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How to Stop Being a Coward and Get Paid A Fair Price
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fair pricesDoes just thinking about asking for more money make you feel like hiding under your laptop?

We entrepreneurs and small businesses are strange and fearful creatures.

Our career choices make us feel vulnerable at times, afraid that nobody will pay for our offerings. On a bad night, even the most confident among us hears the lonesome howl of an empty sales funnel echoing in our ears as we try to sleep.

I’ve learned to drive that howl away by making sure that fresh clients come to me already primed to pay the rates I want. How? Well, there’s just one step to this technique:

State up front and in public the amount you’d like to be paid.

I’ve learned many insanely useful lessons from Firepole Marketing, but one piece of advice that really worked for me was, “Ask for more money.”

I took that idea and pushed it beyond my comfort zone. Not only did I double my rates despite having just lost my biggest contracts, I also published my new rates loud and clear on my business website and my online freelancer profiles, for the entire world to see.

The results were astonishing.

I now earn the same amount of money in half the time, and I spend less time in negotiations, too…

Why Missed Opportunities are Good for Business

I know a lot of freelancers and small businesses don’t like to discuss prices early in the relationship with a potential client or customer. If you talk cash too soon or price yourself too high, we’re told, your prospects will cut and run.

As Danny Iny says in the Naked Marketing Manifesto, we’re afraid of missing opportunities.

But think about it clearly: do you really want an opportunity to work for less than you’re worth? No, you want opportunities to do what you love and be paid what you ask.

Do you really want an opportunity to waste time haggling with someone who understands what you offer but doesn’t want to pay a fair price? Nope. You’ve got better things to do.

Be Proud of Your Price. It’s Fair, Isn’t It?

The other common objection to publishing your prices is that – shock! – everyone will see them. That could mean you miss out on opportunities to charge more to a richer customer for the same product or service.

You may hate me for saying this, but… why do you care? If you’re doing the work you want to do, and being paid the amount you ask, does it matter if you could have had more?

I often hear the old tip that you should find out how much someone can afford and then charge them exactly that amount (if not slightly more). That’s a tired tactic. People can see right through it, and they resent you for it.

Look at it this way: what would you do with the extra money? Is it truly worth doing? If it is, then your standard prices should take it into account. So recalculate your price, and advertise the new one. It’s that simple.

Make sure the amount you’re asking for your work is the amount you truly need to deliver great value. Then tell the world what you’re worth.

That may sound scary, but I’m pretty sure most business owners have had the occasional soft-focus dream of customers saying, “Name your price! I’m so happy I don’t even care how much it costs.” Am I right?

So, go ahead. Name your price. Then all you have to do is bring the happy.

The Awesome Benefits of Your Price Tag

Making your prices public reduces time spent handling pricing enquiries, and avoids the frustration of dealing with enquirers who want to buy, as it were, designer goods at knockoff prices. (Unless you sell designer goods at knockoff prices, in which case I’ll bet you still have to handle hagglers.)

From the customer’s point of view, seeing the price –or even a pricing guideline– eliminates the fear of an unknown variable, so people don’t run away without even daring to ask about cost.

From your business’ point of view, well-chosen pricing will support superb work, constant improvement and fair rewards for everyone involved.

From everyone’s point of view, your prices are fair because if they weren’t, you’d be ashamed to publicise them so boldly.

A neat trick of human nature lets us believe that anything done openly and confidently must be acceptable.

The opposite is also true: the more you weasel around your price, the less reputable you seem.

How to Clear the Fear and Cut Through Negotiations

Ever heard the joke, “if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it”?

Your customer starts from a perspective of fear about your pricing. A blank price tag gives your clients the wiggins.

  • They’re afraid that your price will be blood, or their firstborn child. Or end in a 7.
  • They’re afraid that you’ll up the price when you see how much they want what you sell.
  • They’re afraid that if they contact you, you’ll pressure them into paying more than they can afford.

The sooner your customers know the cost, the sooner they can relax enough to decide it’s worth paying.

They can check the price, inspect the goods, and estimate the return on investment, before you even know they exist. By the time you hear from them, they’ve already decided the price is acceptable.

Here’s How I Doubled My Rates and Halved My Unbillable Hours in 6 Weeks

At the end of May 2012, I’d just wrapped up freelance contracts with my 2 biggest long-term clients. In the slight lull that followed, I was the one who got the fear. My first instinct was to drop my rates to ensure I snagged some new clients, fast.

But I also wanted time to work on my mission at Be A Freelance Blogger, helping people use their everyday knowledge and ideas to make money by blogging for hire. That meant I needed to work fewer hours without losing income. So I went against my gut and upped my rates by 50%.

I was surprised to find work right away at the new rate, but the surprise wasn’t over. On May 30th, I downloaded the Naked Marketing Manifesto and that sparked a business boost that’s still burning hot.

I loved Danny’s take on the facts of life for small business marketing, so I watched the (free) “Get More Cash” video series. I took the part about asking for more money very seriously, since I’d just done exactly that and it had worked like a revenue boosting bombshell.

I reasoned that asking for even higher rates would give me the financial freedom to focus on delivering powerful results. In other words, I wanted to stop thinking about paying the bills and start focusing my full attention on the work.

So I took Danny’s advice and asked for more money again. I upped my prices by another 33%, bringing my hourly minimum rate to double what it had been just 6 weeks earlier. This time, I also published a price list on my website.

Again, I got work right away at the new rate. I got people calling me up, having already seen my rates online, wanting to hire me. I stopped getting emails from people with zero budget hoping I could work a “free trial”, and I cut the time I spent giving quotes in half.

Name Your Price and Command Respect

One more real-life example: two weeks ago, I got a message from a client whose copy I wrote in 2009 at a price of £60 (roughly $95) per 1000 words. They wanted to work with me again, but my new rates meant they could only afford one hour of my time each week instead of several hours.

They still booked that single hour per week, and paid in advance to be sure it was reserved for them. Why? Because they see that as the cost of hiring a professional dedicated to over-delivery and mutual awesomeness.

Clear and concrete pricing knocks the socks off “Oh, it costs… well, what’s your budget?” for a pricing model.

It puts your prospects at ease. It makes your negotiations simpler. It saves you time and stress. It shows respect for your customer’s needs, and that makes them more inclined to respect you in return.

It also shows that you’ve put some thought into calculating the fair price for what you have to offer, not what you have to gain. Your customers appreciate that.

5 Things to Do Right Now to Get Paid A Fair Price

  1. Figure out the right amount to charge. Put some thought into this, but don’t procrastinate!
  2. If you don’t have a pricing page on your website, put one up.
  3. Publish your new prices, or minimum price guidelines if you prefer.
  4. Charge new customers the rates published on your website.
  5. Let your existing clients know that your prices are going up, with a generous lock-in period at the old price.

Don’t let fear stop you taking these 5 steps. None of them will knock the world off its axis, but each gets you one step closer to the wage you deserve. You can get paid what you’re worth, and you’ll get a big confidence boost the moment you realise this. Do these 5 things today – today! – and be fearless!

Let me know how your price changes are going in the comments section. I’ll be around to cheer you on! :)

Sophie Lizard (@sophielizard) is on a mission to help writers and non-writers increase their income and work from anywhere as a blogger for hire. Check out her site Be A Freelance Blogger.

52 Comments

  1. Nick Kellet says:

    Someone one told me if you’re too busy you’re not charging enough.

    So I put up my price. And I did it again.

    It always worked.

    I’ve pushed so many people to do the same. It works

    You get good by getting busy, then you get rewarded for being good.

    • Yep, it’s true! And so simple, too. Yet a lot of people don’t do it because they *expect* it not to work… I say give it a try before you decide what works and what doesn’t!

  2. Hey, thanks so much for having me as your humble guest on the hottest small business marketing blog! I’m genuinely honoured.

