Transcript: 8 Billing Mistakes Costing You Big Time with Dina Cataldo
Hello hello. How are you today?
Wooo! Attractive title, right? THere's really no exciting way to say the word “BILLING.” But I'm going to make this fun with some concrete examples.
Maybe I should have titled it, “Want more money? Listen!!”
Whether you bill hourly or you have set packages for your clients, today is going to be an eye-opener.
Ignoring the 8 billing mistakes I'm talking about today aren't just costing you money, they're costing you mental energy, time, and they're really symptoms of larger problems in your practice, which is how you think about yourself, your clients, your practice, and the value of the services you provide.
Lawyers bump into some mental baggage when they bill, and a lot of it stems from their lifelong beliefs about money, sales, and what it means to be a lawyer. I touched on some of the money beliefs in Episode #149 — Overcoming Money Scarcity, so be sure to go back and listen to that one if this is an area you want to work on.
Most lawyers either don't know that they have thoughts that are interfering with their billing or they know, but they don't have anyone to work on them with. Then instead of getting help, they rationalize their under-billing practices with what seem like rational thoughts that make them feel like they're being a good person by under-billing their clients.
These thoughts are usually rooted in doubt about the value of their services — but it goes even deeper. These thoughts show up because lawyers have a sense that they as humans are not valuable.
Let's clear that up now.
Billing is not an indication of your personal value. If that were the case, then no one could afford your services because you are infinitely valuable as a human. You have an innate value that cannot be quantified by money.
What is billing? It's a price you decide to set in exchange for your services. It can be an hourly rate. It can be part of a package. If you want to make money being a lawyer, billing is essential.
What's also is essential is exploring your belief about your worth as you make decisions about setting your prices.
If you're undecided about your pricing, then you'll be wishy-washy when you're in consults and stating your price. You'll be in doubt, and you'll create confusion. When you do that, you're more likely to discount your services.
What do you believe about your services? Do you believe that your services are valuable? Why? Before you have a sales conversation, it's important that you get in full belief of your value, and this is one way to do it.
To drive home how important this conversation about billing is, I want to give you a concrete example.
Let's say you charge $200 an hour for your services. Then let's say you're under-billing about 1 hour a week.
One hour seems like it's not a big deal. It's only $200.
Then let's say you have a month where you discount about an hour of your time a week. That adds up to 4 hours and $800 a month.
Let's take that figure out for the whole year where you're discounting your rate on average about an hour a week.
You're losing 52 hours of billing and $10, 400 in cash lost.
And let's face it, if you're discounting one hour a week, you're probably discounting more than that. If we double that figure, it's over $20,000 in fees you've discounted.
When you pay attention to your thoughts around billing, you'll make thousands of dollars more.
This is where thought work pays off in a very literal way. I help some of my clients with this, so it's fun to see them get their coaching investment back quickly once they see how this adds up.
To give you some awareness of where billing mindset issues may be showing up for you, let's talk about 8 examples where discounting services shows up in practices. You're probably doing at least one of these.
They all have one thing in common when it comes to where they originate, so I want to see if you can guess what it is.
1. You discount your services because you like your client. I was having a session with one client who said that she only gives discounts to people she likes. That of course implied that she only wanted to bill people she didn't like for her full value. That implies that she had the thought that her prices were a punishment rather than a fair exchange of value. I want you to like your client, but I want you to like and value your services too!
2. You discount your services to a client because you don't want to lose them. You feel desperate or graspy during a sales conversation, so you discount. Those emotions FEEL desperate and graspy to the client. I see this show up all the time when people have sales conversations. I was having a conversation with someone trying to sell me windows, and he was discounting a huge amount off the top, and it made me question the value of what he was offering me. I could FEEL the desperation from him, and it was a turn off.
3. You have the thought that you should have been able to do the work faster even though you did the work as efficiently as possible for you. If you need to take time to research an issue, and it takes longer, it takes longer. Teach yourself to feel confident that you're a competent attorney doing exactly what you need to do to serve your client effectively. Charge for the work you do.
4. You have the thought that your client thinks lawyers are expensive, and you don't want them to feel worried about the money, so you give them a discount. I like to tell my clients, “get out of their wallet.” Putting your brain into their wallet creates uncertainty and worry for you, and it feels manipulative to other people because you are literally manipulating the situation to get what you want. You want to feel better, so you try to manipulate the situation. You have no idea what they're thinking. What's actually happening is you're projecting your thoughts onto your potential client.
There's also instances where you may not charge at all.
1. You wait so long to write down what you did that you forgot entirely, so you don't feel good about charging your client. This result comes from thinking that you don't have time or that you're disorganized or that it doesn't matter. All of these thoughts undercut your self-concept. Self-concept — I also refer to this as our identity — determines what we have in life. If we want to do better, then we need to start thinking better. That's why coaching is so powerful. It helps us learn how to start thinking better thoughts to create better results. What thoughts are going to serve you if this is the area you struggle with?
2. You don't charge for your services because you didn't communicate with your client that the work you did was outside the scope of the contract. This comes from uncertainty of what you offer, feeling uncertain about the value you're giving them, and/or from feeling uncomfortable having conversations with your client.
3. You don't send out bills. Yes, this happens. It comes from thinking thoughts like “I don't want them to hate me” or “I hate billing.”
4. Then, of course, there's the, “But she's my friend, so I feel weird charging them.” I also hear this show up as, “Oh, but I have to give them free services because they can't afford it.” Stay out of their wallet.
Okay, so what do all 8 of these examples of billing problems have in common?
They all stem from the lawyer's unwillingness to be uncomfortable. That might mean that they're unwilling to sit in the discomfort of saying their price out loud and holding firm even when you feel like you're going to throw up. That might mean calling up your client and having a conversation about what really needs to be done on a case that was outside the scope of what they talked about and telling them there'll be an extra fee BEFORE you do the work. It might mean sitting down even when you don't feel like it and billing your clients in a timely manner.
Getting used to feeling uncomfortable is what will get you the biggest growth in life financially and personally.
Most people just want to feel good all the time. If you want to progress and grow, it takes discomfort. It's called growing pains for a reason. Pretty soon, once you've allowed yourself to feel the discomfort, then it'll stop being uncomfortable and something else will feel uncomfortable in your practice.
Are you willing to be uncomfortable?
Are you willing to decide on a price for your services that's not going to change person to person?
Are you willing to raise your prices?
Are you willing to let people have thoughts about the value of hiring you as their lawyer instead of trying to manipulate them?
Are you willing to ask them questions and get curious about what they have to say about their money situation instead of projecting your own thoughts about it?
Can you allow yourself not to make what they say mean anything about you or your value as a lawyer or a person?
All of that is uncomfortable.
All of that is necessary if you want to take a close look at this area of your practice and move towards your financial goals.
If this episode resonated with you, I encourage you to share it on social media and tag me. On Instagram I'm @dina.cataldo
I help ambitious lawyers who are growing their law practice or building a new business on top of their current law practice achieve their goals with more ease than they ever thought possible. Once you learn that, you can do anything. If you feel like you're trying to keep your head above water, I can help you. Book a call with me to get started. You can go to www.dinacataldo.com/strategysession
Being a lawyer doesn't have to be as hard as we make it. I'm here for you. Book a call, and let's get started making your life easier.