When you’re out on your own and managing your own business, you don’t have to be at the mercy of a boss who pays you less than you’re worth, or forces you to work odd hours -- but then again, being your own boss doesn’t mean you can charge whatever you want or work whenever you feel like it and expect to make a living.
Like any service provider, you need to consider the going rates, the amount you need to work and your ideal salary, among other things, when pricing your freelance business services.
Here’s how to get started.
Create a business plan
As with any type of business, starting out by creating a business plan is a good idea on a number of fronts. Perhaps most importantly, it will force you to get real about expenses and will help you determine a salary goal. With expenses including rent, equipment, utilities, advertising and insurance estimated and a monthly or yearly salary laid out, you’ll work backwards to determine how much money you need to earn weekly or monthly in order to meet your goal. Resources such as the Small Business Administration can help you get started with your business plan.
Conduct some market research
If your business planning didn’t include market research, do that now too. This could be as simple as viewing the websites of trainers and gyms in your area, or perhaps even attending a few sessions with various trainers to get a feel for their level of expertise and their pricing systems. Compare yourself to other trainers in your particular area and at your level of experience, as geography and expertise can make prices vary widely.
Ask customers about their budgets
After creating your business plan and doing your market research, you should have a fairly good idea about what you’d like to charge based on the number of hours you plan to work -- but the next step is to gauge that with the actual customers you have in front of you. When you meet with a client, have a price range in mind, but before you name it, ask the client about her budget. If you were thinking of a range between $50 and $75 per hour -- fairly standard for trainers -- and your client is willing to pay $70, she’ll have named the price for you and you won’t have to regret low-balling yourself.
Offer discount packages and freebies
To encourage clients to stay around long-term, many trainers offer discounts for longer commitments. For example, you might charge your high end of $75 for a single session, but drop down to $65 for 10 sessions, or even lower for 30 sessions. Some trainers also draw in clients by offering a free initial 30-minute session. The other benefit of packages: You’ll get paid up front. When your clients have already paid, they’ll be less likely to be no-shows.
Don’t overlook the barter system
While cold hard cash is always good, you could get additional value out of your client relationships by doing work trades. If you have a client who offers insurance, trade her for her services instead of paying her, for example. You might also be able to barter for your training space, water delivery, or any number of other items you need to manage your business.
For a lot of trainers, the money discussion is much more difficult than hard physical work they do every day. But by treating yourself like a professional and presenting your pricing in an organized manner, you’ll probably find plenty of clients willing to pay you a living wage.
Image courtesy Fort George G. Mead Public Affairs Office, Flickr