Are You an Asset or an Expense?

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a freelancer, is to see yourself and what you have to offer, as an expense.

Every day, colleagues of mine put in lower bids on Pay to Plays, and charge lower fees, dreading that clients might think they’re too expensive. If a company like Apple or Tesla would use that strategy, it would no longer be in business.

Competing on low price is a desperate attempt to win over clients, used by those who don’t see themselves as valuable enough to land a job based on talent. It reeks of fear instead of competence, confidence, and experience.

THE FEAR FACTOR

Clients love using fear as a tactic to make you lower your rate. They’ll tell you they can easily find someone cheaper. They’ll plead poverty and say they cannot afford you. We’ve all heard it a million times. It’s the oldest trick in the book.

Let me say it again:

You have no way of knowing how much or how little a client can afford.

Successful negotiation is about finding that space between “can afford” and “willing to pay.”

When a client objects to your rate, three things could be going on. They have to do with:

VALUE, NEED, and CONNECTION

If there is little or no personal connection between you and the client, making a deal is so much harder. People who get along find it easier to come to an agreement. If you encounter resistance, strengthen the connection first, then renegotiate.

Let’s say you have created rapport, but the client still seems hesitant, make sure you establish an absolute and urgent need for what you have to offer. Window shoppers aren’t necessarily window buyers. Some clients aren’t serious. They’re just testing the waters to see what’s out there.

Give window shoppers the information they need based on what they think is important. It’s what they need to hear that matters. Not what you want to say. Don’t spend time convincing them they should hire you. Spend that time creating a connection and building trust.

Never mention price until you have established that you meet their needs.

The last reason a client may reject your rate is because they don’t feel you’re worth it. As they say in sales terms: your value proposition is lacking. This brings us back to where I started this story. The client sees you as an expense.

Here’s my take on that:

If you do your job right, you will MAKE your client money instead of COSTING your client money. Even if you’re working for a non-profit, your job is to always add value, and for that you deserve to be fairly compensated.

As a reminder to yourself, copy the following text, print it out, and put it where you can see it:

As long as you’re adding value, you’re not costing anyone anything.

Let’s look at an example of adding value.

PRICY PODS

Apple just launched the AirPods Max at $549. A premium price for a premium product. These things sold out in a matter of days. Here’s what’s remarkable: most buyers did not have a chance to try these headphones out first.

Because of Apple’s reputation and marketing, these buyers believed they’d be getting value for money.

Have I got news for you!

You don’t have to be an Apple to make people bite. As an independent contractor YOU are in charge of your product or service. You are the head of quality control. You are responsible for your reputation, and for your marketing.

So, instead of watching mic reviews on YouTube, or getting into arguments on social media, spend part of your time studying sales and marketing. Instead of spending money on new equipment you don’t really need, have someone build a better website or produce a better demo. Something that tells the world you’re not some amateur, but a real pro!

A NEW MINDSET

Turn the tables around for a change. At least in your head.

You don’t depend on that one client. That client depends on you. The client doesn’t dictate your rate. You determine how much you are worth. Within reason, and within your market, of course.

No matter what number you end up with, you’ve got to KNOW YOUR WORTH and PRICE for PROFIT. Whether you’re just beginning, or you’re a VO veteran. Otherwise you’re merely a hobbyist.

But what if a client refuses to pay what you think is fair?

As a business person you should know that you’re not right for every client, and not every client is right for you. 

The great thing about being a freelancer is that there are always more and better opportunities. You just need to find them, or have them find you. That’s part of your job description.

It’s no accomplishment to book a low paying gig. It’s a lot harder to find clients that pay well and give you return business. 

THE COST OF ADVERTISING

At the start of this new year, please get it out of your head that you are expensive. The word “expensive” is a comparative deletion. The question is: “expensive, compared to what?”

When you look at the cost of a television commercial, the money spent on a voice over is but a fraction of the total budget.

Unless they’re celebs, VO’s are always cheaper than on-camera actors, and cheaper than the entire crew and equipment needed to film those few seconds. VO’s are way less expensive than the big shot director, the guys who wrote the lousy script, the composer responsible for that ear worm of a tune, and the musicians playing the music.

And I’m not even talking about all the lawyers involved in making sure the campaign is kosher. When I did my David Attenborough soundalike for a national IHOP campaign, three lawyers on two continents were listening in. They had to make sure I didn’t sound too much like the famous British naturalist, or IHOP would get in trouble.

These lawyers were the reason the session took over three hours because the client wanted me to sound more like Attenborough, and the legal team wanted me to tone it down. Every word and every inflection was debated and recreated ad infinitum.

I love Hawaiian French toast, but I’ll never eat at the International House Of Pancakes again!

Do you think these corporate lawyers made more money than the humble voice over doing all the work?

Do I even need to answer that question?

If there’s anything I’d like you to take away from this blog post it is this:

You are an asset. Not an expense.

True pros consistently give more than what they take. 

Or in the words of a famous Dutch blogger:

Your added value is always higher than your rate!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs."

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Money Matters, Pay-to-Play, Promotion, Social Media

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