Is it time to increase your prices?
A complaint I hear a lot is that many of you feel like you’re not making enough money doing the work you love. Many of you want to increase your prices, but aren’t sure how to start. Last week, I got this message from Liza:
I’ve been renting a chair for four years and have never raised my rates. Not once. I haven’t wanted to lose clients over price, and until now, I never had a good enough reason to raise them. But this year has been tough. I had a baby, and my husband and I are trying to buy a house. I want to start charging more, but since I’ve never changed my prices, I don’t know how to figure out how much to charge or how to do it or without making people mad. Can you help me?
Liza is not alone. So many service providers in our industry keep their prices the same, year after year – because they are afraid. It’s no wonder so many quit when they can’t make ends meet.
For those who want to bring home more money, there are three basic tactics to use:
- Bring in new clients
- Reduce your expenses
- Increase your prices
For the cosmetology industry, bringing in new clients and reducing expenses have become the go-to options for most service providers wanting to increase their income. In fact, even the most incredibly talented people in our industry have a really hard time choosing the third option.
But increasing your price is the simplest and quickest way to raise your income.
Fair warning: This is a very detailed post because there is so much to cover about raising your rates with tact and grace.
In the bonus (which you can get here), I share with you samples, scripts, and worksheets to help you every step of the way.
So grab a cup (or glass) of something and settle in – by the end, you’ll have all that you need to plan and implement a price increase…
But first, we’ll address the real reasons so many of you have such a hard time raising your rates….
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Increasing your prices – why you haven’t done it yet
My clients will leave me!
Fear that clients will be upset enough to leave keeps many service providers charging the exact same price for years (and years!). While some clients may be strictly bargain-hunters, most are interested in the greater value of what you provide.
You add value to their service in every appointment by just being you: you’re not just coloring their hair, you are giving them a fresh look; you’re not just exfoliating their skin, you are helping them find the right products for their skin type; you’re not just giving a luxurious pedicure, you could be the only human contact that person has had all week.
When clients know there is more value to a service than simply what you do during the visit, raising your prices will not cause them to leave. In fact, many may be feeling a bit guilty for paying the same amount for a service for a long time because you have been adding value to their experience all along.
Trust that most clients will stay, and the ones who don’t are telling you that they do not value you the way you deserve to be valued.
People won’t pay that much!
Another fear that prevents service providers from increasing their prices is the fear that “no one” will pay the price they set – that higher prices will drive away potential new clients.
One way to quelch this fear is to do a bit of research and understand the range of what people are charging in your area. Check out how much salons and spas or individual service providers that YOU would go to are charging and use that as a guide for setting your new prices.
But even if you choose to set your new prices higher than others in your area, you shouldn’t fear driving new clients away. In doing their own research, new clients will assume that if you are charging a bit more for the same service, you are offering a greater value.
That is not a bad thing.
If you choose to set new prices that are higher than the competition, BE SURE that you do add value for each new client.
I don’t have enough experience to charge more!
The fear that you don’t have enough experience to increase your rates – or that you aren’t supposed to make more than more experienced service providers – is rooted in the concept that the longer a person works, the more they should make, or that the newer they are, the less they should make.
Let me dispel this fear by saying that the amount a client is willing to pay is NOT related to how long you have been in business, but how GOOD you are at your craft. Read that again, out loud.
So whether you’re a relative newbie or someone in business for years, your prices should be more a reflection of your talent than simply your years of experience.
All three of these fears that prevent people from raising prices boil down to one thing: confidence. When you have it, these fears will disappear.
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When is it time to increase your prices?
When you have a hunch that it’s time
If you have a nagging feeling that it might be time, it probably is.
Trust your gut.
Maybe you’ve updated your skills by taking some new technique classes, or maybe you’ve been certified to use new equipment or highly sought after tools or product lines. You know you’re bringing greater value to each client, and they should know, too.
Never be afraid to share with your clients the new thing you’ve learned – either by telling them all about it or by showing them. You can translate that into charging more.
The bottom line: If raising your price is in your consciousness, then it’s probably time.
When your clients are telling you that you need to increase your prices
This is real.
They’ll tell you if you are incredibly talented and provide a value that is more important to them than the cost of the service. Clients who love you will tell you if they think your prices are too low OR when it has been too long since you raised your rates.
A variation comes as this subtle hint: When the majority of your clients OVER-tip you.
If historically your clients have tipped you 15-20%, and this year they’ve been tipping 25-30% – trust me, they’re telling you to raise your rates!
