What is Your True Hourly Rate?

Watch Your Hourly Rate

An incredibly useful concept that I picked up some time ago from a Michael Hyatt podcast is that of an effective hourly rate. Basically, identify a realistic target annual turnover, ie, your salary plus business expenses. Then divide by the number of hours you can/ want to work in a year. 

Some Sums

My target turnover was £45K p.a. As a magician, my expenses are fairly low, mainly travel, advertising and a few packs of cards.

I don’t want to work more than 35 hours each week and I reckon on 45 working weeks each year – a fairly generous holiday allowance plus a built-in safety factor – I am fully self-employed so can’t guarantee work every week. That gives a total of 1575 working hours in the year. £45K divided by 1575 results in £28/ hour. 

At first I was shocked at how high it was. But it did serve to focus my mind on how I was using my time. In particular it made me more intentional in the following areas: my charging structure, my travel choices and my choice of leisure time. I will cover travel choices in a later post.

Charging Structure

If you are freelance then you will probably be charging an hourly, per-job or day rate to your clients. Lawyers are famous for their “billable” hours, but you can’t really do this if you are a magician! 

However, you do have to recoup the cost of your time spent on promotion, processing bookings and admin. Using your hourly rate and a realistic assessment of how long each job will take, including preparation, travel and follow-up, you can then work out how much it is really costing you.

This will give you a minimum that you need to make from from that job. 

However, I should note that is not necessarily what you should charge the client – you may well need to charge more. 

You have to factor in the going rate for your industry. Magicians hate it when other magicians undercut the market and start a race to the bottom in terms of fees. It devalues everyone’s offering and does no-one any favours in the long-term. You need to maintain both the public’s perceived value of what you offer as well as good relations with others in your industry.

Intentional Recreation

Your time is a zero-sum game. There are only 24 hours in a day, only 168 hours in a week.  Saying yes to one thing always means saying no to something else, even if it is rest, recreation or time with friends or family.

You need a healthy balance between working, recreation and time with those you love. 
Working out your hourly rate will give you an appreciation of what your time is worth in financial terms. But this in no way means that you should seek to max out your working hours in order to maximise your income. That is not sustainable and is not good for you or for those around you. 

However, it should make us think about what we choose to do with our recreation time. Sometimes we just need to slob out in front of junk TV  or our Facebook feed, but put strict boundaries on those. I would encourage you to seek leisure activities that feed your mind, body and creativity. Think theatre, reading, cooking, exercise, sleep(!)…

It’s time to value your time.

Credibility Part 3 – with Yourself

I’m starting with the man in the mirror…

The first post in this trilogy was about being credible online, the next in person. This post is about having credibility in your own eyes. Do you believe in yourself and value yourself?

Respect Yourself

Are you building up your own self-belief or eroding it? This can be done in the way that we choose to dress, the hobbies that we allow ourselves, our choice of food how much trouble we take over ourselves. L’Oreal’s “Because I’m worth it” campaign might be slightly clichéd now but it makes an important point. 

As the Kane Gang sang (a cover version, I believe) in the ‘80s, “If you don’t respect yourself ain’t no-one gonna respect you…” 

Finding Your Threads

I knew exactly what I wanted to wear when  I was at university and it reflected who I was. It was slightly ridiculous but, hey, who cares? 

Then I lost that fashion (or anti-fashion) self-confidence for about 20 years! It was not until my mid-40’s that I discovered a new style that I felt reflected my character, both who I am now and who I am aiming to be. As they say, “Dress for the success that you wish to see.” It took me far too long to get to that point but I have been making much better progress in life and work since I did.

Environmental Change

Think about your work environment – is it working for you or against you?

I work from home so I have ultimate control over this. Make sure that you have pictures, ornaments, music that encourage and feed your creativity and productivity. 

As a magician I find that I have to props strategically placed around my office, my house and my car so that I am reminded to do a few minutes practice throughout each day. I have set up the environment to make this easy for me. Do the same with your working environment. 

If you are in any way creative – writing, presenting, giving speeches, performing – then you need to feed your mind and spirit in order to have the resources you need. Stuff in equals stuff out.

Make a Date

I read “The Artist’s Way” years ago. There are several great concepts in that book, but the one that springs to mind here is the Artist’s Date. Give yourself a date with yourself regularly when you go out an do something that you love, that feeds your soul. The more that you do it, the more that you will realise that you are worth it, the more it will build your credibility with yourself.

Believe in yourself. Nurture yourself.

Because you’re worth it.

