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What to charge – an email exchange

Franco is just starting out in consulting. He’s got lots of questions. On how to market his services, when to discount, how much to charge.

It starts with a question on marketing

Here’s Franco’s first email to me

I am in the process of setting up my own contractor/consulting company in an engineering field. Ironically, I had not seen your site, but happened to come across it today when I was looking for timesheet templates and the like. Your site is very good actually, so congratulations on that.

Do you have any information on modern day marketing, i.e., promoting one’s business via a web site ? Information on domain names vs business names for a web presence, and the importance (or otherwise) of the hosting location?

I intend to make my business an almost paperless one, so everything will be in spreadsheets, word documents, PDF files and all correspondence, invoicing etc. to be done via email. I don’t know if this is unrealistic, but that’s my aim. A lot of the literature I have read (other sources, not your web site) on consulting is quite old-fashioned in this regard (still talking about letters, stationery letterhead etc.).



Now part of the reason I wrote the Consultant’s Guides was to put all of this information in one place, keep that updated, and not have to answer these questions all the time. But I am feeling generous on this day, so…

To: ‘Franco

Subject: RE: Thanks for subscribing


Thanks for the feedback on the website!

I cover some of that in my Consultant’s Guides. You will find some great info on web stuff free through people like paypal and facebook. And try my blog on your own consultancy.

Then it’s about what makes a short term or long term job

So Franco comes back

Thanks Cindy, much appreciated. I will have a look at your book when I get a minute.

Can you tell me your opinion on the following …. in your opinion, what is the definition of a “short-term” vs a “long-term” contract for consulting/contracting work ?



And I respond

To: Franco

Hah, that depends what you work in.

For me, 3 months is Long Term, but I’d never take a 3 month job.

For many people I know 2 years is long term.

Depends on the work you do, the rate you charge and what kinds of work you’re used to taking on!! That’s a how long is a piece of string question.

Then it’s when to discount

And he has another question

Good answer !! I’m in the engineering field (specialising in lightning protection).

I guess if you multiply out a typical hourly rate in my field by the number of hours in 3 months, the fee would be quite huge and hence requires a discount. I was trying to get a feel for the breakpoint period where that sort of treatment kicks in.


So I respond


You need to buy the book! But the short answer to the actual question you were asking (which is not the question you asked, btw), is some people say “don’t discount”. Alan Weiss ( I think), says find the value, and price against it on an ROI basis, and do large amount fixed price jobs. In the past when I did big jobs I discounted, but do it based on your cash flow needs, not on what you hallucinate the client thinks is value.

When I first started I took whatever agents offered me, and more or less charged clients what agents were charging for me. Now I have a steady stream of clients who trust me I basically fix my own prices, based on, amongst other things, whether I think the client is my ideal client or not (i.e. if they are going to be a pain in the neck, they pay double). Sometimes they do pay double. I have been working for myself since 1992, so I’ve managed to amass some resilience…. and I’ve paid off my mortgage so less pressure! I have a whole book on How much to charge.

If you, like Franco, are just starting out, consider the guides. It puts a lot of the information you need in one place.

Adds some checklists, some templates and sets of questions to ask clients, potential consulting partners, your accountant, your lawyer and former colleagues.

It means you ask even better questions. You’re an expert, that’s why you’re consulting. You’re not an expert at setting up for the first time!

Buy the guides here.

Cindy Tonkin can help you improve your business. Coaching and Corporate training for your consulting team.

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