What advice would I give a new freelance trainer about pricing their services?

I can’t tell you how often I’m asked this question but with good reason. How a freelance trainer prices their services can be the difference between make and break.

Below, I’ve included some thoughts for you as well as links to other pricing articles and resources I’ve created over the years.

Pricing your services when you’re starting out

If you’re starting out, it’s important to have a basic daily rate in your mind, as well as a basic daily rate for associate work. Although not impossible, it can be difficult to change this rate within a short timeframe, especially if you realise that you’re drastically undercharging and need to push your prices up a lot. Clients might wonder why there’s suddenly a big jump.

It’s far better to decide on a daily rate that you feel good about from the outset.

There’s advice about things to consider when setting your basic daily rate in the following articles:

Of course, as you become more established, you can and should raise your prices.

As well as factoring your outgoings in your basic daily rate, I’d encourage you to think about:

  • The kind of lifestyle you want to live as a freelance trainer, now and in the future
  • The value you bring to your clients – how will their businesses benefit from your training?
  • How much experience do you have in your industry?
  • What are your plans for your business? Do you want to grow it? Do you want to retire at 50? Or do you want to sell your training business eventually?

All of these considerations will influence your daily rate.

Be confident and charge what you’re worth

One of the biggest problems among new freelance trainers is undervaluing themselves and their services.

As your training business grows, try to collect as much evidence as possible highlighting the value you deliver to your clients. This might be evidence in the form of testimonials, case studies, sales data, employee satisfaction, financial improvements for your clients – what you measure will depend on the training you deliver.

Even if you never share some of this information, it will help you build up a picture in your own mind of the value you offer.

I challenge you to be confident, even if you’re starting out and have yet to work with your first client as a freelancer. You know your stuff and deserve to be paid fairly for your unique skills and knowledge.

I’ve written a couple of articles about charging what you’re worth that you might find helpful:

Practice talking about money

Many people feel uncomfortable talking about money. We all have different money stories and blocks and this can affect how confident we feel when stating our rates.

A great tip is to practice saying your rates out loud, even if it’s in front of the mirror. What’s the biggest number you can comfortably say? Can you increase it slightly? How does that feel? If it feels uncomfortable, can you pinpoint why?

If money is tight for you at the moment, you might assume that everyone is in the same boat. This assumption often leads self-employed people to feel they have to discount their rates.

In reality, you can’t make assumptions about other people’s financial circumstances. It isn’t your responsibility to make yourself affordable to everyone. If a business says they can’t afford you, the chances are that says more about their budget and circumstances than your worth.

Your responsibility here is to be confident about the value you bring to the table.

Remember too that in the eyes of a potential client, cheaper is not always best!

So my advice is to practice talking about money. Find a rate that you feel comfortable with. If a client “falls off their chair” with shock at the number (as Alex Hewlett put it in the comments when I first published this article!), ask them what figure they had in mind. Here, it’s helpful to have a minimum rate you’re prepared to work for in mind or – better yet – to think about how you can package your services in a way that allows different price points.

Crucially though, the conversation about price should come last. The first conversation you have with a client should be focused on value, solutions and outcomes. If you can make these clear, you may find price is an afterthought for your clients.

Know your numbers

One of the most effective pricing tips I can give is to tell you to keep tracking the numbers in your training business.

What money is coming in?

What is going out?

How much do you need to earn for your business to be sustainable?

How can you package up your services to create the needed income? Do you know exactly what you need to sell and how you plan to sell it?

There are other factors that will affect your pricing. Your industry sector, the potential for future work, whether you offer a specialist service, the scope of training, etc, will all affect your rates.

Spend some time developing a clear pricing strategy before you launch your business (if possible) because it will save you time and energy long-term. But pricing is never done – keep reviewing what works and what doesn’t, the value you add, where you’re losing money and where it flows with ease. This will all help you to shape a business you love.

We talk about pricing and the numbers you need to know in your business (even if spreadsheets terrify you) in The Complete Trainer – click this link to find out how this rolling 12-week programme could transform your training business.

Please note: This article was originally published in October 2011 and was updated in September 2021

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