Ep 257: How To Set Your Coaching Prices with Mary Sobon

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One of the biggest things that Brand Builders Group clients, especially performance and business coaches, seem to struggle with, is how to set their rates.

Whether you gravitate towards charging an hourly rate or putting yourself on retainer, each has its unique benefits and downsides.

And determining how to price your services can be a singularly challenging process, especially when you need to demonstrate your value to the client, while also factoring in all the hidden costs that are inherent to being an entrepreneur, in contrast to having a corporate salary with benefits.

Our guest today, Mary Sobon, is no stranger to these challenges and has spent the past 13 years learning everything there is to know about pricing and finding the right client fit.

Mary is a consultant with an extensive executive corporate background, and for the past decade has struck out on her own as a successful consultant with a range of fantastic clients, including our very own AJ Vaden!

In their conversation, AJ and Mary discuss how Mary made the transition from working in the corporate realm to being independent, how she learned about the type of client she wanted to serve, and why everyone should consider rewarding clients who are a dream to work with.

We also delve into how referrals have helped Mary keep her costs down, the function of adding free services to your invoices, and why you should never publish your rates!

AJ then shares her top three takeaways from the episodes, but she also reflects on the key lessons that Mary has taught her over the years.

To learn more about the art of determining the best rates for yourself, your business, and your clients, make sure you tune in today!

KEY POINTS FROM THIS EPISODE

  • Introducing today’s guest Mary Sobon and her extensive executive corporate background.
  • How Mary transitioned from high profile corporate work to working independently.
  • The story of how Mary became involved with the Entrepreneurs Organization.
  • Why being a full-time coach means that you are a full-time learner.
  • How businesses undermine themselves when they don’t feel ready to undertake a new challenge.
  • Why being a good coach to your client is dependent on whether you’re a good fit.
  • How to get clear on who would be a good fit for you.
  • AJ’s thought on how Brand Builders Group has learned to identify clients who would be a good fit for them.
  • How AJ learned about herself, her strengths, and her ideal client while building a company for 15 years.
  • Mary’s advice to those who are just getting started: document what is working, or not working, between you and your clients as soon as possible.
  • The experiential and financial aspects of choosing your clients, and how to prioritize.
  • How you determine what to charge as a performance coach, and when your rates should increase.
  • Why clients who are easier to work with should receive lower rates.
  • The logic that when clients regularly cancel and are difficult to get ahold of, that is at a cost to your time.
  • How referrals have helped Mary keep her costs down.
  • Make your value additions explicit by adding free services to your invoice and marking them as no charge.
  • The relationship between the number of clients you have, your rates, and how much time you have available to you.
  • Why you should never publish your rates!
  • How to factor in the benefits from a corporate job into your rates as an independent contractor.
  • How Brand Builders Group is helping performance and business coaches find community.
  • What Mary has come to love most about coaching over the past 13 years.

TWEETABLE MOMENTS

“We live in a world in which things are so complex and so interconnected, you need a partner who can help you sort of sort through things, you just want to make sure that that partner has something that’s really valuable for you. And for me, that thing is scaling.” — Mary Sobon [0:06:20]

“If you’re selling your retainer, be sure that the value of that retainer is visible and defined. Not just ‘I promised to be there between 10 and 20 hours’, it would literally be to give them a sense of I’m advancing these things for you” — Mary Sobon [0:22:49]

“My pricing is highly aligned with how easy and fabulous I think you are to work for.” — Mary Sobon [0:23:08]

“If you find a great tenant who pays all the time and doesn’t trash the house and doesn’t have pets, you’d never raise their rent, because you never want them to leave. And I think that’s kind of how I feel about the clients that I love.” — Mary Sobon [0:23:57]

“We used to use this very simple but powerful formula that said, value equals price divided by experience. And the idea was to say, ‘as long as you’re providing an experience that seems better than the price, you’re winning on the value score’.” — Mary Sobon [0:30:02]

“If you’re doing it for free, you’ve still got to put it on the invoice. Because there’s no way for people to understand the value of it unless they see it. And so I would put it in as a line item with ‘no charge’.” — Mary Sobon [0:30:51]

About Mary Sobon

Mary has been able to partner with some of the smartest, most innovative and culture-driven business owners in the world, taking on the complex challenges of scaling, change and team alignment in order to take leadership performance to the next level.

Mary has supported performance development in more than 200 organizations since she started m2 consulting in 2003 after leaving the corporate world.  She has helped entrepreneurs with growth, acquisitions and exits.  She served as strategic coach and consultant for the Nashville Entrepreneurs’ Organization for more than 15 years.  

Mary is also the creator of Level Up, a peer-based learning and development program specifically designed to optimize the relationship between CEOs and their most senior leaders.

LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

Mary Sobon on LinkedIn

Entrepreneurs Organization

Gestalt Training Program

AJ Vaden on LinkedIn

AJ Vaden on Twitter

Rory Vaden

Rory Vaden on LinkedIn

Rory Vaden on Twitter

Take the Stairs

Brand Builders Group

Brand Builders Group Free Call

Brand Builders Group Resources

The Influential Personal Brand Podcast on Stitcher

The Influential Personal Brand Podcast on Apple

AJV (00:08): Hey everybody. This is AJ Vaden here and welcome to another episode on the influential personal brand podcast. And I am specifically a excited for this episode because I get to talk to someone who I actually work with personally. So Mary has been my business coach for over a year. And so to get a chance to share her expertise with all of you is such a great honor and privilege, but let me give you just a little bit of her background. I can probably talk about and Rav about her for the next 30 minutes, but that’s not why you’re here. So I’ll make this short and sweet, but here are some things that I think is really amazing and some kind of sneak peek into what we’re gonna talk about on the show. Today is one, Mary has a very extensive executive corporate background in like fortune 50 companies, fortune 20 companies. I don’t even know like it’s extensive, but what I love most is she’s been able to take this amazing executive experience from these, you know, multi-billion almost probably trillion dollar companies and then apply it to small business and entrepreneurs like me. So I’ll get the benefit of all, all this worldly expertise that allows me to tailor it to my own business. But she’s worked with more than two organiza 200 organizations. Yeah. More than 2, 200, 200 AJV (01:34): Organizations since she started her consulting firm, it’s called M two consulting here in Nashville. She works with EO the entre nos organization all over the world. She helps with people with mergers, acquisitions, exits high growth companies. And today she is here to share some of that expertise with our audience. And I’m so excited to have you, so Mary welcome. MS (01:57): Yeah, it is wonderful to be here, AJ. And again, it’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year boy time class, especially when the clients are great AJV (02:06): Or, or complicated either way. AJV (02:09): OK. So give everyone in the audience, just a, a high level background of your corporate world experience. And then when you left that, I guess that’s like over 15 years ago to what you’re doing now. Cause I think one of the things that will really resonate with our audience and our listeners as so many of the people that we work with are probably in a full-time job or in corporate job. And they’re trying to figure out, it’s like, how do I exit this to do this thing that I’ve always dreamed of whatever that may be. So since you’ve gone through that process from you really high up, I’m working with these massive companies to go, no, I’m gonna call it a day and I’m gonna go do my own thing. So give us a little bit of that story. MS (02:49): Yeah. And I would tell AJ, I don’t know that I’m gonna be the most helpful role model on this because like a lot of entrepreneurs I actually started as an entrepreneur because I lost my job. The biggest company that I worked for is McDonald’s corporation. I was a regional marketing manager for them and I was with them at a pretty interesting time in, in terms of learning a lot of things, leadership, finance, because they were probably at, at one of the worst points of their professional, all trajectory. And they went through their single ever reorganization that the corporation has ever had. I was working in Nashville in a field office that was servicing about 500 restaurants. And interestingly enough, I’m probably gonna get in trouble for saying this. They closed our office, even though we were number one in the country in terms of improved sales transactions, because we had an inexpensive lease buyout. MS (03:43): And I guess when you’re looking at 40 regional offices around the country with a lot of space that matters, but I had a choice. I had a choice to transfer to another city with McDonald’s. And at the time I thought I was gonna go, and then I, then I actually, if found out my dad was really, really, really sick. And I knew that if I left Nashville and went to another city and, and they were gonna help me kind of commute back and forth because my significant other was here. I knew that I couldn’t be taking care of all three things at one time. And so I decided to leave. And I went out and I did some consulting in marketing for a little while, which is really the worst job on the planet. And because small businesses and I’m talking really small businesses, don’t understand why you can’t get a story on their company in the New York time. MS (04:36): And so I did that for about a year and it was, it was pretty profitable, but not much fun and then sort of accidentally. And I think this is the thing that it really stood out for me in my story that I want to make sure other people pay attention to. I met one person who opened a door for me that led to possibility after possibility after possibility. And I’m gonna give her a shout out. That person was actually Julie May who, who ran an it company here in Nashville. She was a member of EO entrepreneurs organization. And she said, wow, our organization is kind of a mess and you seem kind of smart and you know how this works. Can you come in and help us? And I had no idea at that point, what they needed or how to do it, but just went in and did the job. MS (05:25): Mm. And it went pretty well. And I did my best. And if I look back, I would be appalled at what I did wrong, what I did silly, but I think the most important thing is that I did it. And that led to me meeting different people who were also in need of, of people to come in and just sort of help them with business coaching. It’s an interesting thing to think about when I started, I was the only performance coach that I knew. I wasn’t even a performance coach. I was a facilitator who sort of did some coaching incidentally with that, but now almost 20 years later, you at any room you’re in, you’re in a room with two or three other coaches. So it makes a whole lot of sense that we are, we live in a world in which things are so complex. MS (06:10): And so interconnected, you need a partner who can help you sort of sort through things. You just wanna to make sure that that partner has something that’s really valuable for you. And for me, that thing is scaling. I have spent more time working with entrepreneurs, scaling high growth companies. These are companies that are growing 200% a year, 500% a year, and have seen pretty much all of the good, the bad, the pains, the joys of, of that. And it just excites me. It excites me to this day. So I work still with entrepreneurial companies who are focused on growth. I work with entrepreneurial teams, even in larger corporations who are interested still in doing things smart and fast and growth. And when you do that, boy, you never stop learning. And that would be maybe the second thing that I learned is that, man, if you’re coaching, you are a full-time learner in addition to being a full-time coach, because whatever you are working on today, it is gonna be disrupted by something maybe three to six months from now at the most. So that’s kind of my journey in a nutshell, I’ve been doing it for a long time, man. There are a lot more people on the space and boy, I gotta stay sharp if I wanna continue to be successful. AJV (07:25): Okay. Well the very first thing I heard and I think this is really important is the importance of saying yes. Yeah. Even if you’re not completely ready and I’m just like, we were talking about this a little bit before, or we started, and I didn’t even know you were gonna say this, but it’s like in your experience, how many people do you think that you’ve worked with who simply don’t succeed because they don’t just do it. MS (07:49): So more than 80% of problems in businesses