You know that feeling you get when work dries up, and you don't have projects on the horizon? That tight knot in the pit of your stomach when you realize you’ve got bills to pay and no foreseeable way to pay them?
And then suddenly, a project comes along. Maybe at just the right time. And you breathe a sigh of relief, and the knot loosens a bit—even before you’ve got a signed contract from the client.
You tell yourself that you’re a professional, that you’ll make sure this project is a good fit for you before you take it. But the reality is, you’ve already decided to take the project. Even if the work isn’t interesting. Even if your conversations with the client start throwing up red flags because you get the feeling they’ll be demanding and difficult to work with.
So, when the conversation with the client comes around to pricing, you don’t push hard. You don’t aim high. And if the client comes back with a counter offer, you agree to it almost immediately.
For a moment, the knot in your gut loosens. You’ll be able to pay your bills, your mortgage. You'll make it another month.
Then the emails start coming in from the client. And the full weight of what you’ve done—taken a crappy project with a difficult client for much less than normal—creates a different knot. A bigger knot. One that tightens during those late nights when you’re trying to read the client’s mind and deliver what they want, even though you knew from the beginning they had no idea. One that tightens every time you get an email saying, “We need to make some more changes.” And one that goes away with the project’s over (and you breathe a sigh of relief), only to have that knot replaced by the “how will I pay my bills now?” knot.
This is what it feels like to price without power.
It’s no way to live. And it sure as hell is no way to make a living.
In fact, pricing without power is self-sabotage. But you can avoid this by pricing with power. And when you get this right, you look at every project as an opportunity instead of an obligation.
When you price with power, you never have knots your gut. Instead, you feel relaxed. You sound confident. You know if the project is a good fit you. You can quickly gauge if the client will be a pleasure to work with. And you create terrific rapport, making clients feel comfortable about working with you. And that translates to the client as you being professional, capable, easy to work with, and a good choice. So, when you get to the money conversation, it’s smooth. It’s easy. You aim high, and they respond as if you’ve given them the deal of the century.
So, what’s the secret?
Not putting yourself in the place to need a project. And you do this by not putting yourself in the place to need the money.
This is major reason freelancers end up with low-paying gigs and unsatisfactory work. And it’s the #1 reason many give up their freedom and go back to a 9-to-5 job. Disempowered pricing is the biggest way freelancers sabotage themselves, their business, and their earning potential.
So, how do you price from a position of power? One way is to build yourself a financial “power cushion.”
Every freelancer should have one.
Maybe you’re saying, “Sure, I get it. But I’m struggling to get out of low-paying gigs now. How do I build myself a financial cushion?”
The fact is, you can start building it today. Here are 3 rules to help you begin:
Rule #1: Start when you are.
Start today. Start now. Pick a percentage of every check that comes in your door and sock it away in a savings account specifically for this purpose. Even if it’s just 1%, there’s no judgment. It’s a pass-fail situation. You win when you do this. You lose when you don’t.
Rule #2: Be consistent.
Take a percentage of every paycheck that comes in your door. Again, it doesn’t matter what that percentage is, but do it consistently. You’ll be surprised how quickly your cushion increases in just six months.
Rule #3: Act like you already have it.
There’s no reason you should wait until you’ve built your cushion to start pricing with power. In fact, the cushion is just a prop.
Sure, it serves a real purpose, but the shift I’m talking about here is mostly your mindset. Acting from a place of lack, of wanting instead of having, will never bring you the success or income you want.
Give yourself permission to ALWAYS be selective about the work and the clients you take on. After all, we’re talking about the way you’re choosing to serve the world. Don’t play small. You not only cheat yourself, you cheat the rest of the world, too.