The most common complaint I hear from self employed people and anyone who is personally connected to their product such as an artist or writer is, “But I find it hard to sell myself”.
My advice is simple. Don’t sell yourself. Your family will not thank you for it. It doesn’t matter how much money someone offers you for you, you’ll regret it in the long run because you won’t be able to spend it, and since they now own you, they also own the money they just paid you for you, so it’s never a good deal.
Instead, sell something that you know or have made. You can sell lots of these things without having to give any part of you away permanently.
So not being able to sell yourself is not a problem, because you should never be doing that anyway. Instead, you have to be clear on what your product is.
If you’re a trainer or consultant, your product might be knowledge. If you’re a coach, hypnotherapist or masseuse it might be your expertise.
Selling your time is almost as bad as selling yourself. There is only one of you to sell, and there isn’t much more of your time to go round either. Let’s say you want to work 8 hours a day, which means you can only sell 40 hours a week. An artist might charge more for a limited edition print, so you might value your limited time in a similar way.
Now, I’m not talking about that holy grail of passive income which all the coaching e-books tell you about. The idea is that you write an e-book, or charge people to look at your website, and you create a passive income stream. Hooray! Everyone can have a passive income stream and retire to the coast! As the American life coaches say, you can “monetize your blog”, which sounds painful. The latest thinking from the cutting edge of ‘self-actualization’ is that you write a blog, then turn it into an e-book to sell, then you give the e-book away so that people think they’re getting something of value from you. Whoever thought of that obviously had a day job to pay the mortgage.
No, what I am talking about is putting value on the result of your expertise and knowledge rather than putting the value on the length of time it takes you to use that expertise and knowledge. In other words, how it is that your client benefits from what you know or can do. And what I am talking about here is designed not to create the perception of value but to put real cash in your bank account.
Whatever your views on capitalism, materialism, consumerism or antidisestablishmentarianism, there’s no denying the fact that cash in the bank comes in very handy indeed, especially when it comes to those little essentials of life such as eating and keeping a roof over your head.
By the way, this also implies that the better you are, the faster you can achieve results, so you actually deliver your service in less time. If the client values your service less because it takes less time, they are not valuing their own time. A client who values their own time understands the importance of coaching taking less of it in order for them to achieve the results they want.
If you’re a masseuse, your product is neither a massage nor an hour of your time. You might sell an hour’s appointment, but that’s a scheduling issue, not a sales issue. If I could feel that good after 5 minutes, why would I want to spend an hour there? So what I really want is to feel relaxed, or energised, or whatever you want to feel after a massage.
If you’re a trainer, are you valuing your knowledge by the time it takes to transmit it? If that’s the case then why not charge by the word? By now, I expect you to be charging based on the value of what your learners can do as a result of your training. If their sales performance increases by 10% then you could show an excellent return on investment by charging anything close to that.
So why don’t more sales trainers charge £10,000 for a day’s training that increases the team’s output by £100,000?
Perhaps because no-one else is. Perhaps because they’re not totally confident their training will have that result. Perhaps because they can’t be bothered to measure the return on investment once the initial decision to buy the training has been made and they’re home dry. Perhaps because they can’t appreciate how their time can be worth that much, it just doesn’t seem right when you compare it to an average salary for an employee.
Economists understand the concept of ‘price anchoring’, whereby price is such an arbitrary label that no-one really knows what anything should cost until someone tells them. On that basis, some people are comfortable paying the same amount for a new car that I spent on my first house, even though the car will be worthless long before it needs replacement. The car marketers are selling the concept of ‘newness’ as much as the car itself.
One thing you can ask of yourself is what you’re doing in the time when you’re not ‘delivering’. Professional athletes can win quite a lot of money in a sports tournament. However, there are only so many of those a year and a lot of potential winners, so when you work out their annual salary it’s about equivalent to someone with a full time job. They’ll add to that with advertising and public speaking too. But here’s the thing – it is a full time job. They’re working on their game every day of the week. If they only play one big tournament a year, they spend the rest of the year getting ready for it.
So what would it be like if you spent the whole year getting ready for one piece of work? What would its value to you be then? If you spent a whole year learning, practising and preparing for one project, the client would get an amazing piece of work from you, wouldn’t they?
“Yeah, yeah”, you’re thinking. Pricing on value rather than cost sounds nice but it doesn’t work in practice. Maybe, maybe not. I heard about a company that makes luxury yachts that cost a million Pounds per metre in length. A Rolls Royce car probably costs no more to make than any other Volkswagen. But how many of those products can the market sustain? Not many, because the economy has evolved to sustain a range of products at a range of prices.
No matter what you charge for your services, I guarantee you will not be the cheapest, and I guarantee you will not be the most expensive either. Knowing that you fall within the market system, you can choose how to price your services, not on the cost of your time but on where you want to position yourself in that market.
A student on a NLP Practitioner course once asked me about day rates for training. She felt that she could only charge a certain amount, which was ludicrously low. Up until the point you start doing the work you’re hired to do, the client has no idea whether you are worth what you’re charging. And based on the concept of price anchoring, your work is worth pretty much what you think it is. She said that she was afraid to justify a higher day rate, so I said to her, “It’s not your job to justify it. It’s the client’s job to justify it. It’s your job to ask for it.” A decade later and she is living the dream, having moved abroad, running online training for other coaches and trainers, and giving them advice on what to charge!
Remember, you can’t sell yourself because there’s only one of you to sell, so you can only sell yourself once. Your time is almost as limited, so you could sell it but you would run out of it so quickly that it wouldn’t be worth the trouble.
Selling the result of your knowledge or expertise is best of all, because it’s a tangible product that you can define in the client’s terms, and there is no limit to how much of it you can sell.
You might only want to spend a maximum of 40, or 20, or 10 hours a week generating that result for your clients, but that’s a lifestyle decision that you make for yourself, not one that your clients make for you.
What you are really selling is therefore not your time and not your ‘self’. You are selling your Intellectual Property, and it’s such a valuable commodity that there are laws to protect it. The reason that most service providers charge on a time basis is that time is the only constraint that limits how much IP you can sell. If your business model is to write your IP down then you’ll charge for access to that, for example with a subscription to a content website, or a cover price for a book. If your business model is to pass that IP onto the client, you’ll charge for training time, perhaps with an element of results-based charging, or something like a license fee for profiling tools. If your business model is to retain that IP yourself then you have to be ‘hands on’ when working with clients, and you have to charge on a time basis. But for all of these examples, what you are charging for is not a book, or website access, or licenses, or time, but for the value created by the application of your unique Intellectual Property.