How to Start a Pricing Conversation

The biggest mistake I see freelancers and self-employed folks make is botching the start of a pricing conversation.  Don’t get me wrong.  My clients are smart, talented folks.  And, that’s kinda the problem.

Imagine this scene.  You’re totally vibing with a potential client.  You like their energy.  They get yours. And, you are percolating with ideas for them.  They are giving you a ton of inspiration and direction.  You feel golden until you new BFF grins broadly and says, when can we get started?

Why this conversation is scary

As thrilling as it is to have a potential new client interested in your work, it’s also scary.  Because  you’re passionate about your work and probably a little bit of a perfectionist, you want to make your client happy, very happy.   That desire to do a great job can lead to doubt.  Doubt leads to panic.  Panic leads to, well all sorts of weird behaviors like:

  • not putting the time of seminar on the flyer
  •  leaving the price of services off
  • vaguely describing your services in corporate speak
  • forgetting to add your email or business name to emails
  • your mind goes blank when someone says what do you charge
  • immediately discounting the price

Crazy, huh.  I’ve done each one of these  things at some point.  It’s natural. I once had a coach tell me that the reason  a person gets nervous is because it feels important to do a good job.  I agree.  My goal is to take that anxious desire to do good and turn it into an actionable plan so you actually get what you want: a happy client, a job well done, and compensation that honors your work.

How to Start a Pricing Conversation

So, how do you get to a point where you’re not scared of clients or saying your price.  Excellent question! Best way to go fast is to start slow.

First, stop and prepare your mind.  I LOVED the Olympics.  Next summer games I’ll be in Brazil- heavens willing!  I love studying success and Olympians are great role models.  Before each track race, I watched the top contenders stop and prepare.  You could see them visualizing the task ahead and their eventual victory, body and mind reliving the success.

You can do the same thing.  Prepare for having a great pricing conversation.  See it in your mind.  Hear yourself saying the opening statement you prepare.  See yourself smiling and being victorious!  Visualization works, people.

Second, prepare your body.  This will sound woo woo, but you need to feel grounded and solid.  I once had a client named Steve who complained he got light-headed while  talking numbers.  To the point where he was really distracted.  So I suggested a little body work.  I asked him to take a deep breath and rock first to his toes then settle his weight back firmly onto his heels.  Don’t ask my why.  There’s something about that move that settles nerves and makes you feel ready and calmer.  Try it.

Third, have an opening statement. In mediation, the first thing the mediator says to both parties is an opening statement- an explanation of the process, the next steps and how to act to get the best result.  It’s how you get everyone ready to enter the right frame of mind to have a problem-solving conversation.

An opening statement works for you as you start your pricing conversation. Use it as a mantra to calm your racing heart and regain your peace of mind and control.  Use it to set the right intention as you talk about your work as a self-employed person or freelance.  (Hint: it’s to collaborate to help your client find a solution, if even that means they work with someone else)

Oh, and you’ll need more than one.  Look at the 4 most common situations you deal with ( price-shopper, unsure buyer, aggressive buyer, phone quotes, bidding sites) and create an opening statement for each one.  Your goal is to lead the conversation  from potential  of doing great work with this person to the actual steps to make those great results a reality.

What’s in your Opening Statement?

You know, it’s hard for me to tell you exactly what to include because I don’t know your business.  For me as a coach, it’s been very important for me to understand if the person wants practical advice like resources or mentoring for birthing great ideas.  So, I ask a lot of questions and explain that it’s part of my process to see if the fit is right and get inspired.

I also make a point of saying how I do my best work and with whom.  People who open to examining themselves and willing to try change are always the ones who are most satisfied with their results.  I also say what doesn’t work.  (I’m a stickler for doing homework on time.  Otherwise, it wastes both our time.)  My husband thinks it’s wrong to be so direct.   I see it as honest & useful because I really do partner with my clients and I can’t work harder for their success than they do.

Don’t feel like you’ve got to figure this out at once.    Maybe just start with preparing your mind and body.  When you’re comfortable with that, start observing how people ask you to work with them, what you do and what you’d like to do instead.  That’ll be the basis for a natural, personal opening statement that leads to more sales at better prices.


How do you prepare yourself to have a pricing conversation?



PS If you’d like to learn more about  using an Opening Statement to say your price more confidently, join me at the Say it Summit on Sept. 18th. 

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