Self-Employed People Almost Always Underprice their Services

I help people improve their overall financial health, wherever that task might lead, and, since a lot of my clients are self-employed people, I help a lot of them improve their self-employed financial health, i.e., I provide business consulting services to them.

This can range from helping them decide whether to vesselize their business (most have heard somewhere along the way that they really ought to put their business into a C corp or an S corp or an LLC) to helping them increase the odds of having happy customers who come back for more, and it can range from providing a little bit of rusty-ol’ recovered-lawyer non-lawyering (father/mother, it’s been 15 years since my last lawyering . . . and helping someone write a contract isn’t per se lawyering, right?) to helping them figure out how to solve day-to-day business problems, either internal to the business or having to do with a less-than-satisfactory interaction with a customer or client.

Like I said: where-so-ever the task might lead . . .

And, of course, I also help them with pricing. I especially provide this sort of help to people who provide services in areas in which there is no preordained, one-way-and-only-one-way conventional approach to charging customers. And as to those areas in which there is a deeply embedded, conventional approach to charging customers? Why, then, there is either nothing much to talk about on that front (e.g., the client says, no, you just can’t do that in this business, and no poking or prodding from me will change the client’s opinion on that front), or there is a great deal to talk about because that conventional approach to charging customers is often old, in the way, and ripe for disruption! And disrupting is one of the funner parts of business.

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99%-plus of the advice I provide to people is very much custom-tailored to the person receiving the advice — and then only after I have heard quite a bit from that person, and only after I’ve done my best to understand what is, and what is not, important to that person. After all, financial lives and financial personalities are far too diverse for most one-size-fits-all approaches!

But there is one piece of standard advice that I dole out in a parlor-trick, say-no-more, I-can-guess-what-card-you-have-in-your-hand sort of fashion when prompted by only the barest of hints about what a person’s financial life or financial personality is all about.

I can do this with little or no risk because, at least eight out of every ten times I give the advice, the person — often very much a stranger — upon hearing the advice says, Yea, that is so true. You are so right. How could you possibly know that about me?

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So what’s the barest of hints that I need to hear before I playback the tape/provide the canned advice/do my robo-advisor routine?

I need only hear that the person in front of me recently went out on his/her own into the ever so loverly world of self-employment.

And then the advice I automaton’ally give is this:

You should charge more.


Admittedly, maybe two out of ten times the person I say this to looks at me like I’m crazy, as if to say, Me? Not charge enough? Me? I am great at what I do — not that many can do it at all, and no one does it better — and I charge a pretty penny for it. You’re wrong, Friedman, just plain ol’ wrong — nuts, even

And when I hear someone say those sorts of things, I know that I am, in fact, wrong. And I can see it in their every posture and manner.

But the other eight out of ten times the person hearing this cookie-cuttered, you-should-charge-more advice looks at me somewhat sheepishly, with a posture evoking something short of fully-empowered, and says, often semi-begrudgingly, Yup, Friedman, you be right. Though I am powerful in the providing of the service, t’is true that I am much less so in the pricing of the service.

These 80%ers do not yet have their confidence. They do not yet have their business legs (at least not of the self-employed kind). They do not yet have their giddy-up at the pricing level of things. This is common — 80% common in the world in which I walk, anyway — and therefore, by definition, nothing to be ashamed about or to kick oneself over (I’ll have more to say about self-abuse below . . . ). 

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But being common doesn’t make it good. These lackings can self-perpetuate for a good long while — forever, even — if allowed to fester and ferment, which means reduced Money-In, which, all things being equal (which they never are . . . ), means diminished financial health, so anyone suffering from these lackings can benefit from being someone helping them just snap out of it.

And so the friendly financial health advisor, moi, rides in to the rescue.

You need to increase your prices by a third, I say to them. Maybe even 40 or 50 percent.

And then I follow that up with one of the all time great MBA-isms, worthy of a two-fer block indent plus font color-change:

Because if someone hasn’t told you in the past twelve months that your prices are too damn high, then they’re too damn low.


So if you’re self-employed — newly or otherwise — ask yourself if someone during the past twelve months (or ever since you started out on your own, whichever is a shorter period of time — remember: I am a recovering lawyer, and lawyers love ’em some whichever is less/more‘s) has, upon hearing your price, immediately told you to take a flying leap off a bridge, or to do something untoward and generally physically impossible to yourself, or some other words to that effect, and, if the answer is no, then you really should raise your prices.

Try it. You really might like it.

Improved financial health awaits you.


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