come from people not being willing to sort of lean into the things that are really available to them. That will be really helpful. I was just on a zoom call with a client right before we jumped onto this podcast. And she was talking about the struggle that she’s having with her team in data. And she said, data makes them uncomfortable. And so every time we get busy, they use that as an excuse to say, well, we, we don’t really have to look at the data. We’d have to work, try to work with the data, cuz it’s hard for us. And, and I was guilty of that as well. It was really hard for me to put myself out there. I engaged a sales coach early on and I did my pitch for him. And he said, Mary, not only have you not sold me, you’ve given me a lot of reasons not to use you as consultant. MS (08:41): And I did it because I was scared. Mm. And the one thing that I could offer that made me feel so much better about everything is that as a coach, it’s about fit. And you’re not gonna be a fit for everybody. And so being open to the idea that you’re gonna have to meet a lot of people, a lot of those people are not gonna be a good fit for you in order for you to find the people that are is just part and parcel of it. And now I used to go out kind of desperate to you. I wanted to land the business and now I go out and I say, I’m so excited to meet you. And we may or may not be a fit, but more than anything, I just wanna have a lovely conversation and get to know this really great person on the other side of the table. MS (09:22): And I get to do that because I’ve been doing this for a long time. And I get when you’re starting, it is really scary. And, but the thing that I often coach my high growth teams on is you gotta bet on yourself. Like it’s okay for you to get involved with something that you don’t know how to do. As long as you are willing to bet on yourself to figure it out. A great example of this was way back when a, a, a, a company had an RFP out to go do something around high performing teams. And my husband came across it and said, you should do this. And I said, I don’t know anything about high performing teams or how you teach it. And he goes, yes, but you’re really good at figuring things out. So maybe you trust yourself. And that started a 15 year relationship with that particular company. MS (10:10): But at the very onset, the first sentence out of the guy’s mouth was, well, we’re talking to six or seven experts it, and I thought I’m cooked. So I’m just done. But as we talked, I realized, again, it was about fit. It was about my ability to understand them and listen to him much more than it was about any of my bonafides or whatever model I had. And I would say that’s true for coaching. In general, as you’re starting your practice, if you make it a about you and how smart you are, that’s kind of helpful if you make it about them and making them feel seen and being smart about helping them to know what they already know, man, that’s valuable. It took me much longer to learn that than I wish I had. That’s so AJV (10:53): That’s so insightful. Cause I think, I think for most people, and I can at least speak for myself. It’s like any time where I don’t think I’m a good fit, it’s, I’m totally focused on myself. Yeah. And it’s like, at the end of the day, it’s like, who knows and who cares? It’s it? Who I don’t wanna do things that aren’t fun and I don’t wanna work with people. I can’t help. So if I just take that approach and so for that person, who’s rather just started out or their in growth mode or their scale and eight figure coaching. This is wherever they are. How, what would you say are some best practices of figuring out how you figure out who’s the right fit for you? Cause I think a lot of coaches and I can speak for myself for a lot of years, worked with a whole lot of clients that I didn’t wanna work with because I wasn’t clear on exactly who was the fit for me. MS (11:38): Yes. And so this is the, maybe the one part where away from clients, you wanna understand how you are very differentiated from anyone else who’s coaching. And, and there’s a weird thing because again, there are a lot of coaches out there and there, there are coaches who coach from technical expertise and there who are, there are coaches who work much closer to for lack of a better word therapy life coaches who just wanna be there for you. And you can find a lot of both. I think the key is to understand in yourself one what, what you are really, really, really gift that that other people may not be. And so for me, early on, early on, early on, early on one thing that I knew that I was pretty gifted at was conflict. And in my mind, conflict, isn’t more mad at each other or hostility. MS (12:25): It’s like, Ooh, we don’t agree. We’re in different places on this. And you know, as luck would have it, I just happen to have some gestalt training before I met EO who values the use of this idea of Al and we’re in that world, there is no conflict. There’s only people in different places which allowed me to come into some situations with an approach that felt later easier. This isn’t the end of the world. Nobody’s right. Nobody’s wrong. Let’s just go. And so that was helpful for me to learn that easy early on, cuz that led me into high growth is chop full of conflict. And so I had a lot of opportunities to work with bigger corporations and I know big corporations and this kind of maybe gets to your point, AJ. But I also know that I don’t wanna do work. That doesn’t go and I don’t wanna work in the bureaucracy. I don’t want to sit in meetings and talk for the sake of talking. And so by definition, that’s screened out almost every large corporation. I have an utter respect for the fact that that building consensus and working things through needs to take place. It’s just not fast enough for me. Oh. And so that, yeah. MS (13:38): Yeah. And so I think that I always encourage my clients when they’re thinking about the clients to think about the work that they’ve done that has made them happiest and to think about the people in that work that made them the happiest and what qualities the work and the people had. And so for me, it’s, you have to be honest, you have to be a little vulnerable and I don’t mean woo woo. Vulnerable. I mean, you have to be open about the fact that there are things that you need to learn, grow do. And I’m fine with just about everything else. Like I’m good with people who have very strong personalities who have tempers who have a lot of things, but what I knew I wasn’t good at is people who just wanted to make the conversation singular. And so I got there pretty quickly by looking at the work and saying where, to your point, AJ, where am I happy in the work? MS (14:28): And where is the work that I come home feeling fatigued and kind of down on myself and really doubting myself as a, as a, as a coach. And so in doing that, I realized I need smaller firms who are moving quickly and who were willing to be honest with themselves about what their challenges were and for anybody else, who’s just starting her out or in the middle of it and is looking for a refocus, where is the work that you have had the best results and that gives you the most energy and who was in that work and what were they like? I might flip, I might turn the tables on you AJ and say, well, how did you learn about clients that were good for brand builders or not? AJV (15:09): Yeah. You know, it’s so interesting is as soon as you were talking, my very first thoughts went back to, you know, the first 15 years of my professional career as we were building our previous business coaching, training consulting and speaking. And I think one of the things that I realized during that tenure, which made brand builders group so much easier is I got super clear on what my natural strengths were, but that did not happen organically. It was almost forced by, by having so many clients for so long that just burned me out. Yeah. And it wasn’t until I think I went to a conference or I had a coach or something where I really said that, what do I want