    If anyone has any questions or comments, I’ll be hanging out here over the next few days to respond. I’m a chronic explainer so feel free to ask me anything!

  3. Ruth Zive says:

    I definitely agree that freelancers should push the envelope on pricing. You don’t want to earn a reputation for being ‘cheap’. I also think that a higher price tag inspires a much higher level of investment on the part of the client – both practically and emotionally. I don’t, however, publish my fees. The projects I take on are typically nuanced and very customized for each client. It’s hard to say precisely how much it will cost. So, I have rates that are based on ranges and I do share those with my clients, qualifying them as estimates. I almost never contract based on my hourly fee (which is also high, at $150/hour).

  4. Shamelle says:

    Underpaid and over worked :-) would be the one line summary for most freelances. Unless one can really, show value and deliver on quality it might be near impossible to ask for more.
    You have got to be so good that they can’t say no and that’s what we should all aim for.

    Thought provoking post. Thanks.

    • Argh, I remember being underpaid and overworked – it wasn’t all that long ago!

      It’s always possible to ask for more. But to make sure you get the answer you want, the trick is to ask *exactly* the right question! It’s easy to say no to a question that doesn’t feel natural. By publishing your rates, you’re basically removing the awkward question and reducing the need for pricing negotiations.

      And yes, of course we should absolutely aim to be so good that everyone’s speechless and just hands us their cash with a big smile!

  5. That’s a very good point, Ruth, thank you! If pricing is highly variable on a case-by-case basis, then any indicator of pricing is better than none. Giving your clients an estimate range is a fine way to move forward.

    My prices very depending on the task (blog writing, editing, marketing…) and the amount of time and energy I’ll be putting into it. I share my minimum guideline rates on my website, so that I only need to provide a detailed breakdown for quotes that go above the minimum.

    Like you, I don’t often work on a per-hour rate, but it does happen. Also, I’ve learned that some of my clients like to use hourly rates as a basis for comparison in their freelance hiring process, so I quote mine on my website just in case anyone wants to know.

  6. Saad says:

    Nothing in this world is free so we shouldn’t also do anything for free . thats my motto :P

    • And it’s a catchy one, too. But the question is, when you’re not working for free, what *do* you charge? Is it the right amount for what you offer?

    • Ali says:

      The Joker said in Dark Knight ” If you are good at something , never do it for free ” Having said that , in order to announce your arrival, to be noticed among the crowd, one needs to float some freebies. If you are what you promise to be i.e awesome , you will get noticed.

  7. Great article! I think negotiating pricing is, hands down, one of the most difficult things freelancers have to do. I agree though that showing your prices clearly on your site is a great first step. I do some non-writing work on a per-project basis, and prices for those projects are clearly laid out on my site, but for writing work, I have a “based on project and scope” philosophy. I don’t charge the same to ghost write a blog post as I would to do a highly researched white paper, for example, similar to what you said about having different rates based on the task.

    I kind of like the idea of having minimum guideline rates on my site for my writing though, that’s one thing I may try.

    This whole discussion reminds me of a quote I read earlier today which I couldn’t agree with more: “Cheap prices will get you cheap clients” – boy, have I found this to to be true! And not only cheap, but exasperatingly high-maintenance too! : )

    Thanks for an insightful and useful article!

    • Thanks Kimberly for that great quote!

      Now, about those high-maintenance clients: I’ve got some clients whose desires include long phone discussions of minor details, or 10 meetings to sign off on copy that hasn’t changed. I encourage them to spend their time efficiently, but if those “high-maintenance” conversations help them to understand and feel comfortable with the work then it’s all good.

      This is an example of a time when having a published minimum hourly rate is useful, as you can explain to the client that they’ll be invoiced for the time at your base rate.

      Going back to your comment about minimum guideline rates for writing – I absolutely recommend it! It means that when you’re putting together a quote, you can phrase it as “my base rate of X, plus Y amount for the in-depth research and Z for the super-fast 12 hour turnaround.” Having a published base rate makes people feel they’re not being overcharged, because they can see you based their quote on the same rate as anyone else’s.

