I admit I didn’t get into this business because I liked sales. I started building websites because I found the process of building them to be a great technical challenge. Now I build sites and coach because I want to help people succeed.

I even enjoy sales now because I get to hear about the things my clients care about.

It took a long time for that to change, and for my first actual client ‘sales’ to reflect that. My earnings reflect that change. I earn more because I now know why I run a business.

Knowing my ‘why’ has helped me choose/accept the right clients, which has led to higher earnings — and better business.

Over sushi

In late 2014 I had a friend call me during my lunch. He was leaving his job with an agency and negotiating a long-term contract. He called me for some tips on how to structure the contract and get paid well.

After talking a bit I asked how much he was asking for per week. He told me $1500, which I felt was crazy low. While he and I specialize in different areas we’re roughly equivalent in the type and quality of services we provide.

The big thing is that he didn’t understand that. He didn’t see his value, so I sold him…on him.

[Tweet “Do you actually understand your value? Could you sell you..you?”]

The sale I made over the next 10 minutes was to sell him on how awesome he was and the value he offered to his client.

Once he was sold on his value he was able to negotiate an extra $1000/month.

First sales

While your ‘first’ sale may technically be to a client, it’s likely that you had to make a sale before that.

Before you talked to a client you needed to convince yourself that you, in fact, could do the job. You needed to convince yourself that you knew WordPress, or WooCommerce, or Design and could execute your client’s vision.

Later on, as you got better, your confidence in yourself grew and you became more comfortable charging more for your work. You now have successful projects under your belt, as well as a better understanding of your own value. All from that very first sale — to yourself.

We’re all bad at determining our value

The thing is, that even with all the successful projects behind us, we’re typically bad at selling ourselves to ourselves. Like my friend above, who for years had been the lead developer at an agency yet he underestimated the actual value he brought to the table.

We think that what we do is ‘easy’ and so many others are better than us. It’s not easy. It’s hard and you do magic and you’re busy because you’re awesome.

[Tweet “It often takes an outside perspective to really understand our value.”]

It often takes an outside perspective to really dig in and identify the value that we provide, and prove to ourselves how valuable we really are.

Your outside perspective

Where do you get that outside perspective? You don’t need a coach, though I think that one-on-one coaching will yield the highest-value results due to the specific attention you get.

But if you’re not ready for that step, here are some great resources (some free) to help you understand your value and start charging properly for it.

Your Value Questions

Now, here are some questions to consider if you’re still trying to determine your value.

  1. What’s the actual return on investment you brought to customers? Not just the ‘feeling’ you have, but facts based on what your client told you about the ROI provided.
  2. What process do you have in place to make project success more likely than with your competitors?
  3. What part of your job are you most passionate about? This is likely something you’re really good at and the area where you can provide the most value to your customers.
  4. When you’re asked about the best projects you’ve done, which ones spring to mind? Where was the value in those for your customers?
  5. What do people ask you for help with? Maybe it’s a tweeted question or an email from a colleague. This is where people already view you as a leader in your field.
  6. What have people told you they like about your business? This is your yay file.
  7. WHY do you do what you do? I’ve talked about my why already and given you questions to help you figure out your why.

Now sell yourself

Once you work through the questions above you’re going to have a better idea of the value you provide. You don’t have to be the best coder or designer in the world to be worth lots. All you really need to do is provide good value to your clients.

You need to sell them on the fact that you can provide that value.

But before you can do that, you may need to sell yourself. Get about that process today.

photo credit: cimddwc cc

4 responses to “Your First Sale is to Yourself”

  1. John Locke Avatar

    This is so vastly under appreciated. You have to believe in your value first, or you won’t be able to project it to anyone else. Determining how much value you add to a project or company is hard for people to quantify when they think about things as “I trade my time for money at a certain hourly rate.” Weekly and daily billing is similar, but the farther you can abstract value away from minutes and hours, the more you are free to actually do your best work possible for clients and employers.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      Its scary to make that leap of believing in yourself too. Goes right with imposter syndrome

  2. Mario Peshev Avatar

    Another great post Curtis, thanks for blogging on that.

    I have experienced that myself more than once. Several years ago, I tripled my rate over night and didn’t lose a single client. Turned out that I had no idea what are the average rates in the industry and I was underpricing and comparing myself with some beginners or low-cost agencies around me.

    The idea of

    It often takes an outside perspective to really understand our value.

    is totally valid and often things can change drastically after a business consulting session or an evening with other people in your industry.

    In addition to the resources that you’ve mentioned, Troy Dean has a few videos on pricing and assessing what your time is worth, in addition to his business accelerator WP Elevation that he started about 2 years ago.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      Thanks for adding the resources from Troy. He has great stuff, but I’m not as familiar with it.