turn down the job, he can decide to lower the scope of the work, he can see if they can raise their budget 10–20%, or he can accept the lower figure. He always knows his own bottom line prior to the meeting.
However, if he does accept the lower amount, he will say, “Tell you what, I’m going to do this job. I like it and I want to work with you. I will make an exception. But now you know what my standard rate is, so on future projects we need to work toward that amount. Will that work for you?” On nearly every occasion, when the next project does come along, the client is prepared to meet his higher asking price.
When you state what you are worth and stand behind it, it then becomes the client’s responsibility to accept your rates or not. You are not responsible for that decision. Your responsibility is to do quality work and to charge what you are worth. Your clients are responsible for the other half of the relationship, and if they believe you are too expensive, they will let you know. Then you can choose to proceed with the project or not.