to be doing? And I knew, I knew for a really long time what I didn’t wanna be doing, but I wasn’t focused on what I wanted to be doing. And I feel like for me, it’s like, I was clear on what I didn’t want, but it took a lot of focus and effort for me to get really clear on what I did want. And I think for me, what I discovered in this process, it’s like my superpower is to be able to come into it. It’s a a blessing and a curse, really, if you think about it, but it’s a, it’s my ability to come into any single situation, any room, any, anything, and immediately see what’s wrong. MS (16:26): Yeah. AJV (16:27): Yeah. Probably think it wonderful. I, your team loves you. But it’s like any situation I can immediately go, that’s how you make it better. Yeah. And I, I started attracting clients who wanted that type of feedback who wanted that type of directive, that type of momentum, because I just remembered my sales calls. I’m like, listen, if you don’t want someone to come in and tell you what to make better, I’m not the fit for you because I’m never going to be like, it’s great. I’m just never gonna do that for you. But until I figured that out and it really took 10 years, so it shouldn’t take everyone else that long like take, you know, lessons from this, but it wasn’t until then that I was like, I actually really love my clients because they were fast paced action oriented. I didn’t have to follow up. I didn’t have to hold ’em accountable. They were action takers because they knew, but by the next time I talked to him, I was gonna have three more things. MS (17:17): Nice. So people who were happy and people that would tell me people who were happy to be pushed. Yeah. Cause that’s not everybody. Right. And so again, yeah, it’s just, but I, at the beginning of my career on this, I wish I did a much better job of sort of documenting how the work went and because you would get there faster. And so if you are just out today, document your clients, what is working about this client? What do I not love about this client? And as you said that AJ, it reminded me of something that really helped me from a long time ago, there’s a, there’s a gentleman named hum cloud who does sort of these back of the cocktail cartoons that are mini lessons in business. And he does a lot of work on culture now. And one of the things, one of the ones that really stood out for me is he said that, you know, when we think about work, you have this sort of, this ven diagram of work that is really sexy and fun. MS (18:07): And then that pays you a ton of money. And he said, people who are starting out have a tendency to think that that ven diagram completely overlaps that all your work should be super sexy and grow your brand and, you know, be wonderful to do and pay you a lot of money at the same time. And that’s a short road to unhappiness because what you realize every time. And I think you probably realized is that, is that there are clients who you adore and there are clients who pay you incredibly well. And the number that are a 10 on both of their scales is actually relatively few. And that’s okay. AJV (18:43): Yeah. One of the things that I started reminding myself of when we started brand builders grew what should I like almost almost four years, which feels like yesterday and 15 years ago at MS (18:54): The same time and a hundred years ago at the same time AJV (18:56): Time. But I said, if I wouldn’t want to coach you for free, then I shouldn’t coach you at all. MS (19:02): Yeah. AJV (19:03): It’s like, if I, if I wouldn’t wanna do this without making money, then now, you know, 15, 20 years later, I’m in a position you that’s clearly not. I would take anyone in the beginning. For a very long time, I was like, whatever it is you want I’ll, I can do it. I’ll figure it out. But now it’s like, if I, if I didn’t wanna coach you for free, then I shouldn’t coach you at all. And I don’t think that’s how we start. But for me now it’s more about mission and passion of going. It’s like, I wanna be able to do this without having to only do it because you pay me. So it’s like the more I can find those people, the naturally the happier I am and the happier my clients are. MS (19:43): Yeah. Love that. But it takes a little bit of time, right? Because you immediately think it has to be bid to those things and to start. And I think that you’re onto something that’s really, really important also, AJ, as you start and, and my view on this shifted a little bit, but not too much. And I’m sure your has, but it, yours has as well, but it is the idea of what is my business about am I in it for the experiential point of, I wanna love what I do. I want to have a blast with everyone that I work with is the purpose of my business to create financial freedom so that I can go out and do whatever I wanna do go climb a mountain or take a month off or take three months off. And it’s kind of related to that thing, but I have always chosen the experiential over the money and that has been great, but also not because when I get too happy with people, I don’t want them to not like me. MS (20:36): And so one of the biggest challenges I’ve had as a coach is how do you take people’s money up and learning how to have that conversation was really tough. And I’m sure that you had to do the same thing. Yeah. Okay. But it occurs to me that you were on the same side of that equation, which is, I know what I want my business to do. I want the work to give me energy and make me happy first. And so I’ll take a little less money to do that. Like you don’t have to pick between the two, but it’s helpful to understand. I know other coaches that are like I’m in it to make money. And I do a great job deliver a great service, but the work feels a little different for them. And they get to do a wider space of clients because their needs are different. AJV (21:14): It’s such an important distinction for anyone who’s in this space to anyone who’s in this industry of being really clear of like, what are your goals of being in this space? Because that really does clearly distinguish your market and what you’re going after. So that actually brings up a really good question because I know that this comes up in our community all the time is people don’t know how to charge. Right. They undervalue their services. They don’t know how to charge. They don’t know when to do price increases. And I, I find this for both businesses and personal service alike. So both on a coach side and then also on a individual who coaches businesses like any tips or advice or experience shares around, how do you determine what to charge and when your prices should go up or come down, or like, how, how do you do that? MS (22:06): Yeah. And but prices the stickiest wicket for all businesses of us sizes. Anytime anybody’s working on pricing strategy, I’ll show you some unhappy people, cause it’s really hard and there are no real right answers on this. But for coaches, it’s actually pretty simple. Most coaches start off by either way overvaluing their, their services or way undervaluing the, our services. And so you’re gonna have to make a choice early on as to whether you go with a retainer model. Am I gonna say it’s X number of dollars a month and we’re gonna make the most of that, or is it a delivery fee for delivery, which is for every hour that I coach you, I get money that there are challenges with both to begin with though. It is easier to get people to sign on for a fee for delivery. It is also easier to make the value of a fee for delivery visible when you’re starting out, when you’re on a retainer and you send a very big number to an entrepreneurial CEO, they’re like, what is all this money for it? MS (23:06): Cuz I sure didn’t see it. I spent an hour with Mary, but she’s got $7,000 on here and say, what is, what is she doing that way? And so I find that it’s probably a good idea to try to sell both, but if you’re selling a retainer to make sure that the value of that retainer is visible and defined, not just, I promised to be there between 10 and and 20 hours, it would literally be the, to