Pricing intangible services comes with unique challenges that require strategic thinking. The story of Lisa, a freelance graphic designer, provides valuable lessons for business owners navigating similar territory.
Lisa’s Journey as a Freelance Graphic Designer
Lisa launched her freelance graphic design business to provide top-notch design services to small businesses. Initially, she priced her services based on an hourly rate. However, over time, she found that her earnings didn’t reflect the effort she put into her projects, and her profit margin was thinner than anticipated. An unexpected twist further complicated her situation.
Unforeseen Challenges: The Cost of Mistakes
Lisa had been working on a major project for a client. After investing many hours into the project, she discovered a significant mistake in her design. Rectifying this mistake meant redoing a significant part of the work, effectively doubling the time she spent on the project.
Since Lisa charged an hourly rate, this situation posed a dilemma. Should she charge the client for the extra hours she needed to fix the mistake? She decided it would be unfair to the client to bear the cost of her mistake. This morally right decision further reduced her earnings from the project.
Understanding Costs in a Service Business
Lisa’s experience highlighted the need to understand the various types of costs in her business:
- Direct Costs: These costs are directly tied to service delivery, like software subscriptions or Lisa’s time.
- Indirect Costs: These are costs indirectly supporting the service, such as marketing efforts or accounting services.
- Variable Costs: These change based on the volume of services provided, such as the need for more cloud storage for larger projects.
- Fixed Costs These costs remain constant, like certain software subscriptions or office rent.
Rethinking Pricing Strategy
Lisa realized her current pricing model didn’t account for potential errors or the non-billable time she spent on tasks like administration and marketing. She decided to shift from hourly pricing to value-based pricing. In this model, prices are set based on the value provided to the client, rather than the hours worked. This approach better captured the true value of her services, her expertise, and the unique benefits she offered her clients.
To provide additional flexibility and predictability, she also considered creating packaged services – combining various services into different price tiers. This provided clear options for her clients and ensured a more consistent income for her business.
Effectively Communicating Changes and Value
Like any business owner implementing significant changes, Lisa needed to communicate her new pricing model to her clients effectively. She emphasized the value of her services, the quality of her work, and the potential return on investment for her clients. By focusing on the value she provided rather than the time spent, she was able to justify her new prices to her clients.
The Importance of Tracking Costs
Despite the intangible nature of her service, it was essential for Lisa to track her costs diligently. The costs of software, marketing, and, most importantly, her time were critical in determining her profit margins. She found that using project management and accounting software significantly simplified the task of tracking her time and expenses.
Lisa’s story underscores the importance of understanding the full range of costs in a service-based business and the need for a pricing strategy that reflects the true value of the service. Navigating unforeseen challenges like errors in work requires a flexible pricing model and clear communication with clients.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this article: