Pricing is what comes up in almost every conversation between freelancers.
“How much do you charge for websites?”
“How much do you charge for a logo?”
“How do you figure out prices for a product?”
We live in a world where there is no industry standard and we always feel like we’re flying blind.
But are we actually blind?
We know more about pricing than we think.
After making everyone salivate during introductions that required the detailing of a favorite breakfast food, we started our April’s convo on pricing hungry for more.
OMFG this blog post is too long
Value yourself - you're worth it
It’s a kicker that as a creative freelancer whatever you’re charging feels directly correlated to how you value yourself as a human being on this earth.
Yeah, we’re starting loaded, because any discussion about pricing can’t happen without some self-esteem boosting.
The hard truth is that anything that ends up on a proposal is your internalized self talk. What do you really value about your work? What value do you bring to the table?
This whole recap is all about helping us value ourselves more, and to see the true value in the work that we do.
Action item: How do you pitch your work? Do you just say what you do and not why?
What: “I’m Anna Hetzel, conversion copywriter and brand strategist.”
What + why: “I’m Anna Hetzel, a website-focused conversion copywriter and brand strategist. I help B2C companies and service-providers better connect to their customers through strategic story telling. “
See the difference?
I already am stating my value better by explaining my why.
Process, not output
A well-known secret: when a client hires you, they aren’t hiring you for the output or the final deliverable.
They are hiring your process.
Creative work can be so abstract and clients are afraid of that unknown. They’re nervous about what the end product will be.
Our job is to show them that the process will get them from point A to point B.
Within that process is our chance for education - to show clients how the creative process works, how we make decisions alongside them, and shows our expertise.
No matter what, no matter what negative self-talk or imposter syndrome noise you’ve got kicking around in your head, they hired you for your expertise.
Print that line out and stick it to your desktop.
You’re on that call for a reason.
If you’re having a mini panic attack right now thinking “But Anna, I don’t have a process! I just do the work!”
Nope. You totally do.
Next time you start on a project have a separate document or notebook out and write down everything you do.
Y voilà, a process.
Qualifying your leads
There’s no worse feeling than going through a pitch process, writing up a proposal, and then the potential client completely ghosting you.
It’s awful. You just put in probably a good hour or two (or more) of work, hoping for that job.
We can all be better at qualifying our clients before we even get to the proposal stage.
It’s scary to start sending people away from you, because that could be a potential project! But if they don’t have the budget to pay you what you’re worth (ie NOT $50 for a new logo), why even hop on the call with them?
Why not just automatically send them to a place like Fiverr?
Be better at onboarding.
Jeremy gave us permission to steal his onboarding form: https://www.slagledesign.com/lets-work-together
Seriously - steal this.
Notice how he asks their budget and it doesn’t go below $2,500?
That’s telling all of the potential clients the high value that he is going to bring to the table and saving everyone’s time. If someone doesn’t have $2,500 budgeted for their project, they won’t even finish filling out the form.
Jeremy isn’t worried about losing the smaller projects - with higher budgeted projects he can work with less clients and deliver higher quality work. It’s a win-win-win-win-win situation.
Other freelancers have added other questions on their intake form, asking about the industry the potential client is in, their yearly revenue, and their goals for the year.
We feel a lot of fear and scarcity as freelancer, but we have to be willing to let the client walk away if they can’t see the value.
Action item: Sit down and decide what your price barrier is, what exact services you want to offer, and make a form for your website.
Not only will it pre-qualify and let you have less of those ghost clients, it will help focus you in on what you’re really good at, be it typography, editorial illustrations, website copy, or logo design.
How to sell
You’ve pre-qualified a potential client.
Now you have to sell.
First step: actually get on the phone or a video call with them.
As creatives, the work we do is inherently more emotional. People have to trust us in ways other consultants or contractors don’t necessarily have to worry about.
I mean, for me as a writer, I’m literally tasked with writing in someone else’s voice. That has to be treated with extreme care and empathy.
People need to know who you are and that you’ll listen to them.
On that call, here are some good tips.
Do your homework
Research the potential client. Anna (that’s me) uses Joel Klette’s (a fellow copywriter) homework process: The Tip, The Article, The Experience.
The Tip - Look through their online presence and find one small thing you can suggest to show your expertise and give them a small free win.
The Article - Have they made the news recently? What’s their annual revenue? What do people on Glassdoor have to say about them?
The Experience - what have you done that’s similar to what they are asking? If you haven’t worked in that particular industry before be ready to answer that question.
The reason behind the homework isn’t so you get an A+ (although that’s an added bonus).
It’s so you go in to that call with so much confidence and prep that you can control it, show your expertise, and show what you can do for them in a short amount of time.
Ask “why” - a lot
No one ever wants a logo for a logo’s sake. They want to be recognized, be authoritative, to show their professionalism or whacky personality.
They want to be proud to slap a sticker of it onto their laptop for all those coffee-shop professionals sipping on their fancy pourovers to drool over.
Really dig deep into why they are coming to you for a creative project and in your proposal speak directly to that.
Not only will they feel heard, but you can start showing the true value of what you’ll bring. You’re not just making a shiny new logo for them - you’re giving them recognition for years to come.
Talk about your process with authority
When you send that proposal
Attach a video of you along with the proposal walking the potential client through the project, helping them understand the intricacies of the scope and deliverables.
It will put your face in front of them again and you style of communicating.
The Discovery Phase
Absolutely never ever ever do spec work. Just don’t.
It devalues you, takes up time, and it means that the potential client doesn’t truly value your work anyway.
If you’re unsure how to pitch a client or they seem unsure of what they truly need and how your services can solve their problems, get paid for that work.
Offer a smaller buy-in discovery phase. If the project looks like a potential bohemeth with multiple moving parts, a discovery phase might actually be in everyone’s interest.
The Discovery Phase can look like a one-hour consultation call, an audit of the current website, customer research to determine actual needs, a small (paid) test project...whatever it looks like the philosophy is that it’s a smaller product they can buy to try it out.
The risk is lower for the client and for you.
What if you realize you don’t like them, or that it’s just not a good fit?
You still get paid for helping them determine what they actually need, and they are equipped to go find another contractor armed with that valuable information.
We can’t just talk about service-based pricing!
Finding the right price for a product is tricky - you have to be aware of margins, of the customer’s price cieling, delivery, packaging…
If you’ve discovered the price cieling your customers just won’t go over but still need to make additional revenue, you can either increase the number of products you have available or start offering whole sale.
Think of whole sale as a product-based company’s retainer - you get a solid base of income guaranteed for a certain amount of time.
Philosophy 101: Subjectivity vs Objectivity
The main goal of the topic of Pricing is to find the proper balance between subjectivity and objectivity.
When you first start out pricing your work you’re incredibly subjective - you intrinsically tie your own personal worth up into that simple price tag.
As we grow and get better we can start becoming more objective. We can see the value we add to a company (ie new branding could help lift conversions by X% or help with team cohesion) and talk about it. That simple price tag becomes multi-faceted.
The more objective we can be, the better we can price ourselves.
The Final Word
If you’re super busy, you’re not charging enough.
The Win Without Pitching Manifesto - Blair Enns - Jeremy’s go-to book
Implementing Value Pricing: A Radical Business Model for Professional Firms by Ronald Baker - Patrick’s pricing go-to book
Breaking the Time Barrier by Freshbooks - FREE! Download it now.
Read March’s Recap with Elaine - it’s super helpful