Many years ago, a friend asked me for help with a project he was paid $100 by his family to do each month. It was to clean up and maintain the family’s rental property.
We got up early on a Saturday morning and drove over in my mom’s station wagon (yeah this was maybe MORE than a few years ago) loaded up with our lawn mower, shovels, etc. We agreed that we would split the work and money right down the middle.
I was mentally spending my $50 as I got started. A couple hours later, I was done with my half and sat back to admire the results. My friend was still working on his “half” and not wanting to spend all day doing this, I pitched in to help on his half so we could get this done.
My friend marveled at how efficiently I worked and wanted to know how I could get all this done so quickly. I “confessed” that I had been doing similar work for years for my own family, as we had a few rental properties ourselves. Given that my father grew up during the Great Depression, cheap (or free) labor was part of his business “model”! When you are a kid stuck working on a Saturday while your friends are playing and having a good time, you get efficient in completing your work.
Much to dismay, my friend then announces that since I got my half done so quickly that instead of splitting it down the middle, now it should be a $75/$25 split. With the $75 to him and $25 to me! His reasoning was that since it took him SO much longer, he deserved more money. Now, I actually did 75% of the work, yet because I knew what I was doing it took me less time ….
I will spare you the details, but let’s just say that he and I never really spent much time together again and I never “helped” him again with his projects.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this was one of the more valuable business lessons I learned early and I didn’t really appreciate until many years later. That lesson is simple:
Just because you make something look easy doesn’t mean it’s worth less.
While you do need to know what your market can support, your asking price should reflect the knowledge, experience, mistakes (yes these are usually the biggest learning times) and hard work that you have developed over the years.
Some won’t realize they’re not literally buying your hour, they’re buying the months and years of practice, experience, and expertise that you’ve worked so hard to accrue. They’re buying the benefit of past mistakes and lessons learned. They’re buying the education you pursued, whether in a classroom or on-the-fly or both.
Occasionally, I get reminded of this by a client that feels they overpaid for our service. Sometimes it’s because we didn’t communicate what we did, sometimes it because we overlooked something, but sometimes it’s because we make it look easy and they assume that since it was easy for us, it shouldn’t cost them for an hour’s service. When I get those calls, I occasionally think back to my friend and his statement and I realize that just like that former friend, sometimes you just must move on to someone that appreciates your experience and values it!