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Sometimes, you should let them see you sweat

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Seth Godin said something I’ve mentioned before. He said there are two ways to provide your service. The first way is “with drama”. Let the client see how hard you’re working. Make a big deal about all the additional effort you’re expending on their behalf.

In other words, let them see you sweat.

The other way: “Without drama. Make it look effortless.”

Godin says both ways can work and you should choose the approach depending on the client and the situation.

I agree that both approaches are viable but there’s a third option. You can let the client know you’re working hard for them or giving them extra effort or value without being dramatic.

If you’re providing extra services or other freebies, for example, list them on your invoice followed by a “courtesy credit” or other indication that you’re not charging for those extras.

You can also provide invoices with lots of details about your work instead of the more typical invoice that omits most of the details. Let them see all that you did behind the scenes to get the job done.

You can also involve them in the natural drama of the matter by sending regular reports about your work and progress and by cc’ing them on correspondence. When you speak to them, you can use body language and tone of voice to provide subtle clues about the magnitude of your effort, no sweating required.

At the end of the day, you want clients to know that what you do is hard but you have it under control.

Invoices that get paid

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When to qualify prospective clients for money

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Some clients can’t afford you. They need your help, they trust you and want to sign up, they just don’t have the money, or they have it but don’t want to spend it.

When would you like to find that out?

Before they meet with you, or after you’ve spent a lot of time talking to them about their problem and your solution?

If you talk to them and they don’t hire you, is that a complete waste of time?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Maybe they’ll realize they have to do something and they will beg, borrow, or steal the money to pay you. Maybe they’ll hire another lawyer who will mess things up and they’ll come back to you to fix things, at greater cost. Or, maybe they can’t afford your primary service right now but they can afford one of your “entry level” services and get more help later.

Maybe they won’t ever hire you but they will appreciate you for meeting with them and send you referrals.

So, it depends.

Clearly, however, you can’t spend all your time talking to people who don’t have any money. You need to weed them out in advance.

How do you do that?

By promoting your services to target markets and prospective clients who have money and avoiding the ones who don’t.

By educating your referral services about your ideal client and including something about fees and retainers.

By giving prospective clients (on your website, in your ads or other marketing materials), a general idea of what they will need to pay up front.

And, when you meet with prospective clients, qualifying them as to their ability to pay.

How do you the latter? Early on, say something like this:

“I’ll need to get more information, of course, before I can tell you what I can do for you. If I can help you, you need to know that my minimum fee is X [I’ll need a retainer of X]. Would that be a problem for you?”

If they say it won’t be a problem, mazeltov. If they say it might be a problem, or their body language tells you it is, you can explore that subject further or head in a different direction.

How to get referrals from people who don’t hire you

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Why you need to offer more than one option

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Your prospective client balks at signing up for your $15,000 “Standard” package. What do you do?

  1. Show him why he needs it and why it is a good value?
  2. Show him your $9,000 “Basic” package?
  3. Show him your $22,000 “Deluxe” package?
  4. Show him the door because you don’t have any other packages?

Some say that you should “drop down” to the lower priced package because it will appear more affordable next to the more expensive option you first showed him. Others say that if you do that, the prospect will be more likely to see the lesser-priced option as inferior and “buy” nothing.

They say that instead of moving down in price, you should move up.

Moving up in price, that is, from your $15,000 package to your $22,000 package will get the prospect thinking in terms of value instead of price, they say. If money is truly a factor for him, your $15,000 package may now seem more attractive.

My thoughts:

  • Clients are always concerned about price but they are more concerned about making a mistake. If they can afford it, they would rather pay more and make the right decision.
  • It’s not just the price that’s important, it is the perceived value. A more expensive option that includes a lot of “nice to have but not essential” elements is different than a package of “critically important” elements, which is different than a package of “important but can wait” elements.
  • What you should do depends on what you’re offering and what other options the client has, i.e., other lawyers, waiting. Try both strategies (higher then lower, and lower then higher) and see which one works best.
  • If the client still can’t decide and is ready to walk, having an undisclosed third option ($9,000/Basic) might allow you to save the sale.
  • In some circumstances, it might be best to offer all three options to the client right from the beginning.

