The Billing moment -it’s all about your value: don’t hide it if you provide it-
You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring by the hour. -J. Rohn
One of the challenging questions many starting (smallbizz) companies (start-ups) face nowadays, is when, as a supertemp or solopreneur, to start billing the services performed. Usually one starts to create value for ‘friends’, just to create experience and then ‘take off’. But what’s the moment to stop delivering for free and to start asking money?
In the manufacturing industry, this starting moment of billing is a bit easier than in the service or consultancy business as the product delivered is tangible, and hence ‘real’. The delivery time and cost are more or less objective. Neither in service nor in consultancy there are tangible products. This makes the value far more complicated to measure and turns the billing moment also into a psychological issue.
What is at stake? Obviously, you deal here with value and valuation on the one hand, and measuring and management of value on the other hand. The business approach means the translation of your rendered value into money and choosing your own position and view on this issue. In real life this is sometimes a huge challenge, especially for start-ups.
The line where friendship and fairness ends is thin and sometimes invisible. Example: how should you act if a good friend helps you for example to start up your own business by asking for a business related advice? Should you send a bill? Perhaps not the first time. But the second time, the third? Believe me, you are not the first (or last ) one who has been serving friends without sending a bill for a long period of time. Doing lots of things for a business friend, for anybody, without sending a bill will cause an uncomfortable feeling after some time. It creates the feeling of an unequal relationship.
Neither a too high bill not nor the too low one is okay.
It is important to make clear agreements with respect to payment. My suggestion would be: always send a bill for the service provided unless the service is based on friendship and this has been defined as such at the beginning.
Why sending a bill? It is not only about the cash flow in your company. Billing also fulfills a kind of psychological function: What costs nothing is worth nothing. Billing is actually connected to self-esteem and value. Being known as one who “is worth nothing”’ is of course not on your agenda as an entrepreneur.
Of course, billing will sometimes cause emotional frictions that may e.g. be compared with a prenuptial agreement if one is really in love and having big plans with the loved one. But not sending a bill because of internal doubts about one’s value and not being able to translate it into the money language is a bad start for an entrepreneur. If you experience this emotion , think about it!
Make sure that your bill looks very professional and worth the service it represents. A bill is a marketing tool, a business representation of your company and yourself. Be specific on your bill about the agreements made, the service provided and the price based on the terms you agreed upon earlier. Make sure that the value of your delivery is explicit, to you as a service provider, and to your customer as well.
I know what you want to say. This is all very obvious and is a pre-condition for every business. True, but through the stress and hectic of every day’s business one forgets the obvious very easily. However, all of this is simply too important to be neglected. And I repeat: what costs nothing is worth nothing.
In some professions, we talk about honorarium. In using this word the pride of the entrepreneur can still be felt, pride for the delivered services. Maybe this word doesn’t reflect the nature of your services. However, this is the way every entrepreneur should feel about billing. Do it for yourself! You are worth it! Never forget it…and don’t accept being treated less that you deserve.