You have to be careful when working with business owners, business owners are usually great at selling themselves. In an organisation, it is very rare if anyone sells the company better than the business owner.

When you think selling, you usually think it’s just sales person to their customers, but no, selling also comes in another form, and that’s whenever they communicate with you, even if you’re their contractor or employee working for them.

They’ll sell you the dream of a bright future if you choose to work with them for cheap and low risk (a.k.a. performance based) and how although you get paid very little now, you’ll get rewarded greatly in the long run.
(Guilty as charged, because I myself have attempted to sell this idea to other people to get them as team members as well)

Funnily enough, more often than not when they’re selling the dream to you, they actually do intend to honour it, but from my experience of working with business owners with this arrangement, that’s all it is, good intentions.

Because even though during the meeting they’ll try to convince you that:

– this arrangement will work because…
– their business’ service/product is great, thus it will be easy to sell, just need leads,
– they’re great sales people, there’s nothing to worry about, just bring them leads, they will for sure be able to sell and you’ll get paid in a lot of profit share when the profits comes in.

You do have to take note, business owners are also extremely busy people, so getting them to commit time to do anything more than what they already have on hand is extremely difficult.

So something needs to be done to make them prioritise the task they need to do with you over every other thing that the business owner also deems as important to do.

As of now, the only way I can think of to make them prioritise you is to charge them a fee that will make them go “Ouch”.

Because unless there’s a fee being charged upfront (a painful enough price they need to pay) that will make the business owner want to prioritize whatever they’re working on with you in their minds, they’ll take forever to get back to you on anything, and the whole project gets delayed. (I’ve had a business owner under pure profit share arrangement who took 2 weeks to do something that’ll take him 30 minutes to complete)

The business owner “suffers” too because his/her marketing campaign is not running, and you being the responsible person that you are end up having unnecessary stress because the deadlines aren’t being met and you can’t make money because the marketing is not up.

There’s the other side of it where the business owner does execute well, the marketing campaign is fabulous and extremely profitable, but now the business owner feels the pinch of having to pay you a large amount of profit share every month, and they end up firing you so they can stop paying the profit share. (although ironically that’s the dream they shared to get you to work with them for cheap/free at the start)

I’ve done an agency where it’s pure profit share, and there are many a times that I end up doing work that is way more than what they compensate me for because of the above reasons stated.

At the start of my agency on 30th April 2023, I did pure profit share with my clients. Overtime, I’ve transitioned towards a hybrid model with partial retainer and performance fee — so even if the business owner is slow to execute on the dependencies for the things we need to run his marketing, my business will still get paid.

In fact, because the business owner is paying the fixed portion every month, he/she will more likely prioritise the things we need to run his marketing campaign

– which means we can execute the marketing faster
– which means he will make money
– which means I will make money from the performance fee

Everybody wins!

So the 2 moral of the story I’ve derived while writing this is,

1. if the business owner knows you are good, charge a fee that will make him/her feel the pinch.

2. For myself, as a business owner, getting people to do work for me with the dreams of a better future is quite hypocritical because I think I don’t like it when my clients ask that of me (unless there’s company equity involved then that changes things, but still try to avoid this arrangement).

3. Charging the business owner more is way more win-win arrangement for everyone than charging less, because when the business owner pays more, they’ll be more committed to making what they paid for work, thus increasing the odds of success.

On the flip side, if you charge too little, or do pure performance without a fixed fee component, everybody suffers because the business owner you’re working with has little to no skin in the game, causing them to be less committed to making it work, causing everybody involved to suffers.

4. If the business owner pays me more, I have more resources to allocate to get better talents to do better work for the business owner — and because I’m getting paid more, I’ll be happier to work on the client’s project, thus improving the quality of the work produced, and I will also have a higher tolerance for hiccups from unforeseen circumstances and hiccups from the client

In conclusion, charge more.