Dear Aunty B,
I’ve been in business a couple of years now, and things have never been rosier for me. But my problem is I work in a regional area where the clients effectively set the prices (I should also point out that there is stiff competition in my line of work).
My rates have been the same for the entire time I’ve been in business, despite the fact that I believe I now have a great reputation.
How can I diplomatically tell my clients to pay what I’m worth or shove off without losing valuable custom?
Congratulations on your business! Now, it is obvious that you are emotionally intelligent. You are also in the PR game. So your question strikes me as naïve.
People, country or city, will always hint – or tell you outright – that your prices should be lower. They will angle, manipulate, collude, fib, beg, offer to pay in cash or kind – in fact do anything to get your great services cheaper.
Now let’s look at what you’re doing. You have already set your ground. You have got your pricing right because although there is stiff competition, things are rosy and you have been able to keep your services at the same price for the past few years.
You have a great reputation. When you visit potential clients, you leave case studies behind and referrals of well known people in your area who have used your services and love you. Your website also shamelessly name drops. (I have started to make things up but I hope you are doing these things.)
Lastly, you are charming and fun! So when people inevitably raise the question of price, you toss your head and make a witty remark, while moving the topic on to your starting date.
So what exactly is the problem? They haggle, you get the gig. The problem is their haggling annoys you. So don’t let it. Decide in fact not to notice this annoying human trait!
As for the rats and mice sniffing around who wouldn’t know quality if it hit them in the face… you can spot those a mile off. Let these people know you are booked out and refer them to the competition down the road.
There is no one rule for everyone. It’s case-by-case and your new year’s resolution is not to be annoyed by the natural human instinct to haggle!
Good luck in 2009!
Your Aunty B.