Recently I was asked the question: How do I decide what to bill for my time? This is a question that plagues many consultants who have no idea what to charge for their services. Here’s what I recommend:
The first place to start is to understand what you want your business to look like: Do you want to be a premium service provider (i.e. you have a value differentiator in the market) or do you want to be the lowest cost provider? It’s very difficult, and not sustainable, to charge a premium price if you don’t have unique value to offer (this is, in my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes companies make).
At the end of the year, what do you want your income to be? Obviously, you need to be realistic with this number. If you’re a wedding planner with a year of experience under your belt, don’t expect to make what a seasoned and experienced professional nets. As a starting point, think about what your income might be if you were working for someone else.
Estimate your annual overhead. This would include the cost of your telephone, office / rent, staff, travel, insurance, and all of the other expenses needed to run your business.
What do you want your profit margin to be? – this is what you’ll earn over and above your salary. Profit margins are important: they can help you save up for the unexpected, the wanted and the rainy days. They also give you the ability to reinvest in your business – that means website updates, new staff, new technologies, new inventory, etc…all things important in growing your business.
A lot of new consultants make the mistake of thinking that they bill for most of their time. Unfortunately with downtime, administration tasks (quoting, billing, book keeping, etc), travel, education, and a slew of things tasks every consultant needs to do (that most hate doing), the average time spent on UNbillable work is about 35%. You also need to account for any vacations or holidays you want to take off throughout the year. So, if you’re thinking of working a 40 hour work week, only 26 of those hours will likely be billable. If you add a 2 week vacation, that works out to 1,300 billable hours per year (26 hours per week x 52-2 weeks).
So, let’s say you want to make $80K, your overhead is $20K, you want a 10% profit margin, and you plan on working 1,300 billable hours
Your salary + overhead = $100K
A 10% profit margin = $100K + $10K = $110K
Divided by you billable hours = $110/1,300 = $84.60
Based on this example, your hourly billable rate would be $85.
Do your research and find out what others are billing. Go back to my first question: What’s your vision for your business and determine how your pricing fits in line with other market offerings. If you’re not in the ballpark, you need to seriously reconsider either what you want to make in a year, what your overhead costs will be and/or how many hours you need to work on billable projects.
Good luck & happy billing.
Do you have any other methods you’ve used to calculate your fees?
In a recent advisory board meeting I attended, the topic of award entries came up. The perception is that the same names win in their category year after year after year. What do they know that you don’t?
I asked 4 judges, who are also award winners themselves, and 2 writers, who create award-winning entries for their clients, what you need to know. The answers might surprise you…
Meet the Judges
Andrea Michaels, President, Extraordinary Events
Colja Dams, CEO, VOK Dams Group
Tony Conway, Owner, A Legendary Event
Janet Elkins, President, Eventworks
Meet the Writers
Ruth Moyte, Wordmaker, Red Dandelion Creative
Michelle Bergstein-Fontanez, Director of Marketing, Exhilarate Events
Colja: Most award entries are turned down even before the jury gets together because formalities are missed.
Janet: Submissions that do not provide all information requested, are thrown together carelessly or are not written within specified guidelines (word counts, layout, etc.) may result in a reduction of points awarded. It is best to read and reread and then go back point by point through your submission to ensure all elements required are included and that any directions provided have been followed perfectly.
Andrea: Not paying attention to what is really needed vs. the egotistical need to praise yourself into winning, because of course you are the most original, the most cost effective, the most creative and all that bullsh*t.
Ruth: Understand why your entry should be considered to win. What’s the angle – what sets apart your project from the others? If you can’t answer those questions with something other than “because I want to win an award”, it’s back to the drawing board. If you don’t understand why your project should win, most likely a judge won’t either.
Michelle: No matter how minute the picture, or even how bad the picture may be, an award entry’s sole purpose is to tell the story about the event. Pictures are really worth a thousand words. As soon as you start planning an event, hire an amazing photographer and, if you can, also get a videographer. Give them specific direction on a shot list – from setting up, challenges, and during the event. Also be sure your photographer/videographer captures the emotion of the event and the artistry, yes that may be a little vague, but get them to capture all the details that went into planning the event. No detail should be left uncovered!
Ruth: Pushing timeframes to the wire, and then writing in a rush is a big mistake. If you’re writing for yourself, give yourself time. If you’re having a writer do it, give them even more time. Editing is a part of the natural writing process. When you don’t give yourself enough time to write, then you’re cheating yourself.
