Selling your time is plastic bottled water

You are not a commodity. The unique value mix you offer to clients includes experience, skill, approach, intuition, and style that is yours alone. No one can copy it, produce it on a mass scale, or undercut it. If you have a strong grasp of the rare value you offer, you have no competition. Until you mention time.  

Hang with me while I get a little philosophical. As a service provider, realize that your time has no value in itself to the client. An hour is just a ubiquitous quantity with a price tag. If it was found at a convenience store, it would be a bottle of water in clear plastic. To a consumer, there is barely a drop's worth of difference in value between one bottle and the next. They might be willing throw in an extra dime or so for better branding or shelf placement, but price pressure leaves commodity brands with little leeway.

An hour is just a ubiquitous quantity with a price tag. If it was found at a convenience store, it would be a bottle of water in clear plastic. 

In the same way, if you tie time to your value any point in the client experience, the cost of that quantity is open to comparison to the market rate. At best, your attractive label allows you to price a paper-thin margin above the thousands of other time providers out there. 

Small return for all your expertise? Expect it. You are now, in the eyes of the client, a commodity. 

I'd rather see you hired for your unique value. It's the only way to create a true partnership with your client. But that means, however difficult, time and price can never meet. Never ever never never ever never no never. Ever. Draw a hard line. Ban "time" from your business culture. If you focus on the value you bring to the client, you'll quickly see how time is an inadequate measure. Let the results you can deliver prove your worth.

As the most profitable companies and service providers know, value is subjective. It's entirely the perception of the buyer. Remember my Apple analogy? In client services, we do ourselves and our clients a huge disservice treating value like it's a simple math problem of inputs. Experience + Portfolio + Time ≠ True Value. Value is in the result. Commodities talk about inputs, professionals talk about value.

Clients shouldn't pay for your inputs, including time. If they are, you've failed to lead up. It's commodity thinking. I can't tell you how many times I've inadvertently let a reference to time slip into the conversation. And it immediately devalues the partnership. Yet, that's usually where our value discussion begins and ends. 

The experience could be so much more. If you can stop forcing client value into the clear plastic bottle of time–commoditizing yourself–you create an environment for your true value to be delivered and reap the richer result.