When everyone in your location is increasing their prices
Unless you’re very new and just starting to build your book of business, it’s a mistake to hold out on a price increase when the rest of your coworkers (or entire salon or spa) are upping their rates. Your clients may be confused and could lose faith in your abilities if they think you’ve lost confidence in your talents – having too low a price can suggest you have.
Secondly, if everyone in your location is increasing their prices, and you don’t, it could be viewed as “undercutting” their price, and that can lead to bad juju in the workplace.
When you move locations or go independent
The easiest and most natural price increase can occur when you move locations or when you go out on your own. Clients understand this. You might lose clients, but the best ones will stay. And as we discussed recently, sometimes you have to trim your client list to realize new growth.
When you start feeling a little resentful of the time you’re spending on specific services
Oh, this is the worst!
If this is happening, you simply MUST charge more for (at least) this service.
It’s almost impossible to hide resentment especially in this industry. Resentment strikes an attitude, and your clients will feel it during their visit.
If you have a specific service that you hate doing or that’s outdated and you undercharge for, you’ve got to stop. Turn that resentment into cash by charging more for doing it or let it go.
If you’ve moved from an individual service menu to a packaged service menu
This is worthy of an entire post, but for now, when you switch from one pricing model to another, you have set the stage for a rate increase. Take advantage by setting your package prices in such a way that allows you to earn more.
When you have a waitlist of several months
This is the Holy Grail! When you have a waitlist of several months, and clients STILL want to book, you have the go-ahead to increase your prices.
This, my friend, is basic supply and demand. If you have worked yourself into a position of having a backlist of booked appointments for several months, with no end in site, RAISE your rates!
Here’s what’s going on when you have a backlist:
First, it shows that your clients value your work so much, they are willing to wait months and months until your next available appointment.
Second, the simple fact is that you are losing money if you don’t raise your rates. Here’s a simple example to show you how much (insert your own averages)
Current: 6 clients a day x $100 per visit = $600
Raising rates 15%: 6 clients a day x $115 per visit = $690
Money LOST by NOT raising rates: $90 x number of days ahead you’re booked
30 days = $2,700
60 days = $5,400
90 days = $8,100
So stop losing money and raise your rates!
When it’s cutting into your margin
Being in business means that you have your own costs to worry about, and if you keep your prices the same while your operating costs have been going up, you are eating into your profit margin. This is simply not good business, and the clearest reason to increase your prices.
How to figure out your new rates
Here is an overview of the process everyone needs to go through to accurately determine price increases.
Step 1: Figure out your average monthly income
Add up how much you’ve made in the last 6 months and divide by 6 (to account for income fluctuations each month). This is your Average Monthly Income.
Step 2: Figure out your average personal monthly expenses (A detailed worksheet in the bonus guide can help!)
Add up all of your personal and business expenses for the last 6 months and divide by 6 (to account for variable expenses like car insurance). This represents your Average Monthly Expenses.
Step 3: Do the math (even if you don’t wanna)
Average Monthly Income – Average Monthly Expenses = Financial Result
If the Result is POSITIVE (Income is greater than Expenses), you are meeting your basic needs – Yay! You might have extra money to invest in your professional development or personal life.
If the Result is NEGATIVE (Income is less than Expenses), your basic needs are NOT being met, so increasing your prices becomes a very, very good idea. Go to Step 4.
Step 4: How to get out of the negative?
Divide Result from Step 3 above by Average Monthly Income to figure out the PERCENTAGE of your income that you are short. This is the minimum amount you need to increase your income to make ends meet.
Example: If your average monthly income is $2,500, and your expenses are $2,750, your Step 3 looks like this:
$2,500 – $2,750 = -$250
This means you need:
$250 ÷ $2,500 = 0.10 or 10% MORE
Therefore, you should increase your prices by at least 10%.
Finally, if you have enough income to cover your expenses, you can still raise rates to cover things you want to do to grow professionally like taking advanced technique classes, attending conferences, or investing in new tools/products. The cost of getting better at your career should be part of your cost of doing business.
Or perhaps you want to raise your rates to account for important lifestyle expenses like saving more for retirement, buying a home, saving for a great vacation, or starting your kid’s college fund. Your life is bigger than your profession, so give yourself permission to plan for it.
Figure out what you want to invest in and the amount you’ll need for it on a monthly basis. Then divide that amount by your Average Monthly Income to know what percentage you should increase your rates to be able to make these investments.
