What you charge, and how you charge, says a lot about your level of skill whether you like it or not. I meet so many people that want to be experts, thought leaders, gurus, yet their pricing, and how they handle the situation, tells a different story.
Here's what an expert looks like
I met Steve the week he moved to NYC. Through a mutual friend at a bar on Bleecker St., we were quickly drawn to each other and a first date the following week was scheduled.
Now, Steve had just moved here; I was born and raised in the east village. Did I ask him what he wanted to do on our date? Of course not! As an expert New Yorker I knew it was my job to put together an impressive itinerary of insider hot spots.
Neither of us had any money, so I had to plan an intriguing date that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I knew he was an artist, so with a dignified quarter I took him to the bar on the roof of the Met to sip a beer next to some oversized Jeff Koons animal ballons. I followed up that impressive and classy spot with a few locals-only joints in the east village, including a sushi bar on St. Marks that is both delicious and crazy affordable.
Had I asked what he wanted to do, his uninformed requests may have landed us at an overpriced hotel bar in midtown manhattan full of out of towners showing off, or worse, TGIFridays.
Therein lies the difference between and Expert and a Service Provider.
Nuanced but not minuscule, Experts learn their trade over a lifetime, and Service Providers execute ideas based primarily on your direction.
And like any expert, had I been charging for my expertise I certainly would have charged, and earned, top dollar. Because little secret spots are not easily found in Zagat and Frommers, they are known only from a lifetime of living in the city.
How to Spot an Expert
Most people are service providers and they usually charge based on time. Even if they are proposing a project rate, they formulate that rate based on a forecasted amount of time. This is because they are at the mercy of the client, so they have to predict how much time the client will need!
An Expert’s fee is related to his or her value contribution. They know how long it will take them because they've done it a million times, but they don't charge based on that time.
He or she has spent years, sometimes a lifetime learning, and clients pay for that knowledge regardless of how long it takes.
Imagine a plumber. I've had a plumber come and snake my clogged drain in 10 minutes and charge $200. And it's worth it! Because he knows how to do it, and I don't. He solved my problem, didn't ask me how, and came when I needed him. That's value.
Service Providers are the hands: they execute. They ask, “What do you think? Do you like this?”
Experts are the brain. They tell you why a decision is the right one and give thoughtful reasoning and innovative ideas to back it up.
Service Providers need to put guidelines and restrictions on their work in order to regulate the potential for a deluge of client change-requests.
Experts similarly put in guidelines, but don’t typically need to enforce them due to clients not typically needing more than one round of revisions.
Experts and Service Providers strive for you to be happy, but Experts are less likely to sacrifice the truth of a situation to make you feel good. As in, that dress really does make you look fat.
Web designers, for example, are often Service Providers. They ask for page examples, content, photos, and other websites as examples; they are acting as the hands for your vision. But when web designers are Experts, they ask what the client is looking to accomplish. They ask about the brand, the market, what is currently on the site. They ask about the goal.
When Experts asks these questions, they can charge a premium. After all, it costs more to tell the client how a website should look and function than to simply put things in placed based off client notes. Experts will tell the client what pieces of content they need in advance and recommend additional outside help, if necessary.
Knowing these distinctions not only helps with planning and executing your next project, but with your bottom line as well. Even if Steve had hired me (at a premium) to take him on the date, considering that date would change the course of his life I think we can all agree the benefits he received far outweighed any investment ;)
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