When Should You Compromise?

August 5, 2011 by

Recently I was presented with a question about compromising on rates. It’s such an important topic in this economy. We’re all tempted to offer the world for nothing just to keep things rolling. See my response below.

QUESTION: When and if do you compromise on your rate? Say someone refers you to a prospective client. You discuss the project with the client, and give an estimate of $2,000. Client comes back and says she expected your rate would be lower and cited the referrer’s rate as $50/hour, which you know for a fact is actually $100/hour. She says budget is $500-$800 and wants to know what you can do for that amount. Do you stick to your guns and say this is my rate, sorry I can’t help? Do you offer a slightly discounted introductory rate for less work? Do you refer her to someone else who’s cheaper than you?

MY RESPONSE: Chasing clients who don’t value your worth is never worth your time. If you have been in the business long enough, then you are in tune with what your time is worth. I don’t usually give in when someone low-balls me, but when I do, I always regret it.

Truth is, in this market, you can always find someone who will do a cheaper job. Know your worth, and stick to it.

On the other hand, it’s helpful to have a frame of reference for your rates so you can quote them with confidence. I use this site as a guide all the time, keeping in mind that I have 20+ years of experience, so I tend toward the higher end of the range. http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php

I also recently attended a business seminar where we talked about the importance of tracking profit margins and making sure that the work we do is actually profitable. If we don’t keep a close watch on the profitability of our time/services, our businesses won’t survive the long haul.

I’m having a particularly tough time right now with a client who used to contract with a friend of mine for communications work. My friend was able to charge very low rates for this client, and now the burden is on me to educate the client about the “real” costs of what they want me to do. It’s been a struggle.

Against my better judgment, I even let the executive director talk me into lowering my cost estimate for the conference program. According to her it would be “simple” and “not take much time at all,” so I adjusted my rate, trusting that she knew the project well (although she had never actually produced it). Sure as the world, when I completed the project, my original projected time and cost estimate had been right on the nose.

Lesson learned.

Big-City Business

January 18, 2011 by
A colleague recently asked for advice about how to maintain clients in the DC area if you don’t live in the DC area. My situation isn’t exactly like hers because I didn’t start my biz in DC and then move out of town. I lived in DC for about a decade and made many contacts there. In 2000, I moved about two hours southwest of the DC area, but I maintained a full-time satellite office here for my DC-area employer. 
In 2008, I started my own communications business, and I find that my DC connections are still strong.
All of my clients are in the DC area, but all the work is virtual, so they don’t care where I live. Most of my clients are associations, and they work with contractors and freelancers from all over the country, and even some who live out of the country. (Personally, I did a lot of work when I spent a week in St. Lucia last February. My clients didn’t even have to know I was out of the country.)
I think my ability to keep DC clients can be attributed to a few things:
* Networking. I have both a personal and a business Facebook page. I also have Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Most of my clients are connected with me through one or more of these accounts. I use Facebook to stay on people’s radar, so when they have a project, they think of me. I do regular posts on my business Facebook page about what projects I’m working on so people can see my various work. Maybe they’ll learn about a service that I offer that they didn’t know about. I follow my freelance/small business friends on their social networking pages, and I promote them every chance I get by reposting their accomplishments and congratulating them, etc. I also still travel to DC regularly to meet with clients and friends who are in the biz. This might not be easy for everyone, but I specifically make time to do this as an investment.
* Experience at virtual work. Since my clients know I’m able to manage their work virtually, they’re more likely to recommend me for other projects. For at least two of my clients, I am the managing editor of their publications, so I’m doing more than just editing one book or article at a time. They know I can manage the production workload and the incoming content, etc.
* My website. I put up a very basic website (www.traeturner.com), actually a simple Yahoo template, so people can get a clear picture of who I am without actually meeting me in person. This has had an amazing impact. I made sure to include a client list so the DC prospects can see that other organizations trust me to do their work virtually.
* The right tools. One of my clients is a consultant for associations that want to go completely virtual. I maintain her blog, and it’s a resource of useful articles about how to make virtual work a success (http://virtualassociation.wordpress.com). I am not super high-tech, but I do use basic virtual tools like my Droid, Google docs, Skype and RecordMyCalls.com, which are great solutions to have in my toolbox when I’m talking to clients about their projects.
More and more employers and clients are comfortable about working with someone long distance, but you do have to make an effort, and be prepared to deliver.

Don Draper as Role Model?

August 2, 2010 by

The new season of “Mad Men” is all about Don Draper leading the way in his newly formed agency. But what kind of leadership skills does he possess? Will his creative talent fall victim to his boozy propensity to pull cute secretaries onto the couch? Maybe that kind of behavior cut the mustard when he started his career, but keeping up with social cues is a must for any business leader.

I also recently caught a rerun of the mid-90’s office drama “Disclosure” with Michael Douglas playing  subordinate to Demi Moore’s aggressive female character. From Douglas mindlessly patting his female assistant on the backside, to Moore’s demand for sexual superiority, the portrait of social cues is still thought provoking a decade-and-a-half later.

Read more about how art imitates life in Abrams’ article ‘Mad Men’ offers good business lessons – USATODAY.com.

