An Unconventional Path to Better Business: Raise Your Rates & Turn Clients Away : Under30CEO An Unconventional Path to Better Business: Raise Your Rates & Turn Clients Away : Under30CEO
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An Unconventional Path to Better Business: Raise Your Rates & Turn Clients Away

| June 18, 2013 | 4 Comments

unconventional path“We waste time looking for the perfect business, instead of creating the perfect business.” – Tom Robbins

When I started out my own business, I made so many mistakes. Terrible mistakes. The type you wish you could sweep under the rug and hide forever.

A year and a half later, the company’s revenue has increased by over 300% and my personal profit has increased by more than that.

Want to know the reason? I did two things: I raised my rates and got pickier about the clients I work with. 

The Breakdown

Back when I started out, I took on every project that came my way. I was so surprised that the business was working that I took every potential client that came my way. In the long run, though, I ended up with clients who didn’t respect my ideas, constantly changed the scope of work, and failed to deliver the information I needed to execute their projects. When it came time to point fingers, I always found myself up against the wall.

Frustration levels for both myself and the client were hitting the roof! 

Until it hit me — I was going about it all wrong.

First of all, the clients were choosing me for the services they needed, not for the value that I offered. The project was about what they wanted, not what they needed. Even if I knew the difference between those two concepts, they didn’t want to hear it. I was working with clients who wanted someone to execute, not help.

I, my friends, am a helper. I have ideas. Sometimes, they’re not bad!

Secondly, I was charging them so little that my clients perceived my services an expense, not an investment. The perceived value of my service was shot to hell. It’s difficult to prove you can provide value if you’re doing it for a lower price than everyone else.

I had to flip this situation around, or I would end up closing up shop, which would mean losing months of hard work and money, more out of frustration than lack of cash.

Why You Need To Be Unconventional

None of this has to do with wanting to make money. That was never my intention — but it’s a wonderful byproduct.

My intention was always to achieve smoothness in each project.

My clients walked all over me. Some of them made my life miserable. I had various nightmares including logos and email wars.

Now, clients enjoy our projects because there’s mutual respect — for everyone’s ideas, for the work to be done, for our communications.

When you pick the right clients and charge them enough, they will make sure the project is cared for, increasing the chances they will:

  • Send you all the information they promised you

  • Make every meeting and interaction efficient

  • Be at your beck and call for any questions you may have

  • Put their best foot (and email) forward

  • Consider ideas and suggestions based on what’s best for the project, not who proposed them.

Every investor wants to make sure money is well-spent and cared for. You, my friend, will sleep a lot better for it.

Getting It Done

What I’m proposing takes guts. Turning a client away and charging more money than ever before is risky. Getting it done is scary.

Have you ever written a sky-high proposal? Hitting the “Send” button will make your stomach weak. Have you ever told a client they’re not a good fit for your business? The look on their face will make you question your decision.

This stuff still makes me nervous. I’m days away from telling a client that I no longer offer the services they need. Sure, I could turn a profit, but at the expense of what? I’m guessing many headaches, utter boredom, and lots of frustration.

Standing my ground has paid off every single time.

A friend once asked me, “What is your greatest fear?” I answered “Being buried alive.” He asked me second question: “Has it ever come true?” Obviously not.

If you want to build an unconventional business, what are you afraid of? Has your fear ever come true?

When Marcella Chamorro decided to quit her job to live everyday as if it’s a vacation, she turned her attention to creating a lifestyle that is both meaningful and exciting. Based in Nicaragua, Marcella runs a design company and guides those who want to break free and live their dreams through her writing.

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Category: Entrepreneurship


    Hola from Costa Rica, Marcella! This article is a well-timed read; tomorrow I have to turn a customer down, who wants to piecemeal my services and get the most for the least. Even though I’m busy with clients right now, it’s hard to turn down another one; thanks for the encouragement.

  • Jayden Chu

    This is can be a great idea if you know that you have an incredible product and service that clients can’t refuse if not, I don’t think this philosophy is applicable. You can gain more clients by offering them good products but one thing that will make them come back, your relationship with them. Is it in good terms or not? That’s the critical question. :)

  • Yaritza Delorenzo

    This is one of those techniques that business owners will eventually have to apply if they’re on the right track with their business (at least a service business). Unless you sell software or product, there will come a time when you’ll have to stop taking any and every client that comes your way. We can’t be all things to all people so choosing your clients instead of your clients choosing you is a must. f you can’t say no, you’re not going to do well running your own business. I experienced this and took action to get rid of the clients who didn’t appreciate my hard work and talent and didn’t want to pay my fees. A few years later, when my sister was stressed and frustrated with her clients, I advised her to do the same. It’s worked wonders for the both of us. We both have clients who love our work and are happy to refer us, and most importantly, don’t complain about our fees because they feel we’re worth it! Great post!

  • Dana Leavy-Detrick

    This is so true – I was struggling recently with so much demand, I was trying to figure out how to grow (and even maintain) the business. A mentor reminded me that I can continue to work more hours past my capacity at my current rates, and try to serve everyone. Or I could focus on serving my ideal clients who would ultimately pay more for the value I offered, thus allowing me to charge higher rates, and work less hours. It does work, and your ideal client who truly understands the value of what you have to offer, and how it will positively impact them, will be willing to invest. But it’s our job as the face of our businesses to be able to communicate that, and it starts with having confidence in what your work, time, knowledge and expertise is truly worth.