How To Turn A $100 Fee Into $1,500 – I Did It – So Can You!

This morning I’m off to see a long time client. Truth be told these guys are high maintenance and are much more aggressive users of my unlimited support plan than almost any other client.

Many of their questions end with a promise that they want me to perform more work – a promise that somehow never materializes.

Yet today I’m going to turn what for most consultants would have been a $100 fee into $1,500.

When I leave the client not only will I be paid – but the client won’t stop talking about the great value  they’ve received.

Unless I miss my guess this will  turn into repeat business – albeit probably only once or twice a year.

Given the choice between earning  $100 and $1,500 – which would you take? I though so. Want to know how I’m doing this?

The answer to how I’m going to earn this larger fee is contained in one word from above —  value.

The Client’s Problem

My client is not much different than any of the ones you have. Their operations manager called last week. He’s now in charge of maintaining dozens of custom written reports that this predecessor had created.

The problem is the operations manager doesn’t know MAS90 and doesn’t know how the reports were created.

His question?

Could we upgrade half a dozen of these reports so that instead of running in Crystal Reports 8 they’ll run under Crystal Reports 10 (as well as incorporate some file layout changes).

The Typical Consultant Approach

If you were to ask a dozen Sage MAS 90 consultants how they’d handle this engagement I guarantee at least 10 would offer this recommendation:

Have the client bundle up the reports in a zip file. Send them by email.  Appoint someone to work on them in their spare time in the comfort of your office. Once converted log in remotely to upload the reports back to the client. Should take no more than an hour and the client would not see any interruption in their business. In this economy we’d probably charge $100 (pick your own number but I bet it’s 10 times less than it could be under my method).

I’m only slightly exaggerating.

Sadly the new way that many consultants solve client requests is to respond with only one benefit – low cost.

That often means doing the work off-site and out-of-site then uploading the data to the client – without ever seeing or having  in-person client discussions (which often lead to more work).

But is off-site and low cost what the client’s asking for? With a little more effort could we multiply the perceived client value (and therefore the fee)?

How To Deliver 10 Times The Value – And Collect 15 Times The Fee

So how did I change what typically would be a $100 fee into a $1,500 fee?

First, I defined the scope of what I’d be doing at the client site.

In this case there were 6 reports to be converted without changes in any functionality. If there were more reports to be done – there would be an extra fee. The client agreed to this. Willingly. We also agreed on basic housekeeping items like the version number of MAS90 that we’d upgrade to.

All of this was memorialized in an email that took no more than 10 minutes. Prior to writing the email I logged in remotely for 15 minutes to verify the items in question and write down report names. Total preparation and proposal time – about 25 minutes.

Second, I proposed a fixed price cost of $1,500.

Third, For the fixed price (and here’s where the client value comes in) I agreed that the client could look over my shoulder, ask any questions, and that I’d explain HOW I was performing the  work so that in the future (if they wanted) they could do the work themself.

Here’s the part where most consultants start to see stars.

The typical stupid consultant response is “but Wayne wouldn’t that be taking away future work by showing the client how to do it themselves”?

Perhaps. However that’s called adding value. And guess how many clients who THINK they’ll do the work themselves ever really do? Hint: Very tiny – in fact almost zero.

Clients aren’t stupid. If they want to learn how to perform the work themselves you damn well better show them or they’re going to find another consultant to pay to show them the tasks you refused to perform.

Fourth, I guaranteed my work. If I was not able to leave the client office and hand them a complete set of working custom reports they’d pay me nothing. That’s called an unconditional guaranteed. You’re already doing it now because clients who are unhappy don’t pay. Why not make the guarantee a positive selling point?


Here are several ideas that you might learn from my experience.

Remote Work is great – but on-site is greater: As consultants we tend to fall into the trap of doing all work off-site where the client can’t observe us. Naturally we charge significantly less because we don’t travel or have to spend all day fixing an ever growing list of client issues (a list that tends to  sprout once you walk into their office). In some cases doing work off-site makes sense – especially when travel costs are prohibitive.  Don’t overlook the opportunity to be on-site (always fee based under our support agreements) and providing more perceived value which results in the client willingly (and happily) paying more for the value received.

You’re Already Guaranteeing Your Work – Point It Out As A Benefit: If a client’s not happy about your work they won’t pay you. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

Why not turn that into a stated benefit. Of course you won’t say that “If my work sucks you pay nothing” – but “Unconditionally Guaranteed” is a no extra cost benefit (because you already operate under it) – why not point it out to your client as an added benefit of working with you or your firm?

Fixed Fee For Well Defined Scope = Bigger Client Benefit = Bigger Fee: Where you can define the scope of the work in advance – a fixed fee is nearly always the best solution for both client and consultant.

The key is to clearly state the work to be performed and that the client will accept that work or provide guidance on what needs to be changed.

Obviously larger more complex engagements require formal proposals. Most of the smaller (under $5,000) projects that we’ve proposed fixed fees for have been documented informally via email with the client replying to agree.

Fixed Price Proposals are here to stay.

They’re the way most clients want to pay — and if you follow the same concepts  a fixed price project can be 15 times more profitable than the alternative of billing hourly.