How to Get Paid What You're Worth

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One of my biggest problems is figuring out how much to charge, whether it be for speaking, consulting, or any of my services. I suspect a lot of us have that problem.

We don’t want to overcharge, lest we don’t get the client/gig/project, but then, we don’t want to undercharge, hating ourselves while we’re doing it, knowing that the client would have easily paid more. I used to err on the side of undercharging, and I hated myself for it. I still do, sometimes.

It’s frustrating. I’ve seen it happen out of business situations, as well – Paying six dollars for that trinket in Thailand, knowing that I probably could have negotiated my way down to four. It’s really a pain in the ass, huh?

So how do you make sure to get the right price, whether you’re selling your services, or buying a trinket in some exotic foreign land?

Here are my suggestions for making sure you get paid (or pay) what you’re (it’s) worth:

1) First and foremost: You can always come down in price. You can NEVER go up. If the client wants you, they’ll counter with their offer. In many cultures, the first offer is the opening to let you know that they’re interested – If you accept it, you’re looked way, way down upon. You can always come down from your initial price quote – but I don’t remember the last time you could go up: “OK, We accept your $15,000 keynote fee.” “Yeah, well, I’d now like to charge you $20,000.” Not gonna happen. You can always come down. You can never go back up.

2) How much is your time worth? I’m not going to get into my rant of a few months ago as to why free is not the same as being taken advantage of, but I’ll just say this: How much is your time worth? Sit down and figure it out. Come up with your budget, and if you want to find out how much your time is worth, simply divide your budget by the number of hours you want to work. That’s your starting/break-even point. From then, simply figure out how much more you want to make to decide your profit-level. This takes constant re-jiggering, and changes client by client. But it’s a good start.

3) Sometimes, taking a job for a little less will actually net you a lot more. If I’m keynoting a conference that has tons of other people who choose keynotes for conferences, you know that I’m going to charge a bit less. Why? Because I want to guarantee I get the gig, and then wow 300/500/1000 potential other gig-hiring people with my greatness on stage. This has worked for me countless times – It’s an awesome way to make sure you get the gig – But don’t undercharge by too much. Ten percent will usually do it. And the calculation is easy: If you make enough money on the gigs you pick up from discounting by 10%, there’s your calculation. It’s a win.

4) Finally, you’re worth as much as you believe yourself to be worth. Many friends have asked me how I made the leap from speaking for free to getting paid to do it. Simple: I asked to be paid. Granted, I started out at a very small percentage of what I make now, but you’ve gotta start somewhere. Simply ask. You’d be amazed what comes from asking. Just starting to make that leap? Try this:

“Hey, can you speak at our seminar next month? You’d be perfect for us!””Thanks so much for asking, I’d love to! My speaking fee is $1,000. Since it’s in town, there’s no need to include travel or any other costs, so it’d be a flat $1k.””Well, I don’t know if we can afford that, I’d have to ask the board.””OK, you ask them – I’ll be here – Hope we can make this work. Thanks again for thinking of me!”

Yes, it’s scary to do. But it’s necessary, and more often than not, they’re going to come back to you with a “Yes.”

Look at it this way: Chances are, someone is making money from the conference at which you’ve been asked to speak. If that’s the case, doesn’t it seem a bit unfair that it’s not you, since you’re the one people are paying to see?

Any other tips for getting paid what you’re worth? Leave them in the comments for all to see!

Written on a Macbook Air on the MTA N Downtown local train, between 57th Street and 8th Street. Written in Ommwriter, and copied to WordPress.

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