  8. Pricing can be a tricky issue that I think a lot of freelancers in particular struggle with.

    One thing that really helped me was determining what my time was worth, and how much I needed to make to make this self-employment thing work. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how many people hire you if you can’t pay your bills or if you have to work so many hours just to survive that you have very little free time.

    Though you may have to start at a lower rate just to get initial clients, I think it’s important to raise rates gradually until they are where you need them to be. And I definitely agree with publishing prices publicly for all of the reasons you mentioned above.

    • Thanks Rebecca, I can see you totally get what I’m talking about!

      Yeah, figuring out the price point that’s fair for the value you deliver is important, but knowing the amount you need to charge to cover your own living is VITAL. Best way to deal with that is to deliver massive value; that way the fair price point should always be way higher than your “survival price”.

      I’ve seen people start by pricing themselves at minimum wage, and by pricing themselves at $500 per hour. They’ve all found clients sooner or later, but very different clients because they’ve set up very different value perceptions! One successful freelance copywriter I know focuses on small business clients and prefers to fill 40 hours at $30/hr than 20 hours at $60/hr or 10 hours at $120/hr. She isn’t crazy, she just loves to get small businesses up and running.

      It isn’t price itself that affects business success, it’s the value mentality of the business. If I give you $500 an hour and you give back a million times in value, I’ll be your loyal customer forever. If I give you $10 for a 1000 word blog post and you deliver something my toddler could’ve written better, I’m not wasting another $10.

  9. Sophie! SOoooo great to see you posting here!

    Love the article and it’s a message I speak over and over (even here on FPM: http://www.firepolemarketing.com/blog/2012/04/13/your-price-is-your-command/ )

    Not only that, I live it.

    I have some of the highest consulting/coaching rates in the scene (that I’ve seen :P) and I don’t compromise ‘em. (At the same time I offer wisdom and services that are insanely high-value and ‘scarce’.)

    I’d like to add something – interestingly, these benefits come from it for me personally:
    -I ‘grind’ less, and am free to do more creative work
    -I continue to gain increasingly eager clients more than happy to pay it.
    -I get bigger tips than ever before.
    -I have less ‘tire-kickers’ (people looking to take advantage of me or get anything they can for free, without investment) than ever.
    -My reputation is stronger
    -I”m challenged to ensure my standards are high and that I deliver on the value
    -I have an awesome story to reference in posts.

    Anyway, once again Sophie, thank you for speaking out on this. It’s key. There are super valuable people in the community who I feel, WAY under-charge :)

    • J, thanks for your thoughts!

      I refer you to my reply to Rebecca above re. “If I give you $500 an hour and you give back a million times in value.” Do you recognise that guy, maybe? ;)

      Hell yeah on the gaining increasingly keen clients and scaring off the tire-kickers! And I love that you brought up the challenge you create for yourself by setting high standards and then exceeding them. It’s a big motivator for me to be the most valuable asset I can to every client I have.

      • Haha, you really laid it out in that Rebecca-reply.

        I *do* recognize the guy — I can’t tell if I was inspiration for the example above, or just someone who fits the bill, but either way, I like it :)

        There are other things I do to increase ‘keen-ness’, most having to with Barriers To Access. Price is a fantastic one.

        I figured you’d connect with the personal bar-setting :)

        Great discussion going on here. Love it.

  10. Scott Dudley says:

    If you are providing high quality as a freelancer then I agree you should be charging top dollar and should not worry about pleasing everybody.

    But If what you are offering is ordinary and nothing exceptional then it is a different story. It all comes down to providing value and giving your customers exactly what they want.

    • I like to think I charge “middle dollar” rather than top dollar. :) That means there’s still room for increase, because I plan to keep on adding greater value!

      If what you’re offering is ordinary, that can be addressed by changing what you offer or by working to become extraordinary! Conversely, if my clients ask for less than my usual quality, I refer them to another writer to take care of that task so that I can spend my time doing other work.