How’s that for a lawyer-like answer?

One thing is certain: not having at least one other option should never be an option. Always have something else to offer a would-be client because showing them the door isn’t a good option for either of you.

You’ll get more clients signing up when they are referrals

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Why don’t you charge more?

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Some lawyers charge $1000 per hour. Some charge even more. Some charge flat fees and can earn $20,000 in a day. Some get bonuses or a piece of the action and earn more on one deal or one case than many lawyers earn in two years.

How about you?

How much do you charge? Why don’t you charge more?

You’re worth what clients are willing to pay you (and you are willing to accept). If you would like to charge more but don’t think clients will pay it, stop and think for a minute: what if you’re wrong? What if you could charge more? A lot more. And get it, all day every day.

What would that do for you?

Would you be able to get rid of low-paying clients and work you don’t enjoy?

Would you be able to hire more employees and provide your clients with more value, allowing you to further increase your revenue?

Would you be able to improve your marketing and bring in better clients or bigger cases?

Would you be able to move to a better office that’s more appealing to higher-end clients?

Would you be able to open a second office and leverage a client base in another market?

Would you be able to upgrade your wardrobe and automobile, network with better prospects and professionals, and thus take your practice to an even higher level?

Would you have more time available, to improve your health, to be with family, and to do the things you’d like to do to build your career instead of grinding it out in the trenches all day?

Lots of things you could do if you were earning more. The question is, what do you have to do to earn it? How could you charge (a lot) more than you charge right now?

Make a list of ten things you can do that would allow you to charge higher fees or otherwise significantly increase your revenue. Narrow the list down to your top three ideas. Then, choose your best idea and get to work on it. Work on it every day. Make it your focus and keep working on it until you get it done.

When you’ve tripled your income, send me $100,000 as my fee for helping you get there.

That’s the way it works, bub. You get paid more when you’re worth more. And you ask for it.

One way to earn more is to improve your cash flow

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Three ways to level up your practice

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When it comes to growing a law practice, slow and steady works. But, by definition, it’s slow. What if you want to grow quickly? What if you want to dramatically increase your income in a relatively short period of time?

Oh yes, it can be done. Some lawyers do it right out of the law school gate. Some do it when they reach their “day of disgust” and finally decide to get serious about marketing. Some do it when they see their numbers dropping and their fear of losing everything motivates them to finally take action.

But it can be done.

There are lots of things you could do to dramatically increase your income. I’m going to give you three. But more important than “what you do” is “what you think” and so first, I’m going to give you a few mindset adjustments.

First, to significantly boost your income you’ll need to do things that offer a big potential payoff. That means there might be additional risk and additional expense and you have to be prepared to accept this. You also need to be prepared to do things that take you outside your comfort zone.

Second, you have to jettison the idea that there is a direct correlation between the amount of time you work and the amount of income you earn. It’s not about how long it takes to do the work, it’s about how much value you deliver.

Third, you have to look for ways to employ leverage. One of the simplest ways to do that is to hire (more) people or outsource, and delegate as much of your work as possible. Rule of thumb: you should ONLY do those things that ONLY you can do. NB: there is very little that ONLY you can do.

Fourth, no matter how good you are getting things done you’ll probably need to get better. If you want to dramatically grow your practice, working harder is an option but so is working smarter.

Working smarter means “doing the right things,” the “20% activities that deliver 80% of your results and income”. It also means “doing things right”–getting the work done more quickly, efficiently, and with less effort.

With these principles in mind, here are three ways you might level up your practice:

(1) Bigger cases or better clients.

Bigger cases pay bigger fees. Why settle for an average fee of $10,000 when you could get $25,000? Or $100,000? The cases are out there and there’s no reason why you can’t get them.

Better clients pay higher fees and have more legal work. Why settle for “one of” work when you can bring in clients who have a steady stream of work?

(2) Increase your fees

One of the simplest ways to earn more is to charge more. Consider increasing your fees.

Not ten or fifteen percent, thirty percent. Fifty percent. 100%. Or more.

Crazy? Maybe. But maybe not. There’s only one way to find out.

Yes, you’ll lose some clients who can’t afford the increase or don’t want to pay it, but the new clients you bring in could more than offset those losses.

(3) Better referral sources (and more of them)

One of the best ways to bring in more business is to find referral sources that can send you more clients (and better clients, while you’re at it). Find professionals who can refer you five clients per month instead of five clients per year.

They’re out there and you can find them. Here’s a hint: they usually hang out with each other. Find one and they will lead you to others.

So, what do you think? Are you thinking, “These won’t work for me,” or are you thinking, “How can I make these work for me?”

Your attitude will determine your altitude. Translation: if you want to get big, fast, you need to think big and take massive action.

And remember, if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.

Plan your plan with this

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How to get prospective clients off the fence and onto your client list

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Over the weekend I was looking at a piece of software I was considering. I’d seen a few reviews and watched some videos. I liked what I saw but the developers didn’t provide a lot of information and I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the money.

Do I really need this? How much would I use it? Is it as good as it looks? What if I get it and find something better?

They offer a money back guarantee and I was leaning towards buying but decided to sleep on it. See if I could find more reviews, maybe write to the developer and ask some questions.

Today, I went to the website from another computer. Lo and friggin behold, the software was available for one-third of the price I saw last night.

Not one-third off. One-third of the original price.

I saw nothing about a “sale” or promotion. Were they price-testing? Did I somehow load an old page?

Who cares. I bought the sucker.

It really wasn’t that expensive at the original price. But at one-third the price, it was a no-brainer. Take my money.

Two lessons for you my young Padawan.

First, don’t scrimp on the info. Make sure your website and other marketing materials show prospective clients as much information as possible. Make sure you have lots of reviews and testimonials. Answer every question a prospective client might ask about you and your services. Do your best not to give them any reason to “sleep on it” because they might not come back.

Second, don’t lower your “prices” but do offer lower-priced alternatives. If a prospect sees your full-priced package but isn’t sure they want to go ahead, your lower-priced package could be just the thing to get them to take the plunge. Get the client, even at a lower fee. You can sell them on buying additional services later.

When it comes to pricing and the perception of value, context counts. A $3,000 fee may seem expensive when that’s all the client sees, but a bargain when they are first presented with your $9,500 package.

Increase your income with effective billing and collection strategies: click here

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What to do when a client says they can’t afford your fee

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What do you do when a prospective client tells you they can’t afford you? You have three options:

(1) Help them to see the light

Many clients who say they can’t afford you have the money, they just don’t want to spend it. Others can borrow the money, liquidate a retirement account, sell something, or otherwise find the money to pay you and they will do that, but only if they want to.

Point out the greater expense and/or dire consequences that may arise if they don’t hire you, or the immense benefits they will get if they do. Help them to see that hiring you isn’t an expense, it is an investment in their better future.

You can also show them that while you may be more expensive than other lawyers, you’re worth it. You have more experience, offer something others don’t offer, and provide more value and better “customer service” than other lawyers.

Most of this can be done before you speak to them, that is, via articles and posts on your website and in your marketing documents.

(2) Offer to “work with them”

That is, suggest that they hire you for part of the work today and the rest at a later date. You can make things more attractive for them by allowing them to “lock in” the fee they would have paid had they hired you for everything at once. You can also allow them to use a credit card or other financing options.

(3) Let them go

Tell them, in essence, “I’m sorry, let me know when things change for you”. When they want what you offer enough, they’ll find a way to pay for it. Stay in touch with them and remind them that you can still help them.

You can also offer to refer them to another attorney who charges less, which often helps them to decide that no, they really want you.

What you shouldn’t do is cut your fee.

Quoting fees (and getting them) starts with an unshakeable belief in the value of what you do. You can’t possibly expect clients to see this value if you don’t see it yourself.

Remember, there will always be people who can’t afford you and people who can. Target those who can and you won’t have to worry about the ones who can’t.

