My first $150/hour gig came as a bit of a surprise, something that’s common for a lot of freelancers, consultants, side-hustlers, and new founders.
I was helping a friend who was exploring a new business, and I realized she needed a second opinion on some web issues she was having. I didn’t want to hire anyone, just get an idea of what direction to go in. After posting a note in a Facebook group, I got a response from Lauren*, saying “I can probably help!”
We set up a conference call and I told her about the business, what my friend was looking to achieve, and the technical aspects of the web job. She became invested and put several hours of work into the task at hand. When we were done, I asked her, “Is there anything I can do for you to help you in return for all that time you’ve given me?”
She replied, “Do you know anything about marketing?”
I have a graduate degree in marketing for nonprofits and have worked in marketing for years, so I was happy to help however I could. As she talked, I learned that Lauren was the co-founder of an edu-tech company that was operating on a grassroots level and doing incredible work. She and her founder had realized it was time to start a marketing department, and they didn’t know where to start. I agreed to give her an overview of the actions she and her founder could start immediately to build their marketing department.
We booked a conference call for a Tuesday morning when I was working from home and spoke for three hours about different approaches they could take. To my surprise, at the end of the call, they asked if they could hire me on a contract basis.
Their nine-person staff was overloaded and needed help, but they didn’t want to hire someone full-time for marketing. After our conversation, I knew what they needed and how I could help them. I had never pitched someone an hourly rate before, I’d only ever worked on salary, but I had an idea in my head of what to charge.
I told them my price was $150 an hour.
My heart was racing as I heard them say, “Great, that sounds reasonable. Want to send over the contract?”
That was it. It was that simple.
I couldn’t believe it, I’d landed my first client, and it was for $150 an hour.
Better yet, that client is still with me. We have an awesome relationship, and they’ll be on my roster for years to come.
It’s easy to think that this set of circumstances is simply an alignment of the stars, and that this particular situation can’t be recreated. And honestly, that’s probably true. I got really lucky with this client. It was a stellar match with awesome people. But there is a lot that canbe learned from this experience.
Come at It With the Right Intentions
When I first talked to Lauren, she was helping me. When it came time for me to repay that kindness, I wanted to do whatever I could for her.
I wasn’t coming into our first meeting with expectations. I wasn’t pitching her company, I wasn’t selling. I was just helping. They saw that, and that’s what made them realize we were such a good match.
That energy builds trust when meeting new leads. Anyone can become your next customer, but you have to come with the intention of being truly helpful and solving their problem rather than selling yourself or your product.
Start With What You Know
My first meeting with Lauren was packed with useful tips and information for her team, and I knew I could deliver value to her because I have a graduate degree and years of experience in the subject she needed help with.
Many side gigs or passive income streams require you to learn a new skill set, which is great. However, expanding on the expertise you already have allows you to do a better job in a shorter amount of time, so you can maximize your potential.
Get Your Confidence Working for You
Confidence is a tough one, especially when you’re starting out. But you shouldn’t fake it till you make it… you should just make it.
This is another reason to start with what you know. Practice allows you to do your best work, as you’ve refined your skills over time. Your potential client wants to know if you can help them achieve their goal, and using your most practiced skill set will give them the confidence to hire you.
I wasn’t pitching Lauren when we first spoke, I just wanted to help. So, how did I come up with $150/h by the end of the conversation?
The truth is, I was already planning an exit from my job. I knew I wanted to work for myself, so I’d done my research on how to price. The best advice I’ve ever heard on this is from the BizChix podcast:
If your ideal customer isn’t trying to negotiate with you, your prices are too low.
I’d worked out my expenses and knew I was going to be charging $150-$200 per hour for clients, but I had never actually done it before. This was my chance to see if these prices were realistic. Turns out they were exactly right.
It might help to map out your strongest skills and what the market rate is for those skills. Shoot for the moon, and then when the opportunity arises, see what happens.
Ultimately, business is built on relationships. Deals happen at baseball games and golf courses because those spaces allow two people to get to know each other in a relaxed and fun atmosphere. It feels less like pitching and more like having a good time, even though it’s about business.
Luck is preparation meets opportunity. Building relationships, being helpful, and having strong self-respect are the keys to pitching with confidence on the spot.
It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for clients for a side hustle, a full-time job, or a new business venture. You have to start somewhere. Developing a genuine sense of curiosity is going to take you a long way in developing your roster.
*Client name changed for privacy