The Upside

The Hourly Rate Trap

I recently spoke to an Upside member focused on brand strategy who told me she was slated to bring in $800,000 this year.

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s A LOT of dough for someone who has very little overhead and one staff member at $60K per year.

The best part is how much MORE she’s making as a result of knowing her worth and making one bold move that changed her entire business trajectory.

When I first met this member (we’ll call her a fake name – Milly – to protect her privacy), she had 25 years of career experience working with some of the top brands under some of the most respected agencies in the world.

BUT, when she went out on her own, she began subbing under agencies instead of working directly with brands.

Sounds innocent enough, but it was one of the worst moves Milly could make for her business.

The agency always had a cap on what they could pay her since they needed to stay within a specified budget for their client, and they were always calculating her pay based on the hours it took her to perform the work.

Plus, the client contract was with the agency, not Milly. So Milly didn’t actually own the client relationship, the agency did.

Milly was charging a NICE fee at $175/hour. But…

…during one of our group advisory sessions, I told her how much MORE she could be charging if she worked directly with the clients instead of beneath the umbrella of the agency.

By working directly with the client, she could charge based on the value she brought to the project and get out of the hourly rate trap.

She could be rewarded for her deep expertise and 25 years of experience, making a fat profit for being smart and efficient with her deliverables.

And she could build the types of client relationships that lead to high-quality referrals.

Thankfully, Milly took my advice and turned down all incoming agency work.

At first, she cringed at turning down good, dependable work.

But she invested time in leveling up her business, honing in on her value, upping her client generation strategy and refining her message…

…and, as a result, closed a big client contract with pricing based on the value of the project, not her time.

And 18 months later, she’s close to hitting 7 figures.

Here’s the takeaway…

Anytime you’re depending on another person or company for clients, you are leaving money on the table and doing yourself a huge disservice.

This may be hard to hear, but it’s true. And every Upside member will back me up on this one.

I encourage you to learn how to bring in clients, communicate your value, charge your full worth and close your own contracts.

It could mean the difference between being a $150k per year freelancer and building a million-dollar consulting business.

Want access to small group advisory sessions with me every week for troubleshooting and leveling up? Join our growing waitlist for The Upside Community.

Erin Halper

About the Author

Erin Halper is the founder and CEO of The Upside and the leading authority on independent consulting. Since launching The Upside in 2017, Erin has helped thousands of professionals transition from corporate life into consulting to achieve flexibility, autonomy, and a renewed sense of purpose in their careers.

Erin has been a frequent speaker at Columbia, NYU, Harvard, and Brown and has been featured as a leading future of work expert on dozens of podcasts as well as in Forbes, Business Insider, Nasdaq, Crunchbase and many more.

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