Dear Danielle: This Charity Is Offering a Low Hourly Rate. Do I Walk Away?

Dear Danielle: This Charity Is Offering a Low Hourly Rate. Do I Walk Away?

Dear Danielle:

I have recently been approached by a local charity that wishes me to work for them for a number of hours per week, but they cannot get away from the number of hours and are offering a very low hourly rate on the grounds that they are a charity and don’t have budget for more. No matter what I do or say they are stuck on hours/hourly rate. Should I walk away? Normally I would, but because it’s a charity I want to work with, it feels different. —Name Withheld by Request

I’m going to give you some straight talking tough love today, okay? 🙂

Do you want a business or do you want a hobby/charity?

If it’s a business you want, then you’ve got to stop wasting your time.

Not all business is good business—or business at all.

You, your family and the ones you love are your “charity.” They deserve for you to be smart in business—which includes being paid properly for your time, energy and expertise.

And by “properly” I mean at whatever business rate you (not clients) determine is profitable.

People in our industry have got to get off of this bleeding heart kick. It’s one thing to be charitable when you are doing well financially and can afford to give back. But most people in our industry are barely scraping by in their businesses themselves.

(And it’s not because they can’t do better; it’s just that they aren’t taking the time or making the investment to learn what it takes to be a financially viable, solvent, sustainable and humanly manageable business operation).

You’ve got to have a pot to pee in yourself before you can start sharing the wealth, know what I mean?

If you want a real business making real money, you need to start talking to real prospects.

Anyone who can’t pay your fees is not a prospect. Period.

First of all, clients don’t dictate or “offer” you anything. YOU set your fees. They have only to accept them or stop wasting your time.

Second, the reason they can’t get off the hours/hourly rate is because you don’t know how to reframe that conversation and what to talk about instead. And that simply takes investing in the proper learning in how to do that.

You’re trying to talk yourself into accepting this and I’m not going to help you. You’ve come to the wrong place for that. 😉

Here’s what you need to do next to start talking to real prospects:

  1. Stop calling yourself an assistant. You’re running a business now and when you are a business owner, for both legal and practical reasons, you are not anyone’s assistant. Calling yourself an “assistant” is the very first reason that people are approaching you in a non business-like manner and think it’s their place to “offer” you “positions” and “low hourly rates.” That’s because “assistant” is a term of employment, not business, and people only understand the word “assistant” one way: employee. When you call yourself an assistant, you predispose people to balk at your fees because they are expecting to pay employee wages, not professional business fees. You see? You are creating the wrong expectations and understanding in clients right from the start.
  2. Download my free Income & Pricing Calculator so you can get clear and conscious about what you really need to be charging for your business to be sustainable and profitable.
  3. Get a target market. You need a direction for your efforts and to improve your offers. That only comes by focusing on a very specific industry/field/profession and catering your support to that market.
  4. Fix your website so there is an actual prequalifying, conversion process in place. This will help ensure you talk to real prospects who are more likely to be ideal client candidates.
  5. Learn how to conduct a proper consultation. My consultation process shows you what to do before you ever speak to anyone, what to ask and talk about during the conversation, and exactly how to follow-up after, as well as how to prequalify prospects so you can weed out the poor broke duds who waste your time, and filter in the ideal client candidates worthy of your time and attention.
  6. Separate business and charity. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with helping those you think are doing good work in the world. Just don’t mix your charity work up with your business. Instead of taking on a discount client indefinitely (which impacts not only your profitability and administration, but your other clients who are paying full fee for your quality time and attention), volunteer some hours here and there as you see fit when you have them to spare. And by the way, the more financially successful you are in your business, the longer you’ll actually be around in business and the more time and money you will have to give and help others outside your business. But if you make people who can’t pay your proper fees your clients, your business won’t be around long enough to do anything for anyone. You giving yourself away to those who can’t afford you doesn’t serve anyone.
  7. Alternatively, if you insist on putting yourself on sale, at least do it in a way that will actually benefit your business. Charge them full rate with your normal invoice, and once they pay, you can turn around and write a check back to them for the discounted amount. That is the legal way to actually write that money off as a charitable donation. And in the process, that charity client never takes for granted what you really charge and the fact that they are getting a generous gift, not an entitlement to your time and service at a discount.
  8. Likewise, use your normal and customary contract and go through all your usual processes that you would with any other client. I would also advise that you set a time limit/end date for any discounted charity rate at which time it would go back up to your full fee.

