It never gets old, does it? That feeling - starting a new venture, releasing a product, trying out a hobby or craft for the first time - you know, that feeling that you're standing naked in the middle of Times Square. It's exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time, isn't it?
I've put myself out there many times before in many different avenues, and I wish I could say it gets easier; that as your business grows, your confidence in who you are and what you deliver to your clients would amplify -- whether its a product, service, or sometimes just that glow of YOU doing your thing -- but I'm here to tell you it's not really true. Not always. I can tell you, that nearly every time you venture into new territory, you're going to have that feeling of putting your first-born on the bus to go to kindergarten for the first time. You're going to have questions and doubts, you're going to want to scream, "WHY is this happening to me?!?!" and you're going to want to grab that thing back for just one more edit before it goes public. Why does it never really get easier??
It's because we care. We care about our work - we care about all the little details that makes what we do interesting; we care about the products we produce, and we care SO much about the people our business serves. And so, as much as the anxiety and doubts feels so awful, maybe - just maybe - we should embrace it? Welcome it in and get to know it; maybe understanding why the doubts show up, and learning to trust that we're just where we're supposed to be - that we haven't gotten this far on sheer luck and blind optimism - maybe that's all we need.
One of the best - and hardest to use - pieces of advice I got many years ago was this: never be afraid to charge what you're worth. I have so often struggled with this over the years - what's appropriate to charge when you're new, when and how to raise rates, or putting together a class or other add-on to your business? Ever have that "wake up in the middle of the night worry," wondering whether you're keeping up with others in your industry?
So what goes into deciding an appropriate rate to charge for your service? What is your time worth?? Of course, the obvious tactic of researching what other folks charge is really helpful to get a ballpark idea of what you can ask, but you also need to examine what goes into your own personal 'product.' You don't have to have any concrete numbers here, but sitting down once or twice a year to draw up a rough picture can really put into perspective where your fees are already ear-marked and being dispersed.
Let's start with the base costs of your daily operations - for me, that number pulls from things like the cost of care for my horses (who are integral to my teaching, and teachers themselves), gas and general expenses for my truck, and 'in-part' costs for things like my cell phone, rent and utilities with my home office.
Add to that your transit time - for me, this is often the time it takes to drive from one client to another, but maybe it's just the time needed to transition to your next project - from the horse industry perspective, that can be tacking up horses, cleaning up your workspace, or maybe it's just mentally transitioning (I think many of us - regardless of industry - need more time here than we think). If it's longer that a few minutes, you should count it as time you should be getting paid for, because that's you stepping into your best self for that next person who's paying your bills. Office time goes here too - how much time are you *really* spending answering emails and making phone calls, spending extra time with clients - you might be surprised how much time it really is; but that time is important to promoting YOU, and it should be included in your fee.
This moves us into the most important, and probably hardest to tackle question - what's the value of of the time spent 'delivering your product?' For me, that's the block of time I'm teaching a lesson. What's the value of that knowledge, experience, and - for lack of a better term - partnership that is the 'storefront' in your operations? When it's a service business like mine, it's literally the "what are YOU worth?" question.
I'm a big believer that the process of making any decision about money requires a look inward; what is your relationship with money, both personally and professionally? How have your values or thoughts around money and income evolved over your life? What -- if anything -- did you learn from your parents about money growing up?
These questions may feel completely unrelated to who you are in business, but understanding your feelings and history about money and income can really put a spotlight on where you could be stuck. I know for me, I undervalued the time I was putting into my lessons early on. I thought that, since I didn't have much in the way of "street cred" (apprenticing for a major trainer or blue ribbons and titles from big name shows), I didn't think I had deserved more than the tiny wage that I asked for. I was worried that if I charged what I knew I should, that no one would work with me. Adding up all the time I put into my clients - then and now - that early wage was easily well below minimum wage back then. Looking back, the value of the time and talent delivered to my clients even in the early days was much higher, and bringing my rates up to better match my 'personal value' has actually brought in a (generally) better class of clientele.
If you are having doubts or uncomfortable thoughts around what you should charge, get curious about it. Because I'll bet you, what you give to the world is worth SO much more than you are willing to believe.
Take some time to journal on some of the above questions, and see what comes up for you. If you find some helpful insights, I'd love to hear what you find! Please email me, or share in the comments.
Every business owner goes though the process of goal setting and tracking - sometimes it's a formal, sit down and build the vision board kind of practice, sometimes it's more organic. My goal setting has often been the latter - I will zero-in on the way I want to feel in my work life, or I have a vision for what I want to see change. Early on in my self-employed life, my goal setting was very simple -- getting and maintaining clients, keeping the lights on. That was an almost singular focus for the first few years haha.... But every year has a new theme, often generated by a personal vision that starts nudging me in my day-to-day; and as my business matures, my goals feel a little more bold. One year it was making a significant bump in my rates; one year it was getting brave enough to choose who I want to work with - what would that look like for me?I envisioned it, and I created it. Another year, my goal was setting a firm two-day weekend and more strict office hours, where I would not be available for work - I know there's at least a few of you out there that understand the gravitational pull of the 7-day work week, am I right??
About three years ago, I was feeling the pinch of business unpredictability, particularly where weather is concerned; I knew I needed to balance my work outside with my horses with some work inside. I was offered a job managing a barn for an old client of mine, and that filled the need for a while. I loved the added responsibilities, different culture - I grew a lot and learned a ton.
But as the world turns, I again found myself overworked, and tired - something had to give. I loved what I was doing, but this path didn't quite fit some of my personal desires of time, flexibility and purpose. It may not come as a surprise that I enjoy being busy, and my passion for helping others can be gasoline on that fire. What I also know about myself is that for me to feel like I'm giving my best to my clients, I need time for me - the old, "put your own oxygen mask on first..." adage. I started to really see where personal and professional visions can intersect; it was time to create something different.
So I'm making some shifts in my professional life, this new adventure with Split Rail being one of them - I plan to continue to help others grow and be better -- I think we can help each other -- and I'm looking forward to making new friends along the way. I'm writing this blog to share my experiences, a little wisdom from my years in business, and I hope you will do the same. I think we have a lot we can learn from each other!
I hope to get to know YOU on this journey!
I'd love to know where your personal and professional goals and desires intersect, or compete for your time? Have you ever set a goal that scared you, and how did it turn out? I'd love to see your email, or just comment below.