er, consultants shouldn’t lowball themselves from
the beginning. The rate should cover necessary
expenses first, then take time and experience into
account—with some wiggle room to match what
the client is willing to spend on the service. Balance fairness with attainability to find the sweet
spot between the number of clients demanding your
services and the price you’re willing to accept.
Clients are often willing to negotiate on things
besides price, so learn to get creative if the client’s
budget doesn’t match what your service commands.
The more flexible you can be, the more clients you
will have, but don’t sacrifice your reputation or
pricing just to land one more client.
HOW TO DETERMINE YOUR RATE
Once you feel confident in the services you provide, it’s time to determine your actual asking
price. Follow these six steps to determine what
your professional time is worth:
➊ Walk through the particulars of each job.
What is the client asking you to do? What daily
work will this entail? What are the final deliverables? Who are the decision makers? Evaluate everything about what you’re being asked to do, determine whether the requests match your strengths,
and seek assistance or training for any demands
you may need help meeting.
➋ Assess the current life stage of your business.
Are you just starting out and looking to establish
your name and brand? Are you growing and hiring? Or are you preparing to sell? Each of these
stages changes how you should price your services and position yourself, both within your
firm and in the marketplace. Someone just starting
out shouldn’t charge premium rates to find her
first few clients, while someone experiencing
rapid growth shouldn’t accept low-paying contracts and eat the opportunity cost of taking on
bigger clients with that time.
➌ Study the trends more carefully.
Do your research, even if scouring online resources on others’ rates is more of an art than a science.
What are other consultants advertising? Can you dis-
cover what similar clients have paid for consulting
work in the past? You might discover pricing tiers in
your search, which do you feel you belong in?
➍ Be flexible—within reason.
If a client is willing to keep you on for a long period of time, it might make sense to be more flexible
on your rate in order to benefit from the length of
the contract. Some companies could surprise you
with creative compensation plans beyond pricing.
Listen to what they have to offer, but don’t let
perks or nonmonetary compensation take the place
of actual payment.
➎ Aim a little higher.
Most of my clients come back to me with a counterproposal after my initial offer, so don’t be afraid
to put out a number you feel might be too high. If
the client believes you are the right person for the
job and recognizes the value your services provide,
it’s fine to negotiate. The more jobs you take, the
clearer the understanding you will have of how
much to charge for each contract.
➏ Be open to unconventional offers.
Early in my career, I had a client company offer
introductions to its association members and let me
come speak to them. In return, the company paid
less than my asking rate, but the networking opportunity it offered led to seven additional contracts
that year and made me significantly more than that
single contract would have provided on its own.
Establishing a consultancy from scratch is never
easy, but once you feel confident in both your rate
and your industry, it can be the most rewarding ca-
reer choice you ever make.
Follow these steps to determine your fee, and remember to make adjustments from time to time as
your business grows.
Sona Jepsen is the Global Head of Consultant Relations
at Fidelity National Information Services (FIS). Her team
drives communication between industry consultants hired
by mutual clients and FIS’ global sales team.