Written by: Zoe Share, Founder & Chief Executive Schmoozer, Schmooz Media

As a business owner, who also happens to be a woman, one of the things I’m asked by other women, and entrepreneurs in general, is how much to charge clients when you’re first getting started. I have charged for services at my social media marketing company, Schmooz Media, since day one. While there are some business models where you can’t make money right away, for instance, when you’re developing a new app or product, usually a service-based business is one you can monetize very early on.

While I understand how nerve-wracking it is to put yourself and your services out there and then ask for money, I find myself wondering why so many talented, educated young women don’t recognize their value. Moreover, they don’t recognize that devaluing themselves makes them look less reputable and can be damaging to the brand they are trying to build.

How do you feel when a business offers you something for free?

For me, after the initial excitement wears off, I often ask myself, “What’s the catch?”

Here are the questions that run through my head:

  • Is this free because the product or service is new and needs to be tested?
  • Is this free because the person is not really an expert in what they’re selling?
  • Is this free because there is no value to the service or product
  • Is this free because the founder has such little confidence in their business that they don’t value their own time and work as worth spending money on?

And then ultimately, I think:

  • Am I really going to get the experience I want if I’m not paying someone who knows what they are doing?

Unfortunately, when a service is free, I usually brace myself for a bad experience. The reality is that I expect to pay for excellence, or even for “good enough.”

Offering your service or product for free (or at a discount) at the launch of your business isn’t a bad idea to get your business off the ground, but if you’re going to charge less, you need to set clear boundaries about your other expectations. If your time isn’t going to be exchanged for monetary value, offer your company services in exchange for something else, like an online review, content or a referral.

Even if the price point is low, when you make your expectations about what you want to receive for your time and energy clear, you end up serving your client and yourself much better.

Here are two examples of how you can get non-monetary value for your services!

Sophie’s Custom Photographer Business:
Sophie has a small photography business. She has an assistant for photo shoots and works with a print company to make a unique custom print of the client’s favourite photo from the shoot. Sophie has advertised that her first 10 clients will get a special price for being early adopters. When she sent her proposed work order to the client, she showed the full price to demonstrate the full value of the service being offered and then showed the discount the client was getting by being an early adopter.

When she sent the client an invoice, she reiterated her confidence by saying: “Thank you for being one of our early clients! As a thank you, I have reduced our fees for the first invoice.” The client was pleased to be given a special rate, but also knows that the price will be higher when he or she gives a referral or comes back a second time!

Malia’s Interior Decorating (In a Box) Company:
Malia had decided to start her own interior decorating business and has developed a system (delivered in a box) to help get to know her clients’ styles and tastes. She wants to test her system and doesn’t feel confident enough in her offering to charge money yet. She has decided to invite two clients to help her try her new system free of charge, however, she wants to get something tangible out of her time spent.

Her work order states the services she will provide and instead of listing a price, asks for a list of things in exchange. For her services provided, the two clients need to record a video of them reacting to opening the box, take pictures of themselves following the process, and answer a three-page questionnaire about what worked and didn’t work for them about the experience.

If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.

While finding the confidence to charge for your skills and offerings can be difficult, if you are not clear about your expectations, you cannot expect to get the results you want. Remember, if you don’t make money, then ultimately this probably isn’t a business that you can have to sustain your life. Be honest about what you need to live and set goals around that. When you are clear and focused about what you want, it’s amazing what can happen.

About Zoe:
Zoe Share is the Founder and Chief Executive Schmoozer at Schmooz Media, a social media marketing and communications agency. Learn more about Schmooz and their services on their website.

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