  11. Norbert says:

    Hi Sophie,

    Thanks for sharing these tips with us…I haven’t placed my prices on my services page.I’m giving it a thought after reading this.

    Cheers!

  12. Hi Norbert, thanks for taking the time to comment!

    I definitely recommend putting prices (or guideline pricing) on your services page online. It’s not a big time investment and you can change it easily whenever you want. Try it and see how it works for you!

  13. Maria Snyder says:

    Thanks Sophie for writing about this spot on topic. In the many phases of selling, we often deal with fear over pricing. It’s something I stand firm on, customers need to know what they’re paying up front. The opportunity for the customer initiates when they find your services valuable enough to purchase. The customer will find a way, they always do.

    • Nicely put, Maria. The right customer is the one who can afford your fair price. If they can’t afford it now, they’ll come back when they can – all you need to do is stay accessible and offer value greater than cost!

  14. Kristen Nelson says:

    Great article Sophie! I agree with your approach whole heatedly! As a busy mother of two (2yrs and 11months) my time is very valuable. Balancing being a mom, freelance writer and business consultant means not being afraid to ask higher rates for fewer clients/hours of work. Thank you for sharing! I will definitely be updating my website very soon with rate info. Best, Kristen

  15. Sergio Felix says:

    Hey Sophie,

    I did this (openly published prices on a small site development project for offline local businesses) and it happened exactly what you are mentioning on your article.

    We’re receiving more money now from better customers while wasting less time with prospects that are just “looking around” and are not really interested in closing down a deal with us.

    Also, the closing up rate has improved a lot because we took the “call us for more information” barrier down by publishing our prices and I think that being more transparent builds more confidence and trust in someone who lands on our site for the first time.

    Definitely awesome advice and great feedback going on in the comment thread as well.

    Sergio

    PS. Great guest poster Danny! ;-)

  16. Sergio, that’s fantastic to hear! :) Really pleased for you. I hope your story helps to nudge more readers to take action on this point and reap the same rewards for themselves.

  17. Maaaan! Where was this post a couple years ago? LOL! I was a freelance writer who felt cheated at the rates I had, but was terrified to ask for more money.

    Thankfully I figured it out (though a post like this would have sped the process) and once I was asking for more, life got MUCH better.

    I walked away from freelancing a long time ago, deciding to start my own sites and memberships, but many of these tips still apply – and for those doing the hiring, information like this is very pertinent because it can help you to get into your freelancer’s head. If you can understand your freelancers, getting things done well for a fair price that makes everybody happy is a lot easier and leads to long-term relationships. :)

    Thank you for your post, and here’s to asking for more money! :D

    • My philosophy is that if anyone feels cheated by a business transaction then there’s been a misunderstanding along the way. Sometimes, that’s because the seller has misunderstood or mis-stated their own value. I’m glad you figured out your worth and moved up!

  18. Jean-Luc says:

    A good advice is tomake split test and compare transformation rate…
    I made more sales with a higher price than a lower price

  19. Tabitha says:

    Just what I needed to read today!
    I am ‘nice’ and I love helping people. My niche is small business owners and, somewhat unfortunately, a lot of them are just starting out and have a limited or nonexistent budget. I want to help them, so I offer affordable ‘a la carte’ pricing, but I REALLY want to move into higher-priced package deals for more well-established business owners.
    As I’ve done the smaller jobs, I’ve gotten comments like, “Wow, that’s all??” (referring to the price) and “You’re a genius!” among others. I’m preeeeetty sure I can justify higher prices, because I pour my heart and soul into my projects and people know that they’re getting a LOT of value for not a lot of money! Anyone can hire an editor–with me, you’re getting all of my experience, expertise and marketing knowledge, too!
    So…back to the drawing board. You gave me a lot to think about. I publish my prices already….but I think I’ll work on some ‘packages’ and even tell people that, unless they have thier project 100% organized and their content ready for editing, they’ll be paying for ME to help them GET organized and deliver the amazing results they want! Thank you, and I’m glad to have ‘found’ you!

