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You should NEVER charge an hourly rate

You should NEVER charge an hourly rate

If you’ve been freelancing or consulting, chances are, you charge an hourly freelance rate. But what if you want to earn more?

You’ve got financial and life goals, and earning more offers one of the best ways to reach your goals. Maybe you want to:

  • earn enough to quit your lousy day job and freelance/consult full-time, or
  • pay off those nagging student loans and credit cards, or
  • buy that sporty red Ferrari (or Honda) you’ve had your eye on, or
  • afford a trip to Europe.

But at your current hourly freelance rate, you’d have to work 80 hours a week for the next year(s) to afford any of those things. That is, if you could even find that much billable work.

But do you really want to work that much? Me neither.

And what if you want more freedom, flexibility, or free time?

Your day job is probably enough of a treadmill rat race already. Working more would be moving in the opposite direction.

The alternative to your treadmill of an hourly freelance rate

So, do you really want to work all the time? Not me. I’d rather work less and earn more.

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What if I told you there was a way you could actually earn more and work less? Yes, I know, it sounds too good to be true. You’ve heard that pitch before on late-night infomercials about flipping real-estate. No money down, get-rich-quick, sipping mai tais poolside. Well, that’s not what I’m talking about.

What I’m talking about requires hard work, but maybe more important, it requires a mindset shift.

I’ve been consulting since 2007, and for much of that time, charged hourly. But over the past 2 years, I’ve experimented with ways to earn more–without having to work more–and what I’ve found has been both surprising and exciting.

For example, I’ve been able to boost my effective rate by 70%, 100%, sometimes even 600% (yes, that’s no typo). By effective freelance rate, I mean the amount I earn divided by how many hours I work. So, if you currently charge $100/hour, wouldn’t you rather earn $170/hour, or $200/hour, or $600/hour?

Sticking with that example, if you charge $100/hour and bill 20 hours a week (earning $2,000/week), boosting your effective freelance rate by 50% would mean you’d earn $3,000 for working the same amount of time.

Think about how earning an extra $1,000 a week would change your life.

For 99% of us, an extra $1,000 a week would be a huge change. You could actually quit that day job, pay off those debts, afford to take time off, or maybe even achieve some of the other dreams you’ve been putting off until “someday.”

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What’s wrong with charging hourly?

Before I get into the details of how to boost your freelance rate like this, I want to highlight a couple other big problems with charging an hourly rate that you may not have considered. You already know that charging hourly puts a ceiling on how much you can earn, but there’s something else you probably haven’t considered.

Billing hourly actually gives you incentive to work LESS efficiently. Since you’re being paid not for the outcome but for your time, you’ll end up taking more time to do the work. And that’s a disservice to your clients–the same clients for whom you’re supposed to be safeguarding their best interests.

Sure, you THINK you work efficiently. But I guarantee you’ll be far more productive if you get paid the same amount no matter if it takes you 2 hours or 10 hours to achieve an outcome.

The other problem with charging a hourly freelance rate is that you get into a nickle-and-dime mindset, where you want to bill for every minute you work on something for a client. And charging for every single thing can get annoying to clients. Besides, building a profitable freelance business is built on giving your clients results–not billing in .1 or .25 hour increments.

First, think differently to charge differently

OK, let’s get down to brass tacks, and talk about how this is possible.

I mentioned that this requires a big shift in your mindset. And, yes, billing hourly is how almost everyone does it.

But if you’re doing what everyone else is doing, you’re never going to be able to create the kinds of breakthroughs that make huge changes in your life. After all, if you do what everyone else is doing, you’ll end up with what everyone else is getting–which is just another day, week, month, year, decade on the treadmill. It’s time to step off.

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The first step off the treadmill is to realize there are alternative ways to price your services. The most common are:

  • flat fee, also known as per-project fee
  • daily, weekly, and monthly rate
  • performance-based compensation

I tend to favor per-project pricing which is based on the value the client receives for my services. (Performance-based compensation–such as revenue sharing–can be very lucrative, but it requires high trust with your client, and intimate knowledge of and access to their financial data).

So, with per-project pricing, when I scope out a project, I also determine the full extent of the value the client gets, and then quantify that value. Here’s a simple example: if you can help the client make a small change–maybe by increasing website traffic, or increasing their conversion rate, or increasing their pricing–which increases their average revenue per client by, say, $50/month, you can quantify the annual value like this:

  • $50/customer * 100 customers * 12 months = $60,000 revenue

Now that you have a rough calculation of the value, you can peg your pricing to that value. Generally, you’ll want to use a 1:10+ ratio of price to value. So in this example, a price of $6,000 will make it a pretty easy decision for the client: if they pay you $6,000, they’ll receive $60,000. If you gave me $10, and I gave you $100 back, would you take that deal? Of course!

