with Aliza Sherman
If you own a business - home-based or otherwise - this is the blog where you'll find practical tips and smart ideas about entrepreneurship. I've started and run 4 different businesses so "been there, done that." I'll also invite successful entrepreneurs to share their best advice with you.
To learn more about Aliza, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! and her website, www.mediaegg.com.
In her recent post “Respecting the Billable Hour,” writer and consultant Alexandra Samuels talks about a mind shift in how you think of other people’s time and your own.
…there is a big difference between meeting with a consultant to assess whether you want to hire her, and asking her to simply give you a couple of hours to do the work you need. When you are talking to someone whose work includes analyzing problems, offering insight or making recommendations, “picking their brain” is the same as asking them to work for free.
I’ve done it. You’ve probably done it. In the past, I felt guilty asking for money or even mentioning money when someone asked if they could have an hour of my time. I knew they wanted me to provide strategic thinking to help them work through a business issue. They knew this was what I did for a living.
But the money conversation can be hard, at least for me. So I’d get on the phone, and have mixed feelings afterward. I felt like I had done a good deed, and at the same time felt like a pushover. I had spent an hour or two giving away for free what I normally get paid to provide. I kicked myself for being weak and afraid to just bill for my time.
Now here is what I’ve learned about the Money Talk:
1. It never hurts to state your fee. You have a 50/50 chance of actually getting it.
2. It never hurts to ask for reciprocity or to barter. People often worry about asking for help when they need it and would being able to provide something in return could be a relief.
3. It doesn’t help to get mad about it. People make mistakes. Some people are ignorant. Others don’t realize what they’re asking. Some do and just want to get something for nothing. It runs the gamut. Don’t take other people’s errors on your shoulders. How you handle it - gracefully - will speak volumes.
4. It’s not your fault if they get mad. You learn a lot about a person when they react badly to someone who simply states their worth. You aren’t doing it to offend them, but if they take offense to a polite mention of your fee, it is their problem, not yours.
5. You can choose when to charge and when not to charge and not feel guilty about either. It really is up to you. Choosing not to state a fee or charge is a valid choice, but make sure you are making that choice out of strength, not weakness or fear.
6. Yes, they may walk away. So be it. You still have 59 minutes to get more work done.
I learned to state my fee in several ways:
1. I usually get $XXX an hour for that, but I’d love to help you out.
2. My fee is $XXX an hour for that. When would you like to speak?
3. I normally charge for that, but I’m happy to give you 1/2 hour.
Then I put these statements into action to build my courage.
There are the times that I really want to speak with the other person for a myriad of reasons or simply because I just feel like it. So I say, “Sure, when can you talk?” As long as I come away from those conversations energized versus depleted, I feel good about them, that my time was well spent. Because while it is business, it isn’t always about the money.
I can’t say I’m any less fearful asking for what I’m worth - which, frankly, translates to asking for MORE than I THINK I’m worth. I’ve had frank conversations with a number of trusted colleagues, PICKING THEIR BRAIN about what they think I should charge. They come back with numbers 2-3x larger than I come up with. Those numbers FREAK. ME. OUT. But then I see my colleagues charging the same or even more, and I realize that I’m simply not properly valuing my time. And time is PRECIOUS.
Do some people walk away when I state my price? Absolutely. ALL the time. Does it deter me from stating my price? Sometimes. It’s an ongoing struggle for me. But if I don’t value myself and my time, who else will?
Here’s a great roundup of other posts about “giving it away for free” by Lisa Barone with a list of 15 responses you can give when someone asks to pick your brain.
On the flip side, when I ask to pick someone else’s brain for something that I know they get paid to do, I preface with “I’d love to hire you for an hour of your time.” If I don’t know for sure, I will ask if I can speak with them and offer “I’m willing to pay you for your time.” Sometimes they charge me. Sometimes they don’t. But I hope we both come away feeling good about the outcome.
How do you ask to pick people’s brains? How are you asked when someone wants to pick yours?
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