At the bank I once worked for as a trainer, they had a saying:
“If it’s about money, it’s never funny”
Ain’t that the truth! To that I added my own adage:
“Show me your bank account, and I’ll tell you how you lead your life”
Bankers and accountants probably know more about you than your therapist. By analyzing the way you spend your money, they can tell whether or not you lead a healthy lifestyle, if you’re a good planner, and if you can resist instant gratification.
On blogs and networking sites, money is a popular theme. People want to know how much to charge, whether or not they should spend $399 on a membership of a particular site, and if it’s OK to discount services… the list is endless.
Recently, I found myself caught up in a discussion about on-line freelance job sites like Upwork and Freelancer.com. These sites can connect you with prospective employers from all over the world, and help you find projects that are not listed on the familiar voice-over casting sites.
However, when I looked at the average bids some of our colleagues put in to get voice-over work, I was stunned. If you think that doing a job for $100 is stretching it, wait until you check out sites like guru.com. Your jaw will drop to your knees, and that’s not a good thing if you’re in the voice-over business.
Some people are justifying this downward trend by pointing at the current economic climate:
“Times are still tough. We all have to tighten our belts and do more with less. The only way to still get work is to lower our fees.”
I’m not buying it! Are you?
As I was paying a stack of medical bills, I had a realization. Do our doctors lower their rates because the economy still isn’t doing so great? Would a nurse take care of us at half price? Is a baker going to charge less for his loaf of bread, or would a plumber be willing to show up and take a 40% pay cut? No way. If anything, their fees increase every year to keep up with the rate of inflation.
Then why do some of us feel the need to put themselves up for grabs in the bargain basement?
Remember: once you’re in there, it’s so hard to climb out. Forget how the economy is doing for a moment. If you subscribe to the notion that you often get what you pay for, why are you selling yourself and your colleagues short? What are you afraid of? A certain two-letter word?
THE HARDEST WORD
Top negotiator William Ury wrote a book called “The power of a positive No“. For some of us, that powerful word is one of the hardest in the language. But when we’re saying “No,” we’re asserting ourselves, and we’re affirming our boundaries, whether it’s in an intimate relationship, or in a business relationship.
Being an independent contractor means that we have to have a good sense of what we’re worth. We have to have the guts to stand up for ourselves (and each other), and say “No” when faced with a bad deal. If we don’t, people will inevitably take advantage of us.
Let me rephrase that: If we don’t dare to say “No,” we are allowing others to take advantage of us. Or, as Dr. Phil puts it:
“We teach people how to treat us.”
Here’s an example.
Did you know that I used to be a non-denominational wedding officiant? I could set my own fees, and every now and then a newly engaged couple would tell me that they were on a shoestring budget. Before I knew it, they were practically begging me to lower my rate.
In the beginning -when I didn’t know any better- I fell for it big time. I wanted to be liked, and I felt sorry for the couple, as I remembered the times I had to nickel and dime. Guess what… I paid for my lack of backbone, until I had learned my lesson.
First of all, these couples turned out to be the most demanding couples I had ever worked with. I’d give them a finger, and they would ask for the entire hand. I’m all for underpromising and overdelivering, but within reason. If you’ve seen some of the Bridezilla shows, you know that not every princess is as sweet as her Daddy believes her to be.
Secondly, these ‘shoestring weddings’ often turned out to be the most lavish events I’d ever be invited to. Apparently, other vendors had not fallen for the couple’s story of woe. As soon as I had learned my lesson, I encouraged my brides to price officiants out. I’d also tell them that low fees are usually a red flag. It either means that an officiant is just starting out, or that he or she might not be able to offer as many services. I would tell my couples:
“You can’t expect a gourmet meal at a fast-food price.”
When I started to put my foot down, something amazing happened. As soon as I decided to charge a fair fee, people started taking me seriously. Sure, I lost a few weddings due to price, but my limited time on earth is too valuable to have to deal with haggling Bridezillas.
THE SECRET TO MAKING BILLIONS
Author William Ury recalls a breakfast he once had with Warren Buffet, one of the most successful investors ever. Ury writes: “He confided in me that the secret to creating his fortune lay in his ability to say No.” Buffet said:
“I sit there all day and look at investment proposals. I say No, No, No, No, No, No -until I see one that is exactly what I am looking for. And then I say Yes. All I have to do is say Yes a few times in my life and I’ve made my fortune.”
So, let’s learn from Buffet and promise each other to teach our clients how to treat us.
Say NO to rates and fees that insult your unique talent, your professionalism, your intelligence, and your experience.
Economists tell us that the only way to get out of an economic slump is to start spending again.
If anything, we should start making more, not less.
For that to happen, you need to assert yourself. Or, as I like to say:
“You sometimes have to put your foot down, in order to get a leg up!”