A Magazine By Any Other Name

June 24, 2010 by

If a magazine is not printed on paper, is it still a magazine?

One voice in the debate touts that “a magazine must be paginated, edited, designed, date stamped, permanent, and periodic,” which rings true to me. However, I’d subtract “paginated” from that list.

Some publishers who want to go digital choose a “digital magazine” format, that looks like a traditional magazine on your screen but still has to go through the print layout/design phase before the PDF can be digitized and available to readers via a link.

I find this format less useful since the content isn’t stored in a content management system, and therefore can’t be available via simple, independent article searches. Since content can now be tagged to digital object identifiers (DOIs), much like ISSNs, the online content is as permanent as any biodegradable print form. 

Read more about this debate in So, What is a Magazine, Really? – Printing Industry News and Opinion from Print CEO.

Change the World With Social Media

June 16, 2010 by

Social media savvy can certainly help you grow your business by reaching your target consumer, but nonprofits also have to get comfortable using this set of tools. E-mails, blogs, Facebook and Twitter are all tools that build relationships, and these relationships are key to driving change in a nonprofit world. In order to engage people in your mission, you have to open the door for two-way conversations about social issues, politics, community activities and more. Check out Beth Canter and Allison Fine’s new book The Networked Nonprofit: Using Social Media to Power Social Networks for Change


April 28, 2010 by

After the general fluster caused by AP announcing it was ok to use the term “website,” last week, I had a few conversations with colleagues and clients encouraging them to set up their own websites. I wouldn’t say my website guaranteed the growth of my small-biz startup, but it’s definitely an essential building block.

For instance, just one or two days after I set up www.traeturner.com, I met with a potential client about a long-term contract. She was still holding an old version of my resume in her hand without a website listed, at the same time she was saying, “…and from what I saw on your website…” She had already visited my site? I hadn’t even told her about it. That’s a clue to the power of having a website.

I’ve even encouraged clients who are job hunting to set up a site for themselves so it can act as a virtual resume. Hand out your card with your website address, and suitors can browse to their hearts’ content. No matter what you have to offer, a site can give a general description of your business, list your services, detail your experience, name your satisfied clients and even display samples of your work. Read more about how easily you can set up a site. 5 Small Biz Website Musts – WomenEntrepreneur.com

A graphic is worth a thousand words

March 23, 2010 by

How could I be anything but thrilled last week when I read that Obama had appointed design guru Edward Tufte to a panel that will help explain where our stimulus money is being spent. As a long-time designer of financial graphics myself, I think it’s a giant step for anyone, let alone an administration, to recognize the importance of great design. I’ve spent years convincing writers and editors that graphics are not merely decorative additions to their stories. Graphics go hand-in-hand with a story to communicate its message. Often graphics can communicate what words can’t. After attending a Tufte seminar some years back, I quickly developed a departmental mission for my design team at a financial publishing company: help the editors tell their stories. Bravo, Obama administration.  Fast Company

Great for Nonprofit Managers

March 12, 2010 by

Managing a nonprofit organization can be an overwhelming and very stressful task. Often times a manager at a nonprofit wears many different hats and not only has to know how to do each aspect of the organization but needs to know how to do it well. There is hardly time for researching current issues, new resources and best practices because you are too busy trying to get the job done. The Nonprofit Times, a bi-monthly subscription magazine and a free weekly newsletter, is the leading publication for nonprofit management and is a great magazine that compiles tons of useful information together. It offers information on best management practices and tools, addresses financial issues and donor relations, provides nonprofit news and has great articles and insight into volunteer, board and employee management. Not only does it update you on what is going on in the nonprofit world today, but it also provides information on other organizations projects and their progress. This is a great magazine for those organizations who work very hard to provide for their communities.   The Nonprofit Times

Women Protect You From Financial Crisis

February 25, 2010 by

International research proves that women help your company profit, and other countries are passing legislation to ensure women make it onto boards and into management and political positions. Some have installed mentoring programs for senior women to equip them to lead. Here in the United States, only one-quarter of the Fortune 1500 include women on their boards. Is U.S. legislation needed to put more women in roles to boost our economic fortune? Linda Tarr-Whelan emphasizes collaboration, communication and consensus for women to step up and into the roles that will help us change the world. Linda Tarr-Whelan: As Economy Trails, Women Can Propel U.S. to the Leaderboard.

Caf, Half Caf or Decaf — Define Yourself

February 23, 2010 by

Recent mochachinos with a friend who’s also a new entrepreneur sparked a conversation about his company’s new blog. When I asked him about the blog’s strategy, he responded, “What do you mean by strategy?” If you’re going to dive into social media as a promotional or added benefit to your organization, you must think about the purpose of your efforts. If you use valuable time to blog, tweet or post to reach your audience (and I really think you should), it’s essential to be strategic. You’ve got to devote time in your work week to do it, but you’ve also got to determine what persona suits your organization’s social media needs. Read Lisa Barone’s ideas on choosing the right voice for your Twitter account. Which Type of Twitter Account Should You Create? | Small Business Trends.