Janet: It is imperative to write the submission specific to each award and focused on the elements pertinent to that individual award. You may develop an incredible submission for one award but use the same thing for another and you may miss key items that the second award calls for or the judging panel may feel that you are just dialing it in rather than truly investing in the submission process. This is also true when submitting an event to different publications, organizations or award presenters. There is an opportunity for cross over in judges and the requirements of submission for one may not match the requirements for another.
Michelle: A big mistake I’ve seen is positioning entry content like a sales letter or promotional piece. This is not an ad, nor a sales campaign, this is an award entry, judged by fellow event professionals and veteran judges. The’ve seen it all, been through it all.
Ruth – They should be able to transport me to the event so that I can imagine experiencing everything first hand.
Andrea: I want to be amazed. And there are so very many examples (I’m talking about great right now). Last year for Gala I saw an entry for Venice, Italy where the visuals were so incredible and the scope of the job so amazing, nothing could compare. The film they sent, the photos they took were incredible…you felt the event come alive.
And the bad and ugly? One entry on floral was about three paragraphs which told no unusual story, and a few small photos loosely put into a binder so they were falling out. If the entrant felt so little commitment to the award I didn’t think the entry could possibly be worthy.
Janet: One great entry that stands out for me is one I have seen from Thailand. I feel like sometimes we in the West a bit arrogant about our belief in the ability to produce cutting edge, award worthy events with our access to premier technology and décor as compared to other places and we forget the beauty and creativity that comes from other countries and other cultures. The event I am thinking of was spectacular – starting with great depictions through quality photographs. The event showed the company’s complete attention to detail displaying beautiful work that incorporated creative fabric colors and designs in unique formats while tying in stunning floral elements to enhance the overall look. That detail also showed in the submission of their entry – it was thorough and well organized. Everything supported a central theme and provided multiple interesting visual experiences both for those looking at the photos as well I assume for those who actually attended the event.
1. Market not only your award win but also your entry and nominations
2. Use social media to share the news with your connections
3. While at the awards ceremony:
Janet: It is important to have press coverage of any kind – the more exposure, the more opportunities your business will have. Take the time to submit press releases, photos, blogs, award entries, etc. on all interesting o unique events you are involved in – even if you only produced a portion of the event. Explain your participation and the aspect that your company produced, include photos as applicable. Take advantage of any opportunity where you can display and be acknowledged for your work.
Tony: You never get nominated or win if you don’t enter. All business is award-winning if you write it well and submit great photography.
Janet: Let someone else be the judge. If your event or business has any element that is unique, creative or newsworthy it is worth the attempt. Even if you do not deem what you are doing as award worthy, consider turning your submission into a blog contribution or article for a magazine. Remember, press coverage and exposure makes for good opportunities.
Colja: If you don’t try – you will never win.
Andrea: Like everything in life it’s a numbers game and you will never know what judges are looking for. Enter, enter, enter and you’ll each time learn how to write better and produce better photography. And all of us who work at this crazy industry are worthy of an award. And if you don’t think anything you do is “worthy” then start changing what you do.
Janet: Take a personal approach to each entry, share the mood, the feelings the event was intended to engender. Set the stage that draws the reader in to help them share the experience that the attendees had. The judges may review a large number of submissions, if yours is well written and memorable you have a better chance of standing out.
And, submit it in advance of the deadline just in case there is a foul up to give yourself enough opportunity to make sure it gets there in plenty of time.
Colja: Work on it while it’s still fresh – and make sure you get the pictures needed.
Andrea: Take notes on site so you don’t forget anything memorable. Do a careful outline of everything you want to include. Write the entry then put away. After a while rewrite and put away again. When you think you have the final fabulous entry send to someone to read who has no experience with that event and ask them to tell you everything that could be improved upon. They are reading for content, just like a judge will. And invest everyone on the team who worked on this event to help you with the entry, adding their personal anecdotes. I also recommend making it a light hearted read so judges can have some fun reading it.
Michelle: If you can’t hire a writer to do your award entry, work out a reduced fee for them to proofread it and make the due diligence review to make sure you have all your ducks in a row. At the end of the day, 90% of the process is following the award entry rules to a T, a minor misstep can disqualify you despite how amazing your content is.