When to start charging your new prices
Once you decide on your new prices, you need to decide when the increase will take effect. Here are some suggestions:
A fixed start date
Choose a specific date – like the first of the year or the day you move to a new location – and apply the new prices to all clients at once. This may be the simplest way to keep track for both you and your clients, and it makes updating your price list in all its forms a single event.
A staggered start date
- For brand new clients, charge your new rates immediately;
- For loyal clients, begin the new rate at a future specified date or at a future appointment;
- For your very best clients, give them more time – say, three months – before you apply your new rates to them.
Staggering the start date takes more effort for a few months to keep track of what to charge each client, but if you are concerned about losing clients, this might be the way to go.
You might also consider allowing current clients the opportunity to purchase a package of services – perhaps three to six months’ worth – at the current rates, which allows you to “stagger” the start date for clients while publicly raising your rates on a specific date.
Additional note about timing
It’s best not to raise your rates more than once in a calendar year, unless there are extreme circumstances – like if your booth rental doubles or if you move to a new city. Reassessing your prices is a regular function of business, and clients understand this; however, if you do it too often, they may feel you are taking advantage of them.
How to transition to your new rates
Whatever start date you choose, you need some time before to plan the transition and notify clients.
Offering temporary package pricing
First, decide whether you will allow clients to purchase a package of services at your current pricing.
If you choose to allow package purchasing, keep it limited to a few months’ worth so that you are not waiting all year for your new prices to take effect.
You will also need a way of accounting for package offers both for your clients – keeping track of which services were purchased and then used – and for your budget so that you can plan for the cash flow increase when packages are purchased and the decrease when they are used.
Updating your price list
Before changing prices, make sure you have an inventory of all of the places where your prices are listed for the public, which might include:
- Your hardcopy service menu
- Your website
- Any booking sites you are listed with
- Facebook business pages (or the like)
- Your payment processor
- The payment processor at the salon or spa
Before notifying clients, you should update the hardcopy service menu and print it on good paper or cardstock to place at your station or in your treatment room. The menu should include an “Effective” date, which is the date your prices will be changed for clients, even if you stagger this for loyal customers.
For the electronic versions, be ready for the new price lists to “go live” on whatever date you set. On your website and the sites where you have a business presence, you might consider posting a notice and a preview of your new price list after you have notified your clients but before the prices go live.
In order to show just what a Pro you are, you should take care to notify your clients well ahead of the start date of your new prices – ideally, at least six weeks so that you are likely to see most of your clients face-to-face at least once before your new prices will affect them.
There are several different ways to notify your clients based on the relationship you have with them. As well, you may want to stagger the workload of notifying everyone in your book so that you are not overwhelmed with this very important task.
Your very best (favorite) clients
For this group, the personal touch is a must. Pick up the phone and call them or let them know when you see them during their next visit. I know that a lot of you don’t really ever use your phone to call people anymore, but it is important to do so now. Place a personal phone call to these people – it’s the most respectful and direct way to inform your best clients.
Simply tell them that you love their business and that you wanted to let them know that your rates are increasing on a specific date. If you choose to stagger the start date, let them know that, because they are so special to you, prices for their services will remain the same until some specific date in the future – perhaps 60-90 days. If you are going to offer the option of purchasing packages at current prices, this would be the time to tell them.
[Insert an optin box: Be sure to get the Ultimate Price Increase Guide – I’ve got some awesome ideas for how you can make your clients feel truly amazing for paying you more]
Once you’ve personally told yo ur very best clients, you can then post a price increase notification at your station or in your treatment room. You can get some samples here. [LINK].
You can use the same or similar techniques as above for your loyal clients depending on how you classify them. Alternatively, you could handwrite a note card and snail mail it, or you could email these clients and let them know that the price of your services are increasing and when. Do not include the specific prices in this note, but tell them you will have a new pricing menu available for them the next time they come in. Make sure to let them know that they can call you with any questions.
If you have their email addresses, go ahead and let them know via email. This is just a courtesy. If you don’t have their email, let them know the next time they come in. As soon as they they arrive for their appointment, you can say something like: “Jennifer, it’s great to see you, and I’m so glad you came in today because my prices are increasing next week (or whatever date in the future). Here’s my new pricing menu for you to hang on to.” This is the matter-of-fact way to inform casual clients. It’s honest, and it’s good business.
Try to reach out to them if you have their contact information. If you don’t, no worries. You will let them know when they contact you for an appointment (or as soon as they arrive) that your service prices have gone up since their last visit. If they get upset, try to reassure them that their business is valuable to you. If they leave – don’t sweat it. Most people will be fine with it, so don’t waste any emotional energy on the people who aren’t supportive of your business.
