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February 18, 2010

Pick a name? Pick a price?

For this new writing/consulting business, so far I've lined up or acquired the following:

--an office
--a business license
--a business bank account
--a list of services I plan to offer
--several promising leads
--a cool free online bookkeeping system
--a couple of mentors whose input has been invaluable
--the moral support of family and friends
--the scoop on free parking around the neighborhood
--some funky paperclips from Staples for who knows what
--a Google Voice number for business calls
--status as a regular at the cafe across the street

But no name. And no clear plan about what to charge.

Regarding the first:

I thought I could put the naming aside, get down to business and it would just happen. Something would just pop into my head as I was brushing my teeth, or sitting on my grandmother's couch, or talking to a professor. (That's how I've gotten other ideas -- this blog, and my dissertation topic, for example.)

No such luck.

Whenever I sent out an email in the past month, my name and address on the signature seemed odd, dismembered, even, without a business name or title to contextualize them. Why would I just write my name and address on an email message? Who just does that? More importantly: Who am I? What am I about? What is the purpose of my new venture? And what word or two will instantly convey all that to a potential client in an appealing and trust-inspiring way?

I thought and thought about it and came up with a list of possible names. I also sought the input of my aforementioned mentors. At last, on Thursday, I emailed a group of trusted counselors who work in a variety of fields (read: a bunch of friends) and asked them to pick their favorites.

Their votes were remarkably consistent. Everyone liked the same four choices. Now I need to try them on, see how they feel, see what's truest to who I am and what I want to achieve, and finally, start announcing it left and right!!

As for prices.

Since I have already been interacting with a few possible clients, I need to know what to charge, and fast. I've looked around online, hoping to discover some guidelines, but I've found only the vaguest of answers: "It depends." "Every project is different." "You can charge by the hour or by the project!" Wow, thanks peeps.

I did some math and realized that if I charge what I think is fair given my credentials, the results I can deliver and what it costs to run this business + pay myself a salary, then my fees will be, well, steep. Will people be turned off? Would someone really just fork over hundreds if not thousands for these services?

On the other hand, they might be turned off if my fees are not high enough. Would you hire an auto mechanic who claims he can do a $120 job for $30? I would be suspicious.

How to proceed? How do I find a price point that doesn't turn off clients and is still adequate compensation for myself?

And then, Mr. A said something wise. He said, "Why price your services according to other people's budgets? Charge what you know you're worth, and find people with a budget that can match that. You're excellent, and plenty of people are willing to pay for excellence. Those are the ones you want to work with, in the first place."

Thanks, amore! I like how you think. ;)

Thus on Thursday I set my fees based on my target yearly salary and just stopped worrying about it.

[image via alchemysite]

Post script: I just noticed the typo -- 'once' instead of 'ones' -- and fixed it now; especially in a post about excellence, cringe!!
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