Working as a freelancer has us all putting numbers to our life hours, and that can be an overwhelming experience, especially when we are working really hard and are often expected to compete on price. Well I am here to let you know that there are ways of escaping the money-for-hours trap! Of course this is not a simple one-and-done process, beacuse it often takes a lot of unpicking and getting super clear. This takes time, and time itself can be a priviledge. But there are a few steps that can get you started with creating an offer that sells on value rather than time and I am sharing them with you today.
Get clear on who you are
If you want to become more financial sustainable, the first thing you need to do is get crystal clear on who you are as a business. When I work with clients, regardless of the reason they need my help, the first thing we work on is getting deeply tuned in with their personal values and how this is currently manifesting in their business. If you think about it, sustainability doesn’t just rely on people buying your work, it also relies on working in a way that doesn’t drain your spirit and emotional energy. If we want the cashola without honouring the fulfilment and joy, i’ve heard the Amazon warehouses pay pretty good!
Understanding your own values and how you are currently honouring them in your work gives brilliant pointers on what strategies will work well for you, as well as how you can work more in alignment with your needs.
Find a values exercise that resonates with you (a quick Google search of ‘values exercise’ should suffice) and dig deep into your personal values. I usually suggest coming up with 5-7 words that represent these values. Remember these are not what you would like to be, rather who you are at your core. Values can change over time with personal growth and large lifechanging events, so it can be really helpful to revisit them every few years.
Another exercise that I always like to do is a vision exercise, this one is more about envisioning a future that feels fulfilling, and defining what success looks like for you as an individual. I often approach this one from ‘the other side’ and set a journaling exercise where my client pictures themselves as a 90-year-old who is telling a friend about their life. They get to paint a picture of a life that feels satisfying and joyful as though it has already happened. Ultimately we don’t get where we want to go unless we have some kind of destination in mind, so if the answer to ‘what do you want to achieve in life’ is simply ‘success’ but you haven’t defined exactly what that looks like for you, then getting there may become impossible. Think of it as having a map; without a destination in mind, you may end up in interesting places, but you may not find what you set out for. With a clear destination, you may come across barriers, or have to go a different route but you’ll definitely end up closer to that vision!
“Youre 90 years old and you’re sitting with a new friend telling them about your life. Describe the life that makes you feel satisfied and fulfilled” Go into detail on:
What kind of people you lived with and spent time with
What you spent your time doing
What you did for enjoyment and relaxation
The impact your work had on people
Anything else that resonates or feels important to you…
Get clear on who you serve
Getting clear on who your audience are and how you can serve them is just as important as knowing your own needs. Your audience might not be buying yet, but if you have been around and showing your face for a little while then you will certainly have some people that are interested in what you are doing. The most important thing to remember is that your audience are already out there, you just may not have found each other yet! With a global population of 7.8 billion people, whatever you are about will resonate with many of those people. The important thing to do is to understand the kind of people who are interested in your work, and how they engage with your work, as well as their values, aspirations and needs so that you can speak in a way that lets them know they are in the right place. The clearer you are on this, the easier it is for people to find you. These people are probably already looking for you, they just need to know when they have arrived!
The quickest way to understand your audience is to ask them directly! You could create a questionnaire, or my favourite way (thanks to my coach Sas Petherick) is to interview them. Hop on a call with some of your people and ask them some questions! It is always good to plan in advance and I like to record the call (with their permission) so I can transcribe and analyse the data without missing any details. From this data, you can make a profile of your ideal customer: their likes and dislikes, how they speak and the language they use, what their struggles are, what engages them… Use this information to help you develop your voice and speak in a way that resonates with your people, and allows more of them to hear you and find their way to you!
If you do not have any kind of audience yet, work on getting your values and vision clear and start communicating that through social media, or wherever you wish to promote your work. Respond to people’s interactions and get to know people as they explore your work, as well as interacting with other people working in your field and growing a network of business and creative pals.
Know the value of your contribution
We are often told to ‘know your worth’ when it comes to charging and pricing, however I don’t believe the value of our work should have anything to do with our own sense of self-esteem. It implies that we must feel good about ourselves all of the time and embody a certain mindset to mean that our knowledge and experience is as valuable as everyone else’s. Self-worth is often affected by levels of privilege including but not limited to: gender, race, sexuality, disability, body size, IQ and education. Therefore, to me it only makes sense to dissociate any intrinsic value of the work we produce, from the internalised messages we receive about our inherent worthiness. The value of our work comes from literally that – the value it delivers to the recipient.
The monetary value of our work also needs to be separated from time. I am not saying that having an hourly rate for some of your work is bad, but honestly haven’t we all had those experiences where we have worked for weeks on something and created something that’s perfectly good enough, but on another occasion banged out what feels like our best piece of work in a couple of inspired hours? Charging for how long something takes to make ignores the fact that we have often spent years growing and developing the skills required to produce good work.
Focus on the value you are providing your clients with, whether that is joy and life enhancement, saving them time or effort, answering a problem they have or educating them about something important.
Think of your maximum comfortable price for one of your products/services and write it down. See how this feels in your body. Now double it and see how that feels. If it feels good, double that. If it feels bad, knock of 20%. Play around. There is no right or wrong answer but the one that feels good to you (and makes sense on paper). If difficult feelings come up, write them down. Interrogate them. Some may be valid, and others will be based on assumptions that we make about our own value, or how much other people are willing to pay for our work. Ask yourself what you know to be true and what is an assumption. Keep revisiting this exercise until it becomes easier to spot the stories that we tell ourselves.
Create a value-based offer
A value-based offer is one that is not sold on hours of your time, or your own self-worth, but for the literal value it brings to the recipient. When I sell coaching, I am not selling somebody six hours of my time, I am selling them a transformative experience. Sure, it is delivered over six hours but I am not getting paid for the time, but what I can deliver over that period. If someone asked me what I would pay for six hours of coaching, I would not know how to answer. If someone asked me how much I was willing to pay to work one-on-one with someone to navigate my self-doubt, get clear on how I am showing up in my business I would have a much clearer idea.
If you are a graphic designer you can package a set of designs for website, business cards and other icons for brand identity, if you are a poet you could develop and package specific workshops that can be booked and scheduled easily online, if you are an illustrator you could offer a personalised gift with a limited selection of designs so it’s easy to put together. There are a million ideas that you could generate, and I am sure you can come up with a few.
When you are designing your offer, think of the desired outcome for your client. For example with the personalised gift, the outcome could be ‘a thoughtful gift that feels customised and special and makes the recipient feel loved’, for the poet it may be ‘teaching young people to feel the power they hold in their words and thoughts’. Create the offer based around the transformation you wish to deliver. Get clear on what practical and logistical elements the offer provides. Sell the transformation, not the object/service!
I hope this provides some useful kick-off points, or adds something to what you already know. If you are interested in coaching around this then a Get-Momentum session could be perfect for exploring how to create an offer in your business!