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Getting paid what you’re worth

Posted by Ilise Benun on

Later this week we’ll be posting highlights from our latest Coffee Break conference call on Money Management last Thursday, but in the meantime…..I got this message from a client about lessons she’s learned in the past year and wanted to pass it along in case others are in a similar boat….

Thanks again for a great coffee break talk! I really connected with the part about choosing clients that can pay you and where to find them.

I was thinking back on my experience last year with the director of a museum in California. I followed all the right steps:

  • I went to an event, introduced myself and got his card.
  • I called him after to thank him for the event and offer my services.
  • I sent him samples of my work.
  • He called me for a meeting, which went beautifully.
  • He asked me to create a proposal to design an online store
  • I asked about a budget but couldn’t get a definite answer. I knew it would be low but pursued because I wanted to break in to this industry. And I like them. (this was my big mistake)
  • They love my proposal. It’s so clear, full of ideas and exactly what they need. Only they can’t afford it.
  • I reduce my fee about 20%, but it’s not low enough.
  • They go with someone who volunteers their services at a dirt cheap rate.
  • My contact says he’ll keep me in mind for small projects like postcards, which he can pay about $200 for.

Through recommendations and my own pursuit, last year I met a lot potential clients with too little money and very little or no experience working with design firms – there’s A LOT of them out there. And I’m done working for them. It’s not just because of the money, but my experience. I am capable of so much more than I get to do with a tiny project.

This year I’ve changed two of my mistakes. Now I ask about the money. And if it’s too low, I pass.

However, this hasn’t resolved the frustration of pursuing someone and then finding out they’re not a good fit. I know it’s part of the process and also a reflection of poor choices on my part. Even with research it’s not always clear who has good budgets and experience working with design firms. It seems like a numbers game.

The bottom line – if I want  bigger paying clients with bigger projects, then I need a regular freelancer or staff to share the work load. I know this because I had this once before. The time I had a full time freelancer was my most profitable 2 years of biz. But since then I haven’t found a full time freelancer or enough regular high paying biz to support it. And so here I am.

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