Ruth: I believe that you know early on in the process if an event is going to be award worthy from a uniqueness angle. You may not know all the challenges that are going to arise, but to me those are the icing on the cake. When I used to produce, I always knew ahead of time that I’d be entering – or least 99% of the time. The “it” factor would pop on my radar and I’d start paying attention, writing notes, funny stories. Write down notes right after the event while you’re still emotional about it. Or call me and tell me about it so that I can write them down. I prefer to write an event when it is exciting and fresh in everyone’s mind. It makes for a better entry.
Get away from the office when writing. Go somewhere that you are comfortable and relaxed. Grab a glass of wine or a beverage, write from where you feel creative. It should be quiet and solitary so that you can concentrate well. If you like music, turn some on in the background. The key is to be comfortable.
Will you be participating in an upcoming award entry? Don’t miss the upcoming Canadian Event Industry Awards and the Event Marketing Awards (entries are due soon, but you still have time).
(photo via Vitó)
We have a tendency to cling to what is familiar, even when it can have a detrimental impact on us and our businesses.
Most event planners I’ve talked to have been very hesitant to embrace Google Plus, Google’s social networking site. The key reason? It feels like Facebook, without your established network, a few unfamiliar tools thrown into the mix…and, let’s be honest, who needs yet another social network to worry about?
Well, Facebook has a pool of about 800 million users, but billions of people perform billions of searches every single day. And that’s precisely why it would be a mistake to ignore Google Plus.
2 weeks ago, Google announced ‘Search, Plus Your World‘ a controversial revolution in the world of search that will have a major impact on your brand’s online presence. As Google states on their website:
“Search has always brought you information from across the web. Now, search gets better by including photos, posts, and more from you and your friends. When signed in with Google+, you’ll find personal results and profiles of people you know or follow. You can even expand your world by discovering people related to your search.”
It looks a little like this:
Search was once a competition of keyword relevance. Brands would hire an SEO expert to optimize their sites and find other ‘relevant’ sites to link to theirs – all to have their site ranked higher than their competition.
Google aims to change this by making search socially relevant. In other words, when someone within your social circle shares something, Google believes this content is likely more contextually relevant to you.
If you google yourself or your brand right now, it’s very likely your Google Plus profile (if you have one) will be on the first page and, in many cases, the first result. That’s because Google is giving priority to content from their social network (just like Google gave priority to YouTube videos and pictures from Blogger blogs – two platforms they own).
Connect the dots and that means:
There are now over 1 million business pages and 90 million users on Google+. Will you be one of them?
It launched in December of 2009, but many small businesses have just started hearing the buzz about Pinterest in the past few months. Still officially in Beta (and invitation-only), Pinterest has joined the weberatti, sitting alongside Facebook and LinkedIn, as one of the 10 most popular social networking sites. It now boasts over 5 million users and has been touted as the fastest growing social network in history. Have I piqued your interest?
Brides, wedding bloggers, fashionistas, graphic designers and artists have embraced the site. And more recently, I’ve seen real estate agents, television brands and teachers jumping on board. At a time when nary a person would say that they need another social networking site, Pinterest has flourished. Why?
In my opinion, they have the magic formula for an over-stimulated and time-starved internet user:
What makes Pinterest so interesting are the users behind the tool. Grandmothers, stay-at-home Moms, husbands, students and everyone in between. The thread that binds is that they’re looking for visual inspiration or to inspire others visually. In fact, there’s very little discussion altogether, which makes this tool totally unique to any other social networking site.
So, if you’re products or services aren’t visually compelling, this likely isn’t the site for you.
That said, as this tool quickly becomes the place to collect and bookmark things we love, we may see the way it is used shift over time.
Create an account for your event:
What are your favorite ideas? How are you using Pinterest for your business?
How would you like to get FREE exposure for your business? How would you like your latest event to be featured prominently in the glossy pages of your favorite magazine? And how would you like to be quoted as the featured expert in your field?
I recently spoke with 3 prominent special event publication Editors to understand, from their perspectives, what opportunities event businesses are missing and, more importantly, what they need to do to about it.
