It’s Not About the Price!

As someone in the administrative support business, if your only selling point is how little you cost or how much cheaper you are than an employee, you’ve already failed in business.

I get it… many people are new to business. They don’t have the faintest clue how to market themselves properly.

They see what everyone else in the industry (who also don’t know any better) is talking about on their websites and think that’s what they should be talking about, too.

Little do they know that most of those people they are mimicking are themselves struggling, making very little money and attracting all the worst kinds of clients (think cheapskates and nitpickers, the kind that do not make for a happy or profitable business).

Let me ask you:

  • Is it your rate that improves the businesses of your clients?
  • Is it your rate that does the skilled work that allows clients to move forward?
  • Is it your rate that streamlines their businesses and helps them run more effectively?
  • Is it your rate that creates more precious time in their lives?


Why then do you continue to focus clients on nothing but your price?!

Surely there is more reason to work with you than the fact that you charge so little or that you are “affordable” or “cheaper than an employee.”

Isn’t there?

For that matter, why on God’s green earth do you think that that value (i.e., skills, expertise, knowledge and all the host of solutions and benefits that clients reap from those traits) should cost nary a thing?

Sure, you might have clients beating down your door (client’s are no fools; they know when there’s a schmuck to be taken advantage of), but are they the right clients?

Are they the kind of clients you will enjoy working with?

Can you build a real, sustainable business and make an actual living from the amount of money the cheap-seekers want to pay?

How long do you think it will take before you resent not making enough money or burn out before barely breaking even?

If you don’t work to understand this dynamic and the economics of business, you are going to forever be stuck on a hamster wheel chasing down clients, attracting the worst kind, and still never making any money.

You won’t be in business long if clients are the only ones who benefit. It has to benefit you as well. Otherwise, you don’t have a business.

I encourage you to keep thinking about the real value you bring to the table.

How exactly does your support put your clients in a better place in their business than they were before? What do they gain from working with you? How are their circumstances improved? What do they benefit from?

(Hint: It has nothing to do with how much you charge.)

Write these things down and use them in your marketing message. Take out every mention of how cheap and affordable you are on your website.

Go do this. Now.

8 Responses

  1. I have to agree with you. I really don’t want someone to hire me because I am “cheaper” I want to be hired due to my expertise in the subject matter.

    We Virtual Assistants have to start thinking of ourselves as Experts, Professionals, and Business Owners.

  2. Exactly, Stephanie. I want to encourage you to think about that even further:

    Clients don’t hire you for your expertise, per se. They hire you for what that expertise yields them in their business. Focus your message on how you improve your clients’ current situation (where are they trying to get to, what are they trying to accomplish, how does your support help them achieve those things?) and you will see a dramatic difference in your attraction level and the kind of clients who are drawn to you.

  3. Julia Lilly says:


    Setting myself up as “affordable” brought me the exact negative results you are pointing out in this post. I plan on revamping my website message by 2010 and I already raised my rates in August, which resulting in some client loss. But that is okay, because now I am open to take on the new AWESOME clients that you predict. Hey, and I may even make some money in 2010. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your expertise.

  4. That’s fantastic, Julia! I’m so glad to hear of your resolve. It hurts to lose clients (if only in your pocketbook) and you should always expect to lose some whenever you up your standards. But like you recognize, you won’t have room for your more ideal clients if non-ideal ones are sucking up all your space and energy.

    This may be repetitive, but I want to drive home a point about this for everyone else reading: If the platform on which you bring clients aboard is based on nothing but you being “cheap” and “affordable,” you will lose them the minute you up the ante because they weren’t there for anything else.

    But the clients you bring in on the basis of the solutions and results you provide will stick around regardless of rate increases (which occur in every business) because they are there for the reaped benefits you bring them, not the cut-rate discount sale.

    Stay encouraged through these wonderful growing pains, Julia. I promise it will reward you in the end! 🙂

  5. Danielle,

    You’ve crafted yet another great post driving home how we should emphasize expertise rather than discounted value. You got me thinking first, when you posted regarding the detrimental use of a calculator and have reinforced this same thought here in this post.

    As you know, in tough economic times, partnering with us is a great value as opposed to hiring an employee, which is often the reason a potential client will contact me initially. When we consult regarding fees, I’m thinking more about improving their current business and using that solution to close the deal.

    Thanks. I find your posts very inspiring and thought-provoking.


  6. Thanks, Janine. Glad to hear it. 🙂

    I’ll add this additional thought as well: If clients are coming to you/us because they think it’s cheaper than an employee, they’ve got the wrong idea entirely and that’s not a client you want. They need to be disabused of this notion that the industry at large is responsible for perpetuating.

    I’m not cheaper than an employee. In many cases, my support costs far more. That’s not what I want clients coming to me for.

    I’m looking for and only work with the clients who understand that while I may charge a pretty penny, what they get in return far surpasses that. And the trick to finding those kind of clients is by focusing your message on those things.

    When you market and position yourself as being cheap and affordable and cheaper than an employee, those are exactly the kind of clients you attract: cheap ones who are are preoccupied with nothing but cost.

  7. Hope Gamble says:

    You are correct about thinking beyond price for a Virtual Assistant business. I had one of my mentors say that you should never give away your blessings, and another said that you should never undervalue your services. I am still learning about pricing especially when it comes to doing business with friends. 🙂

  8. I hear ya, Hope. I had many tough, but valuable, lessons I had to learn early in my business about working with friends. Some tips I can share:

    1. Treat your business like a business, even with friends. Don’t take any shortcuts or give special considerations. If you treat them like clients the same as others, that will help immensely. One of my difficult lessons was giving special treatment and favors to a friend, who ended up taking it for granted and trying to take advantage.

    2. Go through all your normal processes just as you would any client. This helps them respect your business as a business and keep their expectations within the realm of business, not favors.

    3. If you do give them special discounts, first ask yourself why? What are you getting in return for that favor? What have they promised in return? What can they give you in return that is of equal value to you? That is, don’t just give them special favor for no reason. Make sure there is some quid pro quo. Your business time and energy are precious, limited commodities that need to be reserved for paying clients.

    4. Consider that friends and family often do not make for ideal clients. There are too many pitfalls and trying to work with them can drain you of precious time and energy for not enough return. Your business’s survival depends on you being smart about the clients you take on and how you divide your time, attention and focus.

    5. I remember the time I had to fire my dad as a client. He was the worst kind of client,the free kind, lol. He wanted to me to help him get these t-shirts made, one mainly for himself, but then maybe to sell to others. He wouldn’t let me be the designer, thought he knew better than my trained design choices, kept changing his mind constantly. I finally had to tell him, dad, I loves ya, but you’re fired! Go do this on Cafe Press. I have a business to run and this is sucking up waaaaay too much of my time and attention.

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