9 Responses

  1. Sammie says:

    Danielle – you have hit the nail right on the head! I loved, loved, loved your response & I can empathise with the question raised. The bottom line is we are running a business thus need to treat our business as such & with the seriousness that it deserves in order to expand & be successful in our efforts. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Judy Reyes says:

    I have worked in the past as employee of various non-profits. So many of them are underfunded or have funds that are very restrictive in how the money is spent. Given my experiences I have never considered non-profits as a target market. This is nothing to do with the valuable services the groups may provide in the community. They just don’t pay enough.
    I currently volunteer 4 hours a week at a local legal services clinic. I do not expect this to ever become a client. I do it partially to get some valuable experience and connections and so it’s not 100% giving. I get something out of it, too, that I see will complement my business. The time works for my schedule and I’m not expected to do extra work beyond the specific commitment I’ve made.

  3. Hi Miss Judy 🙂

    Your example makes perfect sense since your target market is attorneys so it’s relevant and can be useful in making connections, AND because you are volunteering your time (not your business’s) and not sacrificing your business interests and expending your resources (i.e., time, energy and money) in ways that aren’t beneficial to health and well-being of your business.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Boy, do I love your blogs Danielle. I don’t mind a little tough love if I know it will be benefiting myself and my business! This is where you have to separate business with charity and in my opinion the organization doesn’t seem to be her ideal client! I would just volunteer my time when I have the time and send them to someone else who may be a better fit and stick with my target market who has the money to pay my fees and my support. And your right Danielle, this industry don’t get paid enough but I think it’s only because of those things you pointed out in your blog why we don’t get paid our worth and the more we educate our clients about the AC industry and how we provide value with our support, the better they will understand and respect us and our business and how we help them to continue to grow their business with our support.

  5. Hi Latoya! 🙂

    I always enjoy hearing from you.

    I do want to make a clarification that I think is going to help you. Clients don’t need to be educated about the AC industry (or any industry). You could be the only one in the world doing what we do and it wouldn’t matter. The only thing that’s important and what you want to focus your efforts on is educating YOUR audience and prospective clients) about how YOU help YOUR clients and what YOUR clients gain from working with YOU. 😉

  6. I loved this and have been pointing it out to others.

    One thing I’ve done with non-profits, legit charities, is to ask if they’re truly 501(c)3 and if they are, they can usually try to write for a grant to hire you if they have some kind of foundation that helps do things for the community…regardless, sometimes have to move money around sure, but many times, your normal rate shouldn’t be so astronomical to them when in fact some are just trying to strong-arm people like us into lowballed quotes/rates because they want to see what they can get away with…using that old Charity Card!

    Just my observations, having dealt with several of these types of organizations for ages (10+ years). With some of them, the board members I would work for have sometimes been the ones footing the bill for my work and either getting reimbursed, or not.

  7. Great minds think alike, Bobbi Jo 🙂

    Right before you posted your comment, I was about to add this:

    I use the term “poor broke duds,” but the fact is a lot of these prospects pleading poverty really aren’t broke. They are just choosing to devalue us. And a lot of times, that’s because the Administrative Consultant herself is teaching them to do that with the way she/he is marketing message and how she portrays herself.

    It’s a form of disrespect, but we also have to remind ourselves that we teach others how to treat us.

    When we treat our businesses like business, stop marketing like some substitute employee or temp, and learn how to create a proper marketing message, that’s when we get prospects approaching us with the proper professional respect and manners befitting a business conversation.

    PS: I was a grantwriter in a former life as well! And yes, that’s definitely a great tip to share with nonprofits as well as a good way to nip that “pleading poverty” conversation in the bud, lol. Although, many of them know that anyway (about getting a grant to pay for certain things or writing those services into a grant budget/contract to get the money to pay for them).

  8. Exactly. You attract what you put out. I have clients for whom I do resume coaching on the side and they wonder why they keep getting stuck in these horrible jobs with abusive bosses, low-to-no morale and their resumes basically all but say “I’m bent over, paddle me!”

  9. Imelda Habitan says:

    There you go! So glad I bumped into this post. Thanks for sharing it. It felt like I was slapped on the face and have finally awakened by your advice. lol! Just so straightforward and I love it. I am actually currently thinking to target the NGOs because I want to feel that I am bringing something valuable to the world when I go to bed at night and not just helping some rich business owners and professionals who play tag of war with me in terms of my pricing, but still having second thought about it because of the financial effect that this will bring to my business. I guess this post has put me in a better perspective.

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