    • Sounds like you’ve got some happy clients there, Tabitha – nice work! It also sounds to me like you could benefit from introducing an editorial consultancy fee for projects that involve more than standard editing duties.

      Creating set packages is a good way to encourage clients to consider what they need from you, as long as your packages are designed to meet the typical needs of your ideal customer. Bear in mind that your ideal customer isn’t the same as your typical customer, so the data on your transactions with lower-budget businesses won’t necessarily help you to design a suitable package for higher-budget clients.

  20. Jamie Wyatt says:

    Great post, Sophie! You’ve got me fired up to “get to work!”

  21. Thanks, Jamie – glad you found it useful!

  22. Bill says:

    Incredible article, how right you are! I am still in a loop of bamboozling myself into charging what I think the client wants to pay instead of what I should GET paid. I present the whole package of services then let them talk me out of most, thereby limiting what I can achieve for their businesses.

    The worst part is, I end up with a client who is NOT my ideal client and I don’t enjoy working with them.

    Great work!

  23. Hi Bill, sounds like you could use a little work on your “one person” profiling and alignment (check out http://www.firepolemarketing.com/blog/2011/04/30/customer-profiles/).

    It’s OK for clients to limit what you can achieve for them – that’s their choice. But your ideal client wants your top package, as long as you’ve figured out the right ways to offer it.

    Take a look at your lead generation tactics and consider whether they’re bringing you ideal leads. If they’re not, it’s time to revise your approach to appeal to your one person. Let me know how it goes!

    • Bill says:

      Great advice, Sophie, thank you and also for taking the time to respond! I have had a few ideal clients… for me that is largely a client who is highly engaged and enjoys the process of engaging new clients. What I’ve settled for often is clients who aren’t engaged and see a website as a foreign part of their business.

      Bill

      • That’s a real shame, Bill, so let’s make sure you find more ideal clients who recognise the value of your offering and want to work with you to maximise it.

        Have you signed up for Danny’s (free!) Naked Marketing webinar yet? Check it out at http://nakedmarketingmanifesto.com/nm/webinar/, it’s on Thursday August 30th and I’ll bet there’ll be a ton of useful info on presenting yourself to your right people in an appealing, authentic way.

  24. [...] Add a Hire Me page to your blog, too. Use it to explain what you blog about, what types of blogs you’d like to work with, where you can be contacted, and your rates. [...]

  25. KSingh says:

    You can’t be more right. I guess it all depends on your experience and how good you are in the end. Businesses are willing to pay and go the extra mile if they know you have what it takes to deliver.

  26. Yep, they certainly are! And if a client or customer has never bought from you before, social proof is one of the simplest ways to give them that confidence in your value.

  27. [...] been featured on Problogger, Firepole Marketing and many other well known blogs. And she does it all while trying to raise a [...]

  28. [...] Asking For December 12, 2012By Brian WatkinsI was reading a post from a few months back at Firepole Marketing about challenging conventional wisdom with pricing in your business. In a nutshell the idea is that [...]

  29. [...] epic content. Give value greater than cost. Reach out and touch someone. If you’ve been reading this blog for more than ten minutes, you [...]

  30. [...] up on you, when they hear your rates? You’re not the only one. A year ago, I’d just raised my rates to more accurately reflect the value of my blogging services, and I was [...]

  31. Great info, thank you! I am in the process of revamping my run-coaching business and need to increase my client rates. I have been nervous about asking for more money, but your advice (and that provided by Danny at Firepole), has given me a new and reassuring perspective on how to deal with this issue.

    Much appreciated!

  32. You’re welcome, Jannine – glad you found it at the right time.

  33. […] Sophie Lizard has shared with us how to be comfortable charging a fair amount for both yourself and your […]

  34. […] found online that really made me believe there was an easier way to freelance. Since then, I’ve increased my hourly rate by more than 200%. I strongly recommend watching the whole […]

  35. […] can easily update your banner without having to redesign your entire website. More and more businesses are starting to minimize their company branding in the top banner and get […]

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