How to Value Your Services As A Professional Service Provider

Virtually every web designer or graphic artist I know undervalues their professional contribution. And as a result I get to listen to them bitch about how it's a tough field and competition is stealing clients and sales aren't what they should be and on and on and on. Don't get me wrong. They think they're worth more. In some cases, they even know it. But there's one thing holding them back from commanding the kind of fees that make.

It's them. Conventional wisdom goes something like this. First, establish how much you want to make per hour of your time. Then, check that figure against industry norms to make sure your competitive. And then, once you've honed your chops, price your services a little higher than the rest.

Conventional Wisdom Keeps You Thinking Like A Commodity

Are you tired of prospecting for business? Would you rather your prospects be begging YOU to design their logo, develop their website or take their wedding photos? Because the only difference between who gets the business and who doesn't is who has the commodity mindset and who's thinking like a rockstar.

Whether you're a graphic designer, interior decorator, software programmers, a home-stager or marketing consultant, we all facing the same challenges in the end: PROVING OUR VALUE. In the final assessment, it's the person who does a better job of proving and asserting their value, without a shadow of a doubt, in the minds of their prospects, who ends up with the business.

There's that word again: Value. What does it mean? Let me tell you my friends. You need to sell yourself on your value before you'll ever get anyone else to recognize it. But guess what? You can't prove your value to anyone unless your first willing to turn down business.

Let's imagine for a moment that there is a magic script that would make them turn over their wallets. Done imagining?

There isn't. But there's something almost as good. Mastering the mindset of valuing you're own work. And guess what, you're in luck, because if you're in an industry adjacent to mine, you're most likely SELLING to SELLERS...

How to Make The Mental Leap

Stop worrying about your marketing problems and start helping your clients solve theirs. Once you get it, you'll realize that real value of your service is the same whether you spend two hours or 20 hours doing the work. How can that be? It's because the "Value" isn't something you "put into" your service, it's what your client "gets out".

Try to think of a few ways your client's situation can be improved directly, or indirectly, by contracting your services. If you can't, that's ok. Begin by asking yourself: What makes your client's customers buy? What are your services worth to your client in additional sales, new business contracts, increased curbside appeal, repeat transactions, and so on and so forth.

Are you starting to get it yet? Whatever industry you're in, you've got clients who are trying to sell products and services to their own set of clients ... I gaurantee you they've got marketing problems they need help solving. You're going to help solve them. And since solving those marketing problems is worth a lot to your clients, you're entitled to a piece of the upside.

Remember this and never forget it: If you can show ANYONE upside, you can entitle yourself to a piece of it.

Burn it into your head the next time you're prospecting for new business. It is this mindset what sets commodities apart from professionals who can command any price for their work. It's also what separates amateurs from seasoned veterans who've been around the block a couple of times. What's their secret? I'm going to give you the shortcut to that level of confidence in, yes, three easy steps.

Step 1. Discover Their Profit Motive

First of all, your clients' profit motive is probably a whole lot higher--and more accutely felt--than yours is. We in the creative fields like graphic design tend to care about fuzzy rewards, not pure profits.

Instead, we need to be showing our clients how:

  • Their lackluster brand identity is standing between them and $100,000 in additional sales next year.
  • Their outdated web site is probably turning OFF more customers than it's turning ON
  • People would use their site more often and spend money more frequently with them if it was easier to use.
  • Designing their album cover will give their music more shelf appeal and, therefor, sell more records over time.
  • Staging their home will help them optimize profits by selling the home faster, and at a higher price then they would have otherwise.
  • A sizzling new corporate brochure will improve lead-to-conversion ratios by three times or more.

You should be getting the picture by now. By the way, their "profit motive" is not always best expressed in terms of money. It can be expressed in any way that's percieved to as valueable. But no matter how their profit motive is expressed, always correlate it back to clear, dollars and sense terms. Leave it to humans to create money so we can put a measure on fuzzy desires =)

To figure out their profit motive all you need is a basic understanding of how businesses in their industry make money. However, to really cinch the deal, I mean crisply and overwhelmingly telegraph the true value of your services, so you become the obvious choice, asking your clients the right questions will open up a wellspring of appeals you never even thought to look for...

These are abstract and emotional appeals. Appeals like appearing big, impressing their friends, outsmarting their competitors and keeping up with the latest trends. Ok, now that you've identified your clients profit motive...

Step 2. Get Them To Assign A Specific Dollar Amount To Whatever Motivates Them

The only thing better than knowing your value is having someone else recognize your value. The specific dollar amount we're going for doesn't have to be accurate. They could be flat-out lying to you, the point here is to get them thinking about all the money that's at the end of the tunnel, the decreased stressed and wonderful feelings they'll have after they hire you to solve their problems.

Ok, here we go. Memorize these killer questions. Some of these questions are rhetorical, meaning, not meant to be answered in words. They're intended to be answered in your prospects minds. If they say them out loud, all the better.

  • How much more will [profit motive] be worth to you over the next three years?
  • Do you see how much more [profit motive] you would be doing if you had done this last year?
  • How would things be different for you if you had [their profit motive] sooner?
  • Knowing what you know now about [profit motive], would you have done things a little differently in your business?

Step 3. Separate Yourself From the Flock

Merely talking about these things automatically sets your business above commodity status (and therefor above most of your competitors.) But we need to do better.

In merchandising we talk about "points of difference." The basic idea is that there are things you do on behalf of clients which you take for granted but actually warrant repeating.