I think it’s a real measure of the caliber of the business owners I work with that the question often arises of how they can support their business while serving clients who can’t afford premium prices. Maybe the people you want to work with are just starting out in the real world, maybe they don’t have stable jobs — or any jobs — or maybe they’re going through a difficult time.
And you’re certainly not going to be able to sell most of them a $25,000 coaching package — in fact, it might feel unethical to even try to do so.
A friend of mine ran into this problem with her first business. She started a food blog for people who want to eat organic food on a budget. Noble, right? But as it turned out, people who are grocery shopping on a budget are really hard to sell to.
Does that mean she shouldn’t serve that market? Not at all. But it does mean that she’s going to have to be strategic about how she approaches it.
Are you targeting the right market?
The purely mercenary, money-advisor part of me wants to tell you: you can’t make a living by focusing on a group that you believe can’t afford to work with you. That is quite possibly the most horrifying paradox that would exist for an entrepreneur, to establish a coaching practice, but focus on people who can’t actually afford to work with you. I think that would be hugely demotivating to think like that.
I actually want you to start by focusing on clients who can afford to work with you. If your entire target market can’t afford what you want or need to charge, you’re going to have huge problems. But that doesn’t mean you can’t also work with people who might have difficulty paying a premium — you might just have to work with them in different ways.
This is how lawyers and doctors who do pro bono work structure their businesses. They take on the rich, high paying clients so that they can afford to take on the clients they’re passionate about helping, but who can’t afford to pay. Even actors do this, making blockbuster films so that they can afford to star in the passion project indie film that’s not going to pay squat.
Structuring your business for inclusion
Of course, adopting that pro bono model is only one way to include people who can’t afford premium prices in your offerings.
The math here is pretty simple: If people can only afford to pay you less, you need to serve more of them to reach your financial goals. (The opposite is also true.)
People with less income to spare might be perfect for a sliding time offer, where they get three minutes with you for a laser-focused, crystallized recommendation. Or a limited-time “pay what you can” offer. Or, it could be the perfect opportunity to turn what you do one-on-one with a regular client into a self-study product. Make them go through your process on their own, provide them a support community, and charge them a monthly fee for that.
That was the experience I had this past year. People had been saying, “Oh, I can’t afford to work with you one-on-one. What else can we do?” So I created a pilot program last year, and I said, “Okay. Do this homework. I’ll answer your questions in the community.” It’s been working so well that I opened it up to the public and now it is Money Boss.
I think this particular group of people even like it better than they would have liked working with me one-on-one. It’s really helping them focus more on the behavior and process of change rather than just financial solutions in my field.
Rather than lowering your prices to meet people who can’t afford your premium product or service, try to rearrange your offerings to develop a DIY version or serve a group of them at once and create something that they can all appreciate together. And then once they’ve gone through the program, offer them a single session with you once they’ve completed the materials to answer questions and solidify what they’ve learned.
Is it your prices, or their mindset?
Finally, you need to ask yourself: Is this really about you (or your prices)?
What I find a lot of times is that when people say, “I can’t afford it,” there’s actually something deeper going on. To me, what they’re really saying is, “I’m not making this a priority right now.”
I honestly think people can afford what they choose to afford — in most cases. Last year, one of my clients paid me $1,000 to work with me and she’s only earning like $25,000 a year. She’s working for a non-profit right out of school. But it was so important to her to get the financial, holistic, money mindset thing that she paid for it because it was valuable and a priority to her.
In my experience, the people that you that you try to work with, give discounts to, and bend over backwards to accommodate, end up not being your ideal clients. And then, if they flake out on the material, you’ve given up one-on-one time that could have been given to a more productive client. That’s bad for you and for other clients you could have really helped.
There’s a certain psychological truth that people are more invested in what they invest in!
But, by giving them a lower-cost, group opportunity, it’s more cost-effective for everybody because if they aren’t invested in the material, they’re not taking away from you or your other clients or customers.
My friend with the food blog quickly realized that in order to make her blog profitable, it was a numbers game; her audience wasn’t interested in paying even a relatively small fee, like $99, for a program or consultation. So if she wanted to be profitable, she needed to increase the size of her audience so that she could decrease the cost of her offerings. In the end, it was more work than she could afford to expend to grow that audience as big as it needed to be, and she moved on to more profitable work — though she still runs the blog as a passion project on the side. She just doesn’t expect it to pay the bills.
Is this sort of business money advice something you’re looking for more of? If so, I encourage you to sign up to be the first to hear when my new program, Sales Boss, launches in a few weeks. Click here to get on the VIP list to hear as soon as Sales Boss is ready and take advantage of some early bird opportunities that won’t be available publicly!
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