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Give Billing Your Top Billing

Money talk is never easy, but it’s easier when a community of 1,000+ marketers has got your back.

For many freelancers and small agencies, billing can be a tough topic to tackle. How much, when, and even how to charge clients are questions that trouble even the most experienced of industry veterans. Our recently published benchmark report provides helpful insight into this once-taboo topic. Although our benchmark report is packed with useful industry tips, we knew Mailchimp partners had additional advice to offer—especially when it comes to billing. So, we circled back, and our community of globe-spanning partners delivered with bottom line-boosting pearls.

Here are some of the thoughts they shared:

Vicky Smith

Owner of Flic Email, a UK-based email marketing microagency with 4 years of industry experience.

Pricing has been one of my biggest challenges! When I was new to email marketing, I priced myself too low because, well, honestly I felt a bit like an imposter. I was also completely lost as to how to charge…. Hourly? Per campaign? Packages? Working on my imposter syndrome helped me get to where I am now. I’ve invested a lot of time in independent learning. Gaining my Mailchimp Academy certifications, attending virtual conferences, reading books, and listening to podcasts from industry experts. My pricing reflects both my hands-on experience and knowledge base.

“I’ve invested a lot of time in independent learning...My pricing reflects both my hands-on experience and knowledge base.”

— Vicky Smith, owner of Flic Email

Jonathan Cook

Owner of Neon Hive, a New Zealand-based digital studio, with 6 years of industry experience.

In the beginning, I would bill by the hour for every project. But as I became more efficient, I inevitably started earning less for the same level of output. This change led to an “aha” moment where I realized the need to bill fixed prices with a value-based approach. With this approach, I was able to earn more while keeping clients happy. Bonus tip: finding yourself too busy? Increase your rates.

Larissa Uredi

Owner of No-Where Consultants, a Missouri-based digital strategy team, with 11 years of industry experience.

Our advice for young entrepreneurs just starting out is to spend the time to get a tax ID number and formalize your business, even if that just means registering yourself as a sole proprietor and getting a business-specific bank account. When it comes to billing, making sure your business dollars and personal dollars stay separate is critical. Also, invest in the time to get a real invoicing system like WaveApps or FreshBooks. Sending invoices through a service like Venmo is unprofessional and hard to track when it comes to tax time. Your first impression carries all the way through every aspect of your business so make sure you have your ducks in a row, especially when dealing with money.

“When it comes to billing, making sure your business dollars and personal dollars stay separate is critical.”

— Larissa Uredi, owner of No-Where Consultants

Minaz Noormohamed

General Manager at Wired Messenger Inc., a digital marketing agency based in Toronto, Canada, with 18 years of industry experience.

Don’t sell yourself short. Prospective clients often aren’t well educated on the topic of pricing, and apps like Fiverr make it seem like you can get the same amount of work done for less. But when you pay less, you’re going to get less. To demonstrate our value, I often ask clients, “How much is 10-15 hours of your time worth?” That usually helps them understand the cost and recognize the significance of our industry experience. We are also very clear about the scope of our project, which means we never suffer scope creep. When you manage your client’s expectations from the beginning, everyone is happy.

“When you manage your client’s expectations from the beginning, everyone is happy.”

—Minaz Noormohamed, General Manager at Wired Messenger Inc.

MaryAnn Pfeiffer

Principal at 108 Degrees, a full-service, New Hampshire-based digital marketing agency, with 20+ years of industry experience.

If you don't understand how to bill, and how to get paid, you're not running your business properly. Businesses that sell tangible items tend to know what their operating costs are. But it's different with creative services, and it's really hard to build out value-based pricing. I can do it with some of my clients, but not most. You have to make sure you’re actually going to make a profit—especially, when you have team members depending on you. If I had to summarize my top tips, they would be:

  • Get a good bookkeeper. A real one, not your mom.
  • Have a contract drawn up by a lawyer with experience in creative services. And please, don’t use LegalZoom.
  • Update your billing structure, annually. Services change, costs change, so your billing has to evolve, too.

“Get a good bookkeeper. A real one, not your mom.”

— MaryAnn Pfeiffer, Principal at 108 Degrees

Alessandra Farabegoli

Co-founder of Ravenna, Italy-based Digital Update, with 20+ years of industry experience.

When you set your price, keep in mind that not all the work you do will be paid for by your customers: you must consider the time you need for marketing, accounting, R&D, networking, your time off, and a margin to save for investments or to weather bad times. Then, set your fees and write them down on your website, be it in terms of hourly rates or price range for fixed packages. I know it takes courage and beating the impostor syndrome, but in doing so you’ll automatically save time by discouraging those who want to hire you for a penny (you don’t want them as customers) and anchor your value to a threshold for future negotiations. And always write down in a contract what you will do, what your customer is expected to do (e.g. providing information and/or feedback), how and when you will be paid, and ask for an upfront payment: your actual work has already started!

It’s clear that no matter where you are in your marketing career, billing will always be a topic to be tackled. Rates change, technology evolves, and clients will always want more for less. Thankfully, there’s a community of like-minded digital marketers you can rely on for everything from billing advice to this week’s funniest marketing meme.

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