give them a sense of I’m advancing these things for you. On that, the second thing that I learned is I’m just gonna be, I’m gonna get in trouble for this. My pricing is highly aligned with how easy and fabulous I think you are to work for. MS (23:47): That is probably not a great and scientific way to do it, but there are things that I value. Like if you never cancel, if you, I, I do fee for delivery. I’ve always found that just simpler, easier. I’m happier. But if you always show up when you’re supposed to, if you’re not always moving your schedule around or, or, or canceling, if you actually do something with the work, like just like you AJ. And if you share with me that you think what I’m doing is valuable, you get a discount from me and mostly it’s a discount in, in terms of, I’m not gonna raise your rates as we go. That’s fascinating. Yeah. So that’s an well, and then the other part of it is where people always, if you’re a great client, it’s kind of, there’s an, there’s an analogy with this, with a rental house, which is they say, if you find a great tenant who pays all the time and doesn’t trash the house and doesn’t have pets, you never raise their rent because you never want them to leave. MS (24:42): And I think that’s kind of how I feel about the clients that I love of. And I have worked for, you know, it’s funny, like you say, we’ve been working together for a year. The number of clients that I have been associated with, but for more than a decade is more than I cared to count. It’s a great thing. But part of that is because I value them and I don’t, I’m not always taking their money up. The second thing that I will say is take your money up on every next client. Like, as you are building your business, if you got somebody to say yes for this amount, try taking it up a little bit and see if you can get somebody to say yes to the higher amount. And if a couple of people say yes to that, try taking it up to the next level. MS (25:20): Until you get people who are one in four might say, oh, it’s a little pricey or I don’t know, or just not get back to you. But if everyone is just like, oh, that’s fine, that’s fine. That’s fine. You probably have room to go north a little bit. And that’s what I have done. So I actually have a pretty big spread in, in, in what I charge. But it says, I said I’m a little wacky that way. However my husband, who is always telling me double your double, your price, I’m like here outta your mind for one thing. But secondarily, I spend an unbelievably small amount of time in business development because I’m not great at it. And so word of mouth and people who stay with me allow me not to have to spend on average. I wanna say beginning coaches spend 25 to 33% of our time developing business. MS (26:10): I will joke that sometimes clients are paying me to develop business cuz I’m in a coaching session and they’re telling me about somebody else that they wanna introduce me to. Yeah. and so that was my strategy was make people really happy, generate good referrals, good word of mouth. And try to keep prices a little bit lower. Everybody’s gonna be a little bit different, but if you are taking your prices at the key is you have to show value. You have to show here’s what you are getting and why absolutely why it’s worth it for you to have this time. And that’s something that with good clients, they’ll tell you this is valuable or if it’s not valuable and boy, if I go too long without somebody saying, Hey, that was valuable, I gotta check in and say, Hey, is the work aligned to what you need? MS (26:52): But on the, on the pricing front, I have found the easiest way to take prices up is to do it with new clients. And when you have to do it, don’t don’t nickel and dime take the significant price increase so that you only have to do it every couple of years. That is absolutely a best practice in our line of work is people don’t want their fee. They don’t want the annual renewal of your fee went up as if we are Comcast or Netflix these days. And every once in a blue moon say, Hey, I I’m just, I’m adjusting to meet the, the business standard really helpful to invent the standards of our industry. Those are I’m adjusting my these cause. AJV (27:31): So many. Those are so many good things. I just wanna make sure we don’t skim over some of those because this is a really challenging thing for most people. I don’t, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. If you’re in a service space industry where you’re charging fees it’s a big deal. Especially in this coaching training, speaking consulting world. And there’s three things that you said that I think are really worth, just commenting on is. And honestly, one of them is this, this pricing model based on the ease of which it is to work with you. And as you are hourly, it’s like if I have to track you down and follow up with you to show up for my calls, I’m going to charge you more because you cost me more. MS (28:11): That’s exactly right. AJV (28:12): That’s brilliant. That’s so smart and creates more accountability. I would think in terms of, Hey, listen, if you’re difficult to work with, I have to charge more because you’re holding up space on calendar. MS (28:25): Yep. That’s exactly right. That’s so AJV (28:28): Smart. Yeah. And I think too, the thing that I love about that is also going, I love that there is a differentiation and although it’s like, I think it kinda like motivates clients to wanna be better clients. AJV (28:42): Right. And it’s like, who doesn’t wanna be motivated to be a, a better client of going, wow. If like I’m a really good client then like I would get like locked in at this like grandfathered rate. Like I need to be a good client. And I think there’s like some like reverse psychology. That’s actually really, really beneficial in that. Cuz I think for most people they’re human nature is, well I wanna be, I wanna be a good client too. Not, not, I think most people go into this going, I wanna be a giant pain in the ask for you and then see if you can make it work and MS (29:09): Amen. I mean, and you have to have some trust there. Like I don’t say that to everyone. I say that to clients that I really like, and, and it is, it also helps them to understand, Hey, you get a little special treatment, which makes them want to be better clients. I AJV (29:23): So smart. So interesting. Never heard that pricing. My I’ll ever love that. So good. AJV (29:30): The second thing that I think is really good is this concept of being grandfathered in to pricing. Yeah. Like I think that makes a big deal. I think about some of my longest term consulting clients in my former life. And it’s because I didn’t just raise the prices for raising the prices. I’m like, you’ve been amazing. You’ve been six and seven for your clients year after year. I’m not gonna raise prices just for the sake of raising prices. I’m gonna keep the prices the same. So our relationship will continue. And I, I, you know, I, I can’t tell you how many vendors that I’ve been contacted by. I, since the beginning of this year, letting me though, they’re just doing a standard across the board, 10% price increase and I’m going for what? Like based on what inflation market. MS (30:12): Yeah. AJV (30:12): And I’m just sitting here going, okay, well, should I increase our, you know, it’s like, and those things where it’s like, and then, you know, Roy and I had a long to sits a lot of discussion around, well, should we be doing that? And then we just set back and we’re like, no, we don’t feel like that’s right. For where we are. And so it’s like one of the things that we’ve kind of doubled down on is we’re not gonna raise prices, but we’re going to be doing new things to increase value without raising prices. And there’s two different ways of going about at it. And it’s like, if you really wanted me to stay and to refer you business, which I would happily do, it’s like raising the prices for no reason, probably isn’t the thing to do. So we’ve taken a counter approach and we’ve added three new, huge benefits to our membership platform