How to quote fees, invoice properly, and get paid. Go here

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How to double your income in five years or less

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There is a very good chance that you’re not charging enough for your services. By enough, I mean the amount your services are worth and what good clients would be willing and able to pay.

Why do I make this assumption? Because when I consult with lawyers and we talk about their fees, almost all of them are on the low side. That, plus recent surveys which show that two-thirds of solo lawyers earn a gross income of less than $200,000 per year and 28% earn less than $100,000 (again, gross income), tell me I’m right.

If you have been following me for awhile and have moved away from offering the same basic, “commodity” services most lawyers offer, in favor of higher-level, better-paying work, you’re offering more value and you should be paid for it.

How much more? Perhaps double or triple.

It’s exciting to think about doubling your income without doing anything more than increasing your fees. But you might be afraid to do it, thinking that most of your clients would leave.

Don’t let that fear stop you.

You can minimize the risk of a wholesale exodus by doing it over a period of years.

If you increased your fees 20% starting next year, yes, you might lose some clients. My guess is that it would far fewer than you imagine, perhaps very few or none at all, but if you do lose some clients, two things would happen:

  1. No matter how many clients you lose, if the rest of your clients pay you 20% more than they had been paying, your net revenue for the year would increase, and
  2. Any clients who leave would make room for new clients who will pay your higher rate.

If you increase your fees by 20% per year, in five years your income will double, not including compounding.

Too much? Too soon? Okay, start by charging new clients the higher rate. Once you’re comfortable with this, once you see clients are still signing up, you can begin phasing in higher rates for existing clients.

(For contingency fees, you can “raise your fees” by increasing the minimum size of the cases you accept.)

Look, I’ve seen lawyers (and accountants) who haven’t increased their fees in ten years. That’s not a professional practice, that’s a charity. You are entitled to charge what you’re worth and what the market will bear. You don’t have to settle for less.

How to ask for, and get higher fees

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Is it okay to charge some clients less than others?

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Is it okay to charge some clients less than others? Why yes it is, thanks for asking. Here are some situations where you might want to do that:

  • New clients, to encourage them to sign up with you instead of another lawyer
  • Returning clients, to encourage them to come back or to hire you for something else
  • Old clients who have been with you a long time, to reward them for their loyalty
  • Bigger clients, who give you more work or bigger matters
  • Clients who are easier to work with, pay on time, never complain
  • Clients who send you lots of referrals or who go out of their way to promote you
  • Clients who do something you support, as a way to help their cause
  • Clients who give you a big retainer up front, especially if it is non-refundable
  • Clients referred to you by some of your better clients or referral sources
  • Clients who are family or friends (yeah, sometimes you gotta)

In fact, sometimes it makes sense to give some clients free services, but that’s a subject for another day.

Be careful, though. You don’t want your other clients to find out that some clients pay less than they do. Unless you do want them to know. If you want all of your clients to know they’ll pay less if they always pay on time, for example, then spread the word.

Another way to look at this subject is to charge more for clients who aren’t on this list. If they are slow-payers, for example, they pay a higher rate.

The point is, you don’t have to charge every client the same amount for the same work (unless there’s a law or a bar rule that says you do, in which case you should think about moving).

Go through your billing records and client list and see who might warrant a lower or higher fee.

The lawyer’s guide to stress-free billing and collection

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Would you rather have more clients or higher-paying clients?

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Yesterday, I did a consultation with a lawyer who has a high-volume/low-fee practice. I asked him, “Would you rather have 50 new $1,000 clients each month or two $25,000 clients?”

I wanted him to upgrade his practice towards the higher end of the client spectrum. You have less overhead, less stress, and less work to do to produce the same income. And you don’t have to compete with everyone and his brother because there is no competition at the top.

I pointed out that he already had a suitable niche market, a certain group of business owners who could provide him with referrals and introductions to other professionals who serve that market.

He said he would need to take CLE classes before he could do this. I suggested that until he was proficient, he could associate with another lawyer who has the experience.

He also said he would need to hire another attorney to handle some of his current caseload, and he’s willing to do that.

So he has a plan.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Niche marketing is smart. Here’s how to do it

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