Setting your fees for profitability is a complicated matter, and one we are happy to help the mentees in the Virtual Mentoring Program navigate so that they know how to set themselves up for it in their new businesses from the jump.
But raising fees is simple. If there’s anything complicated about that, it would be managing yourself; getting out of your own way and believing, at your core, that you deserve the raise, and/or disconnecting from the outcome.
If you’d like me to tackle the potentially difficult stuff in another post, I’ll be happy to. Drop a comment or email me and let me know.
Today, though, I want to help you understand the simple parts: WHY to raise your fees (and how often), and HOW to do it when you’ve decided to do it.
The number-one reason is to remain profitable. Expenses tend to rise as you become more experienced and sophisticated in your business. These have to be taken into consideration when considering profitability. If you aren’t profitable in your business, you’re volunteering for yourself and that’s just silly.
But you also raise them based on the value that you know you create, and the fact that you’ve experienced growth and are better in some way(s) at the work you do. In truth, we grow every single day. Sometimes in big ways, and sometimes in small ways. Over time, the growth adds up and deserves to be compensated for. I suggest at least yearly, and more often if you’ve gotten a new certification or have completed a new high-end training.
And here are two others that I never see discussed but I think are truly important:
Having your fees set appropriately not only models this concept for others in our profession so that they can do it, too.
It tells clients what’s appropriate for them to be paying. This is especially important in the online-business world where there are “teachers” and “gurus” that share with their students that VAs are low-level, task-oriented people who should be bossed around and paid very little, OR that VAs should know how to do it all, but still be paid very little. None of that, of course, is true, and so when you stand for yourself and your profitable business, you actually help them get a realistic view of things. That’s a wonderful gift to give them.
And now, HOW:
The first step is to look at your growth, the costs for your business, the need to be leanly profitable, and decide on your new fee. The second is to embody your professional awesomeness, and from there, tell your clients and raise your dang fee.
Lots of VAs I talk with get all knotted up inside at the thought of having to have a conversation to tell their clients. They’re worried about having to face the reaction, and aren’t sure they would know how to handle anything less than a truly positive response.
Some would say that if that’s you, you lack confidence. I say that even the most confident people don’t actually love those conversations.
The good news is that regardless of how you feel, you don’t need to have a conversation about it.
👉 Why not? Because there’s nothing to discuss.
Raising your fee is about having made a decision for your business. And like with any other decision for your business, you don’t need to discuss it, you simply need to confidently tell your clients about it.
Think, for a sec, about all the businesses you frequent in your life. Wait. Let’s even narrow that down to service businesses, like your insurance company, your gym, your doctor or dentist, your hairstylist, your cell service provider, Netflix, Amazon Prime….you get the idea.
When was the last time any of them called you to have a conversation to tell you that the fee for what you usually buy from them is increasing?
Never in the history of ever…that’s when.
They will send you a letter, or an email, but they don’t get you on the phone because… say it with me… there is nothing to discuss. They are just letting you know about a change they’re making in their business. And, it’s true that it’s a good idea to put that stuff in writing.
So, that’s how you navigate it with your clients, as well.
Here’s what to do:
You craft a straightforward email which lets them know about the decision, what the new fee will be, and when you’ll begin charging it.
And, because you have a relationship with this human and you do want to be kind in your delivery, you include what I call a “gratitude paragraph,” which closes the email. This takes the place of the sentence you probably would have written but now know not to…you know, the one that goes something like, “Please let me know if you have any questions or if you’d like to set up a time to discuss this.”
Here’s a simple example you can riff off of:
I wanted to let you know that effective with your June invoice, my fee will be $_________.
I have so enjoyed working with you and look forward to all we’ll accomplish together in the future.
Another way to frame that first paragraph might be:
I’ve done a review of my business and in order to remain leanly profitable, I’ll be raising my fee to $_______ effective with your June invoice.
And, if you haven’t raised your fees in some time (more than a year), you could go with something like:
I’ve done a review of my business which reminded me that it’s been _____ years since I’ve raised my fees. To be leanly profitable, I’ll be raising my fee to $_____ effective with your June invoice.
Note about this last one… if it’s been YEARS, and you realize you need to raise your fees a lot (more than, say, $5/hour), the jump may be hard for the client to manage. I’ve seen some VAs offer to raise it half-way for the next six months, and then fully after that. I’ve also heard of the best clients just making the full jump.
That’s really all you need to do. See? Simple.
If you’ve learned something specific that increases your superpowers, maybe add a sentence about that achievement so that they know, but never add anything to justify your decision. You have nothing to justify.
So, take a look at your growth, decide on your new fee, and with all your amazing confidence in who you are and what you do as a VA, let your clients know about your decision. Then, plan a time in six months and/or a year to review for profitability and do it all over again.
Go on with your bad self and get it done.