going, and we’re not raising prices. Our goal this year is to increase value. MS (31:01): So I just love that. And in fact, when I was at McDonald’s, we used to use this very simple but powerful formula that said value equals price divided by experience. Oh, and the idea was to say, as long as you’re providing an experience, that seems better than the price you’re winning on the value score. So you didn’t always have to take prices down. You had to make the experience better. And at the same time was the key to driving value. So what you and Roy are doing is just so smart because it does allow you to but yeah, but it does. And I think that it, so one thing again, that I would, that I would share with, with people who are in this doing, but we do, and even for you guys too, AJ and worry is something that I do and started doing several years ago that it took me forever to do. MS (31:50): And this is a, a shout out to a very smart guy named David Baker, who does a lot of writing about business models for advertising agencies. And I got dialed into him on one time ago. But one thing that he says is if it you’re doing it for free, you still gotta put it on the invoice because there’s no way for people to understand the value of it unless they see it. And so I would put it in as a, this line item with a no charge, or I would actually put it in at full boat and then, and then cut it it back out. I’d do it both ways, but helping people to see the, these are things that we are doing that are valuable for you is super, super important. AJV (32:29): I love MS (32:29): That. Cause they don’t, we do Abstract work, right? Like it’s its, it’s not, it’s not holding something in your hand. AJV (32:36): Oh yeah. Out of sight, out of mind, what have you done for me lately? It’s easy to forget like all those things. MS (32:42): Right. and so even again, like the last we finish this up by saying, it never felt really great about either one of those things. And so just two weeks ago I found out the thing that I love that I put out invoices. And so now it says, here’s the service with my comp, here’s the thing I did with my compliments. That is like, this is for you. This isn’t even a, a line item. I want you to know that I did this as a little gift for you. Oh that’s. And so as you and Roy are doing things that are really value added, making sure that you find ways to share those that feel good. Yeah. And is an important part for anybody to who delivers coaching consulting as a service. AJV (33:23): Oh, that’s so good because it’s true. It’s like, people don’t know what they’re paying for. If you don’t tell them what they’re paying for. Right. And what they’re paying. And especially MS (33:31): If you have multiple people, there’s in my line of work, there’s no way for a CEO to know that, Hey, I had a one off coaching session just for the good of the cause with one of your people, unless it says bonus coaching session with my compliments. That’s so good. Yeah. AJV (33:44): That’s awesome. That’s so great. And then the third thing you said that I also love because I think this is, I think people do this more than anything else is they never raise their prices. But it’s, I love this. It’s, you know, I would liken it to like client demand. It’s like the more clients you have, it’s like, you have to be raising the prices be, and that’s just, there’s only a limited supply of how many hours you have to deliver. So the less hours you have the higher, the prices must go. So the earlier I think to me, it’s like the earlier you have clients in, they should have lesser rates to some degree because you more ample time. But as that time gets sucked away, prices must increase cuz the value of your time is innately higher. MS (34:27): Yep. And on that, I think a couple of things that are important to remember one of which is you can do an introductory rate. Like you can do it. Let’s try very much like what you guys do. Here’s a preview. Here’s a way for you to try me before we get locked in. And people actually love that. Like when I’m selling coaching, I always say to people, well, the best way for you to understand it is let’s just do it. Like let’s just have a coaching session. And if you’re like, yes, that was great. Then we can do next steps. And if you’re like, that was awesome, but you’re coming intense. But then we’re probably not a good fit and great too. But it saved me from doing a lot of pretend work. I’m like, why not just do a little bit of the work and let them see it? MS (35:10): And so that I think is something that is important to know that you can also say to people, Hey, we can do my usual rate is like, you gotta know what your actual prevailing rate is. My usual rate is this to us. If we can get to know each other, I’m willing to do three months at this and then we can reevaluate. That’s an okay way to get started. And so that I think is an important thing is that you have some flexibility and don’t publish your rates would be a big one to not publish. Yeah. Your rates. I mean, I go back to you triggered something that was really helpful for me. And I don’t remember who this was. This might also have been David Baker, but I don’t think so, but I ran, I ran across a great formula that said, if you’re working in corporate America and you wanna go out and consult the number that you need to make in terms of breaking, even with your old salary is somewhere between 1.5 and two, just to stay where you were earning your salary in corporate America. Because you don’t think about things like, well now I’m paying my own portion of says social security and now I’m responsible for my own health insurance. And now I have hours that I have to spend an administration that I can’t bill you, but still are a cost center. And so when you set your rates, you have to account for all those things the same way that they do when they set a salary in a corporate world. AJV (36:35): Oh totally. Those are such wise experienced comments to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re just getting started or you haven’t established coaching consulting practice. Like those are things that so often never get discussed. Like they don’t actually make it to the conversation of how do we set prices. And so funny, cuz this wasn’t an intended part of my interview with you, but this is so incredibly valuable. And all right. So I have just one other quick question, but before I do that I’m gonna put this in the show notes, but when it comes to social media, if people wanna go and connect with you where’s the best place on social media for people to connect with you MS (37:15): That’ll be, I’m too consulting on LinkedIn. So I’m an I’m, I’m not young. I’ve been doing this for a long time and had a career before that. And so I have found that for me and really professional social media is my bag. And, and so yeah, reaching out to me through LinkedIn is the best way and to get to me. And just one thing I am so grateful for just the journey that I’ve had and the amount of amazing experiences and fabulous clients that I’ve had that I always wanna help other coaches along the way. And so if anybody wants to reach out with a specific question around pricing or client management, or what did you do about this, please, please, please take advantage of that as coaches, AJ, I’m just gonna share this with you, cuz I think it’s important and know I actually think brand builders, is that a big part of the solution to this coaches don’t have community? MS (38:07): Mm, my husband is a political consultant. There’s like 9,000 political consultant bashes a year where they all go together and party it up and celebrate each other. And if you’re a coach that one of the surprising things for me was how lonely it was and how little community there actually is for coaches. And I think that brand builders is actually finding that part of their mission is to create a safe places for coaches to come together and to share. But also just as someone who is a little bit down the PI here, I am so happy to share my experience. If it’s helpful for anyone that just