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5 Shades of Gray, As a Business Owner.

If you guys know a thing or two about me it’s this - I’m opinionated. I am a firm believer in what I firmly believe, I’m not afraid to speak my mind and I am all about knowing and owning my worth. But the truth is, life isn’t black and white and as a business owner we largely operate in the gray zone. We have to.

So this blog might come across as a little off-brand as I talk about negotiating rates, giving discounts, and all the times I didn’t put my foot down, draw a line in the sand, refuse to work for less than my posted rate. It is.

Today I’m pulling the curtain back on how I really operate to incorporate the human element. My hope is that it speaks to all business owners out there to let go a little (hello, anxiety? Let’s chill) but to also not forget that at the end of the day we’re all people too.

I do not always stick to my posted rates because sometimes people’s need for help is greater than my need for the $$.

When it comes to rates I have a firm and unapologetic price for products and services. But I also have a bottom line, which is the lowest $$ amount I’m willing to drop my rates to help someone who truly needs the service I’m offering, but genuinely can’t afford it. It doesn’t mean I do it for free, or even at a 50% discount. It means I’m willing to work with others’ budgets in certain situations. At the end of the day if a client has a good experience with me, they’ll likely refer me to their friends, or come back when their finances are stronger and they can afford to continue working together. And did I mention 80% of my business is referral based? This is why.

Some projects require extra work, therefore need to be priced accordingly. The same can be said about clients.

Time = money. Just sayin’

I still get affected when prospective clients think my rates are unreasonable or that they can do what I do via a Google search.

My rates are tremendously underpriced for my education, experience and high-touch customer service. When I was a first year attorney working at a medium size firm, I billed $300/hour. As a third-year practicing in a large international firm I was raking in almost $500/hour. Those rates are standard across the legal industry. Now, in my eighth year practicing I only charge $400/hour. I am also incredibly niche in my practice, so you’re getting double bang for for your buck.

That said, there is no worse feeling than being told you’re not worth the (low) amount you quote. Or worse that someone can ‘figure it out themselves’ *insert the biggest eye roll here*. It’s OK to feel words. If you didn’t you wouldn’t be human. Treat people better than the world’s treated them, and move on with your day.

Social media vs email list and newsletter - I didn’t always (and still don’t) make the right choice.

By now we business owners know the importance of an email (subscription) list. We know that social media can disappear in the blink of an eye, and with that all of our followers and hard work. We know that we need to find a way to consistently and more intimately speak with our community. And we really know that if we want to eventually sell to them, it works far better to speak to a connected group like your newsletter list, than to the masses on IG.

So we should be spending the majority of our time and effort on growing and nurturing these people. I know - same.

Even though only 25% (ish) of my business comes to me through social, I probably spend just as much time on it for now. It’s the fun part of business, it’s satisfying to see tangible feedback and engagement, and even though most of my business IS referral based, having a strong social presence creates a two-factor authentication for potential new clients to see what I’m about.

I didn’t hire out as soon as I wanted to, or even could afford to. I still haven’t.

Another Danielle-ism you’ve probably heard a few times: hire out as soon as your time is worth more than the cost of the task you’re doing yourself.

As a business owner I’ve worn almost every hat, and owned almost every step of the process from product inception, marketing, sales, operations, legal, social media, IT troubleshooting, copywriting...the list is endless. Super relatable, right?

Last year when looking for a part-time assistant, it was impossible to find a person who could do everything I needed to be done. Instead I broke the tasks into pieces - a contract for tech work, a contract for copywriting, etc. - and delegated out. I ended up spending so much time in the hiring and managing process I wasn’t able to spend as much time working..and I could have done it all faster myself. And since then I’ve gone back to the lone wolf approach.

Is this sustainable? Absolutely not. But for now when I need the machine to just work? It’s ok.

It’s ok if your budget allows for it and you’re not ready to make that financial commitment to another. It’s ok if you’re a perfectionist and no one can do it (yet) as well as you do.

xx, D

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