Pricing Your Services

Just like Sears would never ask JC Penny how to price their products, I cannot tell you what prices you should charge for your services.  The best advice I can give is to play with prices until you find the right price that works for you and earns your law firm or service business a profit.  Your overhead expenses and profit margins are different from mine and everyone else.  That is why YOU need to set your own prices and not rely on others to do it for you.  And also remember:  NEVER alter your prices just to make a sale.  Some attorneys and virtual assistants who are only interested in prices (not quality) will only be focused on price and paying the cheapest amount they can find.  These are normally not people you want to do business with or build your company with anyway.

Let me give you an example: I received an email inquiry from a law firm asking me to provide them with a price for preparing their bankruptcy petitions.

The first thing I did was to call the attorney on the phone and find out exactly what they needed. I was not able to speak to the attorney but I spoke to his wife, who works for him in his office. The attorney’s wife explained that their main petition preparer was going to be on maternity leave for a few weeks. They wanted someone who was skilled in preparing bankruptcy petitions to step in while she was gone.

From this information, experience told me there would be problems with the pricing. Most law firms are use to paying an employee $10 or $12 an hour; so quoting an attorney a flat fee of $500 or more was going to blow their mind. However, I was in the mood to present my sales approach to see what would happen.

First of all I explained the benefits of using my virtual bankruptcy assistant services. Not only would the petition be compiled, my services also included an online asset search, lien search, criminal search, client intake interview as well as amendments that needed prepared throughout the life of the case. After building up all the benefits and expanding on how my services were different compared to an in-house employee, I told the attorney’s wife the price would fluctuate depending on the assets and liabilities of the debtor. But as a ball park figure, the fee would be no more than 25 percent of the attorney fee.

Immediately the attorney’s wife said she would talk to her husband. I knew right then and there that she was not happy with the price. How did I know? Because if she would have been interested in my services she would have asked me questions and sought out details of how my work would be performed. Instead, as soon as she learned my price she dropped the ball and found an excuse to get off the phone. These are things you need to look for when marketing your service business.

Now, some beginners at this point would have felt bad. They would have felt compelled to lower their prices just to get the sale. One virtual assistant I met did just that. In fact, she lowered her fee down to $100 and the bankruptcy attorney took advantage of her. While the attorney made $2,500 for every petition, he paid her only $100 and she did all her work as well as the attorney’s work. This is modern day slave labor and an attorney who is dirty enough to do this is not an attorney I would want to be working for.

Did I feel bad when the attorney’s wife turned me down and never returned my call? Of course not. In fact, just to prove my theory I waited a week and sent the attorney’s wife the following email: “We spoke last week regarding your paralegal that is going on maternity leave soon. I wanted to follow up and see if you were still interested in my services of preparing your bankruptcy petitions while she is away.”

Her response was almost immediate and it was harsh; “We found someone much cheaper than you!”

This type of response told me that my first assumption was correct. I certainly would not want to work with someone with these major personality issues.  A remark like this told me the attorney’s wife was angry inside and wanted to inflict as much pain as she could on someone else in order to relieve that anger. But instead of inflicting pain, her response only revealed her true character. It was clearly evident the attorney’s wife was NOT a professional. Even if she was not happy with my prices, she would have thanked me for the follow up and politely told me they had decided to pursue another solution.  Or, if she was still interested in my services but thought the prices were too high, she would have called and attempted to negotiate a different price with me. This would have been professional behavior.

In fact, I had another attorney do the same thing to me. He said he could not afford my prices but asked me how much I would charge if I did not do any online searches or client intake interviews. This lowered his per petition cost significantly and we worked out a price that was fair and reasonable to accommodate him.  These types of negotiations are common in business and if someone does not try to implement them, it shows you immediately they are not business savvy people.

WORD OF ADVICE FOR ATTORNEYS

Even though I am a virtual assistant and I have written this article with a virtual assistant slant, attorneys can learn from this information also.  When hiring an employee to work in your office or a contract virtual bankruptcy assistant, never base your decision to hire them on price alone.  In a service business, when the main focus is providing service to clients, you need to find people who are personable, caring and eager to help others.  This will help your law firm to grow and prosper much better than hiring someone who will work cheap.

In addition, all attorneys need to price their services according to the complexity of the case.  Naturally a debtor with no assets, no mortgage, little debts and no lawsuits filed against them will be a much easier bankruptcy petition to prepare compared to one where a debtor owns 11 homes and all of them are in foreclosure.  Because attorneys price their services according to the complexity of the case, virtual assistants preparing bankruptcy petitions for attorneys should also price their services according to the complexity of the case.

MORAL OF THE STORY

Do a search in any lawyer directory and you will find there are hundreds if not thousands of bankruptcy attorneys in almost every city and town within the United States. As a trained, professional virtual bankruptcy assistant, you save attorneys a great deal of money and you have GREAT WORTH. You help to eliminate paperwork and deficiency notices. You assist the federal bankruptcy court in eliminating time and increasing their efficiency. Your skills are not to be discounted to a low grade level. As I said before, if an attorney chastises you for the prices you charge, this is not an attorney you want to work with. There are plenty of attorneys who will recognize the fact of how you will benefit his or her law firm and appreciate you for the professional you are.

Remember: Providing good services to good people is how you build a long-lasting career in any service business.

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One Response to “Pricing Your Services”

  • This is an excellent article about pricing. Pricing should always be a function of value added. Unfortunately we do live in a very price competitive environment, so lawyers have to figure out a way to get their fees reasonable. In England the legal profession is being deregulated so non-lawyers can compete with lawyers. 0ften they do a better job, when it comes to preparing paper work. If this development comes to the US, lawyers watch out. You will find paralegals competing, perhaps providing better service and at a lower price.