Meet the Experts
Chad Kaydo, Editor in Chief, BizBash Media
Liese Gardner, Editorial Director, Event Solutions Magazine
Lisa Hurley, Editor, Special Events Magazine
Liese – “Those that are relevant to the content and spirit of the magazine. It’s great when the sender sends an informative message – such as ‘We just produced an event we think is great for your tent issue. It involved X-number of tents, was unique because of XX, the challenges were X and the team included X, Y and Z. Here is contact information for them. Attached are low res photos by (photographer’s name) for sending purposes, but we can get you high-res as soon as you need.’ Simple, to the point, informative. People get too caught up in what they may have learned about press releases and pitches. This is really all that is needed to get our attention!
Chad – “BizBash has a pretty specific audience and we like to cover things before anyone else does, so I’d rather get an email with a couple short paragraphs about why this would be interesting to my reader, not a press release that is more suited to a general audience—and that is going out to lots of other outlets. (That said, clear, comprehensive press materials are very helpful once a story is assigned.)”
Liese – “I can’t stress about the photos enough. Like so many publications, Event Solutions is photo-driven whether online or digitally, so that always will be a major consideration for inclusion.”
Lisa – “This is so old-fashioned and of course doesn’t work for all pitches, but I am always impressed when someone sends me a sample (and no, I’m not asking for freebies, and I think it’s wise to ask an editor beforehand if they would like to see a sample). To me this says the person making the pitch believes so strongly in their product or service that they just know I will like it once I see it.”
Chad – “If you have a product you’d like us to check out, of course we’ll want to see it, but sending a gift or overly elaborate packaging doesn’t make me more likely to feature something,” says Chad Kaydo, “Straightforward and targeted always beats fussy and overwrought.”
Lisa – “I also put a lot of faith into pitches that carry the endorsements of leading event planners.”
Liese – “Here is the bottom line on why someone gets quoted and it’s no mystery – they have been in touch with the magazine either by sending consistently good information or have been visible in other press (press begets press). I suggest sending a note to the editor outlining your area(s) of expertise and that you are available anytime as a resource for articles that concern that topic(s). It lets the editor know that you can be a resource on certain subjects. I recommend sending this type of pitch in addition to company news and event pitches.
Liese – “In regards to all these different type of communiqué with the media, it’s a good idea to map out with your team what you want to get from media exposure. There are two approaches. One is the shotgun affect in which you are looking for any mention, anywhere. To me, that is not very effective. The other is a strategic placement and a careful campaign that puts you, your company, your work, your expertise, in front of the right publications that will in turn get you in front of the right clients.”
Lisa – “The number one rule for getting quoted is to reply-fast! We editors always seem to be putting things together at the last moment, and if I don’t hear back from someone I’ve contacted for a quote, I have to move on to someone else.” If an editor reaches out to you after a pitch, that’s like a little jerk on your line when you’re fishing. You got ‘em hooked! don’t waste this opportunity and get back to them as fast as you can. just two weeks ago, I got a great press release for an event product, which included the promise “photos available upon request.” but the PR person never got back to me, and so we wrote up another product.
Liese – “If you see someone quoted often, it also usually means that they are also reliable sources for the editor. Meaning, they will call or e-mail back within 24 hours if not sooner (editors are notoriously on deadline), they address the subject at hand in full sentences that offer little jewels of information (in other words – no “yes” or “no” answers).”
Lisa – “If you want to be quoted, be brave. Speak in specifics, not generalities, and don’t be afraid to give an opinion.”
Chad – “Speak in soundbites—keep it short and interesting. Don’t just promote what you do.”
Chad – “Say ‘thank you’ after the story runs, regardless of how prominently you were featured—it’s a reminder to the writer that you’re still out there, and that you follow what they do.”
Chad – “It definitely shows you who is engaged in a topic. We occasionally use @BizBash_News and our Facebook page to solicit opinions and suggestions for stories.”
Liese – “Because so much of what we do is photo driven, Facebook is perfect for looking in on what event professionals are doing. In this regard (photo wise) it’s a little more helpful than Twitter or Linked In. Myself, our editor, Ann Turner, and our Creative Director, Jean Blackmer, have all found stories and photos on Facebook because it is so rich with photo postings, albums or blog links. For business articles, staying in tune with Linkedin conversations has been a great way to find what people are talking about and find new experts. Personally, I find these three social media outlets to be a sea change in shaping editorial as well as keeping my finger on the pulse of the industry. I’ve found so many great new faces through Twitter, especially by following hashtag conversations such as #eventprofs.”
