One of the hardest decisions you have to make as a professional organizer is how much to charge for your services. The biggest mistake you can make is to base your hourly rate on what you earned in your last job. After all, as an employee, you were paid for every hour you worked, you weren’t responsible for covering such expenses as your office furniture or computer, and your employer may have borne the costs of training and health benefits. Furthermore, it wasn’t up to you to pay for business cards or other marketing materials!
There are a number of factors to consider when setting your rates, including:
- What Services You Offer: Generally speaking, you can charge more for business services than residential. Not only do businesses usually have larger budgets available to them, but they can write off the cost of your services as a taxable expense.
- Your Level of Expertise: How much organizing experience do you have? Have you completed any specialized training? Do you hold any certifications? How long have you been in business?
- The Going Rate in Your Area: If you reside in a small town, it’s probably not realistic to expect that you can charge as much as your colleagues in larger metropolitan areas. Do your homework and know what is realistic. If you charge too much, you may lose business to your competition. Keep in mind, however, that if you charge much less, clients may perceive that the quality of your service is not as good.
Most business start-up guides will provide you with a formula for calculating how much you need to charge to attain your target income. The important thing to remember is that you will not be billing for 100% of your time. As discussed in my post, Can I Run My Organizing Business Part Time?, you need to spend a significant amount of time marketing and managing your business. If you plan to outsource some of these tasks, that’s great, but the cost of these services will need to be factored into your rates as well.
At the end of the day, not only do you have to be earning a sustainable income, you also have to be comfortable with the rates you’re charging. If you’re more of a “feeling” type than a “thinking” type, you will probably appreciate the pricing exercise described in Mark Silver‘s e-book, Finding Your Right Price.
It has been said that most people are actually undercharging, rather than overcharging, especially women. After all, nice girls don’t talk about money, right? One person who is passionately devoted to helping women earn at their potential is Mikelann Valterra, author of Why Women Earn Less. She has a fantastic blog in which she addresses setting and raising fees and many other related topics, and I highly recommend it.
For tips on setting rates specific to professional organizers, check out Maria Gracia’s Ultimate Guide for Professional Organizers which covers this and much more, to help you start and grow a profitable organizing business.