Daily, weekly, and monthly rates–sometimes called retainers–also work well, especially, again, if you can tie the value received to your price.

Easy in theory, harder in practice

The trick to succeeding with non-hourly pricing is to identify and quantify the value your client will get.

This isn’t always easy. Often, it can be difficult to know how to identify all the potential value your client will get from your services–especially if you don’t directly increase revenue. Do your services make clients more efficient? Do you give them easier access to data? Can you make it more likely that your clients will meet deadlines?

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And after you’ve identified all the potential areas of value, how do you quantify them? For example, how do you put a dollar value on reducing anxiety for a business owner?

What’s the upside?

Yes, charging an hourly freelance rate is easy. You don’t have to think about what value the client will get–and which is often tricky to determine. So why would you want to stop charging hourly?

For starters, here are a couple advantages:

  • Non-hourly pricing incentivizes you to work very efficiently to maximize your effective hourly rate (your revenue / your time). You’ll be amazed at how much more you can get done in the same amount of time.
  • Non-hourly pricing highlights the complete value the client will receive–which makes them conscious of how much they’re getting. As a result, it becomes easier to charge more, and the client still feels like they’ve gotten a great deal. This isn’t about pulling a fast one just to charge more–it’s about providing amazing value to your clients.

What’s more, non-hourly pricing allows you to significantly increase your revenue–not just increase incrementally. I’m not talking about incremental 5% annual rate increases. I’m talking about increasing your effective rate by 50%, 80%, 100%, or more. Yes, I know that sounds outrageous, but I’ve created those kinds of increases in my own consulting practice and for the students who’ve taken my courses.

So yes, it may sound outrageous. The alternative is to stick with what you’ve always done, what everyone else is doing, and what you’ve always gotten. If you’re ready to step off the treadmill, make the switch and stop charging hourly rates!

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Published on May 7, 2019

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

When it comes to stocks, I bet you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

Everyone who’s not a financial expert has been there. I’ve been there. But, time is passing and you need to be crystal clear with how you’re investing for your retirement.

Otherwise, it’s back to work until you can afford not to. So, how can you invest for retirement when you’re not a financial expert?

You take the time to learn the fundamentals well. If you do, you can grow your wealth and retire happy. The best part is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart investment decisions.

Here’s how to invest for retirement the smart and stress-free way:

1. Know Clearly Why You Invest

Odds are you already know why should invest for retirement.

But, maybe you know the wrong reasons. It’s time you get clear on why you’d like to retire. Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • Will you spend more time with your family?
  • What does retirement mean to you?
  • Are you looking to launch that business you’ve been holding off for years?

Everyone wants to retire but not for the same reasons. Once you’re clear for why retirement is important for you, you’ll focus on making it happen.

Investing in the stock market allows you to take advantage of compound interest.[1] All this means is that your money earns money on top of its interest. A reason why investment in the stock market is one of the best ways to plan for retirement.

2. Figure out When to Invest

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb

It’s true if you’d had started investing when you were 10 years old, you’d have a lot more money than you do today.

The reality is that most people don’t start investing until it’s too late. So, if you’re currently waiting for the perfect time to start an investment, it would be today. Open your calendar and block out 2 to 3 hours to choose how you’ll invest for retirement.

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A quick way to get a snapshot of where you stand is to use Personal Capital. Input all your personal information and spend some time setting your retirement goals. Once completed, you’ll know where you stand with your retirement.

Having a savings account for retirement isn’t planning for retirement. Why? Your money loses value when you factor in US inflation.[2]

3. Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance to Create the Perfect Portfolio

Investing your money well depends on your emotions.

Why?

Because when the market drops most people panic and withdraw their money. On average, the US stock market yields an annual 6% to 7% ROI (return on your investment.) But, this won’t happen if you’re worried about short-term loses.

Before you invest your next dollar, know your risk tolerance.[3] Your risk tolerance determines the number of risky and safe investments you’d have.

Regardless of your investing style, you need to view investing for retirement as a long term game. Know that some years you’ll lose money but recoup this in the long-term.

Avoid watching market-related new. Also, create a double authentication to log in your investment account. This way you’re less likely to withdraw your money.

4. Open a Reliable Retirement Account

Depending on your circumstance, you may need to open a new brokerage account. This is the account is where you’ll invest your money.

If you’re currently working for a company, odds are that they offer a 410K investing account. If so, here’s where you’ll invest most of your money. The only problem with this is that you’re limited to the stock options that are available.

You do have the option to open a separate IRA (individual retirement account.) Here are some of the best brokers:

  1. Vanguard
  2. TD Ameritrade
  3. Charles Schwab

5. Challenge Yourself to Invest Consistently

Committing to invest for retirement is hard, but continuing to do so is harder.

