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Rainbow Birthday Cake or Cut-Price Cupcakes?

I’m sure this happens to a lot of you in business; you’ve spent years on honing your skills, you work hard to stay up to date with industry standards, you spend too much time searching for the best supplies and tools at the right prices to give your clients great work at a reasonable price.

And then you get phone calls that are only interested in one thing….

“How much do you charge?”
‘How much is it going to cost me?’
‘Just tell me, how much?’

How can you possibly answer that question before you even know what they want from you?

I was asked this just last week and replied, “I don’t know what you want yet.”

And I could hear the hesitation and frustration in the callers voice. She wanted to know right away whether or not to invest her time and energy in our discussion. She wanted to know if I was too expensive, because then she could quickly cut off the dialogue and move on before wasting any more of her valuable resources.

And the reason I didn’t answer her straight away was because I needed to find out what she wanted from our work and if I could actually help.

And I needed some fairly basic, pertinent bits of information about her, her business and her industry before we talked about her budget and bringing it all together in a proposal that would serve us both.

But people just want that number, and if it’s not right, they’ll call somebody else until they either give up or find someone willing to give them the price they’ve fixed on.

And for me, this is for business consulting, which has a myriad of applications, nuances, degrees of collaboration and expectations.

After the call I thought,
what if she had wanted a cake,
how much would that be?

Even in this scenario, how could I give her a price without finding out why she wanted a cake, who it was for and when she wanted it?

I could always pop up to the supermarket, buy a cup cake, maybe even a reduced price one, because those sell by dates don’t really matter do they? And I could happily hand it over, hoping that she would enjoy it with her coffee.

And what if she then told me it was for her rainbow loving daughters 7th birthday, for her party, to serve 12 other children?

That information changes everything, right? My bargain cupcake suddenly becomes cheap and nasty and while it might have enhanced her next coffee experience before, now it would be more likely to leave a bad taste in her mouth.

Even to sell a cake, we need to ask quite a few questions. Starting with who the cake is for, what age of child, what do they like, what flavour of cake is their current favourite, how many people is the cake to serve, does anyone have any allergies, what date is the party on?

And finally, what is the budget? All choices have cost implications and there are few of us that have unlimited funds for what we want.

This is where a discussion with potential clients becomes so crucial, this is where we determine what are their priorities, what are the ‘must haves’, the ‘would like to have but can live without’ and the ‘don’t really care’ add-ons to the project.

As I was playing around with this cake metaphor, I started wondering how much people would actually pay for a cake. The cake industry seems to be booming, with Facebook showing photos of ever more detailed, intricate and specialised cakes.

With so much talent on display, costs inevitably rise. I thought £100 would be a lot of money to spend on a cake, it would be for me anyway, but wondered, ‘just how much would people pay for a cake? Surely no-one would pay £1,000 or even £10,000 for a cake?

You’d be surprised.

I popped onto the source of all knowledge and google satisfied my curiosity.

Blimey, I was shocked!

How much?

For a cake!

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you so I will let you discover it for yourself.

When you next get asked about your costs, because we both know it’s going to happen again, think about cakes. Think about cut-price cupcakes vs Rainbow layered colourful birthday cake.

You know what you and your services are worth; you know what the job is worth better than the client does because you understand the work involved in giving them what they want, you know how long you had to train, how long it took you to train your staff, what materials you needed to assemble and how long it’s going to take to complete.

I want to say this, to myself, as much as to you, don’t cut your prices, and don’t ever think you are not worth it or that you charge too much!

You know you don’t.

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