Many of my coaching clients who are confident in their hourly rates are concerned about ways of determining profitability for their fixed price, or flat fee, services. They want to know how to reach a profit margin that will make them the kind of money they need to be successful.
Profitability is a term that is thrown around in business settings, but people often use the word without knowing what it really means. In order to define it, let’s first talk about what profitability is not.
When I talk about profitability, I’m not talking about what you or anyone else thinks is a fair price. “Fair” is a relative term, and everyone has his or her own idea of what that means. Whose idea of “fair” are we talking about? Fair to you? To the client? Is there some sliding scale of “fair” out there? Of course not.
Profitability also has nothing to do with what the client would wish to pay. Most people are looking for ways to save money. But you are not in the business of providing the cheapest, bargain priced, clearance rack service. You are in the business of providing excellent service. And excellence costs money. If the client doesn’t want to pay the rate you need in order to be profitable, then they are not the right client for you.
I’m also not talking about market expectations. Just because your competition charges a certain rate, that doesn’t mean that the service they are providing their clients is on par with yours. Their overhead may be different, or their staff may be larger or smaller. They may cut corners or provide extras you aren’t aware of. You can’t base your rates on what your competition charges.
The Acid Test for Determining Profitability
All that you need to be concerned about here is figuring out what you need to charge your clients in order to ensure that your business is profitable, that it’s making you money.
Many people have complex ways of figuring profitability. But determining what you need to charge your clients in order to be profitable does not have to involve long drawn out calculations.
There is a straightforward, simple way to determine profitability. It’s what I call the “Acid Test.”
- Calculate the amount of time it will take to provide the service. This includes your time and your staff’s time.
- Figure up the cost per hour for that time. Include the amount your work is worth per hour and the cost of your staff’s work.
- Then multiply those two figures to arrive at the amount it costs you to provide the service your client needs.
But that number does not make you a profit. That number only covers your costs. Note my emphasis: Your costs. Not the client’s cost. That is the minimum amount you need to make just to break even. You can’t run a profitable business that way.
To make a profit, you need to build in a 50 percent gross profit margin on top of your total cost for the service. So basically, take what it costs you to cover your expenses, and then double that number. That is the amount you need to charge the client in order to make a profit. It’s that simple.
If you apply this simple acid test to your fees for service, you will become profitable.