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Once you’ve started investment for your retirement, you run at risk from stopping. Often you’ll want to contribute less, so you’d have more money in your pocket.

That’s why it’s important that you create a budget that allows you to invest each month. If you’re working for a company, you can set a percentage for the amount you’d like to contribute each month. Most people by default contribute 1% but aim to contribute 10% to 15%.

Be the judge for how much you can afford to contribute after covering important expenses. To stay motivated, use Personal Capital to view your net worth.

A benefit to contributing money to your retirement account is not taxed. For example, if you earn $100 and invest 10%, you’d contribute $10, then get taxed on the remaining $90. As of 2019, the most you’re able to contribute towards your 401K is 19K but this can change.

6. Consider Where to Invest Your Money

The most common way to invest your money is in stocks, but it’s not the only way. Here are other ways to invest:

Robo Advisors

Robo-advisors[4] are fancy algorithms that’ll choose the best investments for you. Sites like Wealthfront make it easy for first-time investors to invest their money. You’d input information about yourself and set your risk tolerance.

Then, set your monthly contribution amount and your robo-advisor would do the rest. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage your money, but less than regular advisors.

Bonds

Think of bonds as “IOUs” to whomever you buy them from.

Essentially, you’re lending money and charging interest. Like stocks, not all bonds are equal. Some will be riskier than others depending on their rating.

Here are the different types of bond categories:[5]

  1. Treasury bonds
  2. Government bonds
  3. Corporate bonds
  4. Foreign bonds
  5. Mortgage-backed bonds
  6. Municipal bonds

Mutual Funds

Picture a group of people dumping all their money in a jar that’s managed by a professional. This is how mutual funds work. The fund manager manages the money looking to earn capital gains (interest.)

One of the best types of mutual funds is index funds. Since these funds don’t try to beat the market and instead follow it, they need less research. Because of this they often charge the lowest fees and yield the best long-term results.

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Real Estate

Yes, buying a home is an investment when done correctly.

Imagine buying a home and using it as a rental property. After repairing it, you receive a monthly surplus check of $100 to $200.

This may not sound like a lot, but repeat this process enough times and you’d earn a large amount of passive income. That’s why real estate is one of the best investments to not only retire but become wealthy.

But, it requires a lot of money to start and you should expect losing money along the way as you learn the process.

Savings Accounts

Your money can still grow in a savings account. Nowadays most online banks offer a 2% annual return. Although the average inflation is higher your money will be available when you need it.

7. Master Disincline to Dodge Short Success

Investing for retirement is a long-term strategy. That’s why you need to master delayed gratification. All this means is delaying short-term pleasure for something bigger in the future. Research shows that those who have delayed gratification are more successful.[6]

So how can you master delayed gratification?

By building your discipline.

Think back to what retirement means to you. A clear purpose will help you avoid withdrawing your money during a market downturn. It’ll help you contribute more towards retirement when you’d want to waste it instead.

Your journey towards retirement will be long, so reward yourself along the way. Choose a reward that’s relevant and meaningful, so that you reinforce positive behavior. For example, after contributing more towards retirement, treat yourself to dinner.

8. Aggressively Invest on This One Investment

I’ve mentioned several types of investments but haven’t covered the most important one.

It sounds cliche but here’s why you’re your best investment towards retirement. The more you know, the more money you’ll be able to make. The more good habits you adopt, the more secure your retirement will be.

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More importantly, investing in yourself is an investment that no one can take away. There’s no market downturn nor tragic circumstance that’ll wipe your knowledge and experience.

But, how can you invest yourself?

Reading books, blogs, and anything that’ll help you learn new topics daily. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your commute to/from work.

Save money to buy courses and hire coaches. I used to believe hiring coaches was a waste of money when I could learn the subject alone.

But, coaches see your blind spots and hold you accountable. Hiring the right coach will help you achieve your goals faster than you would’ve alone.

Retire Happy with Excess Money

The key to a secure financial future doesn’t only belong to financial experts.

It’s possible for you and I. What if you were able to retire earlier than most people and weren’t a financial planner? What if you were able to focus on what you enjoy doing the most while your money was working hard for you?

I know this sounds impossible now, but the truth is you’re capable of taking charge of your retirement. I’m not a financial expert but I’ve learned how to invest my money by reading books and learning from others.

Investing your money is scary. So start small and invest a small amount of your money with a robo-advisor. Feel your money drop and rise for a month or two. Then, invest more and keep this up until you’re aggressively saving for retirement.

One day, you’ll wake up with a net worth you’re proud of – confident about your retirement. You now know a few strategies you can use to invest in your retirement. Will you take action to retire happy?

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Featured photo credit: Matthew Bennett via unsplash.com

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