A note about texting
Even if texting is the primary (or only) way you communicate with many of your clients, whatever category they are in, texting is NOT the way to inform clients of price increases or any major changes in your business (hours, location, services, etc.).
Texts are typically short, often ungrammatical, and devoid of emotion. They are less professional than other forms of communications and should not be used for such important matters.
Plus, it sucks being notified of a price increase in a text.
Save texting for quick appointments, and for important, business-changing notices let your clients know face-to-face, by phone, or by email.
Soapbox moment over.
How to talk to your clients about your price increase
This might be the most awkward of all business conversations, but stick to this advice, and it will go smoothly.
Don’t apologize and don’t feel the need explain your updated pricing. The more confident you are when telling someone your rates, the more confident they’ll be in accepting it.
If you apologize for it or make it sound like you think the increase is too high, they’ll most likely think it’s too high, too.
You are not required to explain why you are raising your rates, BUT if you choose to explain, do NOT offer this as an “excuse”: “I haven’t increased my rates in 5 (insert your own number) years, so it’s time.”
Why not? Because now you’ve told your clients that you only increase your rates every 5 years. If you try to raise prices a year or two from now, they’ll think you are taking advantage of them.
Remember: This is your business, your livelihood. This is how you feed yourself and your family. If it’s time to increase your rates, ACCEPT the fact that you’re worthy of a price increase. Never apologize for that.
Be prepared to be challenged
No matter how confidently you put it out there, you are still going to have someone who will challenge your new rates. It isn’t uncommon for clients – especially those who know you – to ask: Why?
This is totally normal and should be expected. Here’s how to handle it.
Simply say: “I’m always trying to stay up to date for you, so I’m constantly investing in new tools and new products to make you look/feel awesome. I also take advanced educational classes so that you are getting the VERY best from me. My commitment to you is to keep current and provide you what you need.”
Deliver this with impeccable execution.
Do not give a long-winded explanation, and definitely don’t get defensive, as there is no reason to be. Some people will get it, some won’t. Don’t spend energy on those who don’t get it.
Stand your ground
What to do if someone resists even more? First, do not back down or return to old pricing.
One way to address more resistant clients is to simply tell them you understand that they are upset and that you will understand if they decide to go elsewhere for their services.
However, if the client is someone you want to keep, you could offer them a bonus – NOT a discount – which could be a little something extra that won’t really cost you much, but may seem really valuable to a client.
For example, invite your client to come back in two weeks for a free adjustment visit. During this visit, check their color and discuss possibilities for the next visit, or offer them a 15 minute lesson on how to blow out their style, or do a free bang trim. If you’re a skin care therapist, invite them back to do a quality check on the condition of their skin. Maybe you also give them a free eye treatment or a handful of free samples.
If a very budget-conscious client objects to an increase in price of her regular (full) service, you could offer a lesser service. For example, do the color, but not the cut. Do the facial, no extractions. Do a basic manicure, no color. Offer this as a last resort, since your hope is that they stay with you and continue to choose the fuller service. You might find that accommodating clients this way now may translate into their booking full services in the future.
No matter what, don’t back down
When your increase is challenged – especially from a treasured client – you may find yourself questioning your decision.
Look me in the eye right now (ok, I know you can’t, but pretend you can). Look me in the eye as I say to you: Don’t back down!
People who protest your decision might be testing you. They could be playing chicken, waiting for you to flinch.
Don’t do it.
If you stand your ground, one of two things will happen.
- The client stays (and may love you more). You’ve demonstrated that you are a Pro who has confidence in her ability and manages her business soundly. Your value is greater, and most will be fine paying for it.
- The client leaves. Maybe she is at heart a bargain hunter who wants expertise and skills like yours for the cheapest price possible. Maybe she is simply stubborn and doesn’t like change. Maybe she was looking for a reason to break up with you and took this as the easiest route. No worries, her story is NOT your story. Don’t back down.
Wrapping it up
So here’s what we’ve done: we dispelled the fears around increasing your prices and talked about knowing when it’s time (you’re probably past due, right?).
From there we covered how to calculate your new rates, how to time the start dates of your increase, and what to do in the transition.
Finally, we talked about the importance of being confident about your decision and how to convey that to your clients with ease.
Okay lovey, if you’ve got questions or any comments, please write them in the comments below.
Also, be sure to get the Ultimate Price Increase Guide to help you manage all aspects of the process.
(99% OF COSMETOLOGY SCHOOLS WON’T TEACH YOU THIS)