Dec 4, 2017
How much is your time worth? Do you charge enough for your services? How much is “enough”, and how do you decide? It’s important to think about everything — tangible and intangible — that goes into your work. Not only the time you spend specifically with clients, but also time spent preparing to provide your service… driving, planning, marketing, education, etc. In the first of these two-part articles, I’ll explore the often unaccounted-for time spent in a small business, and some pet peeves of mine regarding value. In Part 2 of this article, I’ll share some ideas for making sure that you aren’t undervaluing your time or effort.
Do you ever calculate how much time goes in to what you do? I’m not talking about the 30–60 minutes you may spend with a client. I’m talking about all of the preparation (recent and distant) that goes into you being able to provide your service. Let’s explore some of these…
Education and training… Chances are you’ve spent some time (and money) learning how to do what you do. While the bulk of your education may have been completed some time ago, what about continuing education? Do you read articles or books, attend conferences, or otherwise spend time honing your skills? All of this adds up.
Session preparation… For some of my music students, I can just walk into a lesson and don’t need much prep. But for others, I spend time writing out assignments or transcriptions of songs, listening to music to come up with a lesson plan, etc. Admittedly, this is very enjoyable for me so it doesn’t feel like “work”, but it certainly is.
Driving… Unless you work out of your home, chances are you spend some time on the road to reach your office or wherever you meet up with clients. That 10 minutes to two hours (hopefully not more!) a day is time you aren’t doing other things, and should be considered as work time.
Business planning… Hopefully you spend some time each year setting short and long term goals, making plans, and analyzing how your business can improve. This may only be a couple hours a year, but could easily be quite a bit more.
Marketing… Do you attend small business meetings, conferences, or other local events to network? Do you keep your social media presence evergreen and vibrant? All of this takes time.
Scheduling and financial management… If you use applications like Fons, you are hopefully saving some time on this aspect of your business. But it still does take time to set up, and check in to make sure you are getting paid, and that you are hitting the financial goals for your business, etc.
Notice that with all of the above, it’s time spent… not necessarily actual dollars. In addition to the time we put in to our business, there are expenses such as taxes, insurance, office rental, supplies, equipment, internet, holiday cards, local business association dues, etc. Those add up as well, and should certainly be considered when setting your rates.
A personal pet peeve of mine is when a potential new client learns my rate, and then says “so and so’s rate is half of that”. Inevitably, the person who is charging so much less is either a teenager with very little experience (and minimal inputs or financial needs), or possibly a retiree with some time on their hands. They may do a great job, and could be a great fit for some clients, but what they do is different than what I do since this is my full time business.
I’ve learned over the years that my students value my services because I’m consistent, and responsive to their needs (and darn good at what I do!) My response is usually to invite the potential client to try a lesson with me at no charge (I offer this to every new student, but that’s a whole other article topic), and then let them make their decision. Nearly always, the client ends up choosing to work with me.
Another pet peeve I have is about venues asking musicians to play for little to no income. Would you ask your dentist or plumber to do their work for free, or for the promise of “exposure”? Probably not.
Confession: when I started out performing several years back, I fell into this trap. I played some gigs for very little money, largely because I felt I needed the “practice” or because the venue was a small local business, and I felt bad asking them to pay for my services. Now that I’ve grown older and wiser, I know that “practice” should be saved for the practice room, or for your (very kind!) family or friends. And I know that music (especially good music) brings value to venues, and musicians deserve to be paid for their contribution.
So, given all of the tangible (financial) and intangible (time) expenses, how can you make sure you aren’t undervaluing your work?
Stay tuned for Part 2: Raise the Bar — Keep Your Prices Up!
Val has been teaching since 2001, and loves helping people follow their dreams of learning to play an instrument.
Discover more about Val at valblaha.com.