Liese – “I encourage everyone to be their own media through blogging. There are just so many stories out there and limited editorial space (this holds true of print and online media outlets). By blogging, companies are able to control their brand and message and consistently reach out to current and prospective clients. And, as I mentioned, the media will also look in on blogs to find stories, get more information about you, or educate themselves on your work or marketplace.”
Lisa – “I’m always amazed at pitches that come my way in some graphic form that makes me have to retype the information in order to post or print it. This is not why God made computers.”
Lisa – “I highly recommend spoon-feeding editors. For example, I sometimes get pitches for new venues, and when I ask for missing basics such as capacities, the person pitching will tell me, ‘Oh, you can find that information on the venue’s website.’ No, no, no! Think about what info the editor needs and get it for them—even if that means just grabbing it off the website yourself. Make it easy for the editor to cover you, and you will get coverage.”
Chad – “If you mass-email an irrelevant press release every week, when I see your name in my inbox, my brain says ‘delete’.”
Liese – “If you have something coming – say you are doing something large in the summer – I’d start reaching out to the editors now with other news, yet mention that tidbit as well in the ‘bio’ paragraph about your company. It’s about sitting down and creating a strategy so that all the pieces of your story are being conveyed in several different ways.”
Chad – “If yesterday’s pitch didn’t get covered, tomorrow’s might, and next month the writer might get an assignment that you’d be a perfect source for. And that might be a bigger story than what you were originally hoping for. Build a relationship over time.”
Chad – “Sometimes people take so long to create an elaborate pitch, the information gets stale. When we cover an event, we like to post the story within a day or two. If you take a week to put together a press release, it’s probably too late for us to do much with it. (That said, we always want to see photos of innovative work, and we often use those photos in other kinds of stories later.)”
What tips have you used for getting press coverage for your business?
photo via Shrieking Tree
This time of year is rejuvenating because it gives all of us an opportunity to shed old skin and recalibrate our thinking. But the hype often gives way to habit. You only need to turn to your local gym to see this phenomenon in action. Throngs of people sign up in January but more than half don’t make it to swimsuit season. In fact, gyms typically anticipate a 20-30% drop out rate by April.
In their 4th Annual National Small Business Survey, Staples found that more than 80% of small business owners don’t keep track of their business goals.
Most of these companies are plagued with a dichotomy. They are either convinced that big challenges require complex ideas and end up building a plan that is too difficult to execute or become anxious at the thought of introspective thinking and instead focus on independent tasks that lack a unified direction.
There’s a quote by Lewis Carroll that says, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” Goal planning provides a distinct path that takes you from where you are to where you want to go. It helps you know if you’re heading in the right direction, ensures that you spend time doing things that are most important to the business and aligns employees behind a direction. Establishing and maintaining goals are fundamental contributors to small business success.
One of the most useful tools I’ve developed for my business is a simple and easy-to-use 3-Step Goal Setting Worksheet.
I schedule 1 hour every Friday planning my next week to ensure that I’m working my way through to my milestones. And I spend 1/2 hr at the end of each day planning the specific tasks I’ll be doing the following day. The important thing is to not get caught up in the monotony of bad habits and always keep your eye on the end game.
Click here to download the worksheet.
What tools and processes do you use to define and maintain your business goals?
There are many different schools of thought on the topic, but the best definition I’ve seen pertaining to social media influence is by Brian Solis:
Influence is the ability to cause desirable and measurable actions and outcomes.
Klout is an online tool that claims to measure social influence by defining it in the form of an influence score. They use a host of algorithms and it’s a recent change to those algorithms that has caused many to see a drop in Klout scores. The result is a lot of disgruntled Klout users.
The short answer is no. But the better question is ‘were you really that influential to begin with?’
There is no single tool that will tell you who holds influence within a certain community – so even if you had a high score to begin with you might not have been that influential after all. Influence is social behaviour and can’t be defined by algorithms. Tools like Klout can measure data like the size of your social graph, the number of RTs you get, who RTs you, etc. But they can’t understand the intent behind these actions: how others feel about you and what motivated them to share your content.
Rather than focus on a score, think CREST:
My friend, Jessica Levin, challenged her readers to think about better ways to measure success in social media and I echo her sentiment. Spend less time worrying about how a flawed system scores your influence and more time thinking about how you want to be known and how you’ll measure success.
What do you think?
(Photo via Gipsy Art)