When you’re working as an independent consultant, it’s essential to be able to command fees that will, at minimum, let you pay your bills, stay financially solvent, and earn you the kind of living that you desire and that you honestly believe your skills merit. Very few individuals starting small businesses as consultants can immediately charge ideal fees. The much more typical scenario is to start out with lower fees and then increase them as you become more established and well-known in your professional field. However, there’s more to obtaining higher fees than just arbitrarily raising them. Your consulting business will likely fare better if you employ a well thought-out and systematic approach to raising your fees.
Smart Ways to Increase Your Fees
The first key to being able to increase your fees is making sure that you provide superior value with your services. Most clients will not be averse to paying more for your services once they clearly see that your work is a cut above what’s generally available. Providing superior value might mean simply doing a notably superior job in your core consulting work, or it might mean providing some additional service that makes you stand out from your competitors. For example, if you’re consulting on a sales and marketing campaign, you might offer a follow-up evaluation of the effectiveness of the campaign. Keep apprised of the state of market demand for your services. A good time to increase your fees is when you notice that there is a measurably greater market demand for your services. Such a basic shift in the supply and demand situation for consulting services favors the seller of services and can put you in a stronger negotiating position as opposed to the buyers of consulting services. Focus your skill set rather than spreading yourself too thin in the types of work you do. You can increase the value of your services and tilt the supply-and-demand curve in your favor by specializing in the kind of work that you’re naturally best at. For example, rather than being simply an IT consultant, you might specialize as an IT security consultant.
The Importance of Engaging Your Clients
Another important key to being able to command higher fees is engaging with your clients, developing and maintaining good relationships with them. Rather than just providing the services you’re contracted for, communicate with your clients regularly. If possible, meet with them in person. People are almost always more comfortable doing business with someone they have a good personal relationship with, as well as a business relationship. Engage them in conversation about other aspects of their business besides just the part you’re working on. Clients are more inclined to stick with you and to be willing to pay you more when they perceive that you have a genuine interest in the overall success of their business. Don’t neglect asking for written testimonials and referrals, especially from your high-profile clients. You’ve probably noticed that nearly all successful businesses have glowing recommendations from customers sprinkled across their websites. Testimony to the value of your services from past clients makes it much easier to charge higher fees to new clients.