Credibility Part 2 – In Person

First Impressions

Part 1 was about establishing credibility online. How about establishing and maintaining credibility in person?

It starts as soon as someone sees you. As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Unless you are wearing a very convincing disguise! 

Do you immediately appear highly competent, suitable to their needs and approachable?

Always On

You never know when or where these contacts are going to happen so, in a sense, you are always in “advertising” mode. I know, as a magician, that before during and after a show people in the audience may be assessing whether I might be suitable for their own party or event.

90% is Just Showing Up

It starts when you arrive. At a children’s party I turn up 30 minutes before my start time. I am in my smart costume, such that I could be none other than a magician. I have had a cup of tea and nap in the car so I am refreshed, relaxed and in control. As a result the client visibly relaxes because they no longer have to worry about me not turning up. 

I think it was Woody Allen who once said, “90% is just showing up.” So true.

Within seconds of arriving, I do a trick for the birthday child. It’s a quick, impactful trick which makes the child feel like they are magic. The child gives a huge smile and the parent further relaxes, again thinking that they have made an excellent choice of magician. 

I also establish credibility with the guests. I do the same magic trick for all the kids as they arrive. They then believe that magic happens when I am with them. 

Arriving early gives me plenty of time to discuss where the hosts would like the show, to make any suggestions about room layout and to work out in my own head what will and won’t work in the space. I go back to my car and bring in only what is necessary for that particular show. The client sees me setting up very calmly with the minimum of fuss and no clutter. It sounds simple, but it has actually taken years to hone this process and I am still refining it.

Next I put on my head mic, even with small audiences. This allows greater dramatic vocal  range, but also makes me look more in charge and professional.

I then deliver a stunning children’s party, the like of which they have never seen before because it is all my own and has, again, taken years to hone. By this time the host is swelling with pride at having made such a good choice. The other parents  are now having my credibility established in their minds. If there is opportunity I will also perform some close-up magic for the grown-ups during the tea break, allowing me to cross-promote my close-up magic for adults. 

Tweak to Succeed

As with magic, as with all work and life. Face-to-face contact is important wherever it happens.

Strive to create a good impression of both yourself and your business with everyone you meet.

Think about all the stages of your face-to-face interactions with people. Can you tweak them to build your credibility?

Credibility Part 1 – Online

Online Saint or Sinner?

One thing that I have learned over the years as a magician is the importance of establishing credibility. 

It applies through the whole process from initial contact within potential client through the booking process to the arrival at the gig and then the actual performance. At each stage they need to to have a growing sense that you are genuine, that you know exactly what you are doing and that they are making an excellent choice.

From the Word Go

It starts with first contact. For me this will probably be via my website.  

They will have done a Google search, they will have had a recommendation from someone or I will have met them somewhere. However they get to my site, they need to get the first impression of a magician who is highly competent, suitable to their needs and approachable. 

As with magic, as with all work and life. You will be more successful if you think about how you establish your credibility online.

My online presence takes three forms: my website, my email communications and my social media.

Scratch Where they Itch

Does your website truly reflect who you are and/ or the product you are selling? Are the colours right for you/ your product? Are there the right amount of words compared to pictures for the type of audience you are trying to reach? Is it really helpful in enabling someone to make a decision about whether to buy or enquire further? Is the style of language right for your target customers? Are there appropriate reviews and testimonials that will build your credibility in their eyes?

Don’t be an Email Snail

Do you answer you emails promptly? I used to work for a church and my supervisor once commented that good pastoral care was very often 90% efficient administration. Getting back to people in a timely fashion shows that you care about them.  

Signature Effect

What is your email style like?

Is it more appropriate for your audience to open with “Hi…” or “Dear…”? Do you make a habit of thanking people for their email and hoping they are well? Getting these elements right builds your brand.

Do you use plain text or html in your emails? I have decided on plain text and as short and as few emails as possible whilst maintaining politeness. This means that my emails can be read easily across all devices. 

What about your email signature? What does it say about you? I use email  packages on my devices that allow me to use different signatures for different situations, which is really useful.

Don’t be Social Medium, be Social Outstanding

Think about how people view you on social media. What does your profile look like? What does it say about you? 

And not just your business page, if you have one. Your friends and family know what you do and they will talk to their friends. What pictures and videos are there? What do choose to post, and just as importantly, not to post? Everything you put up will do something to shape your followers’ and friends’ perception of you, to build or erode your credibility in their eyes.

Mr/ Mrs/ Ms Incredible

Remember, you are in-credible. You can do the in-credible. 

Make sure your online life builds your credibility.