My ideal clients can’t afford me

A few weeks ago, I saw this question in a Facebook group:

First off, I love this question. This is exactly the kind of thoughtful approach that allows small business owners (especially women), to be intentional with pricing and to shift their mindsets around discounting and favors (one word: nope).

A lot of the responses were great but I noticed that a term kept popping up over and over in the thread: Ideal Client.

As in, who is your ideal client? What can your ideal client afford? You need to price yourself so that your ideal client can afford you.


Whenever a client tells me their ideal clients can’t afford them, I laugh hysterically for ten minutes (on mute), then I totally picture them sitting in overalls on a dock with a fishing pole, like, “these fish just aren’t biting. There must not be any fish here.”

Believe me, if you are a digital entrepreneur, there are ALWAYS fish. Just because you aren’t catching any doesn’t mean the lake is empty.

So I’m about to break down why A. your ideal clients CAN afford you and B. that kind of thinking is keeping you poor and C. you need to be pricing based on value.

#1: Your ideal clients CAN afford you.

If they can’t afford you, how can they be your ideal clients? The definition of an ideal client is someone who needs the exact thing you are selling.

Not only can your ideal clients afford you but they are DYING for the value you offer and if you are marketing yourself correctly, you should be able to EASILY convince them that what you deliver is priceless and well worth the investment.

Ok, so maybe the all-caps EASILY was a stretch…sometimes business just ain’t easy. But let’s be honest: When we aren’t selling our services as quickly as we want, we so often turn to the issue of “afford” instead of questioning whether our messaging or marketing or services are the problem.

#2. Pricing based on “affordability” is totally cray cray

Let’s run a little scenario: Say you’re building a career coaching business that focuses on recent college grads. You offer a four-week coaching package at $1000 but when you start to search for clients, you hear over and over that college grads “can’t” afford your program. You plan on having 10 clients at a time for a monthly revenue of $10,000.

You can:

A.  Decide that your ideal clients can’t afford you and lower your prices to $400. You can only see 10 clients at a time so your monthly revenue drops to $4,000.

B.  Decide that you are only going to focus on engineering and finance students who can anticipate higher starting salaries and are therefore willing to pay your rates. You raise the package price to $1500 and start making $15,000 a month.

C.  Start communicating the value of your offer more clearly, noting that 95% of your past clients have gotten job offers after working with you. Your waitlist increases to six months and you easily earn $10,000 a month.

D.  Create a group program that is $500 but allows you to work with 30 students at once giving you a monthly revenue of $15,000.

Do you see how the thought that our ideal clients can’t afford us leads us to believe that A is our only option, when B, C and D all allow us to reach the same clients without lowering our rates?  

And can you see the flawed logic in the idea that a college grad can’t afford career coaching. OF COURSE THEY CAN! In fact, spending $1K to get a $40K job offer is a STEAL. If a college kid can afford to go to Florida on spring break or to buy a new iPhone, they can afford $1K.

#3. The best way to price with integrity is basing it on value

Whenever I price a new offer or service, I don’t think about how long it’s going to take me to build, or how much I’m going to pay my team to help me deliver it, or how much money I want to make that month, or what I think the customer can afford.

I ONLY think about the value that the customer is going to get from the offer.

This is a great time to ask your ideal clients what they would pay in the context of the end result.  What would they pay if they knew that a four-week program would get them a $40K job offer? What would they pay if they never had to diet or worry about food again? What would they pay for financial guidance that would help them save $10K? You might be surprised how much your ideal client – regardless of income level – is willing to pay to get HUGE results.


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