My entire life — over a long career in a high-charged corporate environment and over a decade running my own business — overdelivering was my mantra.
When starting your own business, overdelivering is your ticket to gaining more confidence in front of clients and establishing yourself as a force to be reckoned with. That means going above and beyond your scope to delight, and please. While this might seem like a good strategy, there are clear downfalls. Let me walk you through.
Overdelivering means going above the paid hours allocated towards the project at hand. This means sacrificing your personal life to achieve validation. For me personally, this means spending less time with my son. Does this sound familiar?
Let me tell you, overdelivering is a clear path to devaluing your brand.
More hours spent over the contract equate to less income, and, counterintuitively, less respect for your service. Free or discounted is perceived as “free and discounted.” In my world, a very small percentage of people appreciate “overdelivering.” The more you give for free, the more your clients will want for free — they will pick your brain, ask for connections to your network, etc. It’s not their fault. You are inviting them to do so.
You might ask why?
It’s simple. Go beyond the parameters of your commission, and you are basically breaking your own boundaries. If you have wherewithal to stick to what you are supposed to deliver (I always have hard time with this), the more coveted your service becomes.
1. They hire you for your expertise. It’s already there. You don’t need to prove yourself repeatedly to get business. Business comes and goes. When you go overboard with overdelivering, clients ask for more. They become accustomed to your overdelivering patterns and will expect that moving forward. Moreover, they will brand you as such in spreading the word about your service. It’s on you, and not on them. The law of attraction will not work in your favor.
2. Know your worth. Clients reach out to you based on a few things — a referral, your reputation, and your body of work. If they have already reached to you, you have an upper hand. Price your services accordingly. Assuming you are truly incredible at what you do, you do not have to sacrifice time away from your life (and family) to prove your worth.
3. The law of scarcity. They reached out to you because you are a fit. Don’t be afraid to lose it. You are singular at what you do. If you stand your ground, they will most likely stick with you, and if they don’t, they are not your dream client. Being OK with letting go is key here. You can get stuck with many clients you don’t want instead of a few who are truly your match. And, there are boundless opportunities here.
4. There will always be someone who would do it for less. Always price your services above your comfort level. If it doesn’t feel right, you will end up with a whole lot of resentment (and, potentially therapy). I have made this mistake so many times! Pricing yourself below your comfort level to get the business is the worst business strategy you can ever pursue. Learn from my mistakes!! It is akin to watching someone succeed at your expense! Remember that time is money and there will always be someone who will do it for less. Whether it is outsourced to a distant land, or to someone who is just starting out, do not fall into this trap! If it’s below your comfort zone, let it go!
5. Follow your passion, and the money will follow. Do a simple exercise: observe the work tasks or projects that make you truly happy and engaged. And, then observe the work tasks that make you unhappy, irritated, and uninspired. Catalog those in two columns. The happy tasks are those you should pursue and do more of the unhappy ones — delegate, outsource or eliminate altogether. Creative business is so much about the state of mind, and not so much about the state of grind. The grind kills creativity. I personally hate “changes.” It is my pet peeve. Changes kill my creativity and the wherewithal to complete the project. I am mindful about that with team members that are OK to deal with changes to shepherd projects to success. More on this in my next post.
To summarize, you are in charge. Don’t give too much of yourself with rare exceptions. There will be projects where it is appropriate. I am not saying to be mediocre. Be you. Be precise. Stick to your terms. Your clients will appreciate you. The moment you start giving out freebies, you are “on sale.” Don’t be “on sale.”