Am I Being Fair? Negotiating Your Fees With Clients
As a woman business owner, you have already overcome many challenges just starting your business. Unfortunately, that may have included dealing with subtle and even obvious messages that you can’t make it simply because you are female. You have put in 18-hour days and raised the necessary funds to get your business off the ground and start building a client base. For your business to thrive, you need to charge reasonable rates for your products or services. However, determining your rate can be a challenge. You want to be fair to your clients while still earning a respectable fee for what you provide them.
Make Sure You Have Enough Details Before Offering a Price Quote
Initial client requests for pricing tend to be vague. Someone needing graphic design work, photography services, or a legal document prepared does some online research and ends up at your website. That’s good news because it means your SEO efforts are effective. However, you could easily lose that lead or settle for less than your product or service is worth if you answer the inquiry too quickly.
If the client includes a website, don’t hesitate to check it out to get a better feel for the company. There’s nothing to say that you can’t research potential clients the same way they research you or your company before sending an inquiry. This research can give you a general idea of what the client’s budget might be, their reputation, and what the company offers to its own customers.
You will likely need to probe your contact for significantly more information before you can provide an accurate estimate. Assume that you’re a photographer for the sake of example. You would need to know how many photos the client needs, the location where you would take them, any special prop or development requests, the number of people involved in each photo, and several other details. Once you have obtained what you need, thank your prospect and give him or her a timeline of when you will follow up with a job estimate.
Consider the Time and Expense Involved in the Client’s Request
It’s common to underestimate how long a project will take you to complete or the expenses you may incur before final delivery to the client. Once you have given the client a quote, it’s awkward and perhaps not even legal to go back and charge more. To avoid this scenario, make sure you have a good estimate of how long each task will take you based on details provided by the client and your previous experience with similar work. You may want to consider using professional estimating software to help you build your price quote line by line.
Know Your Competition
Don’t be afraid to ask the client who else he or she is considering working with to obtain the product or service. Most will not hesitate to provide this information. Even if the client does seem hesitant to share, you should know your industry well and the going rate for what you are offering. As a new business owner, you probably want to price at the midpoint or lower until you have a more established reputation. At that point, you can price your products or services more competitively and offer validation of why it’s a good investment for the client.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Your prospective clients are busy running a business and collecting other quotes for their project. That means they won’t necessarily follow up with you in a timely manner. It’s important to stay on their radar by checking in periodically. Your first check-in should come a few days later to see if the client has chosen someone for their project. If not, try a few more times over the next couple of weeks. The key is to remain friendly and persistent without making a nuisance of yourself.
Checking in with the client a few months after the completion of a project can be a great way to obtain new work. You can ask them how things are working out for them and whether they expect to need anything else from you in the next several weeks to months. If your contact says yes, employ the same follow-up techniques we just described.
How do you prepare for client negotiations? Join IAW and let our network of over 850,000 professional women build your confidence and enhance your skills.