reach out to me at Mt. Consulting on LinkedIn or Mary, so on LinkedIn if I can help you, I will. AJV (38:50): Aw. So awesome. It’s why we love you so much and I’ll put all of in the show notes so generous and you might need to prepare yourself. You might be MS (38:59): That OS well though, like again, it’s an honor and man, I’m just so grateful. AJV (39:04): Oh, that’s so generous. It’s so nice. Okay. Well here’s my last question. And this is like totally has nothing to do with anything other than my own personal curiosity. But I would say and this is connected to this world of coaching that we’re in. But what would you say has been the, your favorite, your most favorite part about being a coach over the last 20 years? MS (39:30): So the, the, the obvious answer, right? Like the existential answer, it is such a gift to watch someone change. It is such a gift to be able to watch the light bulb go off in an aha moment, perhaps more importantly. It’s so awesome. And interestingly enough, I didn’t have children, but sometimes I’m like, Ooh, this must be like what it’s like with a kid where you watch your kid figure out how to tie their shoes at a, a sophisticated high level, but to be able to watch people access particularly their own self agency. And that is my favorite part because what I have found with most people is we give up so much of our agency when we are in trouble. When we have problems, we tend to go, it’s all this stuff around me and I’m stuck. And if we just turned inward just a little bit and said, Hey, actually I have more than I need to get out this. MS (40:24): And watching people access that part of themselves, cuz then they have it forever in everything. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing. If they’re like, oh, I can figure this out. And that’s pretty much hands down. My favorite part of that for myself if you took the clients away from it, I would say my favorite thing is how much it requires you to stay current. Oh, okay. I can’t think of another business where you do not have the luxury of relaxing and I will share with you that I meet a lot of people who are my age and I’m like, wow, you’ve had pretty much the same job for the last 15 years. And I’d be happy some weeks with having the same job for 15 minutes. But man, it keeps you young mentally. Like there, everyone is talking about the need to keep learning as a way to say young mentally. So that’s my favorite part about selfishly. AJV (41:13): Oh, I adore you so much special conversation with so many nuggets and so many awesome tips and best practices. Mary, we love you. And I don’t, I, I don’t know if people caught this, like I’ve had the pleasure of having Mary as my coach. And I mean, it’s like, I, I speak for that. It’s like, I, I know sometimes you say it’s like, wow, just wondering if you still wanna continue. I’m like what, what, what do you mean not be don’t, you’re have to be brave enough to ask sometimes it’s true and I can totally vouch. It’s like when you find that right coach, and this is where coaches out there and finding your clients, it’s like, it’s a really magical, it’s a really magical. And so be intentional with your clients, be intentional with who you do work with because it, it impacts you too, so that thank you so much. Everyone else stay tuned to the next episode on influential personal brand, Speaker 3 (42:07): Hey, brand builder, Rory Vaden here. Thank you so much for taking the time to check out this interview as always, it’s our honor to provide it to you for free and wanted to let you know there’s no big sales pitch or anything coming at the end. However, if you are someone who is looking to build and monetize your personal brand, we would love to talk to you and get to know you a little bit and hear about some of your dreams and, and visions and share with you a little bit about what we’re up to to see if we might be a fit. So if you’re interested in a free strategy call with someone from our team, we would love to hear from you. You can do that at brand buildersgroup.com/podcall brand builders, group.com/podcall. We hope to talk to you soon. AJV (42:55): All right. Well, welcome back. Y’all welcome to the recap episode of my conversation with Mary Soin. I love her so much. She is just so full of wisdom and experience. And as my own personal business coach, I was so excited to have her on here and I get the privilege of not just recapping our conversation, but also sharing just some powerful insights of things that she has taught me in terms of what, what do you provide really as a coach? And it’s interesting because as someone who considers yourself in the coaching industry and the coaching business, it’s what we do at brand builders group and personal branding. But it’s also really important that I have a coach to constantly get that different perspective for myself. And so there’s a couple of things here that I thought were so insightful for anyone who is in the coaching industry. AJV (43:51): And here are the couple of things that I think is really insightful is one. How do you set your prices? I don’t think a lot of people talk about this, cause I don’t really think a lot of people know how to do it. And I love the conversation that we morphed into on our call on our interview. Because that wasn’t, the intent had that naturally came up and we just went with it. But here’s a couple of takeaways from how to set your price and that think are really valuable. And then I can speak to as Mary, as my own business coach, right. One I think this was really fascinating. There’s two ways of looking at this, right? There is a, or really three ways. There is hourly, there is retainer and then there’s project and that’s how I would kind of lump these together. AJV (44:32): And on a, on an hourly, it actually puts a lot more work on you because you’ve got to track all of those per client. But then on top of that I think a lot of times I’m going, well, what if I don’t use, what if I don’t need these? And then she gets booked up, right? And I’m thinking like specifically of like how I’ve been as a customer, it’s like, I feel pressure of going well, if I just book hourly and I’m not on your schedule when I need you, are you gonna be available? Right. And for any of you who have ever been in counseling or therapy or, or life coaching, it’s like, no, when I need you, I need you. And if you’re not available well, that is not really helpful for me. So there’s pros and cons on a customer’s per on a customer perspective of doing it hourly. AJV (45:15): Because then the pro is, it’s like it’s cost manageable. Right. but for you as a coach, it’s a lot more work. It’s a lot more tracking of going now. I have to track and prove and document every single hour that I was with your organization or with you. So first one is hourly. Okay. Second one is retainer, right? Pros and cons to that one too, because on a customer’s perspective, I’m going, well, I want you to show me what you did for this retainer. Right. I paid you $3,000 for last month. What’d you do? I wanna know. And so there’s, again, a lot of tracking and reporting on that. There’s clearly a lot more security on the coaches side for pricing, right. Because you can plan out ahead and there’s less tracking. But then there’s again, extra documentation, right? So there’s, there’s always gonna be pros and cons to this, but I would say as a coach a project or a retainer model, I would blend my way to that more to quickly. AJV (46:15): Except for if you are just in that one, on one space and then maybe it’s the hourly. But I think the benefit of some of this in a retainer perspective is it allows you more opportunity to provide more value. And so now you have to figure out what that retainer pricing is. And maybe that retainer pricing is $500. Maybe it’s a thousand, right. Instead of going, Hey, just tell me when you need me. It’s like, no, we’re just gonna set up. It’s like, we’re gonna do two calls, three calls a month. One is for you. One is for your team. You can set it up however you want, but that can still be a retainer