Is Your Business Flailing? Your Rates Aren’t The Problem

I'm so awesome they're throwing money at me.

Is business so slow you’ve considered lowering your rates?

I’ve considered taking similar measures in the past but, chances are, your rates ain’t the problem.

(And pushing non-stop contests and discount coupons will only cheapen your business, and make you seem desperate, so why don’t you dial that down, too?)

When I first launched my coaching business, I struggled with setting my rates.  Why? I was afraid. Would coaching rates turn off those who were used to consulting rates? Would my target client have the money to hire me? And if they did have the money, would they want to pay professional rates for someone who was such a n00b? Would I pay that much for me?

I suppose that last question was at the crux of it all. As a DIY-er who was into self-education and puzzling things out on my own — and as someone who regularly told people that the best way to learn was to dive right in — of course I wouldn’t pay that much for me! Creating glimmering rainbows of word magic and planning out the next epic steps in my career came naturally to me.

But they obviously wouldn’t come naturally to everyone.

I’ve been watching these videos by Dave Navarro and Naomi Dunford on How To Failproof Your Business (so fantastic, and well worth investing some time in), and this was just one of the epiphanies they led me to. Another one? Don’t worry that your client doesn’t have the money to pay you what you deserve, because…

…people will always spend money on the things that are important to them.

If someone is unwilling to pay your coaching rates, or is unwilling to pay your writing rates, perhaps they’re not a client you actually want to have. Perhaps they don’t value career fulfillment or quality writing as much as they say they do.

And if you’re so quick to lower your rates in order to bag such clients, perhaps you don’t value these things — or yourself, for that matter — either.

So what should you do when your business is flailing?

Take a good, long look at your sales and marketing methods. It could be that you’re not effectively communicating your value. Have you made it all about the client? Have you successfully predicted any possible sources of hesitation on their part? Have you been able to convey what — exactly — they’d be missing out on if they decide not to invest in you?

Negotiate. If you’re at the whim of another publication’s rates, or contract terms, or oh-so-arbitrary “budget,” try negotiating. The worst they could do is say no and, no matter what their response, they’ll respect you more for it.

Of course, there’s an exception to every rule, and I’ve written in the past about accepting projects for non-financial reasons but, for the most part, we should all start treating our businesses like businesses… not hobbies.

This whole entrepreneurial thing is a constant learning process, and I plan on majorly revamping my own sales page in the near future. Let’s all take a major step toward bringing in the bucks.

Homework Assignment: In the comments below, share a single sentence that successfully conveys how you provide value, and what clients will be missing out on if they don’t hire you. Begin using this as a response when people ask: “What do you do?” And start incorporating it into your sales copy.

Related: Would I Pay That Much For Me? 5 Things To Consider, Knowing My Own Self-Worth, My 5 Favorite Things In: What To Charge


  1. I needed this post, Steph. I’m thinking of starting a side project where I will help high school students with their college essays. I’ve been struggling setting rates though — everything feels high, even though I know it won’t be worth my time if I go any lower. I haven’t even started this yet, but this post might be the push I need.

    “I provide value because I can help your son or daughter craft a compelling essay that is still written in their own voice and embodies their quirks and all they have to offer–an essay that can help positively impact their entire future.”

    Okay, I think I can do this 🙂

  2. Here goes … “I create useful, web-focused content that’s also fun to read.” Do you think that’s too vague? Does it need to be longer, Steph? I like this exercise but for some reason I had a hard time honing in.

  3. Homework? No one told me there’d be a test! 🙂

    “I create compelling imagery that increases the impact of my clients’ writing projects.”

    Honestly? I’d consider raising my rates. When my rates were lower (like half what they are now), I had more people argue with me about what I charged. The minute I raised them, the complaints almost disappeared (there’s always someone, right?).

Speak Your Mind