model. And here’s another way to look at hourly, even if you only do hourly, just have people pay in advance for their hours. AJV (46:54): And that could be like a project, right? So instead of billing hourly, it’s like, well, I’m gonna bill you hourly, but I’m gonna do it in advance. So right. I’m gonna go ahead and bill you for 10 hours. And you can use that in any increment that you like. It could be in 10, one hour calls, it could be in two, five hour sessions. But it it’s like I’m gonna bill you in advance. And then I won’t bill you again until you use those up. So there’s different ways of thinking about how you price. But then you also have to think about what is that actual personal, hourly rate, right. And I thought this was fascinating cause right. There’s projects. And then there’s retainers, right? Which happened monthly versus a project, which is a one time, Hey, here’s what we’re gonna do for Q1. AJV (47:38): And here’s how much it costs versus you’re gonna pay me X amount of money every single month and definitely, or for six months or for a year or for whatever. And then there’s hourly, which I’ll track every single hour and I’ll bill you, or you can have people buy hours up front and then you don’t bill again until you use those up. And then they buy the next allotment. Right. So there’s lots of different ways to do it, but then the next is, well, how do you set your internal hourly? Right. So you know what to charge for in a project or on a retainer or hourly like, well, what should I charge a hundred dollars an hour? Is it $50 an hour? Is it $500 an hour? I don’t know what my fee is. And so I thought this was so fascinating because I’ve never heard this and I’ve been in this industry and I’ve been in this business a really long time. AJV (48:24): And she said, that really depends on the client. And then, and it hit me. It’s like it sure frien does. It does depend on the client. And I love this and I have never heard of anyone else doing this. So I think this is really, really cool. But this concept of going, how easy is it to work with a client? And that is a part of how you hard, like how difficult is the project gonna be for you? In other words, if you are doing something that is gonna require a lot of research time and a lot of documentation time, a lot of coordination time, then maybe there should be a higher hourly rate because it’s, it’s making you do things that are not a part of your norm, right. Versus like, no, this is, you just want me on a phone call and you wanna ask me questions. AJV (49:15): That’s easy. Are you, are you a client? Are you working with clients that are very hard to track down and they always take out virtual real estate on your calendar that you’re always having to go back and try to refill. And it’s like that to me was like the aha moment of going, how many clients have I had in the past that would book calls. And then constantly not show up and then I couldn’t fill that hour with someone else. So there was a huge opportunity cost, and then I would have to track this person down, reschedule, reschedule. They weren’t prepared. And I’m like, oh my gosh. It’s like, this is so much more work than we had anticip hated for. So it was like, how easy are your clients to work with? Are they people who show up prepared and ready to work? AJV (50:00): Are they people who constantly know show and reschedule on you? And I think a lot of that you don’t know until you work with them. Right. so she talked about, excuse me, having a grandfathered price in. So it’s like I start everyone at some point at based on what the project is based on what they need based on my involvement. But my prices evolve and change, right. Just like inflation changes the prices in the markets as does at my prices. Right. and really it’s more of supply and demand, right? The less hours I have, the more I charge, the more hours I have, I don’t have to charge as much. And that’s the case with, you know, anything it’s like the less there is typically the more you pay for it. Right. and so just this concept of how easy is it for me to work with you? AJV (50:48): How reliable as a client are you to work with and how much availability do I have and then how much expertise is required. Those are the things that we evaluate as we’re setting prices. And I think that’s really interesting to look at, of going the more that you do this, the more you should charge, because the more experience, the more value that you provide, but you need to make sure that that’s what’s happening. And I, I know some people who just get in and they’re like, my fees are 200 bucks an hour. And I’m like, based on what I have other people who get in this business and they charge a hundred dollars an hour and I’m like, you should be charging five, like legitimate, you should be charging 500. That is the level of expertise that you are providing. What’s the difference has everything to do with the need of the client and finding that right. AJV (51:41): Fit, knowing what your niche is and knowing exactly what you’re gonna be coaching on, knowing exactly what your target market is and what is their income and what are their demographics and what are their psychographics on a huge part of this? Isn’t about what it’s about, who it’s about, who are you targeting and what expertise are you bringing? And in what model are you going to be charging? Right? And this is such a detailed conversation to have in this recap, but I think it’s one that’s really powerful and a customer of Mary’s to know, it’s like, I’m sitting here going. I wonder if my pricing means I’m a really good client, or I’m a really difficult client of I’ll tell you what it did for me. And I, I hung up for this interview and I went and I talked to my husband, Rory. Who’s also a co-host as you guys all know if you’re listening and I asked him and I was like, based on these fees, do you think I’m a bad client on a good client? AJV (52:33): And it created this internal desire in me to like, I wanna be a good client. I wanna get grandfathered in to really good rates. It’s like, what do I need to do to be a better client? And then I’m asking myself, do I reschedule on her? Do I knowhow? Do I not come prepared? Do I not stuff. And there is a mentality that intentional or not, that has been created since this interview of me going, I want to be a better client because I want to be rewarded for being a good client and being rewarded means I get grandfathered in at my original rate. Heck yeah, I’m not gonna reschedule on you anymore. I’m never gonna knowhow. I’m gonna show up and do the work because I want these grandfathered in fees because I value your time. And if I, if I value and I respect your time, you’re gonna reward me as a customer, sign me up. AJV (53:22): So I think there’s also reverse psychology working here in her favor again, intentional or not, that makes me wanna be a good customer. So again, really fascinating conversation on pricing. It’s a really delicate conversation. It’s always changing and evolving as your prices should, right? They shouldn’t be the same that they were 10 years ago, because you are definitely saying that you were 10 years ago or even five years ago, or maybe even last year. So please check out this full interview. Mary also gave the incredible offer to any anyone in the coaching business. If you’re a coach and you just want more community with coaches and you want advice from someone who’s been doing this a really long time, she said look her up on LinkedIn. It’s Mary Soin into consulting. And she said, reach out to me. And I’m, I’m happy to support. I’m happy to help and ask any questions. So if I were you and I was a coach, I would take her up on that because I’m taking her up on it for free. So check it out, go listen to the full episode and we’ll catch you next time on the influential personal brand.

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25 of the World's Most Recognizable Influencers Share Their Tips on How to Build and Monetize a Personal Brand

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